ioneer Samuel Bowen settled the land where Hillcrest Orchard is located in 1853. In 1868 Bowen sold his property to Jesse Richardson who also purchased an adjoining donation land claim to the west from Amos Blue. William H. Stewart, whose father Joseph Stewart developed the region’s first commercial orchard in the late 1880s, bought the tract composed of land from the Bowen and Blue claims in 1889 and planted apple and pear trees. In 1903, William Stewart sold to Julian W. Perkins, of Portland, Oregon. Perkins named his orchard “Hillcrest” and built a new residence on Hillcrest Road. Five years later, Hillcrest caught the attention of Reginald Hascall Parsons who purchased the orchard and whose family continues to maintain the property today.
During Hillcrest Orchard’s early years workers watered the trees from a horse-drawn tank wagon until irrigation district water became available in the 1920s. Through the same period, crews used horses and mules to operate farming equipment. As trees came into bearing at Hillcrest Orchard, employees picked the fruit and hauled it to the railroad in Medford for shipment back East. Reginald Parsons organized the Pinnacle Packing Company, for which a building was built in 1917. For years, Hillcrest sold fruit to Pinnacle, one of the major fruit packing houses in Medford. Mr. Parsons remained a co-owner of the packing company until his death. In later years, Southern Oregon Sales (S.O.S), a local agricultural cooperative begun in 1926, packed Hillcrest pears for shipment as well as fruit from other orchards. In New York and other large cities brokers sold the fruit at auctions. Both domestic and European purchasers bought Hillcrest pears and apples from these busy centers.
During the Depression and World War II years the Parsons family retained their employees and kept the fruit trees in healthy condition. By 1938, Reginald Parsons had gradually removed all the apple trees and replaced them with pears since the latter were more profitable. As the older pear trees declined in production, workers replaced them with new stock. Today, some of the orchard’s earliest pear trees remain standing, producing Hillcrest “century pears.”
Widely recognized for its architectural and historic significance, Hillcrest Orchard was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. The eleven historic buildings included on the Register and their construction dates are:
Electric Car Garage
c. 1906 (1926)