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  • Subject: [nafex] Re: last living johnny appleseed
  • Date: Wed, 28 Jun 2000 10:24:36 -0000

--- In, Thomas Olenio <tolenio@s...> wrote:
> Hello,
> Is this possible? That an apple tree planted sometime before 1847
> John Chapman died [aka Johnny Appleseed], could still be alive and
> offering viable scions?
> History indicates that his stock was not the best, but because he
lived in
> the wilderness, moving west ahead of the pioneers, his seedlings
> available (for sale, he was a businessman) before his competition
moved in
> with the pioneers.
> How bout it experts, could an apple tree live 150 plus years, and
> still be producing viable scions??!! Especially where the stock
was known
> not to be the best?
> Sounds like a scam to me, but I will leave it to the experts.
> Regards,
> Tom
> --
> Thomas Olenio
> Ontario, Hardiness Zone 6a

Thomas Olenio, please note that "not the best" referred to the fruit
quality of John Chapman's seedling trees, not any characteristic of
the tree which might have affected longevity.

In John Chapman's time, many and perhaps most apple trees were
planted for hard cider, for which fresh eating quality of the fruit
was not a factor. I gather that a fair amount of tannin and acid is
desired. Cash was hard to come by, and seedlings were much cheaper
than grafted trees (zero, if you were careful enough). I understand
that these seedling cider orchards were the sources of most of the
historic North American apple cultivars, such as for example Northern

Grafting knowledge was also apparently very scarce. The original
McIntosh tree was transplanted to the McIntosh homestead in 1796, and
it was not long before the McIntosh family was selling seedlings
(which I understand were often not too far off the original). But I
have read that they were not able to sell grafted trees until the
1830's, when they acquired a hired man who knew how to graft.

I think that the original tree of Cox's Orange Pippin lasted about
130 years, and I am not sure but what it lasted until a motorway went
through its site. I believe the original Ribston Pippin lasted around
150 years or more, although my memory is vague on this.

Pear trees last somewhat longer than apples. The original Ritson pear
tree in Oshawa (see Fruits of Ontario for 1906 and 1914) was probably
planted as a seed before 1810, and it was still going strong and
bearing every year when it was cut down in the spring of 1988 to
enlarge a parking lot.

Douglas Woodard
St. Catharines, Ontario (Niagara Peninsula)

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