You could say Riverside’s march to prosperity started with Mrs. Eliza Tibbets. In the early 1870s she planted two navel orange trees sent from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Citrus growing wasn’t new to California’s Inland Empire, now made up of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties, 50 miles west of Los Angeles. Missionaries planted oranges around 1800, and lemon growers helped stave off scurvy among Gold Rush prospectors. But Mrs. Tibbets’ trees were special—Brazilian Bahia navels—with the sweetest flavor around and, another plus, no seeds.
The orange trees loved the climate and soil, and soon more and more people were loving their fruit. Groves spread throughout the region, and California’s Second Gold Rush was off and running.
The juicy crop went national when rail service arrived, and the first commercial refrigerated freight shipment proceeded to points near and far in 1887. California citrus groves multiplied from 3,000 to 40,000 acres. In 1893, growers organized a co-op that would become Sunkist Growers, Inc. Riverside became known as the Citrus Capital of the World. (more…)