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.
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,
they 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.
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 Mrs.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.
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.
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.
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.
It was a difficult journey, filled with peril, described wonderfully by Slocum, who called the trip, “the hardest voyage I have ever made.”
“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: https://listen2read.com/the-voyage-of-the-liberdade/
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.