The Pomona "Blossom" Label
Pomona label was used on fruit grown in the first growing region of Washington State—an area now known more for wine production.
The Pomona label, with its distinctive, large apple blossom and its companion bee, was first utilized by James L. Dumas at his orchard near Dayton, Washington, in the early 1900s. The label and the family orchard both were given the name Pomona after the Roman goddess of fruit trees, gardens, and orchards, by James and his wife, Fannie. Unlike most orchards, the Dumas holdings were known as Pomona Ranch, even though the only animals on the place were the workhorses used to pull the farm equipment and possibly a milk cow.
Dumas was originally a school principal in the small eastern Washington town of Waitsburg, and married one of the school's teachers. The newly married couple then answered a call by the Hawaii Board of Education to come to the islands and help start a teachers' college (a Normal School). It was only after his return from Hawaii in 1897 that Dumas and his wife started Pomona Ranch.
Although the site Dumas chose near Dayton was not the best because it was susceptible to frost, it did have good soil and a supply of water from the Touchet River. In the first year, Dumas planted 30 acres of his original 140-acre ranch, but in order to support the orchard until a commercial crop could be produced, Fannie returned to teaching for several years, and James became the principal of Dayton High School.
In subsequent talks before the Washington State Horticultural Association, Dumas enjoyed reminding the membership that the Walla Walla District was the first commercial fruit growing area of the state. Dumas was active in the formation of the Washington State Horticultural Association and became its sixth president in 1909. In his address to the association in 1980, Dumas was asked to talk about the profitability of growing apples. He told the assemblage that he had purchased, for $18,000, the neighbor's 50 acres, which had already been planted and were beginning to bear some fruit. He sold this crop in the fall of 1908 for $16,000, in addition to selling 23,000 boxes from his original Pomona Ranch plantings for $34,000. The total $50,000 income from the two places convinced Dumas he had made an intelligent decision getting into the fruit business, as he estimated his cost for producing the 1907 crop to be only about $10,000.
An obvious question might be "Who bought the crop from the fruit grower and packer located in such an isolated place?" Mr. Bahrenberg, a buyer from New York, having heard about the Pomona Ranch, made his way by train from Portland to Dayton to see the crop. Upon examining the fruit, Bahrenberg told Dumas that "the fruit could not be duplicated," and he purchased the entire crop for $1.48 per box, freight on board (FOB) at the Dumas siding. Fearing that he might have to back up the facts of this sale, Dumas had an affidavit signed and sealed by a local notary public and two witnesses. The cashier of the local bank and the railroad shipping agent verified that $50,000 was received for the 1907 crop of 33,922 boxes.
Dumas stated that the profit he made from that sale was more money than he had made in a lifetime as a teacher. But he was still an educator at heart and sold the orchard in 1910 for $150,000. The buyers, however, could not make the ranch profitable, and the Dumas family reclaimed the land in 1915. Dumas's son, Loren, following his graduation from Washington State College and military service in World War I, returned to the orchard and gradually took over the operation of Pomona Ranch.
Following the death of James Dumas, the official name of the orchard became the J.L. Dumas Estate at Pomona Ranch. Loren Dumas continued to manage the orchard until it was sold in the early 1960s. Once again, the new owners were unable to make the payments, and the ranch was repossessed by the bank, which, in turn, was unsuccessful in finding a buyer for the orchard. As a result, the bank removed the trees and sold the open land to the Warren family, who now grow seed crops and wheat. The packing house and cold storage buildings are being converted to a winery and tasting room by the DeWitt family of Walla Walla.
The logo in the lower corner of the label was the symbol used by an unsuccessful Northwest marketing cooperative.
Dave Burkhart is the grandson of James L. Dumas.