I received this email today concerning an old apple tree in western Pennsylvania:
I have run across documentation over the last ten years regarding a tree that grows on our property..supposedly planted by Johnny Appleseed. Just last week we had to have a large section of the tree professionally removed due to a tornado that had come very close to us a few weeks ago. The tree service that came was very careful about removing and trying to save what they could because we have found various things in print that would indicate that it may be of historical value...see below:
"Poems and songs have been sung in Johnny Appleseed's memory, and an old apple tree -- reportedly one of his -- yet grows and bears fruit on a slope among hillside orchard trees planted by A. E. Ball on a farm located two miles northwest of Fredonia, Pennsylvania. "
Our property is at that above mentioned location.
When we purchased this property 12 years ago we had discovered four unmarked graves..two adults and two children that were buried directly under this tree..which sits on the top of one of the highest points in Mercer County, PA. The original farm that our property is on belonged to the Caldwell family and was farmed for hundreds of years.
I have made many pies from the apples from this large tree (as a matter of fact the tree service said it was the largest apple tree he had ever seen)...I was heart broken when the large limb had broken and had to be removed but he saved many suckers that were attached to the one side and he said that it may go on for many more years bearing fruit. The other fork of the tree remains there and is very very tall.
How would I ever go about finding out what I can about the historical value of this tree and if it is the apple tree that Johnny Appleseed had planted in Delaware Township, Fredonia, PA?
I have attached some photos of the tree..the tree trunk (which you can see the tornado damage on the left fork that cracked it and a photo of the tree fork removal by the tree service (this shows the height of the tree). Any info on where I might find further info on this tree or how to tell it's age would be very helpful.
Thank you Mr. Frank for your time and professional attention to this matter.
I replied as follows:
Thanks for the note. If the tree service removed the one fork of the tree, I am wondering if you have any segments of that fork? The only way to determine if the tree is the one planted by Johnny Appleseed would be to count the tree rings to date the age of the tree. This could be done by looking at a cross section of the cut down fork or by coring the remaining standing trunk. If it is not hollow then the rings could be counted on the core. This process does not damage the tree as it only removes a tube of wood about 1/8 of an inch in diameter. Cross sections are easier to count, but core samples would work as well.
I am sure you have looked up information on Johnny Appleseed (John Chapman) on the internet. Some accounts have him being is Pittsburgh during the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794, and perhaps living in the Wilkes-Barre area. ad an 18-19 year old just prior to this. He had a farm in central Ohio by the early 1800's. So for your tree to be one of the ones planted by Johnny Appleseed, it would need to date to the late 1790's. and be at least 210 years old. The last known living apple tree planted by Johnny still grows on an old farm in Nova, Ohio . The variety that comes from this tree produces "tart, green apple ripens in late Sept. in zone 5. Great for baking, applesauce and fresh eating is is very similar to an Albemarle Pippen. Pollinates with other apple trees except Winesaps, Mutsu or Jonagold." Here is a note on our website, which you probably have seen, concerning this tree http://www.nativetreesociety.org/histor ... d_tree.htm
I could stop by sometime, or someone else from the group to look at any cross sections you might have saved from the lost fork of the tree or to collect a core sample from the standing trunk. Perhaps a slice could be collected from the butt end of the missing fork without affecting the standing trunk at all. If it is really a tree planted by Johnny Appleseed, it would be only the second one known and certainly of great historical significance. The only way to tell is to date the tree. I will post this note to our BBS and solicit other comments.
PS: I also wanted to say that you should try to compile any references you come across to the tree's history noting the full text of what they say and the source information. For example if it is a newspaper you should record the name of the paper, the date, the page if known, and any other information about the reference. If it turns out to be a tree he planted, then looking back at ownership information for the property at the time it was planted would be worth the effort, but I would hold off on that until you received age information on the tree itself.