This is a website that is in the process of being developed with information about Heritage & History in the Hartley Valley, and needs assistance and input from other researchers.
BILLESDENE pursing scant research has revealed the following
James Albert Harris was born in 1870 and married Violet Morris in 1900 at Forbes. While living at Forbes they had had two sons, Ralph born 1902 and Max .born 1908 James died in 1936 aged 76.
Walter Ralph Harris and Henry Max Harris.
.Billesdene was purchased by James Harris in 1916 from the
Neale family . It soon became a leading apple orchard in the
valley. The Hartley Valley rivaled the apple produce of Tasmania.
For 35 years from 1916 to 1941 the property was operating as a produce garden. Ralph Harris along with his brother Max operated Harris Brothers Orchards.
The property was later operated by Jack Ireland of the Mt. Victoria General Store.
Yvonne Macewan had married Ralph's brother Max Harris, and her sister Marcia Osterberg-Olsen still resides at Billesdene.
Rise & fall of the apple industry in Hartley
Apples were grown in the Hartley district before the 1900's. Early in the 1900's it was discovered that the fruit grown here was of a particularly high quality - this quality resulting from the terrific soil and cold climate. The fruit quickly gained a reputation and several Hartley landowners decided to plant large numbers of trees.
Some of the larger orchards were Cripps 'Cranbrook' orchards, Pieres orchard 'Forty Bends' Bowenfells and George Pitts at Hartley Vale. Later came the Birds, Baaners, Harris, Facchina and Morris families. It is worthy of note that some of the Morris family were involved in the earlier orchard plantings. There were also many smaller orchards throughout the district.
In the 1920's a number of growers got together to form the Hartley District Fruit Growers Association. This group decided to show their produce at the Sydney Royal Show entering in the pyramid classes against other districts. They were very successful, many times winning their class and individual growers from Hartley also won major prizes with their entries.
On one occasion a case of Delicious Apples from Harry Bird's orchard won a major export prize. When Harry's produce arrived in England it was presented to the late King George V - this event in itself provided a major boost to the apple industry in Hartley and 'Hartley Apples' earned an enviable reputation overseas and with NSW householdes. England thereafter took many shipments of Hartley apples; the apples were also traded to Europe and Asia.
WWII caused disruption to the Hartley industry due primarily to the shortage of labour. Soon after, the Apple and Pear Board was formed and severe restrictions were imposed. These restrictions broke the hearts of many growers in the Hartley District and no more plantings took place. In fact, trees in many of the older orchards were simply pulled out. Over the following years fewer and fewer trees remained and flocks of sulphur crested cockatoos and other birds began to take their toll on the survivors. No commercial crops remain in Hartley today.
[excerpts from 'Hartley Big Backyard Book']