By Claire Etienne (Peter Hauer’s great niece and daughter of Muriel Hauer Etienne)
Peter Hauer created the Hauer apple around 1900 in Pleasant Valley, near Watsonville. The Hauer apple is an “antique apple.” It is one of only two varieties said to have originated in the Pajaro Valley (in Santa Cruz county), which at that time was a major apple center.
Peter’s parents immigrated to Baltimore, Maryland, in the mid-1850s from Bavaria, Germany. Soon after, his father Johann traveled by wagon across the continent to the Santa Cruz area where they could live and farm. He then returned to Baltimore by boat, by horse and by foot across the Isthmus of Panama. Then he and his wife Katarina/Catherine (1834–1906) boarded a ship and sailed from Baltimore all the way around Cape Horn and up the Chilean, Peruvian and Mexican coast to the Santa Cruz area. On the long voyage, they lost a newly born child, who was buried at sea, and were even shipwrecked off the coast of Peru.
They farmed wheat and potatoes, as was not uncommon, at first near what is now the Capitola area. They later homesteaded land in Pleasant Valley in 1870 and built a two-story Victorian farmhouse.
Born in 1859, Peter was a lifetime apple and fruit tree grower on many acres in that area until his passing in 1951.
He had four siblings: Emma, Mary, Rose and John. His sister Emma Hauer (born 1863) also resided in Pleasant Valley and owned considerable acreage on which she grew a variety of fruits. She had a Craftsman-style house built in 1913, where she lived until her passing in 1923. Peter moved from the Victorian house, which he let the dogs live in, to Emma’s house and lived in it until his passing in 1951. Catherine and Peter are buried in the Catholic cemetery in Watsonville. Emma’s grave is in the IOOF Cemetery in Santa Cruz.
Pete’s sister Mary Hauer was possibly born in Baltimore (or Santa Cruz County). Her son Bert Woods, a physician to King Kamehameha of Hawaii, died in his 50s about 1910. Mary passed away about 1922. Peter’s sister Rose Hauer Darling, also possibly born in Baltimore, resided in Napa County and lived from 1858 to 1879. Her grave is at the Tulocay Cemetery in Napa.
Peter Hauer with a Hauer apple tree, ca. 1920 Pleasant Valley
The original Hauer residence in Pleasant Valley built in1870; photo ca. 1935, with Peter Hauer (and his niece Muriel?) on the front porch
Emma Hauer’s 1913 Craftsman-style house in Pleasant Valley
Peter, with his brother John Hauer, did the work of developing the Hauer apple in Claus Speckles’ nursery near Aptos. The story of the apple from Peter’s niece, Muriel Hauer, is that Peter found a wild Yellow Bellflower seedling up a canyon on his property in Pleasant Valley in the late 1890s and tried different grafts, until he selected the best, which was with a Cox’s Orange Pippin brought from Australia.
John attended Pleasant Valley School. He later went to the seminary at St. Patrick’s in Watsonville, intending to be a priest. He however decided to move to San Francisco, studied law, and started insurance brokerages in 1906 and 1912. After John’s passing in 1948, his daughter Muriel Hauer Etienne continued to maintain the Pleasant Valley property until the 1990s when she passed. Muriel’s daughter Claire inherited and still maintains the property.
The vintage apple that Peter developed and called the Hauer “Special,” was also known as the “Christmas Apple,” ripening in very late November. Up through the 1930s, prior to improved refrigeration, the Hauer “Special” pippin gained fame in San Francisco, where it became the main winter-spring apple. In 1912, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Apple Annual page mentions the “Hauer brothers’ 300,000-tree apple nursery, one of the largest in the west.” Four of the original trees, now 100+ years old, survive on the family homestead along with a couple hundred younger ones grown from scions of the originals on semi-dwarf rootstock.