by Hazel Marshall Moravec

Oscar Fridoif Eskil Winberg, March 1911.

     Oscar Fridolf Eskil Winberg was born 1878 in Stockholm, Sweden. He received his Doctor of Horticulture degree from Lund University in Lund, Sweden. He immigrated to Chicago, Illinois in 1901 and to Baldwin County in 1907. He is generally called throughout the Gulf coast region as the father of the Satsuma orange in America. He brought a new fruit and a new industry to the area.

     In 1904 a land development agent interested him in the agriculture opportunities in south Baldwin County. He set out to look over this promising land going by train to Mobile, by steamboat to Fairhope and by team and wagon through the roadless pine forest to the little settlement of Silverhill.

     He returned in 1905 and selected a tract of land near Silverhill. This Swedish pioneer with compass and ax laboriously blazed a trail through to Loxley. With horse and wagon he built bridges across streams. Years later this trail has become the main road into Robertsdale.

Birds - Eye View
3yr-old Satsuma Orange Orchard
Southern Alabama Plantation Co.
April 24, 1914.

     Winberg began securing samples of all varieties of Satsuma oranges grown in China and Japan. By 1934 he had secured 58 varieties. His nursery had 2,300 trees. But in just two days of freezing weather (January 6th & 7th 1924), unprecedented in the annals of the Gulf Coast, all the Satsuma orange groves were destroyed. Pioneer that he was Winberg began to rebuild his nursery stock and continued to develop the delicious fruit.

     My father lost the 10 acre orange grove with trees so large the oranges had to be picked from a step ladder. He never replanted as Mr. Winberg did.

     Silverhill was founded by four Swedish men from Chicago who bought land, planned the town and went back north to sell town lots to their Swedish friends. With the Swedes came their Czechoslovakian neighbors.

     Silverhill's Oscar Johnson Memorial Library, a tiny white A-framed building still stands in the center of town. Built in 1896 the library is on Alabama's Historical Buildings Registry.

     Frank Moravec Sr., a Czechoslovakian immigrant from Prague, with his family and students organized the county's first band and orchestra.

     Once a year they celebrate Founders Day with Czech and Swedish food, music and ethnic dances.

     Silverhill has flourished into one of Baldwin County's outstanding agricultural centers well known for its sweet Silver Queen corn.

Printed in
Written at Spanish Fort, Alabama
Hazel Marshall Moravec
in 2005