Aroostook County apple history

17 years ago

To the editor:
In 1850, Mr. J.J. Thomas of Wayne County, N.Y., wrote “after a lapse of two centuries since the settlement of the country, the cultivation of fruit is just beginning to assume a character its merits deserve. More trees have been set out into orchards within the past five or six years, even in those regions which were long since settled, than in all previous time.”
    In 1857, Stephen Lincoln Goodale, Secretary of the Maine Board of Agriculture, reported “Of the culture of fruit in Aroostook, it may be premature to speak with confidence; but the prospect is strongly in favor of ultimate success. There are a number of nurseries established, principally of the apple, and many trees have been planted out.”
In 1864, Mr. Goodale said in a meeting “the Fameuse or Snow Apple is worthy of more general culture in Maine; tree very hardy; will grow as far north as any sort; abundant bearer; is not of large size, but very juicy.” Mr. J. W. Haines replied “the tree bears every year with us; at Fort Fairfield it succeeds well.”
In 1871, George A. Parsons of Presque Isle wrote “the most prominent display here (at the Fair) was that of fruit by F. Hayden, D.G. Cook, Winslow Hall and others. Mr. Hayden had thirteen varieties of apples. Some of his seedlings were judged by the committee worthy of cultivation. There is no doubt that certain varieties of apples will flourish well here with proper cultivation. Those who have raised apples often express regret that they had not planted more extensively.”
In 1876, the Maine State Pomological Society noted Aroostook County was “worthy of notice.” Henry Tilley of Castle Hill contributed “half a dozen plates, on which are small specimens of Fameuse, Sops of Wine, Hyslop Crab, and an apple which he calls Beauty of Kent. Columbus Hayford, of Maysville, sends specimens of a seedling (later named Hayford) which is good till April, but will keep till June, and which, we should think, would be esteemed in that section. We are pleased to notice these apples from our high latitude, but believe Aroostook can do much better than she has this time, with a little effort.”
In 1880, Dr. T.H. Hoskins, of Vermont, spoke on “Apples for Aroostook” at Houlton and Presque Isle. He noted the Duchess of Oldenburgh, disseminated as the New Brunswicker, “is a general favorite in all cold localities. It is a very profitable market apple. This is a variety that exceeds well under neglect, and is therefore recommended to the lazy and shiftless planter as his ‘best hold’ for apples.”
Henry Tilley was the Pomological Society’s Trustee for Aroostook in 1882 and 1883. He had a “very fine orchard, and paid much attention to fruit culture, bee-keeping, and sheep husbandry.” In 1884, Elisha E. Parkhurst, of Maysville Centre, was the Society’s Aroostook Trustee.
In 1888, John W. Dudley of Castle Hill attended his first Pomological Society meeting in Damariscotta, Lincoln County, Maine. He noted “From that time forward I have taken a greater interest in fruit growing.” Mr. Dudley joined the Maine Board of Agriculture in 1895. His orchards contained 275 bearing trees, including 200 of the new Dudley Winter variety.
On January 8, 1896, a Joint Meeting of the Board of Agriculture and the Pomological Society was held at Presque Isle. In his Welcoming Address, Mr. Dudley said, in part, “we have demonstrated beyond all doubt that fruit growing here can be made a profitable business.” He also said (toward his conclusion) “I know we are not too old to learn and it may be this potato deluge as some call it, with the assistance of the Board of Agriculture in its institute work, and this meeting may work a wondrous change in the methods of farming here in this county.”

Steve Sutter
Presque Isle