WILLIAM H. CHASE – THE “APPLE KING” (October 3/06)

“I remember it, as though it were yesterday, this gentleman with his tall white beaver hat coming into the little country store at Port Williams late one afternoon where I was busily waiting on customers.

“Farmers in those days did most of their shopping in the evening and it was not until about nine o’clock that he rather impatiently said to me, ‘young man, when am I going to be favored with a few minutes of your valuable time?’  It was then I asked him in the office and he made known his errand.”

This was how William H. Chase described an encounter with an American agent who “about 1878 … came to Nova Scotia with a view to purchasing apples for the New York market.”  The scenario took place in the store Chase was operating in Port Williams.  The quotes, from an article he wrote for the Advertiser’s apple blossom magazine in 1933, give us a firsthand look at how Chase first got into shipping Valley apples to American markets.

In the article, Chase reveals that he became involved with apple exporting about a decade earlier; he and a cousin had entered the business of buying apples and shipping them to markets in New Brunswick.  It was small scale at first, but this was the modest beginning of Chase’s apple empire.  From buying 500 barrels of apples from farmers near Port Williams and shipping them a market less than 100 miles away, Chase would expand to become Nova Scotia’s undisputed apple emperor.  Anne Hutten writes in Valley Gold that in his heyday, Chase was known to sell as many as 200,000 barrels of apples a year worldwide, and until World War 1 was the king of all apple brokers in eastern Canada.

Chase writes that it was the visit of the agent to his store in 1878 to purchase apples for the American market that “really gave the first big impetus to the industry.”  As a result, “we purchased practically all the apples in the district from Windsor to Aylesford and shipped them to New York, in all some 31,000 barrels.”

Chase concludes that it was from this time that the “apple industry began to be carried on in this Valley on a commercial basis.”  This was also his first step in becoming a leading entrepreneur and a pioneer in several fields besides the apple industry.   He is saluted in the Wolfville history (Mud Creek) as an “outstanding leader in the apple business” who “distinguished himself as a financier and inaugurated an improved apple shipping overseas.”   R. A. Jodrey was his partner in several business ventures, including the Windsor Electric Company, shipping, and apple processing.

A Planter descendant and Port Williams native, Chase was born in 1851.  He died in 1933, a few months after his review of the apple industry was published in the Advertiser’s apple blossom magazine.

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