CATAWBA ISLAND – Catawba Historical Society offers a “peach” of a fall speaker.
The Catawba Island Historical Society (CIHS) is featuring peach grower Brad Schwan of Schwan Orchards on Catawba Island as its fall speaker in the 2023 CIHS Cultural Lecture Series. The speech will take place at the Catawba Island Community Hall, 3307 NW Catawba Road, on Wednesday, Oct. 18, at 6 p.m.
It is free to the public.
Schwan will share the story of how Catawba became the “Gold Standard” source for American peaches, thanks to visionary locals A.S. Reynolds and J.W. Gamble. Those early pioneers each planted 1,000 peach cuttings here in the 1850s.
Neighbors told them their venture was certain to fail, but by the late 1800s the island was covered with more than 200,000 fruit-bearing trees.
In the days before trucks and rail delivery, baskets of fresh peaches stacked three high were loaded onto steamers at the Catawba Island Fruit Dock bound for farmers markets across the Midwest. That loading location is today’s Miller auto and passenger ferry dock at the intersection of E. Water and N. Crogan Streets at the north tip of the island.
The transition from grapes to peaches on Catawba was orderly. Trees were positioned between rows of vines in the arbors. When the trees began producing fruit, usually two to four years after having been planted, the vines were removed.
Most of the once flourishing peach orchards on Catawba Island have been replaced over time by residential development. Schwan is one of a handful of hearty agrarians still producing fruit for purchase at his West Catawba Road orchard.
Schwan bought the property in 2004 and started planting peach trees on it in 2005, a significant departure from his experience and expertise.
Schwan was born and raised in Port Clinton. He graduated from Port Clinton High School and went on to earn undergraduate and graduate degrees in Education at Bowling Green State University. He subsequently taught at Eastern Arizona College and Arizona State University. Prior to the orchard business he owned and operated Swan Cleaners and Cygnet Charters. He also coached the Port Clinton High School varsity soccer team.
You can learn more about the Catawba Island Historical Society, its Catawba Museum at Union Chapel, and membership opportunities to help preserve and protect the area’s heritage the evening of Schwan’s speech, or by visiting www.catawbaislandhistoricalsociety.com.