383-Year Old Endicott Pear Tree — Still Going Strong

by Patrick on March 19, 2014

It’s almost that time of year when orchards will be graced with millions of simple white flowers covered in bees. Well, I have a tale worthy of the indomitable pear tree. Shortly after the first Europeans landed at ye Plymouth Rock in 1620, a Pilgrim named John Endicott was appointed as the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1629. His instructions were to establish a welcoming setting for new arrivals. As part of his “Welcome to the Neighborhood Beautification Program” (my less than official title) he planted a young pear sapling. There is a good possibility the tree came to Massachusetts from England on the ship Arbella in 1630. In the presence of his children, the venerable Governor declared  “I hope the tree will love the soil of the New World and no doubt when we have gone will still be alive.” Oh, my learned brothers and sisters, was he selling that tree short.

Already over 170 years old, the Reverend William Bentley delivered some of the pears harvested from the tree in 1809 to one of my favorite leaders of history at the time, President John Adams, as documented in a letter of appreciation from the man himself. Bentley, perchance teetering on the verge of obsession on ye olde tree, arranged to have twigs sent to the less than photogenic Mr.Adams. (One would certainly prefer a portrait of General Washington or Mr. Jefferson, but I superficially, digress again.) We know ye twigs took root cited by a letter from Mr. Adams in 1815 sharing “The hurricane of yesterday has covered the ground around me in pears.”

For Arbor Day in 1890, the poet Lucy Larch penned The Governor’s Tree as a tribute to the now 260 year old tree. Part of the tree long page toast included;

Such a wonder you may see;

For the patriarchal tree

Blossoms still, — the living thought

Of good Governor Endicott.

Fruit again this tree to bear;

Honor to that brave old pear!

The tree was damaged by three hurricanes in the 1800s but was still standing with the resilience of its Pilgrim forbearers at 80′ in 1875. The pear continued to bear heavily with bushels of fruit. Dating back to a story in 1837, some believed the original sapling was grafted until in 1921 the author of Historic Tress of Massachusetts documented that what we commonly refer to now as suckers where yielding the same fruit as the main tree.

The next documentation of the tree was penned by vandals who using hacksaws cut the tree down to a 6′ stump. Must have been a determined bunch of sods because that would have been a tiring piece of ecoterrorism. But while it was far too severe, it might have helped the tree be better prepared to take on hurricanes and the like with a stockier tree. What do you think?

 

The fruit has been described as “medium in size, unattractive and coarse textured”. However with such provenance, including the knowledge your partaking in the very same ritual shared by the second President of the United States, one might be forgiven for exulting in a gratitude not unlike that of the Israelites partaking of manna from heaven. Pardon the hyperbole, my Jewish friends.

Patrick's Garden

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