Birth & Childhood Pt. 2 – Cleone Cutler


Joseph J. Cutler family.  Parents in back, children from left to right are: Norm, James, Cleo, and Wanda.

Cleo did more work outside with her father and brothers than she did inside the house, mainly because her father needed the help.  The work was hard on the children physically, and sometimes they would lay down in the furrows and sleep.  One day, since their father wasn’t home, they quit work early to go to a ballgame. Just as they had taken the harness off the horses and were ready to leave, their father came home.  When he found out they had not finished the rounds, he made them hook the horses back up and finish the job.

Another time, Cleo and her father were driving home after spending the day cutting grain.  As they came to the creek they noticed a group of boys jumping off the bank, swimming without their clothes on.  Her father jumped down off the wagon, went down the bank to where the boys were and yelled at them to put their clothes on.  Then with a stern bishop’s warning to never let the girls look at them that way again, he drove on home.


Lucy Cutler with three of her children: Cleo, James, and Wanda (left to right)

The Cutler family had milk cows, chickens, and horses to do the farm work with.  They also kept a few pigs for their own use, killing them as needed for food  They would hang the meat in the granary during the winter, freezing it.  Eggs had to be sold to buy sugar and other necessities they could not produce themselves.  Cleo’s mother bottled fruit and other produce from their garden.  The family had two cellars, a cement one for food and another for root vegetables like potatoes and carrots.

Snowville was a beautiful place with big poplar trees, green grass everywhere and lots of water.  Beautiful, but not very big.  There wasn’t a lot of money in Snowville; most of the people farmed their own land or raised milk cows.  The two main farm crops were wheat and rye and the farmers did all their work with horses; plowing, drilling, and harvesting.  There was a creek west of town, just off through the fields, close enough for the children to walk to.  They would go fishing for crawdads or suckers.  And when they were really feeling brave, they would swim in it.  Cleo once cut her foot on a piece of glass in the creek.  The kids took her home and in the time it took for it to heal, they decided it was easier to swim in the muddy irrigation ditch.


Strawberry Place

Strawberry Place - 2015

11905 Dudley Rd. Newberg, Yamhill, Oregon

While living at the Patton place, Boyd and Cleo decided to invest in some property relatively close by.  They had always wanted a piece of property of their own; a place to go when they retired.  The farm was about 13 acres, 5 of which was planted in strawberries, hence the name.  The family raised pigs here and the land also had cherry trees.  Darwin and his wife Barbara lived here for a time shortly after they were married.  Everyone helped remodel the existing house for them.  Boyd and Cleo sold the land after owning it for six to eight years.  All that is left on the property is a cleared plot of land in the fork of 2 roads, (northwest side of both the drainage and the roads) near a cluster of fir trees.

Harvesting Filberts (Hazelnuts)

Filbert (Hazelnut) Orchard in Yamhill County, OR

Filbert (Hazelnut) Orchard in Yamhill County, OR

The Patton Place had 5 filbert or hazelnut orchards, one of which was 99 acres, the largest in the world at that time.  Two of the five orchards were started by Boyd.  This made for hard work and great responsibility for all members of the family.  The Patton orchards were regularly disked with a cultivator attached to the tractor.  The cultivator had big wheels (or disks) that would turn over the top 5-6 inches of dirt as it was dragged between the trees.  Then the orchard was harrowed to break up the dirt clods that occurred with cultivating.  And lastly, it was rolled in order to pack down the soil.  This process was repeated several times a year to keep the weeds and grass down.  In the Fall, in order to get the filbert orchards ready for harvesting, Boyd with the help of his boys, would disk several times, harrow to level it out, and then roll it over and over until it looked almost like a floor.  Then they prayed and hoped for rain to settle the dust and pack the soil down.

This process was done originally because the nuts, leaves, and husks were raked by hand.  Three to four hundred people called fruit tramps (because they would follow the harvest year after year) would be employed during the nut harvest to rake, pick up, and rub the nuts on grated tables to separate them from the leaves and husks.  This process would begin in early October, generally after hunting season, and could last until Thanksgiving time, depending on the weather.  Filberts are not shaken out of the trees, they are allowed to fall naturally.

As harvesting methods changed, the Mave Company in Newberg came to rely on Boyd Fergus for his practical knowledge and expertise.  As a result, the Patton Place became a test sight for new harvesting methods the Mave Company developed.  The first change came with the automation of the raking system.  A mechanical rake was developed by the Mave Company.  It had teeth and looked like a windblower with a hopper on the front (to keep the nuts from flying everywhere).  The workers would start raking in the middle of the orchard between the rows of trees.  With the mechanical rake they would sweep a path about 6 feet wide.  Then the only hand raking needed was at the base of the trees.  The next development was to reverse the raking process.  The workers began blowing the nuts from around the tree trunks and out into the middle of the orchard where they could be picked up.


Then Mave Company began building machinery to replace the grated tables on which the nuts were hand-rubbed to separate them from the leaves and husks.  The machine was approximately 25 feet long with two engines, and was pulled through the orchard by a tractor.  The harvesters would dump what they had raked (nuts, leaves, and husks) into the machine which then sorted them.  The sorting process was accomplished by chained conveyor belts that let forced air through in order to blow the husks and leaves away.  What was left would then go into a squirrel cage about 3 feet around and 7 feet long; this helped get rid of the extra dirt clods and sticks.  Then, whatever was left came onto another conveyer belt which dumped the nubs out the back of the machine.  Aunt Vaud and Aunt Fern would then pick out any additional rocks and refuse before the nuts were sacked.  The bagged nuts were then hauled to a dryer.

Boyd Fergus and the Patton Place played a big part in the testing and development process for filbert harvesting and as a result simplified it for future farmers.  The last year Boyd and Cleo worked for Mr. Patton, the harvesting process required only 30 workers because the ground did not have to be disked anymore.  The whole process was automated.