Alice Schibig grew up in Parkland with history all around her.
The home where she was raised was built in 1900, part of what had been a working farm since the 1850s. When her father paid $12,000 for 110 acres in 1929, he ran it as a working dairy farm.
Today, Schibig lives in the farmhouse where she was born 79 years ago. Both the home and the farm are listed on state and national historic registers.
Much of the history of the place revolved around its apple trees.
“I remember the orchard as a child, when we had barns and ran a dairy,” Schibig said.
The dairy is gone, the pastures and cows sold decades ago. The barns blew down in a 2008 storm.
Schibig’s father, Frank Schibig, met and wed her mother, Rosa, on that farm where Rosa was once his cook. Frank died in 1972, Rosa 25 years later.
But the apple trees kept blooming — each more than 100 years old.
The trees originated with Peter Smith, a Scotsman who in 1853 laid claim to 320 acres in a part of the Oregon Territory now known as Parkland. He eventually owned 1,000 acres, and though he was a staunch Methodist, he donated some of that land in 1890 to what became Pacific Lutheran University.
Smith, who raised sheep, added the apple orchard and named it Soldier’s Garden.
“The legend was that the trees were planted just after the Civil War, in honor of fallen soldiers Smith had known,” said Bill Horn, a member of the Western Cascade Fruit Society.
Two years ago, Horn and his group volunteered to help with a dozen or so of those trees – owned now by Rainier View Christian Church, across the street from the Schibig farm.
“They were still bearing fruit two years ago when we worked with them, and apparently they’d gone from no apples to buckets full of hard green apples,” Horn said. “The church had asked three arborists to visit to work on the trees, and they pruned the disease out of them, brought them down to size and got them rejuvenated.
“They weren’t in great shape, though.”
Last week, the church cut down all its apple trees. From her porch across Spanaway Loop Road, Alice Schibig watched.
“I was physically ill,” she said. “My reaction surprised me.”
Schibig has eight grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. They visit the farm when they can, exploring much as she and her siblings did.
What about the 10 or so apple trees cut down by the church?
“They were rotting from the inside and we thought they were a danger,” the Rev. Matt Goldsberry said. “We’ll try to replace them with other trees.
“It wasn’t a case of removing them to build a parking lot. We’d worked with the fruit growers the past few years, trying to keep them healthy.
“It was just time.”
Once she heard that, Schibig understood.
Five original trees remain, less than 100 yards from the farmhouse. Schibig sold them, and the 10 acres they stand on, to the Cascade Land Conservancy — now known as Forterra — which aims to keep the land as a nature preserve and hopes to maintain the trees.
Schibig still has history all around her.
“I learned to drive an old flatbed truck, and it’s out front with a tree growing up through the engine block,” she said. “I delivered milk, worked the dairy. We all did.
“The way it worked growing up, when you were in the crib you were downstairs. Then you moved upstairs to a small room, took a second room as you got older and a third room when you were in your teens.
“There was a fourth bedroom, too, and when you got that one you were about to be moved out of the house.”
She returned in 2000.
“I’m staying,” she said. “I’m no spring chicken, but I love this place.”Larry LaRue: 253-597-8638