.P.A Bonvallet purchased 160 acres of public land about four miles northeast of St. Anne for $1008 in 1868. The land consisted of sand and timber, which did not seem conducive to any crop. This property is shown in the map below next to the number 26:
But P.A. and his four sons raised grapes successfully and later made wine. Their methods were mentioned in several agricultural journals, and they even provided grapes for the Illinois pavillion at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago.
Asparagus was grown starting in 1871, which lead to commercial production, followed by experiments in canning. A canning factory was established around 1897, which was unique in the Midwest. They grew white asparagus and canned individual size portions for railroads and hotels, along with eleven other varieties. They employed 30-40 cutters and canned the asparagus within two hours of picking. White asparagus was obtained by cutting the stalks underground just as the tips began to break the soil. This business was successful and led to two articles in the Canner and Dried Fruit Packer magazine.
In the late 1890’s, rust was a problem with asparagus growers. The Bonvallets worked with the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station to develop a spray, but it was not successful. The only way to counteract rust was to develop strains that were resistant. Bonvallet Giant was a strain developed by the company.
This success with asparagus was fortuitous, because in 1899 the grapevines died. The company added tomato packing around 1930. By this time, only Paul and Albert were active in the company.
This area became known as Wichert, after Henry Wichert who started a pickle business there that was later taken over by CF Claussen & Sons.
In its later years, P.A. Bonvallet Sons sold gardening supplies. The company closed in the early 2000’s.
Below are photos of the canning operation.