Images of our Past
This old postcard shows the west side of Main Street Elk Grove in the early 1900s. This area, known as Old Town Elk Grove, is now on the National Register of Historic Places.
Another old postcard showing the east side of Main Street in Old Town Elk Grove around the turn of the century.
On an overcast Sunday morning in March Phillip and Erlana Stark, along with Manny and Anita Peters, had the privilege to explore a tiny corner of our past, the Horst Hop Ranch. Now owned by Doug Hemly of Courtland, they were given free reign to photograph all the tumbling down buildings that were once the thriving Horst Hop Ranch. In the quiet of the oak forests near the Cosumnes River, you could almost hear the past voices of the busy hop harvest. Hop production flourished along the Cosumnes River in the late 1800s and in 1894 Sacramento County was the largest producer of hops in the United States. The name “Horst” is still visible on the water tank.
The ranch was once owned by Emil Clemens Horst – his name is still on the water tower and old Dodge truck parked near one of the buildings. Mr. Horst was born 22 March 1867 in Tuttlingen, Baden-Würtemberg, Germany and died in San Francisco 24 May 1940. Emil Clemens Horst had, at one time, the largest number of acres under hop cultivation in the world. In addition to the ranch at Sloughhouse he owned another along the American River in what is now the Campus Commons area of Sacramento. Horst also owned ranches in Hopland and Wheatland, California and Oregon. He revolutionized hop growing and processing with his patented mechanical separator that harvested the hops while discarding the vines and leaves.
Hops as most of us know is a plant used in brewing beer. The hop cones contain different oils that add flavor to the beer and make it foamy. The cones grow high on the vine and had to be picked by hand. The mechanical hops separator patented by Emil Horst in 1909 made the harvest easier. Hop plants were planted in rows about six to eight feet apart and are male and female. It’s the buds from the female plants that are used to flavor beer. Each spring the roots send forth new vines that would be started up strings that were attached from the ground to an overhead trellis. Harvest came near the end of summer when the vines were pulled down and the buds were then taken to a hop house for drying. Hop houses were two story buildings. The top floor had a slatted floor that was covered with burlap. Here the buds would be poured out and raked even. The bottom floor was where the heating unit was located that was used to dry the hops. When the hops were dry they were moved to a press. The press was a sturdy box with a plunger. Two long pieces of burlap were laid into the hop press at right angles and the hops were poured in and compressed into bales. This photo shows the top floor of the oldest remaining hop barn on the Horst Ranch.
This photo shows the oldest of the two remaining hop barns on the Horst Hop Ranch.