John Williams’s keen interest in horticulture soon found him travelling to Rochester, New York where he learned the best modern methods of grafting, pruning, budding, selection and insect control. He expanded the orchards until they covered 20 acres (about 10 typical city blocks) of land sloping toward the creek. He also grew cherries, plums, pears and grapes. The Ontario Agriculture Commission Report of 1881 states:
“A gentleman of my acquaintance, Mr. John P. Williams, has adopted a system of cultivation which I think is worthy of notice. He cultivates in the spring until about June, ploughs his land twice and sows it with oats; when they are about 4 or 5 inches high, he buys a lot of sheep, turns them on the land, they live on growing oats during the summer manuring the land, lying under the shade of the trees and devouring falling fruit. The sheep do not do any injury and his orchards are flourishing under that system.”
Pollination of so many blossoms was not done sufficiently by the wild bees of the area so John also purchased domestic bees and learned to be an excellent apiarist. He built a combined ice house and bee house with walls a foot thick and filled with sawdust. There he kept ice in the summer and bees in the winter.
In the meantime barrels were needed for shipping apples, so John had the staves, hoops and heads manufactured from logs at Morgan’s Mill. The construction of the barrels took place in a large brick fruit-house he had built across the road from the house. It was equipped with a good cellar for apple storage and a fireplace which kept both the apples and the barrel-makers from freezing in the winter. Many hundreds of barrels were made and packed in the new space.
In 1866 two side-wheel steamers began to provide direct and rapid connection between Picton harbour and Montreal. John could see a world of opportunity in this and got to work arranging the first shipment of Ontario apples ever to reach the soils of England!
Can you see why this man just had to work his way into the story?