Family Heirlooms: Hops, Gold Dust, Peonies, and More

Readers share stories of treasured family plants passed down for generations.

  • gold-dust
    Gail Edwards recieved her Gold Dust plant from a friend while recovering from surgey.
    Photo by Getty Images/13015954
  • hops
    Nancy Cope and her family have been using hops to drape over the hottest side of their homes since 1910.
    Photo by Nancy Cope

  • gold-dust
  • hops

Traveling Family Hops

My family has hops running through our family tree, going back several generations.

We’ve never made beer (that I know of), but we’ve used them in all of our homes across the country to shade the hottest side of our homes in the summer. Hops grow quickly and are very hardy — two things that are required for anything to grow successfully in Montana.

When he was young, my great-grandfather traveled to Montana from Illinois on a grand adventure. He wanted to live in the Wild West and become a rancher. In 1910, his dream came true when he and a partner gathered enough money to buy Belmont Park Ranch, a modest ranch house covered in hops.

These hops came from a man named William Hillhouse Raymond, who started the Belmont Park Ranch in 1870. During the Gold Rush, he made his fortune by driving his team of oxen back and forth between Virginia City and Salt Lake City, selling various goods in each of the two cities. Our family guessed that one of the goods frequently shipped might have been hops, since beer was very popular in primitive mining camps like Virginia City.

My great-grandparents married shortly after purchasing Belmont Park Ranch, and lived protected from the summer heat of southwest Montana behind curtains of hops. Before too long, they built a much larger house, and they draped it in the same hops.

In 1973, my great-grandmother sold the Belmont Park Ranch. However, before it left our family’s hands, my mother dug up some of the hops and brought them to my childhood ranch house. Once again, we had hops growing on the hottest side of our home.

Become a Preferred Subscriber and start enjoying the benefits today!

Fall in love with the flavor, versatility, and beauty of Mother Earth Gardener

Mother Earth GardenerDelight your taste buds, mind and eyes with beautiful photos and inspirational techniques on everything you need to know to grow, preserve and cook your own heirloom fruits and vegetables. You won’t want to miss the stories about plants passed down from generation to generation.

Don’t miss a single issue of Mother Earth Gardener. Published by the editors of MOTHER EARTH NEWS, Mother Earth Gardener provides decades of organic gardening experience from the most trusted voices in the field. Join today and save off the newsstand price! Get one year (4 issues) for only $24.95! (USA only)

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube