A Trip to Sharyland
By C. B. Fontain
New Era Printery, Ft. Smith, Ark.

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By C. B. Fontain

“Know ye the land of cedar and vine,
Where the flowers ever blossom
       The beams ever twine,
Where the soft wings of Zephyr
        Oppressed with perfume
Wax faint o’er the gardens
       Of gull in their bloom
Where the citron and orange, the
        fairest of fruit
And the voice of the nightengale
       Never is mute
Where the tints of the earth, and the
        hues of the sky
In color though varied, in beauty may vie.”


        On February the 4th, 1922, a bunch of us Arkansans started on an excursion from Fort Smith, Arkansas to the Valley of the Rio Grande near McAllen and Missions, Texas, across the river from Reynosa, an ancient city of Mexico, to visit the great Citrus fruit orchards in Sharyland, named in honor of John H. Shary the founder of the greatest fruit and vegetable enterprise I have ever seen.
      Mr. Shary still holds some twenty thousand acres. His company has spent some millions of dollars improving this property and is still spending millions.
      This is a dry country, but the irrigation system is a model of scientific proficiency.
      We visited the irrigation plants, the back bone of the whole thing. A lawyer told me, he had spent a quarter of a million dollars for his engines alone, he had one new engine that cost $55,000. This engine forced a stream of water 10x16 feet. He had two other plants.
      The roads had cost large sums of money, some hard-surfaced, some gravel, many double tracked. On either side of the principal roads there are beautiful palm trees set twenty feet apart.
      The land is much like Cross Lanes River bottom. Now imagine that country with fine macadam and gravel roads with palm trees on either side set twenty feet apart and all the fields in Grape-fruit, Oranges and Lemons, with a great water system ready, at the moment you phone Ted. And in every field where the trees are under four years old are Cabbage, Lettuce, Onions and Beets. Beautiful painted Bungalows on every 5, 10 or 25 acres and you will then have a slight conception of Sharyland.
        I heard of no sickness there. The country claims to be adapted to the cure of Rheumatism, Catarrh and Asthma.
        We heard an eminent English Scientist paint the country with the brush of an artist. When we were there California was losing millions of fruit from a freeze, the Englishman said: Grape Fruit, Lemons and Oranges must be on that particular line where it may frost, but never freeze.
      A smudge pot keeps off the frost but not the freeze. This is not far enough south for bananas. I saw some there, but do not think they were a success.
      A very healthy specimen ,who bore the poetic name of Peter Benson. Peter ran true to form and told us what we wanted to hear. He had come from Denmark to South Dakota, married there and raised four boys who went to the Army. So along in ‘15 or ‘16 Mr. Benson worked so hard to save his crop that he lost his health and was unable to do any more farm work. His wife had heard of Charyland and was not exactly willing to give him up, so she sent him to Charyland. We heard him talk at his twenty-five acre home. I noted what he planted first year before he had fruit; this was in war time, but is hard to believe:
      Five acres planted in corn in February, 350 bushels at $2.00 per bushel.
      Five acres sorghum hay, $50.00 per acre.
      Six acres broom corn, 185 tons first cutting, 250 tons second cutting.
      All this taken off by the first of November, then he began real farming. He planted a large crop of cabbage and onions from which he realized $10, 350. I think he got $80.00 per ton for cabbage. This was all raised and harvested in fourteen months. Mr. Benson is a high class gentleman and perfectly responsible. Write him at Mission, Texas.
      Power and farm tools are cheap. I saw a few tractors, but on small farms, not necessary. A pair or tree small horses are generally used and then plows, harrows and discs, but I saw but little use for discs, as the lands are mellow and no pest grasses.
      The Rhoades Grass, sent by Cecil Rhoades (African diamond fame) is very fine. I saw a drove of hogs on a patch. I saw some very good alfalfa there, but few stables, the stock looked rough, being constantly exposed to the weather.
     I understand that a house can be built there cheaper than here, on account of labor and the use of beaver board to ceil on inside and cheaper lumber. $600.00 to $800.00 will build a nice five room cottage. They say they have a good freight rate.
      Land sells for from $400.00 to $600.00 per acre, one-half cash, balance at 7%, good terms. I think one is justified in coming with $3000.00.
      The Grape-Fruit seems to be the leading and most valuable fruit. The trees begin to bear and become profitable the fourth year. The trees are now planted twenty feet apart, the first three years, crops are raised between the rows. I saw many onions and cabbage in the young orchards. I never saw any trees over nine years old. The fruit (i.e.) Grape-Fruit, oranges and lemons seems to be the most valuable, though there are many other kinds that do well. And a peculiar feature is: the older these trees, the better. I heard a lady say she got $120.00 for the fruit of an Avocato tree, good for T.B.
      This is the only place I know where settlers are wanted and are welcomed. The only place I know where they are social, contented and optimistic. Nothing but Americans, no Jap is, or can be there. Some came and were given notice to leave, and Texas passed a law forbidding them to buy land. Mexicans own no land there.
      The Churches there are about the same as here. Methodist, Baptist, Catholic and Christian seems to prevail.
      We were on the twenty-five acre farm of a man who stated publicly he had just been offered $85,000 for his farm. His orchard was four and five years old. His improvements, a $2,000.00 bungalow. His fruit was certainly fine. Cabbage was making ten to twelve tons per acre and selling for $15.00 per ton and dropped to ten per ton while we were there.
      In regards to using commercial fertilizer - the silt from the Rio Grande seems to fully take the place of all fertilizers.
      They have lots of water, and when they irrigate, they were covering the fields, and I saw the fields the next day after water had receded and they were covered all over with the silt. Commercial fertilizer costs large sums in Florida, before they can do anything towards farming.
      I saw no idlers there and much work is going on. Many fields were being irrigated. Wagons filled with Cabbage, Onions, Lettuce and other vegetables lined the roads. They were planting corn, watermelons and cantaloupes, some coming up and some just planting. I never saw any one looking for work.
      In regards to Watermelons and Cantaloupes - I understand that they do well here and about the earliest in the United States and always tops the market.
     There are many people from Fort Smith and some from Crawford County there now. Alex Couch, Jack West, Meister of Fort Smith and many others, I heard. Alex was offered $15,000 profit for his tract.
      I saw a farm owned by a man from the Citrus regions of California. I especially think the fruit and vegetable men of Crawford County should investigate this proposition and act at once, as emigration is fast coming in.
      Mr. Tom Overstreet of near Spiro, Oklahoma, bought here some years ago, and I hear his lands have greatly increased in value.
      These kinds of lands in California have risen to $1,500.00 to $2,000.00 per acre and can hardly be had.
      I have backed my judgement and bought ten acres on Sharyland Boulevard, across the road from Mr. Shary’s thirty-six acre Grape-Fruit and Orange orchards. I met Mr. Shary, who had just returned from his oil interests in Mexico, a cosmopolitan, yet a democratic gentleman. I was in his home - a picture of modern elegance, his oriental rugs cost $52,000. I saw his lake, his sunken gardens, his walks, his palm trees and his deer park.
      It takes a man with vision to size up Sharyland. She has but two competitors - Florida on the East and California on the West. I know of no other competition on this continent, about one thousand miles, “as straight as the crow flies” from Fort Smith. She commands the trade of the Mississippi Valley from Houston to Minneapolis and from Denver to Cincinnati.
        Her transportation facilities will be completed soon. The Rio Grande has a ship sunk in it now, which will be taken out soon and there is a hard-surfaced road being built to Point Isabel and Brownsville on the Gulf of Mexico. The gulf is only fifty-two miles from Sharyland. It will then have Rail, Water and Truck transportation to the gulf. And this is inevitable.
       My vision tells me in the years to come, it will be the playground of the millionaire. In a few years great school houses and churches can be seen glittering in the sunlight. Very good school houses and teachers houses now dot the landscape.
      How can this land be cheap? Consider the cost of irrigation, the cost of the plant, the irrigation ditches. They have begun to wall the ditches with cement. I vision that overnight the town of McAllen and Mission, five miles apart, will speedily join together and in a decade will be the greatest city on the Southwest border.
       I have the Agency for Crawford County. The company runs excursions from Fort Smith once or twice a month. You can take the trip from Fort Smith and return and not be out a cent for meals, beds and transportation, except for the original fee, not to exceed $50.00.

from the files of Jack J. Scott, fall, 1998
copied from prited brochure, January, 1999, by Carol Anne Scott