History of Fruitland
Prosper J. Berckmans
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The history of Augusta is much more than golf; it was once home to "Fruitland Nurseries" - one of the most successful horticultural sites of its time in the South. Located on Washington road, approximately 3 miles northwest of downtown Augusta, Fruitland planted millions of peach trees in the 1800s and early 1900s and made Georgia famous for its sweet Georgia Peaches. In 1931, the land was eventually purchased and transformed into the most famous golf course in the world.

The history of Fruitland goes back to 1853, when Augusta Judge, Benjamin Warren sold his 315-acre property to a local indigo farmer named Dennis Redmond, who named the property "Fruitland." He grew peaches, apples, grapes, strawberries and many kinds of trees and shrubs on the property. Redmond also began building a large house on the property he called "Fruitland Manor," which still remains as the clubhouse at the golf course. In 1857, father and son, Louis and Prosper Berckmans, Belgian immigrants journeyed to America via New Jersey finally settling on Augusta as the perfect land to build their nursery. Augusta was attractive to the Berckmans not only for its ideal climate and soil for nursery, but also for the city's ideal location for transportation via water, road and rail. That year, the Berckmans acquired 50% ownership of Fruitland from Redmond and a year later, Prosper became the 100% owner Peach tree at Fruitland of the property. He also purchased the surrounding lands to expand the nursery and completed construction of the Fruitland Manor construction that was initiated by Redmond and made it their home.

Prosper J. Berckmans Prosper Jules Alphonse Berckmans (1830 - 1910, Left) was born on October 13, 1830 in Belgium. Berckmans followed his father's footsteps and studied horticulture in Belgium and France returning to the family estate at the age of 17. In 1850, at the age of 20, Berckmans made a journey to America to pursue the possibility of moving to America. He visited several states in his journey mainly in the South including Augusta, yet his father decided to immigrate into New Jersey because he thought that it was ideal for a family nursery. After experiencing extremely cold winters in New Jersey, Berckmans decided to move the family to Augusta in 1857.

Berckmans soon became a well known horticulturalist and the "Father of the Peach Culture" across the South as his nursery business took off. When he arrived in Georgia, there were approximately 100,000 peach trees primarily located on family farms throughout the state. In 1858, he shipped the first Georgia Peaches to the New York market. By 1861, the Berckmans were producing over 300 kinds of peaches and many other kinds of fruits and trees at Fruitland. He developed and improved many types of peaches including the Chinese Cling, Elberta, Belle and Thurber peaches. Prosper's Thurber was one of the South's leading peaches until Samuel H. Rumph of Marshallville further improved the Elberta peach, which became one of Georgia's primary commercial peach varieties. (In 1875, Rumph also developed a peach shipment pallet design containing a box on crates holding crates of peaches and ice, which helped the Georgia Peach industry grow commercially beyond the state of Georgia.) During Berckmans' lifetime, he had introduced or improved three of the five main varieties of Georgia Peaches. Georgia State Department of Entomology wrote in its Bulletin in 1907, "The peach should be emblazoned on the Berckmans heraldry, for President Berckmans may be justly styled the father of peach culture in the South. The improvement of the Chinese Cling type in Georgia is largely due to the energies and foresight of Messrs. Berckmans, Miller, Rumph, Husted, Stubbs and other members of the Georgia Horticultural Society." Over Berckmans' 50 years of extensive research on peaches, he planted more than 3 million peach trees in Augusta according to the Berckmans family documents.

Georgia Peaches on Fruitland Nurseries By the 1880s, Fruitland was mailing out approximately 25,000 catalogs a year, many of which were sent overseas; the Fruitland catalogue read, “We ship to almost every part of the United States and our foreign trade reaches such distant points as Australia, China, Japan, Africa, the East and West Indies, Brazil, the Bermudas and every section of Europe and North and South America."

On November 6th, 1910, Berckmans passed away at the age of 80. Following his death, his three sons carried on the business. His oldest son, Louis Alphonse became President of the company. His second son, Robert Craig served as Vice President and youngest son, Prosper Jules Alphonse Jr. (“Allie”) was Secretary and Treasurer. Both Louis and Allie were active landscape designers and carried out Fruitland’s landscaping department successfully. Louis was also the garden designer for Radio City Music Hall in New York and designed numerous golf courses around the country.

In 1912, the Berckmans brothers stuck the largest peach deal ever made in Georgia. According to Augusta Chronicle's report, the brothers sold their entire year’s peach crop to a New Jersey firm for an estimated $100,000.00. While the brothers worked well together, there was a shift in the control of the Fruitland property after the death of their father due to his will, which was left to his second wife and his sons. The family business was eventually shut down. In 1918, less than a decade after Berckmans' death.

As the early 20th century progressed, Augusta was becoming a small winter retreat for wealthy northerners. In 1925, Miami hotel mogul, J. Perry Commodore Stoltz saw the opportunity and purchased the Fruitland property in an attempt to build his winter resort "Augusta Fleetwood Resort." His construction was never completed and Fruitland property was idle for the remainder of the 1920s. In 1931, the property was eventually sold for the reported amount of $70,000 to establish a golf course that has forever placed Augusta on the map as an internationally recognized center for golf. After the acquisition, Prosper’s two sons, L.A and Allie. Berckmans returned to the Fruitland property and assisted in the landscape design of the course of this famous course. The Berckmans' family home still remains on the original Fruitland property and serves as the golf course’s clubhouse today.

Today, Augusta is known throughout the world for golf while peach production has become a faded memory. Yet Augusta will always be the place that put Georgia on the map as the "Peach State" with its humble beginnings at Fruitland and the vision of the Berckmans family.
History of Fruitland Nurseries

History of Fruitland Nurseries
The history of Augusta is much more than golf; it was once home to "Fruitland Nurseries" - one of the most successful horticultural sites in the 19th century.


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