Founding Farmers: How Strawberries Came to Syracuse

BY JENNY GOLDSBERRY

Richard Hamblin soon came to be known in the area as the “Strawberry King.”

Syracuse resort and train

The area from Kaysville to South Weber to South Hooper is the Sandridge of Utah. It was here that the Weber River carried sand into the bottom of Lake Bonneville. After the ancient lake dried up, the soil was left sandy but also lush. Utah was still a dry climate, so the most successful crops in the beginning were hay and grain. This was a tactic known as dry farming, because these crops were more resistant to droughts. Plus, these were then fed to the cattle and sheep.

Richard Hamblin and Emily Marie Slopper moved onto their 160 acres of Syracuse land in 1878. Emily had been the housekeeper for Richard’s father in England. The couple was attracted to Utah after the Homestead Act of 1862, which allowed for the open sale of railroad lands. Richard filed a claim on some land as soon as he received his U.S. citizenship. At first, Richard helped on his uncle’s farm in Layton, but eventually, he wanted to try his own hand at farming. He personally loved strawberries, so he tried to bring them on to his farm. He had to go down to St. George and back for the strawberry plants. With the help of his family, they eventually grew enough strawberries, not only for themselves, but also enough to ship 100 cases a day to Evanston, Wyoming. He soon came to be known in the area as the “Strawberry King.”

During the reign of the Strawberry King, Syracuse did not have much to offer. The only other businesses besides fruit farming were salt yards and the resort along the edge of the Great Salt Lake. By the early 1900s, both the resort and the salt yards had gone under. Previously, the train station known as Syracuse was at the corner of 4500 West and 1700 South, and it had a branch that took travelers to that lakeshore resort. In March of 1906, those tracks were removed because the resort had failed and was deserted. While the salt and tourism industry in Syracuse had died, the fruit growing industry was doing better than ever. The new “Syracuse” station became the Barnes station at 715 South and 2000 West, right near the Kaysville Canning Company.

The new Kaysville Canning factory after it burned down in 1923, pictured here in 1925.

The first Syracuse cannery began in January 1898 with a board of directors. James T. Walker, W.J. Parker, David Cook, William Beazer, and James Warren came together to build a new factory and contract local farmers. Their twelve original stockholders were David Cook Sr., D.C. Adams, John W. Singleton, Thomas A. Ross, Gilbert Parker, William H. Miller, and Daniel H. Walker, plus the five of them on the board. Each invested $160, and those who couldn’t afford that level of investment provided labor to the tune of $160 during that first year. In the subsequent year, they canned strawberries, pumpkins, cucumbers (which became pickles), apples, prunes, pears, peaches, plums, beans, and one of the very first crops grown in family gardens in Syracuse: tomatoes. Eventually, the Kaysville Cannery would buy out not just this cannery but also the Davis County Canning Company. In a previous issue, you can find an even greater detailed history of the Kaysville Cannery. Because of a few early settlers taking a risk in planting crops exotic to Utah, canning truly became the bread and butter of Syracuse.

Family story?
Do you recognize any of the names above? Do you have more stories to tell about them? We want to hear from you!

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