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Heritage Pear



Heritage Pear





Planting Position


Now nearly 400 years old, this is the oldest known fruit tree, with a full provenance, in the world. It is believed to be the oldest living tree in America by some. When John Endecott, an English puritan, left for America in 1628 on the ship Abigail, he landed and stayed on a small peninsula at Salem, in what would become part of Massachusetts. He is believed to have planted fruit trees on his arrival. In 1632 he was granted 300 acres of land in Danversport, three miles away and probably moved his young fruit trees. He established ‘Orchard Farm’ and planted this pear tree among many others. He is on record as having been committed to the need to produce food crops for a swelling number of immigrants to New England and it seems likely, and even supposed by some in America, that he brought grafted sapling trees with him from England. It would be a foolish immigrant who planned to feed his family by taking seeds, sowing them and then to wait up to 10 years for the first fruit, only to find the fruit was of unpalatable quality. Seedlings more often than not produce poor fruit and only a few, selected from many, are worth keeping. Another belief was that it arrived from England on the Arbella with Winthrop in 1630. John Endecott was later first Governor of Massachusetts. He and Winthrop were directors of the Massachusetts Bay Trading Company – set up by Royal Charter of Charles I - to colonize a large area of New England. Endecott’s family later went by the name of ‘Endicott’. His pear tree was said to have been planted in 1632, some say 1640, and was known as the ‘Sugar Pear’, in ‘The Governor’s Orchard’. There is no firm evidence to conclude whether or not the tree was grafted, such was its troubled life and ground level rises quite substantially over 400 years. A descendant, Samuel Endicott, in 1823, said in a full statement that it had been imported from England and that there was no doubt of it having been grafted. Others point to its re-growth from low down as evidence of it having been a seedling and true to its roots. During its life it has been subjected to all manner of destructive forces. It blew down in 1804 and again in 1815 but rose again from the seemingly dead. The original trunk had gone, when inspected in 1924. In 1938 two remaining stems from ground level were almost destroyed by the New England Hurricane and in 1964 a vandal teenager decapitated what remained. Careful husbandry allowed it to shoot and recover, to be enfenced for security. Its history has been fully documented since its first years. A map of 1832 by John Proctor clearly marks the tree as being 200 years old. The quality of the pears has been described as poor, hard and only worth cooking or excellent to eat and sweet! President John Adams – President at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries - was very impressed with the tree and had several trees grafted for his farm. It is small to medium sized, rounded, with a long stalk and mostly said to be of sweet eating quality. It is most likely an English or French variety of great antiquity

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