By Arnetta Guion
1915 was a year of new beginnings for Charles Willis Ward, of Long Island, New York. He had come to Humboldt county to settle his father's estate holdings. After the lands were equitably divided, Mr. Ward became the chief owner of the Cottage Garden Nurseries. He began to experiment in plant culture and found the climate and soil of Humboldt county worthy.
Mr. Ward bought forty acres of land a few miles north of Arcata, from Jason Wagoner. About 1916 the McKinleyville branch of the Cottage Garden Nurseries was started on Central Avenue and Sutter Road. At that time it was thick with trees and brush.
Using gas farm tractors and a team of horses they cleared the land. Here Ward planted several million assorted Holland bulbs, and called the place the New Haarlem Bulb Farm. He imported all he could, and bought the entire bulb stock of a grower in Vancouver in one instance. It was Ward's dream to create a showplace and be the largest grower of Holland bulbs in America.
To further the fame of his bulbs he published a catalog - California Grown Holland Bulbs -about the Hyacinths, Tulips, Narcissus and Crocus, grown in Humboldt County. Records show that one specialty bulb, the New Giant White Trumpet Narcissus Imperator (a daffodil) cost $200 for one bulb. This should not be surprising as history reveals that a few hundred years earlier, a tulip craze swept Europe and bulbs were even used to ransom someone's freedom. Many fortunes were spent for a few choice bulbs and competition was fierce as to which noble had the most beautiful tulip bloom that spring.
Ward succeeded in his dream and in spring people would come to McKinleyville by the hundreds to view the grand panorama of blooms on Daffodil Day. There were tens of thousands of Dutch, French and Japanese bulbs growing at the bulb farm and they were sent out to all parts of the US.
By 1917, the nursery acreage had grown. There was a two-hundred and thirty acre farm at Carlotta, a 66-acre exhibition nursery at Eden, on the outskirts of Eureka, which grew rhododendrons, roses, azaleas, orchids, gloxinias, carnations and shrubs of all kinds.
Ward's business became Cottage Garden Nurseries, Incorporated. By l922 the business began to have difficulty meeting the payroll. It was Konrad Weirup, the nurseries foreman, who put up the money to help pay employees.
After several months Mr. Weirup was repaid when he received the 40 acre bulb farm in McKinleyville and took that over as a separate business. Mr. Ward finally went broke and Cottage Garden Nurseries went into other hands, but he never lost his love for Humboldt county and had done much to promote Redwood country around the world. He continued to live at his home on Huntoon and E Streets in Eureka until his death. continued
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