Fred E. Thompson — People from Yakima’s past

April 22, 2010

Fred Thompson

The hop business was good to his father, so Fred E. Thompson decided it would be good to him, too.
But the son didn’t stop with hop vines, which his father first started cultivating on the coast near Tacoma.

In 1888, he bought land in the Yakima Valley and planted 10 acres of peaches, apples and pears, many of them new to the region, such as the D’Anjou pear and the Rome apple.

Thompson caught the tree-fruit bug. By 1906, he had 160 acres of orchards in the Parker area and had formed the Thompson Fruit Co.

A shrewd businessman, Thompson bought interests in other upstart fruit companies and developed a knack for marketing.

He was also one of the first on Yakima’s “Fruit Row.”

About 1893, Thompson Fruit shipped by train the first carload of fruit ever sent from the Yakima Valley across the Mississippi River. About 25 years later, Thompson was up to 155 carloads of fruit and employed 225 workers during harvest.

Thompson, born in Tacoma, was a true “westerner,” according to the publication History of the Yakima Valley, which was published in 1919 and contains biographical sketches of leading citizens written in the self-congratulatory style of the time.

“Actuated in all that he does by a progressive spirit, he is constantly reaching out along broadening lines that result to the benefit and upbuilding of the community as well as to the advancement of his individual success,” Thompson’s biography says.

He and his wife, Veola, had a daughter, Hazel, who became an assistant superintendent of Yakima schools.

— Leah Beth Ward

Women pack peaches at the Thompson Fruit Company in a photo taken about 1912.

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