Many a city and town in the United States includes streets named after trees: elm, locust, apple, linden, cherry, oak, and so on. How many places boast a street named "Kadota?" Indeed, how many people walking or driving along Kadota Street would know that "Kadota" is the name of a tree, a kind of fig-tree?
Casa Grande, Arizona, may be the only small city in the world with a street named "Kadota" after the fig-trees that once loomed large in the oasis farming future of the Casa Grande Valley.
The Kadota fig is light in color. Like other varieties of fig-tree, the Kadota grows well under irrigation in the Casa Grande Valley. Remnants of extensive plantings made when figs dominated local thinking about future profitable farming may still be seen growing on irrigation ditch banks, in a corner of a cotton or alfalfa field, or in a farm back yard. These tenacious trees have clung to life for more than forty years, most of them under severely stressful conditions. Each year their number diminishes.
The story of how Kadota fig-trees appeared in Casa Grande and why the Kadota fig-tree was important enough to be commemorated in a local city street name goes back to 1926.
Casa Grande, Arizona, resembled a boom town in 1926. Residents thought that the large dam under construction at San Carlos on the Gila River would be the economic salvation of an agricultural Casa Grande Valley. Everyone expected the artificial reservoir the dam would create to furnish more than enough water for all who wished to farm - Gila River Pima and Maricopa Indian and Casa Grande Valley non-Indian farmers alike. Newspaper writers and real estate agents touted the Casa Grande Valley as a twin of the already extensively cultivated and prosperous Salt River Valley. With abundant irrigation water, this desert loor would become, everyone knew, another such agricultural paradise. Casa Grande's population of a few more than a thousand residents was expected to grow to 30,000 by 1930!
At least two men among many envisioned great possibilities for capital and labor intensive horticulture in the Casa Grande Valley. George Sellers and Henry Moeller had a vision of economic development and profit through subtropical fruit orchardry.
George P. Sellers was a handsome and articulate as well as a clever man. He had worked as a salesman for a chain of x-ray laboratories in the Chicago area. His wife fell ill, however, and wanted to live near her parents in Santa Monica, California. Sellers complied with her wishes and in 1924 moved his family, which included two children, to Santa Monica. There George P. Sellers went into the real estate business. Within a year his ailing wife died in spite of the move.
At loose ends and saddened by his wife's death, George Sellers left his children, Jane and George, Jr., with his wife's parents while he traveled for a period. He visited people in Ohio and later Florida.
His crucial visit turned out to be a stop-over in Casa Grande, where lived his sister-in-law, Mrs. Katherine J. Lavers. With his background in real estate, salesman Sellers quickly perceived nearly limitless opportunities in the Casa Grande Valley. This area offered ideal weather for subtropical agricultural production, relatively cheap land, and when the San Carlos Project dam was completed, it should enjoy plenty of irrigation water. This promised a perfect combination for some agricultural enterprise.
Sellers may have envisioned the whole integrated permanent tree-crop and food-processing development later launched during his Casa Grande visit. He probably met a prominent Valley farmer named Frank T. Gilbert,who had just planted six acres north of the highway from Casa Grande to Florence in Kadota fig-trees. These would produce a white-skinned fruit that contrasted starkly to the black-skinned "Mission" fig traditionally grown in the warm Spanish Border-lands. Gilbert and or his sister-in-law may have told Sellers that a Phoenix concern was buying white Kadota figs to preserve.
In fact, the Arizona Preserving Co. advertised in the first February issue of the Associated Arizona Producer:
"WE WANT TO BUY White Kadota ) Figs ) Varieties Black Mission ) Apricots, Peaches, Quince, Blackberries, Satsuma Plums .
. . . As our business grows, we will be buying more and more of these products - a market for your crops right in your own front yard ... "
In any event, George Sellers returned to Santa Monica after his travels around the country. There he discussed his new ideas about the economic opportunities apparent in the Casa Grande Valley with his friend and fellow Shrine band-member, Henry G. Moeller. Moeller and Sellers had previously worked together in real estate business in Santa Monica. Moeller's basic business, however, was the Moeller Funeral Home in Santa Monica. Moeller was congenial and highly respected, and displayed enthusiasm for Casa Grande Valley horticultural development. Moeller was a heavy-set exhibit for his own liking for good cooking. Mrs. Kenneth Palmer of Casa Grande later described him as looking like Arizona's portly multipleterm Governor G. W. P. Hunt, but with a darker complexion.
Moeller and Sellers decided to purchase and to develop for resale lands near Casa Grande. They set up the Moeller-Sellers Development Co. for that purpose. Henry G. Moeller became president and George P. Sellers acted as its Secretary and Treasurer. Sellers family friend May H. MacBennet served as Vice-President. In that era of putative male supremacy, her name appeared on the published list of officers as simply "M. H. MacBennett."
Moeller and Sellers recruited four prestige full Arizona residents to serve as directors of the company. The Hon. Thomas E. Campbell, former governor of the state in 1919-1923, headed the list. Campbell was a Republican.
Next came a former federal district judge, the Hon. P. D. Overfield. He represented Stetson family interests in the Casa Grande Valley, and was a director of the Casa Grande Valley Bank.
The Casa Grande Valley Bank was to act as escrow and collection agent for the Moeller-Sellers Development Co. lts Vice-President, Don A. Trekell, became a third director of the Moeller-Sellers Development Co. He also farmed in the Casa Grande Valley, living in a ranch home immediately north of the northern tip of the Casa Grande Mountains just across the Casa Grande Canal from the area it irrigated.
The fourth director was Sam A. Elrod, a director of the Arizona Southwest Bank in Tucson, and also president of his own S. A. Elrod Co., in that southern Arizona city.
The Moeller-Sellers Development Co.'s promotional literature struck a note concerning the attractiveness of life in the southern sun-belt that probably reflected the sentiments of ex-Illinoian Sellers after his sojourns in Florida, southern California and southern Arizona:
"The semi-tropical climate of the Casa Grande Valley offers ideal living conditions for the person who does not care for severe winters. During the summer months the healthy day heat prevails that makes Arizona noted throughout the United States as a health resort and also, where water is available, the richest agricultural state in the Union."
The company's rosy description neglected to mention that many Anglo-American women found southern Arizona's valleys so unbearably hot in those summers before the perfection of air conditioning machinery and evaporative coolers that they loaded their children onto the Southern Pacific Railroad's trains to flee to the ocean beach towns of southern California if their husbands could possibly afford it. Other valley families acquired summer homes in Prescott and even Flagstaff where high altitude meant cooler summers.
The Moeller-Sellers Development Co. appealed to the red-blooded American sportsman:
"For the person who loves the 'Great Out Doors' the CASA GRANDE VALLEY and surrounding country cannot be surpassed for there in the mountains as well as on the plains you will find an abundance of both big and small game, and also the finest of fishing."
Local fishing consisted of catfish and carp in the Picacho Reservoir on the Casa Grande Canal, which bit on worms or dough balls. Great fun for boys learning to fish while they grew up in the valley, these were not notable game fish for adult sportsmen. On the other hand, wild game of many kinds still abounded in southern Arizona in the mid¬1920's. A couple that had homesteaded desert land near Toltec a decade earlier could, for example, kill enough quail to serve the entire congregation of Casa Grande's oldest and largest Protestant church a quail dinner.
Human population had not yet become dense enough to place irresistible pressure on game breeding stocks. Thus, Moeller was able to enjoy good hunting on his visits to the Cas a Grande Valley. Having achieved success on a javalina hunt during one of his visits to Casa Grande, Moeller invited numerous local residents to share in his kill. When the time came to carve the wild pig that had been roasting for hours in the harbeque pit, however, Moeller's guests began to entertain some doubts about the partners' knowledge of the southern Arizona desert fauna. No one could eat the javalina meat!
Properly prepared javalina or peccary meat is fully as delicious as any domestic pork, but there is one indispensable preparatory step that must be taken if one is to enjoy it. Unlike the domestic swine which it resembles, the peccary has rear leg glands to make and sacs to store an extremely strong musk. These must be carefully cut out of the freshly killed peccary to avoid contamination of the meat with a taste unacceptable to human beings. Unaware of javalina musk, Moeller had failed to remove the sacs from his kill, and the hours of roasting had thoroughly permeated the cooked meat with peccary musk. It was a classic desert tenderfoot's mistake e
Full of enthusiasm, the partners' promotional text asked "What could be more ideal than a home in this wonderful new country, where opportunity faces from every side, with a winter climate unrivaled by either the much advertised Southern California or Southern Florida ... ?" Like federal government politicians who reportedly "never go back to Pocatello," George P. Sellers had no wish to go back to the frigid winter climes of the upper Midwest. He had moved to sunny southern Arizona to stay! /
The Moeller-Sellers Development Co. purchased land near the Casa Grande railroad station that would be located within the San Carlos Irrigation and Drainage District. Owning land within that district would entitle it to irrigate with water stored in the new artificial reservoir to be created by the dam at San Carlos. Moeller and Sellers anticipated that such water would be relatively cheap, inasmuch as it would flow through the irrigation canals in response to the force of gravity. They also expected it to be abundant, inasmuch as the United States government would spend millions of dollars to construct the dam.
Bureau of Indian Affairs and Bureau of Reclamation experts predicted that the new reservoir would capture plenty of water to serve two classes of cultivators. First, it would irrigate Indian reservation fields near the Gila River that had lain uncultivated for decades since non-Indian farmers upstream diverted the stream's flow to irrigate their new farms. Second, the new reservoir would stabilize the irrigation water supply of non-Indian farmers in the Cas a Grande Valley who had subjugated raw desert fields after completion of the Casa Grande Valley Canal to the vicinity of the Southern Pacific Railroad tracks in 1889.
The faith that Sellers and Moeller had in the future benefits of the San Carlos project appears in a sales promotion brochure they circulated once they had purchased land and planted it in Kadota fig-trees.
"Buy the Granada Fig Farm Land - 5 or 10 acres - and be independent.
"The great Coolidge Dam that is nearing completion at San Carlos, Arizona, and costing the Federal Government 5 million dollars is one of the largest dams in existence and will back up a lake 25 miles long. The Casa Grande Valley to be irrigated by the waters of the Coolidge Dam consists of several hundred thousand acres of the most fertile farm land in the country. With water, it is destined to become one of the country's most productive agricultural areas. The Coolidge Dam and the Casa Grande Valley are a practical duplication of the nearby Roosevelt Dam and the Salt River Valley. The town of Casa Grande and the heart of the Casa Grande Valley, like Phoenix, which is located in the heart of the Salt River Valley, is destined to grow as Phoenix did; from a small struggling town to a thriving prosperous city."
The railroad passenger and freight station at Casa Grande was another factor influencing Moeller and Sellers in their choice of lands to purchase and develop. The farmers growing the capital-intensive orchard fruit they had in mind would need a railhead for shipping supplies in and sending the finished product to market. The "boomer" thoughts of Sellers and Moeller regarding the Casa Grande railroad station were expressed in their sales promotion brochure:
"It is hard to find a nucleus more ideal for building a city, than exist in the town of Casa Grande with an agricultural background of several hundred thousand acres of the most fertile farmland being located on the main line of the great Southern Pacific Railroad. The main highway through the southwest to and from California. It has a first class school system with both Class A high school and grammar schools, four churches, two hotels, two banks and a number of civic organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce, Woman's Club, Rotarians, ... which indicate a live-wire up and coming community."
That Sellers and Moeller and their associates had future urbanization very much in mind is plain from another development company statement:
The prospect of urbanization that would increase land values appears in the map of the Granada Fig Farms. On the one hand, Moeller-Sellers Development Co. claimed that "A much higher state of efficiency can be maintained in the planting and early care of the trees if handled as one large unit." On the other hand, the company actually sold five and ten-acre tracts divided by a network of planned graded roads that would in fact prevent efficient large-scale orchard care.
While the developers awaited future urban growth to increase the value of any lands they might still hold, the Casa Grande railroad station afforded a competitive advantage to fresh fruits grown in the Casa Grande Valley as compared to southern California. Farmers in both areas were well aware of the differential. Isaac Freeman, manager of the farm lands department of the Frank Meline Co. of Los Angeles defined it in a speech he gave in Casa Grande in the spring of 1928 as "being thirty-six hours nearer the central United States markets than is California." In other words, fruit shipped by rail from the Casa Grande Valley had a day and a half less time to travel to the major markets, and that same day and a half less danger of spoilage before reaching the market.
Sellers and Moeller purchased 860 acres of land just east of the town of Casa Grande, either directly or through associates. They paid Charles Sligh $50 per acre for land he had purchased in 1909 from Viola J. Eikelman, the widow of John G. Eikelman who had acquired it in 1900. Sligh bought Casa Grande Valley farm lands over a period of years. He apparently began to sell only in 1920, when he sold four parcels to families that would settle in Casa Grande. In 1926, Sligh sold seventeen tracts, half a dozen of them to Sellers and Moeller and their associates. At the end of that year, Sligh still owned ten other parcels.
The would-be developers may have split up ownership of their land in case the irrigation district imposed a fairly low limit on the acreage one landowner could irrigate. They acquired eighty acres nearest to the town in the name of Mary Elizabeth Sellers, George's sister. This was the east half of the northwest quarter of Section 28, Township 6 South, Range 6 East. Directly to the east, Moeller's wife Agnes bought most of the northeast quarter of that section in three parcels. One contained forty acres (the northwest quarter of the northeast quarter of the section), another was eighty acres (in the south half of the northeast quarter of the section) and the third comprised twenty acres (in the south half of the northeast quarter of the northeast quarter of the section). Twenty acres fronting on the Florence road remained in other hands.
Sellers personally bought the 160 acres in the northwest quarter of Section 27 due east of the properties just mentioned. Henry G. Moeller purchased the 160 acres east of Sellers' plot in the northeast quarter of the same section. May H. MacBennett acquired the 160 acres in the southwest quarter of that section. Marguerite L. Murphy bought the 160 acres in the southeast quarter of that section. She was a long-time business associate of Moeller; in the 1970's, the mortuary was called the Moeller-Murphy Mortuary.
In time, the Casa Grande-Florence highway became Arizona State Highway 287. It defines the northern boundary of both sections. Peart Road divides the two sections in 1976, with Earley Road at their south edge.
Local residents adopted a wait-and-see attitude toward what Moeller and Sellers called the Granada Fig Farms. On the one hand, the capital investment and development that Sellers and Moeller initiated impressed previous residents of Casa Grande. To them it was heady stuff, but it also meant that economic development increased the sales price of Granada Fig Farms plots to a level that local farmers - typically struggling to survive - could not afford. Land that had been selling for about $50 per acre for a decade escalated to from $800 to $1,250 per acre once planted to Kadota fig-trees with subterranean pump irrigation facilities installed.
On the other hand, local residents also knew some things about the acreage converted into Kadota fig-tree orchards that the enthusiastic developers apparently did not discover before they decided which lands they would the heavy clay and subsurface lime deposits and convert the soil into a condition to yield competitively with others in the area.
However they reached their decision, George Sellers and Henry Moeller decided to improve the land they purchased by planting it in Kadota fig-trees. Their promotional literature presented this decision in glowing technical terms:
"The CAS A GRANDE VALLEY enjoys a climate identical with those parts of Italy and Spain where figs have thrived for thousands of years. Mild winters with a constant dry heat in the summer from early Spring until late Fall, gives the longest growing season of any place in the United States.
"To make doubly sure, however, before planting our acreage we had a survey made by the Horticultural Department of the University of Arizona and also by Mr. W. Sam Clark of the Clarkadota Nurseries of California, and in both instances a highly favorable report was returned.
"The climate is just right for figs, the soil is of the best, being a rich sandy loam, and with plenty of water as we have, it would be hard to improve on the environment."
Old timers living in Casa Grande remembered that outside capitalists had tried raising figs commercially in the valley before. In 1895, the Chicago owners of the Bogart and De Gallyer ranch had had twenty acres in figs, besides fifteen acres in olives and twenty acres in grapes. Chicagoans F. J. Logan and F. K. Dunn then had fifty acres planted to figs, along with twenty-four acres in grapes and six acres in other fruits on their half-section property. By mid-June of 1897, the Bennett and Price farm was marketing early apricots ahead of the California crop and was preparing to begin selling figs and grapes. Had those earlier fig-growing projects panned out, there should have been a thirty-year experience with commercial Mission fig experience for Moeller-Sellers Development Co. to draw upon.
Instead, the project had to rely on very small-scale farmyard production figures or other relatively new Kadota fig orchards.
Moeller and Sellers found one E. L. Hudson who claimed that while he lived on the Morgan ranch at Casa Grande, he sold over $300 worth of figs in one season that he harvested from only eleven trees. The fact that he sold most of them to the Steinfeldt Grocery Co. in Tucson shows that he marketed fresh fruit that met a limited demand. Frank T. Gilbert had six acres of Kadota fig-trees growing across the Florence highway from the Granada Fig Farms, but they were little older than the project's own first planting. Gilbert allowed Moeller-Sellers Development Co. to publish his expectation of a fifty to sixty pound per tree fruit harvest from his three-year old Kadota trees. Even Moeller and Sellers were not that optimistic. In the development company's brochure, they estimated only twenty pounds could be harvested from a three-year old tree:
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Neither Sellers nor Moeller was an experienced farmer.
They were wise enough, despite their flush of optimism about what seemed to them a desert oasis paradise, to seek technical assistance. They went to recognized authorities at the University of Arizona's College of Agriculture. They claimed that the horticultural department of the University highly recommended growing figs in the Casa Grande Valley. The Moeller-Sellers Development Co. listed Allen F. Kinnison, Professor of Horticulture at the University of Arizona, as its "Consulting Horticulturist."
Moreover, Moeller and Sellers hired a University of Arizona graduate with some experience in the federally financed cooperative agricultural extension service as "Superintendent and Horticulturist" of the company. Jean C. Miller moved to Casa Grande to supervise the fig orchards. He purchased a five-acre plot in the project adjacent to the first Granada Fig Farm well. There he built a small stone house near the pump for himself and his wife. In 1976, Sherman and Claudine (Smith) Pottebaum lived in a home later built on the site of that small stone house.
Young Jean Miller conscientiously hunted for mature fig-trees in the Casa Grande Valley that might provide him with valuable clues as to proper management of the Granada Fig Farm Kadotas. Forty-six years after he left the area, three big Mission fig-trees that produced heavy, black-skinned fruit still stood out in his mind. One was located not far from the Granada Fig Farms on the Florence Highway about half way from Casa Grande to Coolidge. A second grew on the ranch operated by Judge P. D. Overfield about ten miles southeast of the Casa Grande railroad station. The third, doing very well, flourished in an unlikely spot. Mrs. Gertrude B. Hager carefully tended it on her desert home near the Casa Grande mountains. This doughty Englishwoman had to defend her fig-tree against rattlesnakes that also proliferated on her land, so she executed them in droves, cleaned their flesh from their vertebrae, and strung the bones into necklaces she sold.
Whatever their reservations about the prospects of the Granada Fig Farms, people in Casa Grande eagerly accepted both George Sellers and Henry Moeller as new neighbors and friends. One local music teacher, Marjorie Taylor, did more. She married George Sellers, who then made his home in Casa Grande, bringing his children there. Moeller did not move his family to Casa Grande, but his sons often accompanied him on trips to the valley. He usually traveled by the convenient Southern Pacific Railroad trains and stayed at one of the local hotels.
Sellers and Moeller planned to sell their land to investors at a price that reflected orchard development and initial management. In calling their project the "Granada Fig Farms" they successfully evoked public perception of romantic southern Spain. This enterprise would, according to their sales contracts, properly plant an investor's plot with first class fig-tree stock, correctly spaced and set out. It would, moreover, replace during a three year period from the date of original planting any defective trees, while cultivating, pruning, irrigating, and thoroughly caring for the trees in a manner and at the time that was usually customary and proper.
Water being developed at GRANADA FIG FARMS for both irrigation and domestic use.
Two Thousand Gallons a Minute.
skin was so thin that the fruit did not have to he peeled prior to cooking and canning. From a developmental and investment point of view, sturdy Kadota fig-trees had the capability of maturing fruit the second year after planting. This characteristic diminished the time between investment and the beginning of returns. Blessed with a self¬pollinating flower, the Kadota did not require bees or other insects to set its fruits. This also meant that its seeds were almost invisible.
When Moeller-Sellers Development Co. began to ship the relatively expensive, high-quality "Clarkadota" rootstock purchased from Clark to Casa Grande from Chatsworth, it naturally reserved the trees exclusively for their Granada Fig Farms. Many local residents coveted fig trees to plant in their yards, but Moeller-Sellers Development Co. refused to sell even one. Occasionally, however, a tree dropped from a wagon hauling the bare rootstock from the railroad depot to the Granada Fig Farms in February of 1927. Then someone usually was following the wagon to pick up any "strays" to plant at home. Valley farmer Amandus Peters, for example, obtained his start of Kadota fig-trees in this manner.
W. Sam Clark wrote the development company a glowing endorsement:
"In the past, we, here in Southern California, have prided ourselves upon our climatic conditions, soil, etc., feeling that we had the most ideal place in the United States for growing the Premier CLARKADOTA Fig, but we now fear we must "take off our hats" to your locality as with your ideal climatic conditions and fertile soil, together with the abundance of water your wonderful wells are throwing, I cannot see anything but big success for your project."
Yet Clark evidently charged Moeller-Sellers Development Co. a forbidding price for its original stock. The developers soon decided to take advantage of the very rapid growth potential of the Kadota fig-trees. According to Jean Miller, they established a nursery far to the south of Chatsworth in San Diego's Mission Valley. Moeller and Sellers failed to check into the environmental history of Mission Valley, which has been subject to periodic serious flooding ever since the Spaniards first arrived there in 1769. Upstream precipitation produced a flood that washed away their Kadota fig-tree nursery in the flood plain. Thus the Casa Grande Valley schedule of the optimists was set back.
Then Moeller and Sellers arranged with Judge P. D. Overfield to establish their Kadota-fig-tree nursery right in the Casa Grande Valley on his model ranch, where he had been experimenting with cattle and other crop alternatives. They brought in young Gregory Payson to run the nursery, relying on his experience with his family's fig orchards in California.
Inasmuch as the San Carlos Project dam at San Carlos was not yet completed, the Moeller-Sellers Development Co. resorted to relatively more expensive pumping of subterranean water to irrigate its 200-trees per acre plantings. The enterprise promised its investors to produce sufficient water to enable their thirsty fig-trees to produce fruit, and to provide proper and sufficient pumping equipment for the efficient irrigation of the entire property sold to orchard investors.
Casa Grande electrician Leon Keith installed and maintained two pumps on the Granada Fig Farms. The first pump was located in about the middle of Section 28. The second well was drilled on the south boundary of Section 27, half a mile from the section's west corner. That location in 1976 lay at the northwest corner of the intersection of Earley Road with the diagonal Arizona Road. The main pump raised 2,000 gallons of water per minute.
Both pumps were belt-driven by 25-cycle electricity. When Keith installed the pumps, Moeller gave him a promissory note rather than cash payment. Later, rather than pay off the note, Moeller deeded Leon and Alice Keith ten acres of Granada Fig Farms as payment. Mrs. Keith was not happy about that deal!
The Granada Fig Farms project was planned as the good producing component for small-scale industrialization. While Granada Fig Farms marketed ripe fruit in grocery stores in Casa Grande and Tucson, Sellers and Moeller anticipated canning the bulk of their Kadota fig crops for nationwide marketing as processed fruit. The Granada Fig Farm agreement with investors in its orchards promised to have available to the property a preserving plant of capacity sufficient to handle the crops produced by the Granada Fig Farms, and to have that processing plant in operation soon enough to can the 1928 crop. The Moeller-Sellers Development Company hired local builders Lynn Tuttle and Floyd Fergus to erect a cannery building for the "Casa Grande V alley Canning Co." As soon as it was completed, the developers acquired and installed belt-driven canning machinery.
The developers succeeded in selling their Granada Fig Farms. More than sixty different persons from all parts of the United States bought land in the project. People from Tennessee and Illinois to Los Angeles, and from Santa Monica to Oregon, responded to the lure of a "steady, constant income" to be gained from these acres of Kadota fig-trees.
James Cook, then of Bisbee, a southern Arizona mining camp, purchased the most acreage sold to one man. On January 21, 1929, Cook signed an agreement to purchase tracts N° 22, 23, 26, 27, and 30 in Block N° 7 of Granada Fig Farms Unit N0 2. This was a subdivision of Section 27 defined by that time on a plat filed for record in the office of the County Recorder of Pinal County. The agreement called for Cook to pay the developers $4,675. They acknowledged having received his $1,000 down payment.
He was to pay the balance on or before May 20, 1929, plus interest at the rate of seven per cent per annum on the unpaid balance.
In the late 1920's, racial prejudice ran high in southern Arizona against Blacks. The Prohibition amendment to the United States Constitution was implemented by federal legislation. Consequently, deeds to Granada Fig Farms plots contained two restrictive covenants: "That the property shall not be sold, conveyed, leased to or occupied by any person not of the Caucasian race. No intoxicating liquors shall be brought upon, used or given away on said described property, so long as that act is contrary to Federal or State statutes."
A different kind of deed restriction aimed at conserving the scarcest resource involved in the project: water.
The Granada Fig Farms made its obligation to provide sufficient water and pumping equipment for the efficient irrigation of investors' plots, and for their domestic use, conditional upon their using the water properly. Investors received
" ... an undivided pro rata interest in the well or wells, pumping equipment, and plot of land set aside for that purpose, provided that none of the water produced or supplied under the provisions of this paragraph shall be used for any other purpose than the irrigation of Granada Fig Farms acreage or the domestic use upon such acreage. It is specifically agreed that the purchaser will never permit any water furnished under the provisions of this paragraph to pass or flow from Granada Fig Farms acreage for the irrigation or domestic or other use of any land lying outside of the Granada Fig Farms project."
At the time James Cook purchased his Granada Fig Farms plots, everything appeared to be going well with the project. The developers were selling orchard tracts. They were building a cannery. The fig-trees were growing and producing. Jean Miller was efficiently supervising the care of the Kadota fig-trees with abiding faith that the venture would succeed. Near the Miller house by the pump lived a Mexican political refugee in charge of irrigation.
The project's policy of excluding Black residents did not prevent it from employing Indian laborers in large numbers. As the rapidly-growing Kadota fig-trees sprouted lush foliage in every direction, Miller at the peak of operations employed forty Indians to prune them. In the course of their social integration into Casa Grande, Sellers and Moeller had met members of the Leonard family which owned a mine south of Casa Grande in Papago Indian country. The Leonards contacted an Indian belonging to the Kohatk tribe known to Miller only as "Chief John." This man acted as a labor contractor and crew foreman. Once the Kohatk ex-miners went to work on the Granada Fig Farms, Miller showed "Chief John" what to do and gave him instructions in English. Then "Chief John" relayed those directions to his fellow tribesmen in their own Northern Piman language, and the Indian pruners shaped the fast-growing trees so that they would bear heavily and the fruit could be easily reached during picking season.
Most important in the minds of the Granada Fig Farms investors, George P. Sellers was selling the fruit the Kadota fig-trees had begun to produce. The project shipped two whole railroad cars of canned figs from the Casa Grande railroad depot in 1929. Fresh figs went to market in local stores as well as in Tucson. People living in Casa Grande in 1975 who sold or bought Kadota figs during their local heydey recall a wonderful product. Sellers had contracts for ten carloads of fruit for 1930. One leading corporate producer of canned fruits offered to purchase the entire Granada Fig Farms, but the developers rejected the offer. Prospective buyers whom George Sellers brought to visit the Casa Grande project were impressed.
As the 1929 fall harvest progressed, a significant flaw in the Kadota fig-growing program appeared. Fruit spoilage became a serious factor diminishing the proportion of matured fruit successfully harvested and sold fresh or canned. The difficulty was not minor; it was environmental. The thin skin of the Kadota fig fruit that made it highly desirable for economical canning by eliminating peeling proved to be too fragile to resist hot winds or a dust storm blowing across the arid Casa Grande Valley. Relatively higher humidity on the Pacific coast did not unduly stress the skin of Kadota figs, but ripening figs at Granada Fig Farms split their skins. That allowed bacteria to enter the sugar-rich fruits and quickly spoil them. The desert paradise that held out the attraction of the longest growing season in the United States exacted its compensating penalty from the optimistic tenderfeet introducing exotic domesticated plants from other environments without long-term testing.
The unexpectedly high rate of fruit spoilage was a problem for the developers of and investors in the Granada Fig Farms, but one they could accept. In October of 1929, their future was clouded by the greatest stock market crash the country had ever known. The national economy sank into a terrible state of depression and monetary devaluation. The developers of the Granada Fig Farms continued to sell a small amount of land, but payments for the land sold earlier began to slow down. Money did not come in. Contracts for delivery of 1930-erop canned figs were cancelled. Like thousands of other developments across the nation, the Granada Fig Farms was in financial difficulty.
Winter frosts that made the fig-trees deciduous and sharply deteriorated fruit quality revealed another desert horticultural index the optimists missed. Granada Fig Farms lay outside the frost-free "thermal belt" of the valley marked by tender ironwood trees farther north. Consequently, cold air diminished the two to three-crop potential of the trees.
In spite of mounting technical and economic difficulties, the Kadota fig-growing and processing project had captured the imagination of residents not only of Casa Grande, but also other Arizona settlements. When the Casa Grande Junior Woman's Club prepared for the 1930 state convention of the Arizona Federated Woman's Clubs in Yuma in the spring of 1930, it was requested to prepare an exhibit folder to distinguish the community. "It is suggested that the Casa Grande Club use the fig design." Many of the eastern residents George Sellers brought to see the Granada Fig Farms were also impressed by the project and his evident pride in it, even if they did not invest in it.
The Moeller-Sellers Development Co. suffered another loss in 1930 when its principal technical expert, Jean C. Miller, departed for San Diego because of his wife's health.
Developers and investors alike looked forward eagerly and optimistically to the completion of Coolidge Dam, and its dedication in 1930. They awaited the flow of water from the new artificial reservoir to decrease irrigation costs at Granada Fig Farms, because gravity-flow water would be much more economical than subterranean liquid pumped to the surface with expensive electrical energy. Moreover, the surface irrigation water would, everyone firmly believed, provide a permanent supply unlike the underground water table which dropped lower year after year.
Unfortunately for the permanent orchard concept, everyone had to wait a whole decade for the reservoir to fill completely for the first time in 1941. The Casa Grande Valley farmers and real estate boosters had placed their hopes on an erroneous idea that the dam would store "surplus" flow in the Gila River. The engineers who planned the size of the dam and reservoir and the area the latter could irrigate erred, too. They based their elaborate arithmetic upon stream-flow records made during a brief wet cycle in the regional climate. Consequently, they overbuilt. Coolidge dam proved to be too large for the actual Gila River flow, so that the new reservoir seldom held nearly the quantity of water for which it had been designed.
All this meant that little improvement occurred in the supply of irrigation water available to farmers downstream. The Gila River Pima and Maricopa Indian entrepreneurs were not restored to their mid-18th Century state of prosperity, inasmuch as the San Carlos Project failed to restore to them their aboriginal water right. Anglo American colonists in the Casa Grande Valley were not suddenly turned prosperous by cheap and abundant gravity-flow irrigation water, either. They continued to depend largely upon pumping subterranean water at progressively higher costs as the distance it had to be pumped steadily increased. A fundamental premise that had led the California optimists to develop the Granada Fig Farms proved false.
The determined developers were not yet whipped. Henry G. Moeller realized that with production costs per fig now higher than anticipated, the grower-investors needed to sell their fruit at a higher unit price than was obtainable for either fresh or canned fruit. Not for nothing did the basic decision-maker of the future-oriented development team like to cook so well that he had acquired his impressive girth by middle age. The fast-thinking Moeller devised a technique for coating Kadota figs with chocolate and marketing them as a special form of delicious candy. The Moeller-Sellers Development Co. acquired huge pots in which to melt chocolate in which to dip the figs. It hired local girls to coat the figs with chocolate, then to plop them into candy cups, and finally to package them in boxes. Investor James Cook's daughter Mollie was only one of the women in the industrial labor crew employed to process the Granada Fig Farms' new and appealing product.
To the great relief of the worried owners of Granada Fig Farms plots, Moeller's innovation succeeded. The Chocolate-coated Kadota fig candies sold!
Then, a final disaster struck. The corporation selling Lucky Strike brand cigarettes launched a national advertising campaign urging people to "Reach for a Lucky Instead of a Sweet." Billboards throughout the United States exhorted literate consumers to switch from sugar to nicotine. Candy sales plummeted. Granada Fig Farms chocolate-coated figs stacked up in storage.
Companies constituting the United States candy industry filed suit against the tobacco company. Moeller and Sellers joined in that suit. The candy-makers eventually won, and obtained a large financial settlement from the tobacco vendors. By the time this litigation worked its way through the court system, however, Granada Fig Farms had passed into history. The advertising campaign had achieved a lasting effect by increasing cigarette smoking and diminishing American candy consumption. A gigantic corporation had delivered what proved to be the knockout blow to a small-scale enterprise by national corporate standards. Yet is was the largest permanent-crop farming and food-processing industry the people of Casa Grande had yet seen.
After an agonizing period when Moeller-Sellers Development Co. income remained below its expenses, the developers conceded defeat. They laid off Granada Fig Farm workers. Tractors stood immobile in the fields.
Henry Moeller went back to his mortuary in Santa Monica. He would spend years paying people who lost on the project. George Sellers moved to Phoenix in 1932.
There he was later elected to the Arizona state legislature, then worked for the state Industrial Commission. He returned to real estate development during World War II. Meanwhile, Moeller and Sellers hired caretakers to live at the idle cannery to guard against vandalism. At least one watchman turned the figs some trees continued to bear into a different commercial product. Using one of the big cooking vats still in the processing plant, this gentleman took advantage of the high sugar content of Kadota figs. He let the fruits ferment to make a palatable fig wine that reportedly sold quite well on the local market.
On occasion, guards brought crews of prisoners from the Arizona State Penitentiary at Florence to harvest ripe fruit from the virtually abandoned trees. This was processed into economical taste treats for the inmates.
Casa Grande Valley farmers shifted to different crops, mainly cotton because it benefitted from federal government price guarantees and a plant genetics program that developed varieties with steadily increasing yields per irrigated acre. As plant scientists experimented and succeeded, bankers advanced safe crop loans on cotton. Farmers settled down to prosperity. Yet, Casa Grande's quality of high economic adventure induced by the romantic Granada Fig Farms project and its personable promoters never quite returned.
By 1935, the Granada Fig Farms land itself was converted to other crops. A North Carolina native who served his irrigation farming apprenticeship at Marana purchased the 220 acres in Block 2. T. M. Carlton bought the tract for $150 per acre. He required all of the small holders to sell simultaneously so he could work a field large enough to achieve those economies of scale the Moeller Sellers Development Co. advocated but did not achieve. All the fig farm owners save one agreed. The lone holdout told Carlton to farm his tract any way the buyer wished. This man wanted to keep his corner acreage for building a retirement home. He died before he retired, however, and his heirs then sold the land to Carlton.
By the time Carlton acquired the tract, many of the sturdy Kadota fig-trees had died for want of water. Some survived. Carlton had to clear trees from forty-five acres. He ripped open the ground on both sides of each row, and then pulled trees out with a chain stretched between two tractors.
Once the entire tract was cleared of trees, it was planted in alfalfa, the old standby crop in the Casa Grande Valley since the irrigation canal first brought water to it before the turn of the century.
Carlton attempted to recover part of his investment' selling the cannery's left-over tin cans and glass jars to the Arnold Pickle Company in Phoenix. That concern and others rejected the left-over containers as obsolete. No other food processor had equipment that fit the containers. Thus the suspicion arises that Moeller and Sellers had been persuaded to install obsolescent canning machinery, Carlton and his son dumped cases of jars and cans into the shafts of dry dug wells and covered them over. The machinery had already been removed from the building, so the Carl tons cleared it and converted it into a family residence.
Thus, commercial Kadota fig cultivation disappeared from the Casa Grande Valley, leaving only scattered trees in some houseyards as mementos of its passage. Elderly . Residents who remember Henry G. Moeller and George P. Sellers uniformly remember them with nostalgia and enduring affection. Perhaps that is the best monument for which an entrepreneur can hope.