Museums nationwide are filled with relics, art, antiques, and archives that preserve the rich and diverse history of our country’s past…but in Massachusetts a good many natives know that on the rare occasion a piece of history might just be growing outside! Growing outside for over 380 years to be exact (a hell of a lot of birthday candles!), the sole surviving Endecott Pear Tree has been celebrated in history, art, and poetry, as well as illustrated in books, magazines, murals and postcards from as early as the 18th century. The Endecott certainly rivals our measly 25-30 year old orchards trees here on the farm!
“Since the 1630s, the singular, Endecott Pear Tree has resided here in present-day Danvers. The tree is the last survivor of many fruit trees planted here under the direction of the first Massachusetts Governor, English Puritan John Endecott (c1588-1665). Endecott was a thirty-nine year old zealous Puritan gentleman and member of what became the Massachusetts Bay Company. The company was established in England to profit from settlement in the New World and establish a commonwealth of likeminded inhabitants loyal to England, but steadfast in their Puritan religious beliefs.
Endecott is known to have extensively cultivated his farm, including the establishment of apple and pear orchards. Tradition has it that the surviving pear tree, most likely not part of the more extensive orchard area, was planted by the governor’s own hands or at least by his personal direction near his dwelling house. Dates for this planting are believed to be somewhere within the period of 1632 to 1640. Whether the tree was from nursery rootstock first planted at his Salem garden and transplanted here, or from an actual seed stone is lost to history.
Pears in England during the 16th and early 17th century were often used for the production of “perry,” an alcoholic drink made from fermented pears in a process similar to cider making. The fruit of many of the varieties used for making perry have a harsh, bitter taste. Unlike apple trees which have a fairly finite life expectancy, some pear trees are known to produce fruit for several hundred years. The pears from the Danvers tree have been known as “Endecott Pears” for several hundred years, and have also been identified with a variety of sugar pear known as “Bon Chrétien.”
Many writers have waxed poetic in describing the tree’s heritage. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote of its longevity and President John Adams spoke of its significance. Written up in scores of periodicals, including being featured in Ripley’s “Believe It or Not,” this modest tree has become iconic. It has survived hurricanes, century snowstorms, neglect, soil stripping, industrial development and even a murderous attack of vandalism by teenagers in 1964.
The Endecott Pear Tree is the oldest surviving cultivated tree in America. It is an authentic living link between us of the 21st century and our pioneering founders of the early 1600s. An important symbol of heritage, strength and resilience, it is truly a national treasure.”
Still bearing fruit to this day, this amazing tree continues its fascinating life as part of our unique and varied heritage. For a more in depth history of this special tree, pour a glass of Greendance Pear Wine and enjoy the full story on the archives website here: http://www.danverslibrary.org/archive/?page_id=1829