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June 26, 2013 / Joanne Yeck

World War II: German POWs Pick Buckingham Peaches

Camp Pickett_Field House

For two summers during World War II, Braxton L. Apperson, Jr. and his brother helped pick peaches at William and Ovid Davidson’s Orchard located in Buckingham County.  Both summers, German POWs were bussed from Camp Pickett (south of Farmville) to help pick the Buckingham fruit. Mr. Apperson remembers that they were brought in the mornings and returned to Camp Pickett each evening, bringing their own lunches.  It was a relaxed atmosphere with only one American guard per bus.  Unconcerned about escapees, the guards remained at the store building while the POWs were in the orchards picking.  Mr. Apperson remembers that most of the POWs did not speak English and kept to themselves at lunchtime.

In other cases, Buckingham farmers drove to Camp Pickett, picked up several POWs in the morning and returned them to the camp in the evening. Some farms provided meals.

In the 1950′s, Braxton Apperson’s brother was stationed in Germany where he met one or two former POWs who had worked in sawmills in Florida. They recalled that not all Germans were eager to return home when the war ended.


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  1. Ellett Snead / Sep 13 2013 3:11 pm

    My name is Ellett Snead, son of Jacqueline Davidson Snead, who was the daughter of Benjamin Ovid Davidson. I had the privilege of growing up at Davidson’s orchard and spending a lot of time at granddaddy’s home in Bremo Bluff. That home has a three-tiered yard with a lot of grass to cut. More on that later.

    Though the orchard was a lot of work with long hours, I considered it heaven on earth for a boy growing up. In addition to the orchard was the farm and timber business that granddaddy and William were both involved in. It was also one of the greatest places to hunt – everything from groundhogs, rabbits galore, deer, and more quail than you could ever count. A fall treat was many friends coming from Richmond and other places to quail and rabbit hunt. Everybody wanted to show off their particular dog – whether pointers or setters for the birds or the beagles for the rabbits.

    My cousin Tom Saunders (who posted earlier) would come up and stay in the summer. He and I both received on the job training cutting the grass at Bremo. Granddaddy finally got a riding mower after we had years of bonding with the push models. However the only person who could use it for awhile was H.T. Morris who I suppose was more trustworthy at the time. We finally got to use the Sears model some – always watching for yellow jackets though.

    I am sure between the two of us that we gave our grandfather many reasons to question the good sense of putting two teenage boys together around all the tractors, cold storage, and who could forget the electric stapling machine that really had the power. Then granddaddy bought us a jeep – Tom and I thought it was just for us. Where was the next place we would get it stuck? And who could resist the quarry hole close to the railroad track? By the grace of God we were kept safe.

    The upstairs portion of the cold storage building had a bagging machine for apples that we used to fill boxes and boxes of bagged apples to Richmond. Another building was the packing shed for both apples and peaches. Underneath was the dreaded fuzz pit that had to be cleaned from time to time – by hand and shovel I might add.

    William essentially kept the equipment and cold storage running while granddaddy kept the books, dealt with bills and payroll, and ran the selling operations. When William died (I believe in 1971), granddaddy had a real problem trying to find someone who could work on the cold storage units.

    There are so many memories of just being there in the midst of much activity will all the fruit being picked, sold, loaded on trucks and shipped. We would use those crates that Bill mentioned. Toward the end of the orchard days, we started picking the apples and putting them in bin boxes out in the field. Tractors were equipped with forks mounted on the rear to transport these boxes back to the main shed. We would then use front-end loaders to put the boxes on trucks to be shipped out.

    I have a box of Davidson’s Orchard stationery. I could upload a picture of it if this site allows photos. I remember those two pictures hanging in the house at Bremo that Tom mentioned were painted by the prisoners – glad to know they are still safe and still being enjoyed. I remember granddaddy mentioning that the German prisoners were so good at operating machinery and equipment.

    As Tom mentioned, there are so many stories about the workers, the farm, the cattle, the hunting, selling the fruit, spraying the trees, etc. I am so thankful for the opportunity to learn so much at Davidson’s Orchard.

    I will try to write more later. Thanks everyone for your comments.

    • Joanne Yeck / Sep 13 2013 3:16 pm

      Many thanks for your warm and wonderful memories of Davidson’s Orchard.

  2. Tom Saunders / Sep 4 2013 8:28 pm

    Hello my name is Thomas Archer Saunders Jr. My mother is Lucille Davidson Saunders and my grandfather was Benjamin “Ovid” Davidson. I enjoyed reading some of the Davidson family history in the messages above. My grandfather had two paintings done for him by the German POWs. I have a painting of Mount Vernon in my home and my mother has a painting of Monticello. They are signed by Pet. Schmitz. They came from Ovid’s home in Bremo Bluff VA following his death in 1978.

    Regarding Davidson’s Orchard I worked there each summer during the peach harvest in the mid 60’s, probably from 1963-1966. I would spend most of the month of August there “helping out,” but sometimes just getting in the way.

    Someone asked about the varieties of peaches that were raised. They included Georgia Belles (a free stone white meat peach that bruised easily, but were highly prized by many for their flavor), Elbertas (a yellow free stone peach – they had more of these trees than any other variety), Redskin ( a few of these – they got ripe earlier than the Georgia Belles or Elbertas) and a Jones peach that was a new variety (the Jones peach was a free stone yellow meat peach that grew larger than the Elbertas and had less fuzz, making it much more attractive to the eye).

    When I helped out there I had very little appreciation for the hard work it took to make a living raising peaches and apples. I look back on my experiences there with much pleasure. I have talked with my cousin, Ellett Snead (also Benjamin Ovid Davidson’s grandson) about writing down our memories of the orchard. A lot of good men worked there and there are a lot of good stories we remember. Ellett lived in Fluvanna and grew up at the orchard. I did not grow up in Buckingham, but visited often.

    As you know the orchard cold storage building, equipment sheds, grading shed etc. were located on US 15 between Avon and Dillwyn. The time I spent there was before the days of the interstate highway system. Davidsons Orchard was a popular stopping place of many out of state travelers heading south the Florida or into the northeast. It also drew customer from all over central VA. The Davidson brothers advertised on WRVA radio in Richmond. It was always a big deal when the radio station came to visit. Local folks bought peaches and apples by the bushel. Many of them canned the peaches. A bushel of Jones peaches went for $5.00, the Georgia Belles $4.00 and the Elbertas $3.50. A large portion of the harvest was sold to the public from the cold storage location on US 15, but part of the crop was also sold by the tractor trailer load to ice cream companies, baby food companies and grocery stores. Less desirable peaches, or those that had gotten too ripe were trucked to a company in Petersburg that used them to make peach wine.

    My son, Benjamin Allen Saunders stumbled across the blog and sent me the link.

    If you have any other questions about the orchard, I’d be happy to try to answer them.

    • Joanne Yeck / Sep 4 2013 8:50 pm

      Many thanks for your wonderful, detailed comment about Davidson’s Orchard. Is your Saunders family from Buckingham County? My ancestor, Charles S. Saunders, was a tailor in New Canton and married Elizabeth Holman Chambers in 1874. I have yet to connect him to other Saunders families in Buckingham and am eager to do so.

      • Tom Saunders / Sep 9 2013 5:01 pm

        My Saunders family is not from Buckingham. Our Saunders ancestors came from Lunenburg County VA. I grew up in South Hill, VA and currently live in Richmond.

  3. Harry Stuart Holman / Jul 6 2013 5:50 pm

    Dear Bill,

    I am interested in the Davidson family because I remember talking with Mr. Davidson at the orchard when I was in my twenties–forty years ago. How am I kin to him knowing I descend from the Childers girl who married Humphrey Smith and the Childers girl who married John Smith.

    Harry; Stuart Holman

  4. Bill Davidson / Jun 28 2013 9:43 am

    William Banton Davidson (married Ruth Stump) and Benjamin Ovid Davidson (he went by “Ovid,” and he married Mildred Ellen Jones) who owned and ran the Davidson Orchard during WW II were sons of Clarence Ovid Davidson and Senora “Susie” Henrietta Nuckols. William Banton and Benjamin Ovid were grandsons of Eli Banton Davidson and Lucy Alice Nuckols. My great-grandfather Thomas Archer Davidson “I” (married Ada Wilson Lee) was a younger brother of Eli Banton Davidson, and Eli and Thomas’ sister Sarah “Sally” Virginia Davidson married Thomas Henry Norvell. Eli, Thomas and Sarah Davidson were children of Joseph Cornelius and Vitula Monroe (Sandridge) Davidson (my gg-grandparents).

    • Joanne Yeck / Jun 28 2013 9:47 am

      Bill, Many thanks for the Davidson family information. Are there any surviving photos of the Davidson Orchard? Any fruit box labels or other marketing material? Do you know the various varieties of fruit grown? I’m delighted to learn that Buckingham was producing peaches!

      • Bill Davidson / Jun 28 2013 7:52 pm

        My brother and I each have a wooden crate from the orchard with the “Davidson” name on it. I have a cousin who has an old home movie of the orchard in operation (he used to spend his summers there as a young boy), but I have not yet seen it. He said that he would provide me with a DVD version of it when he has the chance. I will ask my cousin to remind me of the various fruits that they grew (but it was at least peaches and apples).

        By the way, Eli Banton Davidson “made his money” by growing and selling tobacco (well before the orchard existed). I am told that the tobacco would be placed on barges on the James River and floated down the river towards Richmond. I understand that much of it was ultimately shipped to Austria in those days. Eli must have done very well for himself, since the land in and around the orchard on Rt. 15 was over 5,000 acres at one time.

        During the War Between the States, I’m told that Eli walked his horse down the stairs to the basement of the family home (“Cherry Hill” on Rt. 622) so that the Yankees would not find it. Eli also served in the War (as a teenager), and his pension application states that he “guarded prisoners.” His father Joseph Cornelius Davidson also served, and as I recall, Joseph joined the Confederate effort at Gold Hill. Joseph left Buckingham by the late-1800s, and he moved to the Richmond, VA area. Joseph is buried in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, but his wife Vitula died much later, and she is buried in the front yard at “Cherry Hill” in Buckingham. Eli remained in Buckingham, and he is buried at Buckingham Baptist Church on Rt. 15 (as are many other members of his family). Eli’s siblings Thomas (my line) and Sarah also moved to the Richmond, VA area. I have the large leather-bound Davidson Family Bible that Thomas Davidson gave to his mother Vitula in 1870 (a real gem, complete with lots of names, dates and even old black and white photos of many family members).


  1. Davidson’s Orchard at Cherry Hill | slate river ramblings . . . .

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