Homesteading in the Okanogan
Apple varieties that Petersen & Sons packed included common Delicious, Red and Golden Delicious, Jonathan, Winesap, Rome Beauty, and Spitzenburg.
New arrivals to the apple industry in the early 1900s came from all backgrounds and by many routes. The story of John S. Petersen is a good illustration of the Âdiversity and journey of the people who homesteaded in the Okanogan area of Washington State.
Petersen, a Danish immigrant to North America, first tried to make his fortune by participating in the Alaskan Gold Rush of the late 1890s. He was unsuccessful in finding gold and decided to join his brother, Goren Petersen, who had homesteaded 360 acres for the two of them in 1902 at Pogue Flat, just west of Omak, Washington. John and his family came through Canada and joined his brother in 1903 or 1904; both brothers planted orchards on the homesteaded land.
When John's orchard became productive, he, of course, had to find ways to market his crop and adopted the increasingly popular use of distinctive labels. Moonkist, Sure Hit, and SureKeen became the brands of the Petersen family orchards, which soon included those of his three sons, Raymond, Andrew, and Carl Petersen. Raymond and Andrew developed their orchards also on Pogue Flat, and Carl was nearby in Riverside.
Petersen & Sons were orchardists who experimented with true direct marketing. In 1925-1927, John took his apples to New York City by train and sold them from carts on the streets. It certainly Âeliminated the cost of a middleman, but it was not financially successful. Thus, from 1928 to 1930, Petersen & Sons constructed a warehouse with direct access to the railroad and brokers who took over the sales for a set price. John ran the warehouse operation until a sudden heart attack in the warehouse took his life in 1936.
By that time, John's brother and a total of five sons of the two brothers were packing their fruit under the Moonkist label. Varieties included the common Delicious, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Jonathan, Winesap, Rome Beauty, and Spitzenburg.
Near the end of, or shortly after, World War II, this warehouse was completely destroyed by fire. Goren then became a partner in the firm of Petersen, Keller, & Shumway, which processed, packed, and sold Petersen Orchards fruit under the Sure Hit and Sure-Keen labels.
The Moonkist label is exceptionally rare, and no descendant of the Petersen brothers has an original copy. The Yakima Valley Museum does have one in its Jim Rose family collection, and certainly would be happy to connect the Petersen family with a collector willing to part with his or her copy.