Oldest Apple Tree in Monona, Iowa - 1918
OLMSTED, CURTIS, OTIS
Posted By: S. Ferrall -IAGenWeb volunteer
Date: 8/6/2012 at 22:30:46
Oldest Apple Tree in Iowa Remains in Grove Near Monona
McGregor, Iowa (Special) - Every now and then comes the claim from some part of Iowa that a certain favored resident is the oldest pioneer in the state.
A gnarled old apple tree near Monona, Iowa, as it drops fruit this September, lifts its venerable head to the breeze to register the claim that it is the most ancient apple tree in the state.
The tree is a forty-niner, dating back to the year of the rush of gold seekers to California. It is the last survivor of the apple orchard known to all Iowa horticulturists which Page P. Olmsted had the hardihood to plant in 1849 at Monona, or Poverty Point, as it was called then.
Four generations of Olmsteds have lived on the homestead, have sat in the shade of the old tree, inhaled the fragrance of its bloom and eaten of its fruit. Of the first generation there was a soldier in the Mexican war, of the fourth generation there are a number who are serving their country now in France. Mrs. Clara Olmsted Curtis and daughter, Mrs. Clara Curtis Otis and two sons now live on the homestead. In the memory of Mrs. Curtis linger pictures of the days when the Indians used to beg apples from her as a curiosity and a rare treat.
Some years ago apples from the old tree were exhibited at the St. Louis National Exposition and carried off a prize.
This is the story of the planting of the orchard of which the hoary tree is the only survivor.
In the summer of 1840 Page Olmsted and his brother David, Vermonters, came across the Mississippi from Prairie du Chien. With a small tent and a couple of guns and blankets they tramped the wilderness of northeastern Iowa looking up a location. Finally they hit upon a place to their liking and drove the homestake near Cold Spring in what is now Monona township, Clayton county and built a cabin. Two miles from the cabin was a Winnebago Indian village of 200 inhabitants and its chief Whirling Thunder. A small farm had been broken and fenced by the U.S. government and was operated in connection with the school a few miles away on Yellow river.
At the time the Olmsteds took up their claim there was not a white person north of them in Iowa or Minnesota northwest to the Rockies except at the fur agencies.
David Olmsted rose to prominence, serving as a member of the Iowa constitutional convention in 1844, a lieutenant in the Mexican war and had charge of the removal of the Winnebago Indians from Iowa to Minnesota. In Minnesota he became wealthy and influential and was elected president of the council of the first Minnesota legislature.
Page Olmsted was a farmer by nature and while his brother sought and gained public honors he stayed by the land and gradually accumulated large holdings. These he farmed differently from his neighbors for he was a scientific farmer as the expression is today. One of his ventures was an apple orchard and the success he had with it was the talk far and wide through the country and the instigator of apple growing in northern Iowa. The trees were grown from seeds which Mr. Olmsted obtained from apples brought from the east.
Long ago most of the trees of the orchard died out, having served their day of usefulness. This one remained however, to tell the story. Despite its great age the tree is still hale and hearty and may have many harvests yet before it, who knows?
~LaCrosse Tribune & Leader Press, Sept 12, 1918
~Transcribed by Sharyl Ferrall
Clayton Documents maintained by Sharyl Ferrall.
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