Clendenen's Cider Works imageClendenen's Cider Works imageClendenen's Cider Works, the best cider you'll ever taste!

The History of Clendenen's Cider Works

The best cider you'll ever taste!

We start this history by showing the Clendenen homestead in 1911, the year before the sinking of the Titanic. The house is still being used by the family today, although there's been some rebuilding both outside and inside over the past hundred years. When this house was built there were no building codes, no electricity, no natural gas, no plumbing, and no central heating. Water came out of a hand pump in the back yard. Even though downtown Fortuna was only just over a half mile away, at the time of this photograph the home was surrounded by fields filled with hay and cattle.

There's an awesome picture of Fortuna here that was taken at the same time. It shows this house in the far distance, on the right side of the road stretching into the middle horizon.

This dapper gentleman is Ernest Clifton Clendenen, father of Andrew, grandfather of Clif and great-grandfather of Drew Clendenen. Ernest and his wife May bought the place (on what was then called Sandy Prairie Road) in 1908 from E. F. Johnston of Oregon.

Ernest had been born in Eureka, in 1867, shortly after his parents Andrew and Emeline had arrived there. Their landing in Eureka was the end of a long journey by sea that had originated in New Brunswick, Canada. Its route included a voyage around the stormy Cape Horn, and we can safely assume that poor Emeline was thankful to put behind her the seasickness during her pregnancy.

When Ernest bought the property, the area across the street from the house and orchard contained a dairy barn. He realized that the orchard had been planted at about the same time he was born, and his vision became to expand that part of the enterprise and concentrate on the apple business. He planted more trees and was soon shipping apples to San Francisco. Less than a year after Ernest and May purchased the land, in January of 1909, May gave birth to their son Andrew in the house in the picture above.

Let's pause for a bit and place this time period in perspective. There were few automobiles or buses. You could take a train to Eureka, but any other overland journey would require a bumpy horse-drawn stage over poor roads. Except by sea, Humboldt County was isolated from the rest of the world. There were no highways or railroad tracks out of the area, and the only way to ship cargo anywhere was by sailboat or steamer.

Ernest had made a large shipment of apples to a wholesaler in San Francisco via the steamer from Eureka. He was told by the recipient that the apples had spoiled en route and that the customer was refusing to pay for them. Ernest knew his product better, hopped on the next steamer to San Francisco, and demanded to inspect the shipment. He determined that there had been no spoilage and that a shady dealer was trying to take advantage of him. Realizing he couldn't accompany every out-of-town shipment, he decided that rather than ship apples long distance, instead send barrels of apple cider and vinegar (vinegar is cider that has gone through an extra fermentation).

After struggling with a manual basket-type press for a few years, Ernest determined there had to be a better way. After doing a bit of research, he soon found that the The Hydraulic Press Manufacturing Company (founded by Augustus Q. Tucker) in Mt. Gilead, Ohio was THE place to buy a quality cider press, and he promptly placed his order. In 1916 the room-sized machine was shipped from Ohio to Fortuna. He chose the Mount Gilead No. 4-C Hydraulic Cider and Fruit Press, the most popular-selling press the company offered. This machine was powered with an electric motor. Stamped with the name Mount Gilead, it was capable of processing 600 gallons of juice per day due to its double car capability, allowing uninterrupted pressing while preparations were made for the next batch. This press was designed particularly for small orchards and farms. Because of its convenient size and simple, rugged construction, it was very popular with fruit growers everywhere. 

It's about 1925, and we're now going to follow young Andy Clendenen. And here he is, as a teenager, after picking and loading apples onto this 1922 Samson truck. Along with his passenger, the hired hand Jake Hickson, Andy is backing the truck into the Cider Works to unload and process the apples. This truck has "grousers" attached to the rear wheels, devices used to increase traction on soft surfaces such as plowed fields and orchards.

This Samson truck (and the Samson tractor) was built in Janesville, Wisconsin, but the company was originally based in Stockton. It had begun manufacturing three-quarter and five-quarter ton trucks in 1918. It was acquired a year later by GM, with its intended business plan being to build both tractors and trucks for the farm market. However, none of GM's products proved competitive and the division closed in 1923. William C. Durant, president of the fledgling General Motors Corporation, had been buying companies left and right, and these impulses eventually led to his fall from grace at the company.

In the days of horses, farmers living 15 to 20 miles from a good market or shipping point had a real problem unless a railroad ran nearby. A team and wagon required most of a day to make the round trip to town and back, and in inclement weather, were often unable to make the return trip until the next day. Even though the average speed was about 15 mph, this truck could cover 20 miles in a couple of hours and was always ready to go.

During Prohibition, the Mount Gilead Cider Press ran nearly every day during apple season. As seen in this photo, local farmers and orchardists brought truck and wagon loads of apples to the Clendenen Cider Works for processing.


Now here's a photo with a lot of stories behind it. This is Ernest C. Clendenen at the age of 81. He's leaning his right arm on the ladder rack mounted on the side of this 1936 Chevrolet truck. This workhorse of a truck was used in the orchard as well as making pickups and deliveries. It looks like there's a wooden barrel in the back. The door panel proudly proclaims "Clendenen's Cider and Vinegar Works, Fortuna - Phone 62w". This photo was taken in 1948 in the Clendenen orchard, and some of those trees are still in use today.


The apple picking season extends from mid-August through December, and even though Teddy was always ready for a game, he couldn't always find someone to throw sticks for him during this time. To make sure cider was available for the entire apple season, there were (and still are) about 25 varieties of apples grown in the Clendenen orchard including Mutsi, Idared, Fuji, Jonagold, Bellflower, Spitzenberg, Golden Delicious and Gravenstein.



Looks like a rainy day in the 1950's. The peaked part of the structure saw many years of use as a dairy barn. The cider press was located in the new part on the left and boasted sliding screen doors. Photo by Neil Halbert, who was bravely standing in the rain and in the middle of Sandy Prairie Road, now called 12th Street.


In 1960 the Clendenen Cider Works undertook a huge move - all the way across the street! And here's the beginning of that journey, Andy Clendenen with his sons Clif and John, digging the footings for the new building, the same one that stands today.


The new 1,800 square foot building with ten-foot high walls was located in a front corner of the orchard. It was constructed by the Fortuna firm of T&H Construction and was bid at $3,829, not including the plumbing, electrical wiring, or painting.

Booklet with an image of the Cider Works on the front.
This booklet tells the story of the individuals and the times that made the Cider Works into what it is today. It is available for sale at the business, and was designed and created by Lynette Mullen. Contact Lynette if you have the need for a similar project.
The quality of construction and choice of materials has allowed this building to withstand several major earthquakes over the past forty years. The interior has been built to present a comfortable shopping experience.

The new building is nearly finished in this photo on the right, and that's a young Clif on his bike, adding a little human interest for the photographer.


In this 1961 picture the Mount Gilead Cider Press, partially disassembled, was being moved out of the old location and into the new building across the street and about a hundred feet away. Part of the old building had to be removed to allow clearance for the press. The prime mover here was a John Deere 1948 Model M tractor.


Here are Clif and Andy Clendenen coming back from a trip into the orchard after harvesting apples. These trees produce about 50 tons of apples each season, and Clif has spent a lot of years on this tractor. Some of the original orchard trees are still in use today and he has been picking apples from them since he was born.

Today, during the annual Apple Harvest Festival in October, you can take this same ride through the orchard and hear about the wonderful history of this Fortuna business.


Even though the Clendenen's orchard produces over 50 tons of apples per year, the demand for cider is so great that apples have to be sought from elsewhere. In 1983 this 1956 Ford F500 was ready to drive out of the page and to Sebastopol where 15 tons more of apples were being readied for the Clendenen's Cider Works pressing process. The truck was also used for local deliveries and to pick up produce and locally-made merchandise in Pepperwood, Shively and Ferndale for sale at the store, along with the estate-grown apples.


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