Giant seckle

Who knows this variety? Found partial information cached “An old American prized aromatic dessert pear. The skin is a striking dark maroon, dusted with pale lenticels, and the small pointed leaves are frequently” from a website since removed

You might ask why I care and it’s because its the cross between Giant Seckel and Comice that led to Warren and Magness pears. Would really like to continue to that experiment. In addition I located an old picture to give us an idea of the pear. It makes me question is it just seckle? There are many variations of seckel such as Worden so I doubt it very much.


The variations are as mysterious as vague mentions of odd things like seckle stigmonose

Variations it’s doubtful anyone has heard of might include the gansel seckle shown below
This is the Worden seckle

These pears below are the original seckle. Can’t help but notice the variations.
images.jpeg-3 images.jpeg-2 images.jpeg-1

Here is the information we have all put together about seckel from growing it Seckel Pear


Believe i have a giant seckle and a regular seckle as well now that are fruiting. More testing this year will be needed.

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Ok, so perhaps my “Gillet Seckel” is “a Seckel”.

Maybe I can light a fire under the group in Oregon and get these sequenced. I can show them that their prior SSR data is misleading.

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Giant seckle, gansel seckle, worden seckle, early seckle, seckel are just a few im sure of that exist. There are many more i dont know about i think.

In 1913 - 1921 gansel was part of tbe pears of new york




  1. Is “Worden Seckel” = “Giant Seckel” ?

  2. Do you know the origination years of Worden and Giant?

  3. Which Seckel(s) are being referenced in those fireblight resistance slides you’ve been posting?

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Warren = giant seckle x comice it is not the normal seckle.

Giant seckle is a seedling of seckle. Worden is another seedling of seckle. Back to where seckle came from there are many stories

" Origin of the Seckel Pear

Mich. Horticultural Society 22: 564 (1892)

The corresponding secretary read a paper on the origin of the so-called Seckel pear, proving that this pear was misnamed. The benefactor who gave us this highest type of the American pear was a German by the name of Sichel who raised this pear tree from seed at Baltimore, Md., and that this pear should be called Sichel, or, if this name should be translated into English, Sickle would be more proper. There is no such name as Seckel in all Christendom. The writer saw a tree at Economy, Pa, obtained about seventy years ago from Mr. Sichel of Baltimore.

Meehan’s Monthly (July 1891)

THE SECKEL PEAR.—The following interesting letter comes from Prof. Emil Bauer, of Ann Arbor, Michigan. It is a curious commentary on the “truths of history,” that the original Seekel pear tree is still standing in Philadelphia, on the estate of Stephen Girard. the famous philanthropist; and that the ground was originally bought with the pear tree on it, by a farmer named Seckel, a few of his descendants still remaining in Philadelphia. They are of English and not German race. There are a number of German descent in Philadelphia who spell their names Sickel.
"The so called Seckel pear originated in Baltimore, Md., at the beginning of this century, not later perhaps than 1818.
"A German, by the name of Sichel, raised it there from seed.
"My authority for this statement is Rev. Jacob Henrici, leader and Trustee of the Harmony Society, at Economy, Beaver county, Pa., who has been an olficer of said society since 1826, and who, although in his 87th year, is still the intelligent and active leader of said society. I have known him for 30 years and have visited with him at Economy frequently ever since.
"Knowing that I take great interest in fruit, Mr. Henrici showed me on the 30th of November, 1889, a Sichel pear tree which has a history. It stands in the garden of the Trustees. I was informed by my friend that the society obtained this tree from Mr. Sichel, of Baltimore, and that said tree was first planted by said society at Harmony, Posey county, Indiana, whither the society had moved from Pennsylvania in 1814. In 1824 the society sold their town, Harmony, and all their property on the Wabash river, to Robert Owen, who settled upon it his New Lanark colony. But the Harmonists thought so much of their Sichel pear tree, that they took great pains to take it with them back to Pennsylvania and planted it on their new settlement at Economy, where it grew and prospered again under the intelligent care of Mr. George Rapp, the founder of the society. It is yet bearing and I tasted its fruit from time to time, although I never knew its history until the 30th of November, 1889, as stated above. Pear culture being my specialty of course I took great interest in this statement. I know the fruit of
it to be the genuine so called Seckel pear.
"The tree at Economy must be at least 70 years old.
"It is proper to remark, that this society, from its beginning, has pursued agriculture and horticulture principally, although later, after a successful experiment with the mulberry tree, they engaged in the manufacture of silk and other industries. There is hardly any fruit that is not cultivated with the most intelligent care at Economy.
"Mr. Henrici, my authority for the above statement, although a teacher by profession, was interested in fruit culture from his boyhood. When his family landed in Baltimore in 1825 they sold thousands of grapevines which they had brought with‘ them from Rhenish Bavaria.
“The above statement shows that Mr. Sichel is the benefactor who gave us this highest type of American pears and that it should bear his name, unless Sichel is translated into English, in which case Sickle would be correct.
German, Die Sichel; English, Sickle.
Teacher of German Language and Literature,
1552 Ann Arbor, Mich.”

The Cultivator 6(9): 277 (Sept. 1849)

The Seckel Pear—This variety of the pear possesses more than ordinary interest for several reasons. Usually, it is remarkable for withstanding the blight. It is the highest flavored pear known. And so uniform is its excellence in all localities, that the fruit committee of the American Congress of Fruit Growers, unanimously pronounced it worthy of general cultivation, a compliment which no other of the thousand pears, except the Bartlett, received. It holds about the same rank with pears, as the Green Gage with plums.
The original tree still stands on the banks of the Delaware, three and a-half miles below Philadelphia. According to Dr. Brinckle, it is about thirty feet high, two feet in diameter within a foot of the ground, and sixteen inches, higher up. It stands in a pasture without protection, and the trunk is hollow and decayed on one side.

The Fruits and Fruit Trees of America (1845)
Andrew Jackson Downing

The precise origin of the Seckel pear is unknown. The first pomologists of Europe have pronounced that it is entirely distinct from any European variety, and its affinity to the Rousselet, a well known German pear, leads to the supposition that the seeds of the latter pear having been brought here by some of the Germans settling near Philadelphia, by chance produced this superiour seedling. However this may be, the following morceau of its history may be relied on as authentic, it having been related by the late venernble Bishop White, whose tenacity of memory is well known. About 80 years ago, when the Bishop was a lad, there was a well known sportsman and cattle dealer in Philadelphia, who was familiarly known as “Dutch Jacob.” Every season, early in the autumn, on returning from his shooting excursions, Dutch Jacob regaled his neighbors with pears of an unusually delicious flavour, the secret of whose place of growth, however, he would never satisfy their curiosity by divulging. At length the Holland Land Company, owning a considerable tract south of the city, disposed of it in parcels, and Dutch Jacob then secured the ground on which his favorite pear tree stood, a fine strip of land near the Delaware. Not long afterwards, it became the farm of Mr. Seckel, who introduced this remarkable fruit to public notice, and it received his name. Afterwards the property was added to the vast estate of the late Stephen Girard. The original tree still exists, (or did a few years ago,) vigorous and fruitful. Specimens of its pears were, quite lately, exhibited at the annual shows of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.

Genesee Farmer 5(45): 359 (Nov 7, 1835)

At the late Horticultural Exhibition, among the Seckel pears, we noticed a parcel plucked from the original tree, on the farm below the city, belonging formerly to Mr. Seckel, but now to the estate of Mr. Girard, from which the whole stock of pear trees of that species in the United States, has descended. This tree was known as far back as the time that Congress first sat in Philadelphia, which was in 1789, as we were informed many years ago, by a gentleman who was at that period a member of that body, and was well known to Gen. Washington during his presidency, as Mr. Seckel used to send him a regular supply of this fruit.—Phil. Gazette.

Jour. Franklin Institute 13: 192 (1832)

The Seckel pear derives its name from a gentleman of this city, who, it seems, was the first who paid particular attention to the fruit, and to spreading the tree among his friends and the public. However, Dr. D. Hossack, in an account of the Seckel pear, which was published in the third volume of the Transactions of the Horticultural Society of London, asserts, on the authority of a respectable friend, that seventy-two years ago, this pear was grown in the neighbourhood of this city, by a person of the name of Jacob Weiss, who had obtained the tree at a settlement of Swedes which was early established in the vicinity of Philadelphia, and that most probably Mr. Weiss, and the father, or grandfather, of Mr. Seckel were intimate, as both families were Germans, and of that rank in society which might be likely to lead to such an acquaintance. The conjecture therefore is, that under such circumstances, Mr. Seckel’s family obtained the grafts from Mr. Weiss’s tree; however this may be, Mr. Seckel deserves the credit of having propagated this delightful fruit, and having paid the greatest attention to the cultivation and melioration of the tree.
That the Seckel pear tree is a native variety of the neighbourhood of Philadelphia is incontestable, from the circumstance that it is hardly known out of the vicinity of this city, and because it has never been described by European horticulturists, except from the descriptions of our own authors, and as having been procured from this vicinity. There arc already several sub-varieties, slightly differing in size, colour, and taste.
It is thus described by Mr. Cox, in his work on the fruit trees, published in this city in 1817. “The fruit is generally small, round at the blossom end, diminishing with a gentle swell towards the stem, which is rather short and thick; the skin is sometimes yellow, with a bright cheek, and smooth; at other times it is a perfect russet without any blush; the flesh is melting, juicy, and most exquisitely and delicately flavoured. The time of ripening is from the end of August to the middle of October. The tree is singularly vigorous and beautiful, of great regularity of growth, rich in foliage, and very hardy, possessing all the characteristics of a new variety, and, as a native tree, it is but little affected by that species of blight, commonly called fire blight, which, in this country, destroys so many pear trees of the imported varieties.” A good representation of this fruit, copied from a drawing executed by Mr. Cox’s daughter, has been appended to the account given by Dr. Hossack, and published in the Transactions of the London Horticultural Society.
The Seckel pear may be cultivated, and will flourish, on almost any species of soil; it should always be grafted or inoculated on the wild pear tree, as grafting on the quince tree subjects it to the same diseases with which this tree is generally affected in this country. It should be four or five years old when planted in the orchard, and each tree at a distance of from eighteen to twenty-five feet. Many horticulturalists whom we have consulted, prefer the smallest distance, or twenty feet at most, as by this method the trees protect each other from the wind, frost, sunbeams, &c.
It bears fruit at from five to six years old; at that age the product is trifling, but from eight to twelve years it increases considerably; when fifteen years old they are in full bearing, increasing, however, until they are twenty-five. Their average product, from fifteen to twenty-five or thirty years old, is variously reported, and there is generally one good and one bad year. The minimum product seems to be, on an average, four bushels of fruit.
It acquires considerable size, and lives forty, fifty, and as long as sixty years. The general experience is, that it is very little subject to the diseases afflicting other trees, more easy to cultivate, and bearing generally more fruit than any other.

New England Farmer 6: 282 (March 28, 1828)

Seckel.—This incomparable little pear, which is now becoming so widely disseminated in our country and abroad, originated on the farm of Mr. Seckel, about four miles from Philadelphia. It is at least equal to any European pear I have met with, and is by far the highest flavoured pear that has originated in this country. The fruit is of a russet colour, with a red cheek next the sun, and grows in clusters of from two to seven in each.— I have noticed, that much of its fine spicy flavour is contained in the skin and in eating it this should not be taken off. It grows more slowly than any pear tree I am acquainted with—and, in fact, at maturity, forms a tree of only moderate size, but peculiarly compact and regular in its form. Although this pear has been figured in the Transactions of the Horticultural Society of London, and both European and American gentlemen conversant on the subject have stated, that no fruit similar to it existed in Europe, still there is a pear which has been long cultivated in France and England, and almost every other country in Europe, so extremely similar to it, that I venture to assert, that beyond all doubt, it is the parent of the Seckel. The pear to which I refer is the “Rousselet de Rheims, or Petit Rousselet,” called also in Europe “the Musk or Spice Pear.” The growth of the respective trees is similar, and the fruit so much alike, that persons have mistaken them for each other. The difference consists in the part of the fruit next the stem being more pointed in one than the other, and in the spicy flavour of the Seckel being much higher than that of the Rousselet de Rheims. The colour and size are much the same."

The worden is said to be " small gourmet pear that has creamy, white flesh that is sweet and juicy. Resistant to fireblight and ideal for the home garden. Partially self-fertile and would benefit from being pollinated by another variety such as Packham’s Triumph or Winter Nelis. Best grown in a sunny, sheltered position where soils are moist especially during the growing season, fertile and free-draining. A mid-season variety with fruit being ready to harvest in and around April. Prune as required.

Usually grows to between 5m and 6m in height.


Worden was mentiomed in 1895



Thank you for the thorough answer!

Whether the Giant was around at the time of Felix Gillet remains a mystery. :slightly_smiling_face:

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We know Felix Gillet lived (March 25, 1835 – January 27, 1908). He as you know was a California pioneer nurseryman

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The “Seckel” I have is said to be scion from a tree he planted at his Nevada City site. I’m trying to figure out if Giant Seckel was around then.

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We know the dates on that as well Felix Gillet's Historic Barren Hill NurseryFelix Gillet Institute

" Felix Gillet’s Background
In the history of Fruit and Nut Growing in California and the Pacific Northwest, Felix Gillet holds an honorable and unique place. He is recognized by many as the father of most of the perennial crop agriculture in California and the Western U.S.

Gillet, born in Rocheford, France in 1835, was a sailor who made at least 7 trans Atlantic voyages and then immigrated to Boston, MA in 1852. He arrived in San Jose, California in 1858, and settled in Nevada City, CA in 1859. Initially the owner of a barber shop, he took a year sabbatical about 1862 and learned more of the nursery trade in his homeland. He came back to Nevada City, became a nurseryman and established his “Barren Hill Nursery” in 1866, one of the first fruit and nut nurseries on the west coast of the United States. He began importing hundreds of select fruit, nut and grape varieties initially from France, eventually introducing plants from more than 30 nations. He ran the nursery until his death in 1908., publishing detailed annual catalogs featuring hundreds of varieties, many of which formed the foundation the most important agricultural industries of the West.

Today Felix Gillet is recognized as the the most important California nurseryman of his generation. His introductions provided the primary varieties for the almond, walnut, hazelnut (filbert), chestnut, prune, cherry, pear, apricot, wine and table grape, fig, rose and strawberry industries of the West. In addition he grew and provided virtually every common temperate climate perennial edible species including peaches, nectarines, apples, raspberries, blackberries, pecans, mulberries, asparagus, artichoke, citrus, olives, gooseberries, currants and more. He also propagated numerous species of perennial ornamental and forest trees. The famed horticultural beauty of Nevada City and Grass Valley is in good part a testament to the decades of Gillet’s efforts. Gillet provided many thousand of plants to gardeners, homesteaders and farmers throughout the United States, and shipped plants as far as Russia!

Charles E. Parsons bought the nursery from Gillet’s widow after Gillet died in 1908, renaming it the Felix Gillet Nursery, and introduced seedling and grafted chestnuts from the original ‘Colossal’ tree, which now stands at 70 feet tall with a trunk circumference of 14 feet. When Parson’s son retired in 1968, it was the oldest continuously operating nursery in California. Gillet imported and bred hundreds of varieties of plants that are commonly grown in agriculture and horticulture to this day. Many of his original introductions are still thriving in foothill towns, mining camps and homesteads throughout California, where we discover them today. Gillet wrote extensively on the cultivation of a wide variety of crops, and was considered an authority on many crops during his lifetime of work. Although he provided important plant materials and much knowledge to growers all over the world, he is not well known today, something our Felix Gillet Institute is endeavoring to correct.

An important pioneer grower and breeder, Gillet was interested primarily in deciduous fruit and nut trees. He personally brought many perennials never before seen to California and was pivotal in the founding of the State’s agricultural industry. Gillet is also credited with providing the nursery stock that established the hazelnut, walnut, prune and wine grape industries in the Northwest. He introduced hard-shelled walnuts from his native France to Northern California, where the softer shelled varieties proved too delicate for the colder winters, thus establishing the California and Oregon walnut industry. He provided the plant material that established these industries in California and the Pacific Northwest: Almonds, Walnuts, Filberts, Chestnuts, Cherries, Apples, Pears, Prunes, Wine Grapes, Table Grapes, Raspberries, Strawberries and others. His stock was initially introduced from French sources, which he imported by the thousands, propagating them at his nursery in Nevada City for sale to the infant ag industries of the West. Eventually he introduced plants from more than 30 countries. In addition to 70 other strawberry varieties he grew Bonne Bouche strawberries that measured from 4 to 6 inches in diameter, and provided many varieties to Albert Etter of Humboldt County, who bred them with the native California beach strawberry and a Chilean strawberry species, thus creating the basis for the entire West Coast strawberry industry. The FGI has documented many important plant introductions from Gillet’s work including the “French” prune, the “Bing” Cherry, the “Thompson” seedless grape, and Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Syrah, Petite Syrah, Merlot and most of the European wine grape varieties.

Along with his many agriculture accomplishments, Gillet was a two term City Councilman of Nevada City, is responsible for creating Nevada City’s first water system, moved the City Hall to it’s present location, was a prime mover in the Workingman’s Party, a founder and member of the board of what is now the State of California Department of Food and Agriculture, and a prolific author whose work appeared in numerous agricultural publications of the day.

More information on Gillet’s legacy can be found at Wikipedia.
This article was researched and written by David Kupfer and Amigo Bob Cantisano

From Wikipedia
Major Contributor Paul Harrar

Felix Gillet (born March 25, 1835, Rochefort, Charente-Maritime, France; died January 27, 1908, Nevada City, California, United States) was a California pioneer nurseryman, horticulturist, sericulturist, and writer who made several important introductions of superior European deciduous fruit and nut trees to California and the northwestern United States. Beginning in 1869, on his Barren Hill Nursery in Nevada City, Gillet cultivated his own imported scion wood and home-grown nursery stock, experimented with grafting and hybridizing, and continually wrote articles on horticulture and his plant selections, while remaining active in Nevada City civic affairs.[1] Publishing his own nursery catalog for 37 years and advertising widely, he sold his walnuts, filberts (hazelnuts), chestnuts, prunes, figs, strawberries, grapes, peaches, cherries, citrus and dozens of other fruit and nut varieties throughout California and the Pacific Northwest. The commercial walnut variety “Felix Gillet” was named in his honor.

1 Early Life and Career
2 Reputation and Rivals
3 Civic and Later Life
4 Publications
5 Additional Resources
6 References
7 External links

Early Life and Career
Little is known of Gillet’s early life in France and before he settled in Nevada City around 1859. Published the day after Gillet died, a Grass Valley Morning Union newspaper article stated he was born in Roucheford [sic] — probably Rochefort — a port town in southwestern France several miles up the Charente River from the Atlantic Ocean. He had three sisters. At age 16, in 1851, he reputedly spent time at a naval school in Rochefort and made several trans-Atlantic crossings working in the shipping industry. By 1852, he was in Boston, where he learned the barber trade. He possibly was a houseguest of prominent Bostonians Samuel Gridley Howe and Julia Ward Howe,[2] who hosted visits by some European immigrants seeking a new life in America. In 1858, Gillet was a barber San Jose, California, where French orchardists were establishing large fruit and nut farms. In February 1859, at age 24, he moved to the prosperous gold mining town of Nevada (City) in the Sierra Nevada foothills.[3]

Gillet opened a barbershop on Commercial Street, just below Pine Street, in downtown Nevada City. He also sold French finery such as pens, stationary, toys and novelties. He would operate the shop until 1882. Soon after arriving in Nevada City, Gillet became acquainted with an important influence, Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Ducray, who with his younger brother Jean Claude had mined gold and farmed in Nevada City since 1850. As young men, the Ducray brothers had quickly made money in mining interests, and then established large, mostly self-sufficient French-style farms at the edge of Nevada City. Gillet admired Jean-Baptiste Ducray’s idyllic 35-acre farm of fruit and nut trees, grape vines, beehives and roses, which had been reclaimed from land mine-stripped to bedrock. To investigate the nursery trade and French horticulture, Gillet returned to France for 10 months in 1864, then returned to Nevada City. In February 1865, he reopened his shop. He became a naturalized United State citizen in 1866. From 1866 until 1880, Gillet also filed eight gold mining claims.[4] There is no record of what he did with them.

In either the fall of 1869 or August 1870, Gillet purchased with $250 in gold coin 16 acres of land just outside town and started establishing a farm and plant nursery.[5] Like his friends the Ducrays, Gillet’s land was mostly granite bedrock recently surfaced-mined, timbered and left barren. While friends cast doubt on his success as a nurseryman, Gillet built a house and established his Barren Hill Nursery while continuing to run the barbershop. Gillet then spent $3,000 ($49,180 in 2011, adjusting for inflation) on a large order of walnut, filbert, chestnut, mulberry, prune, and fig trees from France. He risked his personal wealth that his imported scion wood and nursery stock would arrive alive, and would not fail to grow in Nevada County. It’s not known how the live plants were shipped, but the recent completion of the transcontinental railroad would have significantly shortened the transportation time, if Gillet had his plants shipped from Europe to the East Coast, then freighted by rail to California.

In the spring of 1871, after he spent a year-and-a-half growing and propagating his imported fruit and nut trees, and carefully observing the climate and topographic conditions that produced the best results in his nursery and elsewhere, Gillet began selling nursery stock. His catalog included his first important introductions to California agriculture — soft-shelled Franquette, Mayette and other walnuts from France.[6] These cultivars were unknown in California and Gillet’s stock became widely planted and thrived. Open-pollinated seedlings of these early introductions would later produce superior cultivars still grown today. Gillet also imported, propagated and hybridized many other fruit and nut trees, grapes, berries and ornamentals. Paying (or possibly trading) for advertising space to promote his plant stock, he became a regular horticultural writer in regional newspapers and became knowledgeable about still-pioneering horticultural efforts throughout California and the Pacific Northwest. From at least the late 1860s, he also persistently championed domestic sericulture and promoted planting mulberry trees as hosts for silkworms, despite little evidence it was economically viable in the United States. In 1870, Gillet promoted the silky floss of common milkweed as a textile fiber.

Gillet’s advertisements and writings in horticultural journals, such as the popular weekly Pacific Rural Press (published in San Francisco), established his reputation for offering superior French varieties of fruit and nut trees. Besides importing stock, Gillet made selections of superior offspring he grew in his nursery. He experimented with grafting varieties of fruits to hardy wild specimens, and specialized in introducing varieties that thrived in poor soil conditions, which ensured that his introductions would succeed in many different western locations. In the mid-1870s, Gillet’s work with strawberries resulted in his introduction of new varieties and his publication in 1876 of an authoritative 32-page booklet on fragriculture. A January 1877 edition of the California Farmer and Journal of Useful Sciences stated Gillet sold 48 varieties of strawberries.

Gillet’s next notable plant introduction to California (in 1883) was a free stone dessert prune from the Clairac region of France, which he called “Clairac Mammoth” (a.k.a. “Imperial Epineuse”). At a time when most California fruit was consumed fresh, dried and canned dessert prunes were a popular, expensive import from France. California prune growers as early as 1854 had attempted to cut into this lucrative market by importing and growing French prune trees, but struggled to copy French drying methods. Gillet competed with John Rock, another well-known nurseryman in Niles (Fremont), to market hardier prune trees that produced very large fruit. Gillet introduced his Clairac prune trees two years before Rock. Both men crossed or grafted the French prunes with wild California plums to produce a variety that was more drought-tolerant and hardier in upland orchards, than in lowlands such as the Santa Clara Valley, then the prune growing center of California.[7]

Gillet’s last and most enduring plant introduction was in 1885, when he sold a large quantity of filbert (hazel nut) stock to orchardists in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Although filberts had been grown in Oregon since the 1850s, Gillet’s imported “Barcelona” and “DuChilly” varieties proved to be superior. The “Barcelona” variety remains the most widely planted in Oregon,[8] which today produces 98 percent of the filbert crop in the United States. Ironically, filberts do not grow well in the Sierra foothills, where Gillet propagated them.

Reputation and Rivals
In 1881, Gillet became a member of the Nurserymen’s Committee of the first California Fruit Growers’ Convention. Gillet and fellow pioneer nurseryman W.B. West of Stockton were members of the first California Horticultural Commission, a forerunner of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. After just a decade of importing, cultivating, experimenting, selling and prolifically writing about fruits, nuts and berries, Gillet was a respected figure in California horticulture and regarded as an unsurpassed expert in French varieties of fruits and nuts.[9] Gillet’s reputation also was created, in part, by tireless self-promotion. In a Feb. 9. 1884 advertisement in Pacific Rural Press, Gillet touted his nursery as “the finest nut-bearing tree nursery in the U.S.” His catalog at that time offered 17 varieties of walnut, including eight grafted from European varieties; seven varieties of chestnuts, six varieties of filberts, seven varieties of prunes, 55 varieties of English gooseberries, and 107 varieties of grapes. These numbers would increase; at one point, the nursery offered 241 types of grapes, including several varieties previously unknown in California.

Gillet’s regional renown, however, would be eclipsed by Luther Burbank, whose 1893 descriptive catalog “New Creations in Fruits and Flowers” stunned the horticultural world with the introduction of many previously unknown fruit, vegetable and flower hybrids. The catalog made Burbank internationally famous. It is not known if Burbank and Gillet corresponded, or met, but they undoubtedly were aware of each other and were commercial competitors. The 1897-98 biennial report of the California State Board of Horticulture comparatively evaluated Gillet’s “Clairac Mammoth”/”Imperial Epineuse” prune with Burbank’s “Sugar.” In a paper presented at the 1904 Northwest Fruit Growers’ Association, Gillet acknowledged Burbank’s “Sugar” prune variety, but noted that his imported French trees produced a superior dessert prune and sent the delegation samples for taste comparison.

Another Gillet rival was John Rock (born Johann Fels), whose large, Fremont-based California Nursery Company (established in 1865) introduced French prune scion wood in 1886 and claimed to sell the best varieties for dessert prunes. Gillet had made the same claim since 1883. For several years, Gillet’s advertisements denounced unnamed rivals, whom he said fraudulently claimed his nursery stock as their own. Of the German-born nurseryman, Luther Burbank said, “John Rock is the most learned man in his profession to be found in California.”[10]
[edit]Civic and Later Life

Besides tending his nursery and gardens, Gillet experimented with wine making, did book binding and wrote essays and columns about horticulture, astronomy, navigation, and California Indians. He closed his barbershop in 1882 to devote his full energy to his nursery. Possibly due to his admiration of abolitionists Samuel and Julia Ward Howe, Gillet was among the few whites who, in the Reconstruction Era, publicly supported equal rights for Nevada County’s few African-Americans — some of whom were former slaves.[11] Gillet’s racial tolerance, however, did not extend to the Chinese, whose businesses in Nevada City were adjacent to his own. Gillet was one local leader of the Workingmen’s Party of California, a nativist labor organization whose agitation against Chinese immigrant workers on the Central Pacific Railroad led to the federal Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. In April 1881, Nevada City passed an ordinance that “all Chinese shall be removed from the Nevada City within 60 days.”[12] (The Felix Gillet Institute recognizes that racism was very common and even accepted in the late 1800s. However, we, the Felix Gillet Institute do not promote nor do we support racism of any kind.)

From 1878 to 1881, Gillet was twice elected to the Nevada City Town Trustees. He helped make the city government more effective and progressive and reportedly never missed a session. He was a trustee during construction of a new city hall.

In 1890, Gillet’s close friends, Jean-Baptiste and Julia Catherine Ducray both died, leaving their large orchard estate to their niece and adopted daughter Theresa Julia Brenoel (b. 1868 in Crawford County, Pennsylvania; d. Feb. 8, 1913). Gillet, 56, and Brenoel, 23, were married in 1891. The couple had no children. In 1895, Gillet was an influential voice in the creation of Nevada City’s municipal water plant. In 1904-05 he was a contributing member of the American Pomological Society. After months of poor health, Gillet died from several ailments in 1908 at age 72. He was buried in the Pioneer Cemetery in Nevada City.
Upon Felix Gillet’s death, his wife continued to operate the nursery. She hired George Dulac as head nurseryman. They were married in 1909. In 1913, following the former Mrs. Gillet’s death, the nursery was sold to Charles E. Parsons, who renamed it Felix Gillet Nursery. For another 55 years, Parsons continued to sell Gillet’s nursery stock, publish a nursery catalog, and write about Gillet’s pioneering horticultural work. Parsons also made new introductions of fruit and nut varieties from stock originally cultivated by Gillet. One important introduction by Parsons was the “Colossal” variety of chestnut, which had originated in another variety cultivated by Gillet.[13] In 1968, the business was thought to be the oldest continuously operating nursery in California and the second-oldest west of the Rocky Mountains.[14] Following Parsons’ death in 1969, the nursery era ended and the property became a private residence. The former nursery property was later subdivided for construction of several houses. Gillet’s farmhouse and some of his fruit and nut trees remain in the Aristocracy Hill neighborhood. The site still attracts admiring horticulturalists from universities in California, Oregon and Washington.
In 1933, a plaque honoring Gillet was placed by Nevada City residents on a stone pillar at the entrance to the former nursery. In 1994, the University of California Walnut Breeding Program introduced, and later patented, three new walnut varieties, the most vigorous-growing of which was named “Felix Gillet.”[15] On Jan. 27, 2008, Nevada City marked the centennial of Gillet’s death by proclaiming Felix Gillet Day.

• Gillet, Felix; “Fragriculture; or the Culture of the Strawberry/A Practical Treatise on the Culture, Propagation, Management and Marketing of Strawberries” (Spaulding & Barto Printers, San Francisco, 1876). The illustrated book is in the Library on Congress, the Biodiversity Heritage Library and other libraries.
[edit]Additional Resources

• A collection of nursery and seed catalogs published by the Felix Gillet Nursery from 1884-1962 is part of the Ethel Z. Bailey Horticultural Catalogue Collection, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University.
• United States Department of Agriculture/National Clonal Germplasm Repository (Corvallis, Oregon)

Resources and References
^ Grass Valley Morning Union, Jan. 28, 1908, p. 5
^ “Felix Gillet” by C. E. Parsons, Nevada County Historical Society Bulletin, Vol. 16, No. 4, Nov. 1962
^ arrival book, Nevada County Court records
^ Mining Register, Nevada County
^ Nevada County Deeds, Book 37, p. 34
^ The Walnut Germplasm Collection of the University of California, Davis; “A Description of the Collection and a History of the Breeding Program,” Eugene F. Serr and Harold I. Forde, et. al., Report No. 13, July 1994
^ “The California Fruits and How To Grow Them,” Pacific Rural Press, 1919, 8th edition, by Edward James Wickson, Professor of Horticulture Emeritus, College of Agriculture, University of California
^ “Historical Notes on Hazelnuts in Oregon,” K. E. Hummer, International Society for Horticulture Science]
^ Schaeffle, K. H. (Oct. 12, 1889). Pacific Rural Press 38 (15).
^ is for sale | HugeDomains
^ “Nevada County’s Black Pioneers” by Pat Jones; Nevada County Historical Society Bulletin, Vol. 39, No. 3, July 1985]
^ “The Nevada City Chinese Quarter, 1860-1900” by Wallace Hagaman, Nevada County Historical Society Bulletin, Vol. 62, No. 4, Oct. 2008
^ Wickson, p. 447
^ “Nevada City Celebrates ‘World Renowned’ Horticulturist,” by Laura Brown, Grass Valley Union, Jan. 29, 2008
^ U.S. Patent Application 20060031972"

We need to research a bit more then we will know if it was the normal seckel.

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I’m trying to figure out if Giant Seckel was around then.

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Yes it is very difficult pinning the old records down. Many of the old records are incomplete. The pears of New York is a good reference but it is still very difficult. Worden as an example was popular in New York Worden seckel pear . The first thing i do is look at the glowing reviews given in old books as a way to find out who was involved. Most records no longer exist. Im going through some old booklets looking for a possible clue on the precise dates of the giant seckle like this one on fireblight. Magness is ofcourse mentioned as it was heavily planted. Unfortunately nothing about the giant seckle. We have documented proof on numerous seckle pears. They were using seckle as one of their main breeding pears in those days. We are lacking the documentation on the breeding programs of those pears as it often predates records easily available.

PDF.pdf (6.7 MB)

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Well, thanks for looking. I have acquired quite a library of information on these early CA nurseries – some of it in the last few years due to figs. Gillet played a role there too. John Rock is said to have had the largest collection of fig cultivars in the day. Gustav Eisen – a polymath in the UC Agricultural program, gave his highest praise regarding early CA figs to W.B. West.

So I’ve decided to replace our “Gillet Seckel” with a “Pennsylvania Seckel”. It will be dug up next winter and boxed for shipping (I’m a licensed plant shipper). You may have first right of refusal.

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Think it would be interesting to see what the fruit looks like.

“In 1920, Merton B. Waite, a U.S. Department of Agriculture breeder in Maryland, came up with a seedling of the Seckel called the Giant Seckel that bore much larger fruit, and was still blight-resistant. But it was not quite as flavorful, and it never became widely grown.”



Since Felix Gillet lived (March 25, 1835 – January 27, 1908), he was not there in 1920 for the Giant seckle. This gillet seckle seems to be his own seedling. Bare Root Fruits, Nuts and Landscape Trees · Sweetland Garden Mercantile

Richard these are your photos

The size of that seckle is enormous!

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Yes, I’m going to send them with the tag photos to Gillet Nursery.

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Was able to further eliminate worden as a possibility. It is 1/2 again the size of seckle. Note the measuring tape on the fruit chart.



Dax was selling early seckel a few years back. Not sure if he kept any of them. He had a bunch of hard to find varieties that I wish I had bought.