The Double Cone Quarterly
Window to the Wilderness
Summer Solstice 1999 || Volume II, Number 2

Placenames of the Wilderness

The Pear Orchard
by Boon Hughey

On the north bank of Dutra Creek near its confluence with the San Carpóforo stands a little-known living relic of the bygone days of the mission padres. Known as the Pear Orchard for a single, massive pear tree that once grew there alongside a tidy grove of European olives (Olea europaea), the orchard locale is today neatly bisected by the Baldwin Ranch Road a few hundred yards west of its intersection with the San Carpóforo Trail. Nestled in a beautiful little valley of Live Oaks and meadowland, the Pear Orchard lies within Los Padres National Forest but just outside of the current boundary of the Silver Peak Wilderness Area.

J. Smeaton Chase visited the site during his epic trans-california horseback ride in 1911, remarking on the venerable age of the trees even then:

There are the remains of an old orchard hereabout, the origin of which is a mystery to the few people who know if its existence. It lay near my route, and I turned aside to pay it a visit. It goes by the name of the "Pear Orchard," but I found only one pear tree remaining, and sharing the solitude with a score or so of hardy olives. By comparison of the size of these olives with others I have seen in the gardens of the Missions, it seemed that they could hardly be less than a century old, while the pear was an oak-like tree, the Nestor of mortal pears. Who were the planters of this secluded mountain garden? I could only guess that, like the one I had found on the Jalama, it had to have been an outpost of one of the Franciscan Missions, and had been cultivated by the old padres with the help of their Indians. But padres and Indians alike have long vanished, and left no successors to claim the fruit of this forgotten orchard.
Chase’s guess as to the planters of these exotic fruit trees is very likely correct, as the olive tree was omnipresent and important in the old mission culture for the fine oil it afforded. Also, the location of the orchard not far from San Carpóforo Creek is very near the route that the Portolá expedition of 1769 blazed on their way from the coast to the Jolon Valley, where they established the site of the Mission San Antonio de Padua. Once opened up to accommodate the passage of the sizeable expedition and all of its stock, the route remained open as a way for the padres and neophytes to access the coast on occasion. The verdant and beautiful little valley where the Pear Orchard is situated, being fertile, flat ground in a land of rugged steepness, would undoubtedly have caught the attention of the passing padres. To further surmise that they might lay claim to it as an outpost of their mission and develop it with producing fruit trees is not so far fetched of a thought. Furthermore, the name San Carpóforo, of which Dutra Creek is a major tributary, translates from the Spanish as Saint Carpophorey, meaning “fruit bearer,” by which name a number of saints are known in Roman mythology. Thus it seems that the creek was named after the orchard, while following the Franciscan practice of pious toponymy.

Further, and even earlier, testament to Chase’s theory as well as the remarkable age of the orchard is found in a Descriptive Report of the 1888 Coast and Geodetic Survey written by Stehman Forney:

As Carpóforo means “fruit bearer” it seems probable to me that this is the proper name for this creek, for the following reasons. Near the headwaters of the west fork of this creek, in a pretty little valley, are the remains of an old Pear and Olive orchard, said to have been planted by the Fathers many years ago. It is said, that the Fathers from the Missions, San Antonio, San Maguel [sic] & San Luis Obispo, came to this place to spend vacations, in hunting and fishing.

Massive snags of the once-mighty olives, along the Baldwin Ranch Road

The namesake pear trees are long gone, although likely scions still grow at the nearby historic homesteads of both Manuel Dutra up-canyon and William Hysell down on the San Carpóforo. Still surviving at the site today, however, are 23 olive trees growing neatly spaced in orderly rows, many of them barely clinging to life by a few sprigs of determined foliage deep in the suffocating shade of mature live-oak forest. (No-one, of course, would lay out an orchard beneath the photon-hungry boughs of an oak forest. Nature and time, it seems, have conspired to take back the land for the natives. A quiet, long-running battle, this one, with as yet no victor apparent).

At the upper edge of the orchard is an obvious and unnatural depression in the earth which, using only a little imagination, can be seen as the vestige of an irrigation reservoir filled by flume from the perennial creek just to the west. The four or five olive trees on the edge of the meadow that were lucky enough to have enjoyed the nourishment of direct sunlight through the years were killed back by the freeze of 1990, but vigorous crown-sprouts now wreath the massive gray snags that stand as convincing testimony to two centuries, or more, of growth.

Bolton, Herbert Eugene 1927. Fray Juan Crespi, Missionary Explorer of the Pacific Coast 1769-1774. University of California Press

Chase, J. Smeaton 1913. California Coast Trails. Houghton Mifflin and Company

Clark, Donald Thomas 1991. Monterey County Place Names. Kestrel Press

Gudde, Erwin G. 1949. California Place Names. University of California Press

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