Mrs. Eliza Tibbets, a developer of the Navel Orange Industry and Spiritualist

Mrs. Eliza Tibbets, Riverside orange grower and Spiritualist

 

In the early 1870’s, the spirits from the other side were summoned to Riverside, California by spiritualist Eliza Tibbets, who was well know for her séances on her farm near the Santa Ana River.

Hypnotic Seance by Rochard Bergh- 1887. Spiritualiism was very popular in America fterr 1848

Hypnotic Seance by Rochard Bergh- 1887. Spiritualiism was very popular in America after 1848

 

Eliza Tibbets was newly arrived in Riverside from the East with her husband, Luther.  Luther Tibbets had been in the mercantile business and successfully sold grain and cereal to the Union Army during the Civil War. The couple led active lives, championing women’s rights and progressive social issues.

When the allure of the new agricultural area of Riverside beckoned to them,

Riverside street; Magnolia Avenuethey moved west for new opportunities, leaving behind some good friends in important places.  Once there, Eliza Tibbets pondered what kind of crop to grow. To help her decide, she reached out to an old friend, and former neighbor, William O. Saunders, the noted horticulturist, who designed the Gettysburg Civil War Memorial Battlefield.  Saunders, at that time, was serving as Superintendent of Gardens and Grounds for the US Department of Agriculture.

William Saunders, the noted horticulturist

William Saunders, the noted horticulturist

 

In an amazing coincidence, Saunders had just been exchanging letters with a missionary, studying some impressive orange trees on the grounds of a monastery in Bahia, Brazil.
A mutation had produced a special, large orange, exceedingly sweet, delicious and seedless. The orange had an odd, second small orange growing within it, which when observed, looked like a belly button or navel.

Saunders shipped some cuttings to Mrs. Tibbets, which she grafted onto California citrus stock. Since it was a seedless orange, there were no seeds to plant. The grafted cuttings produced a large and delicious orange that Navel OrangeMrs.Tibbets felt had marketable possibilities. When the orange was displayed at a local growers fair, other Riverside orange growers saw the possibilities of the new orange and decided to buy buds from the Tibbets and graft them to their own citrus stock.

Rail lines to Southern California allowed the shipping of oranges across the United States. Here is a train line in the middle of a citrus grove

Rail lines to Southern California allowed the shipping of oranges across the United States. Here is a train line in the middle of a citrus grove

 

 

And thus, the Washington Navel Orange was born (giving credit to the Washington DC intermediary instead of Bahia, Brazil) along with a new California orange industry.

By the 1904-05 growing season,  31,422 carloads of Washington Navel Oranges were shipped by train out of California and across the nation. This began a huge and thriving California industry, thanks to Mrs. Tibbets and our friends in Bahia, Brazil.

 

 

"The Destroyer"  afloat at Sandy Hook , New Jersey, Captained by Joshua Slocum and bound for Brazil.

“The Destroyer” afloat at Sandy Hook , New Jersey, Captained by Joshua Slocum and bound for Brazil.

 

Listeners to our Listen To Read audiobook “ The Voyage of the Liberdade,” by Captain Joshua Slocum, may remember a little tale of Bahia, Brazil that I recorded and added to the album, called the “Voyage of the Destroyer”.

In 1894, The Brazilian Government needed a battleship to “Scare some rebels into submission.” The United State Government offered an old, worn out, leaking battle ship, laughingly called “The Destroyer.”

The Destroyer” was designed by John Erickson, who had previously designed the famous Civil War battleship “Monitor.” In fact, “The Destroyer” looked like a version of the “Monitor.” The most notable thing about the ship was its 43 foot long brass canon that carried an early torpedo, which, when fired, and if working, could destroy anything afloat. The ship could not travel a great distance under its own power and had to be towed by an ocean going tugboat named  the Intuit.

Captain Joshua Slocum author of "Voyage of the Liberdade,""Voyage of the Destroyer,"

Captain Joshua Slocum author of “Voyage of the Liberdade,” and “Voyage of the Destroyer,”

At that time, Joshua Slocum was going through hard times of unemployment, as he was an expert Captain of Tall Sailing Ships in a time when steam power had taken over shipping. In order to prove his ability with steam ships, Slocum accepted the mission to bring “The  Destroyer” from Sandy Hook, New Jersey to the bay at Pernambuco, Brazil.

"The Destroyer" toed through rough seas

“The Destroyer” towed through rough seas in an illustration for McClure’s Magazine March 1900

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a difficult journey, filled with peril, described wonderfully by Slocum, who called the trip, “the hardest voyage I have ever made.”

Captain Joshua Slocum poses with the crew of  "The Destroyer"

Captain Joshua Slocum poses with the crew of “The Destroyer”

“The Destroyer” did in fact scare the rebels, visually. Unfortunately, her underwater canon never worked. When she had frightened enough rebels into surrendering, the Brazilian crew brought her back to Bahia Bay, mishandled her, and made a great hole in her bottom, grounding her on a rock.

 

 

Sadly for Slocum, the Brazilian government tried to renege on part of the wages due him. A Brazilian Official sarcastically told Slocum he should take the wreck, “The Destroyer,” instead of his fee.

You can hear a free preview of three Slocum true stories at: http://listen2read.com/the-voyage-of-the-liberdade/

The Original Navel Orange tree in Riverside California bears fruite to this day

The Original Navel Orange tree in Riverside California bears fruite to this day

As for the Navel Orange trees, which reached Riverside California from Bahia, Brazil, one of the original trees sent to Mrs. Tibbets is still standing and bearing fruit.   You can visit it at the intersection of Magnolia and Arlington Avenues, in a little park, surrounded by a fence, in memory of the Brazilian cuttings and the woman, who created an American industry.

 

 

Andre Stojka
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