It was a simple idea: create bigger blackberries and it would take less picking to get a bowlful. But when Judge Logan attempted to do this, his name got left on one of his accidents. His three varieties of berries got him nick-named “The Luther Burbank of Santa Cruz,” yet the legacy of his berries includes much more.
John Henry Logan was born in Rockville, Indiana Dec. 8, 1841. At age 15, he entered Indiana’s Waveland Collegiate Institute, graduating June 1860. He taught school in Independence, Missouri in 1860, until the Secessionist movement paralyzed all business in January and February of 1861, and threw him out of work. That April, Logan worked in Omaha with the Overland Telegraph Co. on a telegraph line across the desert, to keep California instantly connected with the Union. The telegraph service ended the Pony Express, which had only run from April 1860 to October 1861. Logan took the Overland Stage, arriving in San Jose on Dec. 12, 1861. Through the 1860s, the Santa Clara Valley was mostly cattle ranches, while its private gardens grew a variety of fruit and flowers that gave a hint to the valley’s future as a fruit capital. Logan entered the San Jose law firm of CT Ryland, and was admitted to the bar in 1865, then became San Jose district attorney in 1866. Just as he studied the law in his profession, he relaxed with gardening, and studying the laws of nature for his plants.
Logan moved to Santa Cruz in 1867, where he worked for attorney Julius Lee as deputy district attorney, then was given sole charge of the DA’s office in 1868, becoming district attorney in 1871. Like Lincoln, Logan was popular for his folksy stories with legal points, easily understood with a laugh. Logan lived around the corner from the County Court House, on Church Street, then moved up to Mission Terrace for the town vista. He married Catharine Murphy, and became president of Santa Cruz County Bank in 1878. In 1879 Logan became the county’s first Superior Court Judge.
Meanwhile, after visiting the High Street reservoir (near today’s Piedmont Court), Logan was so taken by the view of the city and coastline, that he climbed Perry’s Hill, finding himself quite thrilled at feeling on top of the world. He bought the hilltop for a home and farm, laying out a switch-back road to the top of the hill, which he named Highland Avenue. Here in 1880 he built his Italianate house, designed by John Williams, with ornamental pressed-tin siding instead of wood. The hill was renamed Logan Heights.
An avid horticulturist, his extensive gardens included a vast orchard featuring figs, olives, apricots and pomegranates; a garden of 150 rosebush varieties from around the world; carnations, hollyhocks, heliotrope, grapes, and a wide assortment of California native plants. As a man who liked berries for pies, cobblers, toppings, jams, and such, Judge Logan collected every kind of blackberry and raspberry he could find, and planted them in his garden. He was on a quest to increase the size of the berry, and in 1880, set about to hybridize such a giant. In 1881 his plants bore fruit, and he collected seeds that August, to produce about 300 seedlings.
In the spring of 1883 he discovered a blackberry with unique characteristics, and named it the “Logan Blackberry.” He also noticed the first blackberry plant in a row of varieties had characteristics of a raspberry. He realized the Red Antwerp, one of the most popular raspberries in Santa Cruz, had cross bred with a California Dewberry, something he was unaware could cross. The Dewberry, was a wild variety, known to the Indigenous Ohlone as “a-ne-nah.” G. Aughinbaugh first hybridized it in Alameda in 1871. Logan first named this the “Red Blackberry,” then people started calling it the “Loganberry.” And at last his dream came true, when a California Dewberry cross-bred with a Texas Early, producing the “Mammoth Blackberry” with 2 1 / 4th inch berries.
Logan was replaced as superior court judge in 1884, by his friend Ferdinand McCann. So Logan became president of Santa Cruz County Bank in 1887. Fred Swanton brought electricity to Santa Cruz in 1889, but was having trouble funding a local electric trolley after an experimental San Jose line went bankrupt. It was feared electricity grew weaker the further it was from its generating source. Logan needed evidence a long electric trolleyline could work. Logan had Swanton wire his Logan Heights house in 1891, and saw that electricity could be delivered at full strength 2mmiles from the generator. Convinced, Logan not only backed Swanton’s venture, but became president of the first successful electric trolley west of the Mississippi.
During the Recession of 1890, a granite quarry north of Aromas on the Pajaro River was shut down. Judge Logan bought the quarry and reopened it, saving many jobs. He established the quarry-workers settlement of “Logan” between Aromas and Chittenden on the Pajaro River, (which in 1900 would become Granite Construction). Logan had a ranch in Chittenden and a summer home on Logan Street in Aromas.
Logan’s vines were proliferating in the Pajaro Valley, sending samples of his berries to a firm in Portland, Oregon, which was soon marketing his vine as the Loganberry. His berry was featured in several world’s fairs, becoming a rage in England, where it received the Royal Horticultural Society medal in 1903. Logan exhibited his fruit and flowers at the various Rose & Fruit Fairs held in downtown Santa Cruz. And in 1895-and-1896, Logan also helped organize the annual Venetian Water Carnivals at the same site, to promote downtown revival after a major fire in 1894. His wife’s niece Josie Turcot was elected Carnival Queen in 1896.
When Judge McCann died in 1893, Gov. Henry Markham reappointed Logan as Superior Court Judge. Judge Logan turned over his bank presidency to Wm. T. Jeter. In 1898, Logan was among the early voices to call for the preservation of the redwoods. In 1900, He joined lumberman S. Frealand Grover in setting aside the community of Clear Creek for a nature retreat, laying out streets and cabins. When the post office was established in 1902, the town name was changed to Brookdale. He could have logged the site to much profit, but felt nature was the priority. In 1908, Judge Logan was reassured after a forest fire in Big Basin, that only dead trees and debris would be removed. Then he learned that State Forester GB Lull was a biologist, not a botanist, who planned logging in the park to raise funds to stop logging in the park. Logan was quite scathing regarding this double-talk.
Many a resident remembers schoolboys with berry-stained faces, having eaten their fill, and were selling their days picking door-to-door, for less than the nickel-a-10-ounce basket in stores.
Logan’s trio of blackberry hybrids had many advantages beyond barefoot entrepreneurs. For one, they bore fruit earlier than most berries, thus filling a niche in the market. And the Loganberry is more disease and frost resistant, growing 15 feet a year without irrigation. These berries were firm, able to be shipped without spoilage before ripening. Thanks to ventilated fruit crates invented in Watsonville, fresh Loganberries could be shipped in a 100-mile area, or canned in Santa Cruz and Santa Clara, or dried, for easy rehydration, or used in jams and pies.
The vines produced in such abundance, they yielded 12 tons an acre. With so much product, the excess was squeezed for Loganberry juice, which in some places replaced grape juice in popularity. Because of its high Vitamin C content, the British Navy replaced their traditional “limy” limes with Loganberry juice for the prevention of scurvy. Loganberry juice became a health drink, while Loganberry wine became the exotic drink in wine circles. It was also a syrup concentrate to pour on ice cream.
Judge Logan sold Logan Heights in 1903 is a patent medicine king Theophilus Noel. Logan’s wife Catharine died in 1909, and he wed Mary E. Cousin in 1910, who gave him his first child, a daughter. He died in Oakland in 1928.
Logan never made more than $ 300 from his world famous hybrids. Yet the Loganberry was only the beginning. Genetic derivatives included the “Burbank Logan” berry, created by Luther Burnbank in 1905 from a raspberry-blackberry hybrid. The “Boysenberry” is a cross between a Loganberry, raspberry, blackberry and dewberry. And a Logan Blackberry crossed with the youngberry created the “Olallieberry.”