Friday, March 20, 2009

The big stone apple

A few years ago quite by accident I came across this marvelous monument to the Baldwin Apple. This discovery was a complete surprise to me, though it's no great secret and has been standing here quietly for more than a century.

This granite monument is about seven feet tall. You can imagine my delight to find it standing, unlooked for, by a field at the side of the road.

I took this photo last fall, against just such a hopeful spring day as today. There are better photos, and some more information, at Wikipedia and Waymarking.com.

The inscription reads as follows:

This monument marks the site of the first Baldwin Apple Tree found growing wild near here. It fell in the gale of 1815. The apple first known as the Butters, Woodpecker or Pecker apple was named after Col. Loammi Baldwin of Woburn. Erected in 1895 by the Rumford Historical Association.

Loammi Baldwin was, among many other things, the chief engineer of the Middlesex Canal, and on the day I first happened by the monument I was hunting on my bicycle for traces of that old earthwork. These are mostly swallowed by time and development, but there are occasional stretches of ancient ditch and, a few miles north of the big stone apple, an impressive ruined aqueduct where the canal crossed the Shawsheen River. On its way there it passed by Butters Farm, where the first Baldwin tree grew.

In an 1895 story about the monument the New York Times said,

Samuel Thompson of Woburn, while surveying a route for the Middlesex Canal, discovered this apple. His attention had been drawn to it by the number of woodpeckers which gathered about the tree on account of the apples.

Thompson brought this fruit to the attention of Colonel Baldwin, and the rest is history. (Update: There is apparently more to the story.)

A more-conventional statue of Baldwin stands a few miles south, in a little green across the road from Baldwin's mansion in Woburn. A little stretch of the canal runs beside his house.

The Colonel fought at Concord and New York, and crossed the Delaware with Washington to fight at Trenton. He stands with sword drawn on a pedestal each face of which is devoted to some of his many accomplishments: War hero, Canal architect, civic leader. Baldwin's pomological legacy wins an entire side to itself.

What wins honor in your part of the world? Where I live, we erect monuments to apples.

6 comments:

  1. I love that there's a monument to an apple variety and that you found it by accident while biking.

    I'm still eating Ambrosias, but these are from a different supplier. They are slightly crisper than the others and have a slight jasmine fragrance when bitten into. Yum.

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  2. Von K, thank you again for telling me about precocious Ambrosia in the first place. Note, though, that our friendly Evil Fruit Lord is more ambivalent about them.

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  3. For the record, I've had a few more Ambrosias since I had that article that I liked a bit better. Still, there are other apples I like more...

    Do you know if the Baldwin monument you found is the original? I could swear I've seen a photo of another, different, monument to the Baldwin apple. I'll dig around and see if I can find it...

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  4. Golly, more than one Baldwin monument?

    Part of me thinks my photos probably just don't do justice.

    Part of me is imagining the great Baldwin Apple Sculpture Garden, where the neoclassical monument--Eris's hand, from the Judgment of Paris?--offers a neoclassical apple to nearby Lenin, heroically thrusting his Socialist Realist apple towards the sky.

    But part of me wonders if there isn't something to it. So please, keep us posted.

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  5. Dear Adam, I adore monuments and mostly - the history behind them. Thank you for letting me know. Very informative and useful blog. Viola

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    1. Viola is the creative force behind Monuments Reveal, a website that explores the stories that monuments tell.

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