Hiram F. Smith
First Settler of Okanogan County
By Ann Briley
“Okanogan” Smith farmed near Oroville. He planted the first orchard, filed the first mining claim, served in the State Legislature and otherwise distinguished himself as a pioneer leading citizen
On the eastern shores of Osoyoos Lake at Oroville along the forgotten Hudson’s Bay Trail, an orchard nearing its hundredth birthday will again offer its fruit in a bountiful harvest this year. These are gnarled old trees carried in by one of Hiram “Okanogan” Smith’s pack trains from Fort Hope, B.C., in 1861, when 1,200 vines and trees were set out. Fourteen of the original apple trees survive today: pippins, winesaps, and delicious, bearing from 50 to 75 boxes every year; four or five pear trees linger from the days when they were strange fruit introduced by the lone white man, the county’s first settler, Hiram F. Smith.
What did the Okanogan semi-savages think of the large red fruit of the white man? It is an interesting thought but we will never know, so long ago were the times of this man’s arrival. But in the “early days” now slipping from remembered history, when the few settlers came from miles around to Smith’s oasis, the soft fruits of summer and fall’s apples are remembered gratefully. One seventy-year-old with nostalgic glimmer of boyhood memories in his eyes says, “I’ll never forget those blue permain apples we used to get there.”
Hiram Francis Smith, born in 1829, was a Maine boy who learned the printer’s trade, ultimately working as a skilled craftsman on large daily newspapers in New York, Detroit, and elsewhere. The gold rush in California lured him west in 1849; thence to The Dalles in Oregon, where he operated a freighting and packing service; and finally he hit the trail north to the Cariboo gold fields when rich finds were made there in 1858. This trail was an ancient one so far as the portion now lying in Washington and British Columbia. It followed natural earth contours; fording the powerful Columbia River at old decaying Fort Okanogan, it progressed northward by logical means. It had long been traversed by the Indians, then by the fur traders, and in an area not yet begun would be followed by the settlers and their wagons. The stream of travel in 1858 lent some air of bustle to the practically abandoned Hudson’s Bay post, and, while the Canadian gold excitement lasted, would give a borrowed activity to the place.