RALPH HAINES DURST
Ralph Haines Durst, of Wheatland, Yuba County, is probably best known throughout this section of the Sacramento Valley as a hop grower, although he has also extensive horticultural interests. He has been identified with the hop growing business at Wheatland since the time of its inception and is regarded as an authority on that industry. He was born at Austin, Nevada, on the 28th of March, 1865, but has been a resident of Wheatland since eighteen months old. He is a son of the late Dr. Daniel Peters and Rose Frances (Haines) Durst, the former born at Greenville, Mercer County, Pennsylvania, and the latter at Pekin, Illinois, their marriage occurring in Colusa, California. Early in life Daniel P. Durst took up the study of medicine, graduating from Jefferson Medical College, in Philadelphia, and immediately afterward entered upon the practice of his profession in Mercer County. In 1853 he decided to come to California and made the long voyage around Cape Horn in a sailing vessel as ship’s doctor. On landing at San Francisco, he started for the gold mines and spent his first winter at St. Louis, near La Porte, California, where he practiced medicine and, with several partners, engaged in mining. Dr. Durst then came to the Sacramento Valley and entered upon the practice of medicine at Colusa, where he was married. During his stay at that place he put in several crops of grain, but the two dry years of 1864 and 1865 resulted in a complete failure of crops. He then removed to Austin, Nevada, where he followed his profession until 1867, when he located at Wheatland, California. Purchasing thirty-five acres of land just south of Wheatland, adjoining the railroad, he built his residence and became the pioneer physician of that locality. He enjoyed an extensive practice, covering a wide area of surrounding country in southern Yuba and Sutter counties, as well as in Placer County.
Dr. Durst planted the first crop of alfalfa ever grown at Wheatland. He had a great liking for agriculture and in 1876 bought five hundred acres of land west of Wheatland. In 1883 he planted a field of twelve acres to hops on the Bear River, and this was the first hop field in this part of California. That fall he added to his holdings by purchasing the Russian ranch, just southwest of Wheatland, extending back to Bear River. On these rich bottom lands he planted another one hundred acres to hops the next year, and planted more every succeeding year until he had six hundred and seventy acres in hops and became the country’s biggest hop grower. He was actively interested in reclamation work and in the building of levees and he stood with the ranchers in the anti-debris fight against hydraulic mining, which filled up and raised the river beds and flooded the bottom lands. His hop fields and lands were located in Yuba, Sutter and Placer counties, his residence and office being in Yuba County. Partially on account of seeking to regain his health by leading an active outdoor life, but more particularly since his extensive hop fields demanded his entire time and attention, he discontinued the practice of medicine, to the regret of hundreds who had benefited by his able ministrations. He passed away in 1911, at the age of eighty-one years, and in his death the state of California lost one of its most progressive and enterprising men.
In 1858, at Colusa, California, Dr. Hurst was united in marriage to Miss Rose Frances Haines, who was born in Pekin, Illinois, August 18, 1836, a daughter of Jonathan Haines, a well known manufacturer at Pekin, on the Illinois River, who invented and built the first header and also invented and built the famous Buckeye mower. His implements were shipped to the Pacific coast, and he made several trips to California. The daughter came to California and was a teacher at Colusa when she met and married Dr. Durst. She was a cultured and refined woman, of pleasing and attractive personality, and proved a true helpmate to her husband, lending her hearty encouragement to him in the realization of his ambitions. She passed away August 4, 1917, greatly mourned by all who knew her.
Dr. Daniel P. and Rose F. Durst had four sons: (1) John Haines, the eldest, born September 9, 1859, became a lawyer and served as city attorney of San Francisco and county attorney of San Francisco County. He married and left one son, Vernon Durst, of San Francisco. John H. Durst died at the age of forty-three years. (2) Murry Haines, born June 14, 1861, died in 1914, at the age of fifty-three years. He was a graduate of the University of California, and was known as a leading hop grower of this state. He visited London and various European countries in the interest of the sale of California-grown hops. He married and at the time of his death left three children, Dorris, Edward and Audrey. (3) Ralph Haines is the immediate subject of this review. (4) Jonathan Haines, who died in St. Francis Hospital, San Francisco, June 14, 1930, was married, but left no children. He was a partner in the ownership of the Durst hop ranch at Wheatland. Jonathan was a well known newspaper man and editor, as well as a hop grower. He learned the printing trade under John Landis, the first editor of the Wheatland Four Corners. He financed that paper and later became its editor, serving until the press of other business made it expedient to quit the editorship.
Ralph Haines Durst is now the only surviving son of Dr. Daniel P. Durst. He was reared on the old Durst ranch, received a public school education, and engaged with his father, and later with his brothers, in the hop raising industry. From boyhood he had assisted his father on the ranch and when he was eighteen years old his father set out the first hops grown on the Bear River, so it was natural that he in turn should become actively interested in hop growing, which he has followed continuously from the inception of the industry in this state. That and farming have comprised his activities in the main. After the death of the father, Ralph and Jonathan took over the ranches which have since operated under the firm name of the Durst Brothers. In the spring of 1923 Ralph Durst individually purchased two hundred acres of land on the south side of Bear River, across from the old Durst ranch, and has devoted this to horticulture, having planted it largely to clingstone peaches.
Politically he is a staunch Republican, while fraternally he is a member of Sutter Lodge, No. 100, I. O. O. F., of which he is past grand. His religious connection is with the Protestant Episcopal Church. He is worthily maintaining the family prestige so well established by his father, and throughout the community in which he has spent his life is deservedly held in high regard.
Transcribed by Gerald Iaquinta.
© 2010 Gerald Iaquinta.