Some Fruit Growing Family History

I thought some of you may be interested in some of my “fruit growing family history” I have recently begun researching.

A quick background. I live on a farm in Midcoast Maine that has been here since the founding of the town. Growing up I had always heard tales of how my ancestors were known for there green thumbs, and were at the leading edge of fruit growing for their time. Pushing the limits of there zone, being the first to grow fruits like peaches in the area, and testing/developing new varieties coming out of New York.

Now not knowing if this was just my family tooting it’s own horn, I wanted to see if I could do some research and dig anything up to confirm any of these tales.

I decided to start by researching my grandfather’s grandfather, Everett Hobbs (the man I owe my name too).

The first thing I was able to pull up, was some confirmation of his peach growing prowess, this article from 1958 states he had been growing peaches himself in the area since the teens. Red haven is the variety pictured. Also of note is he was growing some rare for the area, everbearing raspberries.

And this article written 10 years prior confims he was growing Carmen with good success.

Now as far as his research and variety development is concerned, I have not found much, but I did find confirmation of his trips/communication with the researchers and nurseryman in Geneva, NY.
Courier Gazette _ September 28 1939 (1).pdf (4.0 MB)
See page 5.

Now the bulk of the remaining finds, were actually found in an old shoebox of letters my aunt had recently given me. These were found in the attic of the original Hobbs farm house and are mostly addressed to Everett’s father James, dated late 1890’s.

Come to find out, James was canvassing (a middle man helping sell nursery stock) the midcoast area at the time for a Geneva based nurseryman by the name of A.S. Chadbourne. Mr. Chadbourne would send the ordered stock by train or boat to James and James would get a cut of the sales.

Here is an example of an order James received from a doctor in Camden, ME:

This guy really liked his summer apples!

The same person also asked for 3 plum trees “whatever is curculio proof” that made me chuckle.

I also have quite a few letters sent by Mr. Chadbourne giving James the latest happenings in Geneva on the fruit growing front.

For instance there was a lengthy correspondence explaining how columbian raspberry is the latest exciting variety of the time, he even included a letter he received from Geo Powell, the director of the New York State Department of Agricultural Education, speaking highly of the variety:

Here is another touting the production of a burbank plum tree:

And again claiming English Morello as the superior sour cherry variety:

Some other interesting tidbits from these old letters include an old nursery stock advertising mailer with pricing:

A receipt for 6 barrels of northern spy apples (1897):

These were sold to a company in Boston that shipped them to the English and German markets.
He got a wopping $4.35 after the freight charges.

Here is another shipping company confirming that they also buy and sell wealthy and fameuse apples:

Overall I have been pleased with what I have uncovered as far as family history. Seems I am very much following in my ancestors fruit growing footsteps. These were just the highlights and I hope some others will appreciate the fruit growing history.

Feel free to share any family history of your own!


Really pretty fascinating. The writing is written in fountain pens, which adds an interesting/unusual dimension to all the sales orders.

I’m sure you’re very proud. Thanks for posting this.


That is really interesting. Thank you for sharing your family history. Really nice you were able to find so many details. Love the prices!! lol


Very cool! Thanks for sharing this with us!


So cool!


Thank you for posting this great information. Telling the story and seeing the actual papers make it so much more interesting. Great job!!


So in my search for clues for a lost local variety (that’s hopefully a story for another day) I stumbled onto some more family orcharding history, and thought I should update this thread.

Most of this information came from the local newspapers online archives from the mid 1890’s to early 1900’s. The local fair got a pretty healthy writeup most years and it is a great resource for getting info on local heirloom varieties grown in the area at that time.

The first is from 1894 and has a good writeup of what J.P. (James) Hobbs was growing on his farm (the same farm in which I am currently living)

This was regarding his plums:
“J. P. Hobbs at Hope is another well informed plum man. He has 40 trees, mostly Lombards, and raised this year about three bushels. He got 22 quarts from a Moore’s Arctic, set five years ago. Mr. Hobbs thinks the Imperial gage the richest plum, but would keep Moore’s Artic for marketing. Mr. Hobbs sold a Moore’s Arctic to Elliott Benner of North Warren. The second year it yielded 4 plums, the third one quart, the fourth 2 quarts, the fifth 4 quarts, the sixth 8 quarts, seventh 17 quarts,this year, the eighth, a bushel.”

And his apples:
“J. P. Hobbs, 14 varieties, of which the following were the best and were really very fine: Newtown Pippin, St. Lawrence, Fall Geneting, King and McIntosh Red. These last were perfect in size and color. Mr. Hobbs has 300 trees, mostly young.”

So from this we now know he had 40 plums and 300 apples planted at that time, quite the orchard and many more trees than even my father was aware of.

If any of you want a good glimpse into what was being grown in the midcoast of Maine in the 1890’s I encourage you to read the rest of the fair writeup in this document: Hobbs plums- union pippin- Courier Gazette _ October 2 1894.pdf (4.6 MB)

And here is what James display looked like in 1896:
“J. P. Hobbs had a large and choice variety, showing pails of Gano and Baldwins and plates of Reitighsimer with tints as dainty as the fleshlings of a Black Crook chorus girl, also some Grimes Golden, Bailey Sweet, St. Lawrence, McIntosh Red, Wealthy, Pumpkin Sweet and Longfield.”

From these old fair writeups it is apparent that my family was very involved in the fair as well as being respected orchardists, every fair I read about had one of them as a judge in the fruit/orchard category (there were many cash prizes given out for various agricultural categories such as “finest display of fall apples” etc.)

I also came across an article that showed Everett Hobbs (James’ son, my grandfathers grandfather, the peach grower from my first post) served as the president of the agricultural society that put on the local fair. Pretty cool!

Here is another picture of Everett in his peach orchard some time in the 50’s:

When I first set out to find out more info about my family’s fruit growing history I never dreamed that I would be able to uncover this much. It makes my current orchard endeavor that much more special to me…must be something in the blood!


This is great, lucky you!


Congrats and a special shout-out for those pics. They can be really hard to find.


my family tree isnt in just growing fruit although everyone had apple trees back then. my great grandfather and his family worked year round for a farmer in s. Quebec until the early 1900’s. in 1922 the Maine government was selling land for cheap all along the St. John river valley so my great grandfather packed up the family and immigrated to Maine where he purchased 520 acres of woodland in New Canada. him and his six boys and 4 girls carved a farm out of that wilderness. i cant even image the work that entailed as our area is very rocky. within several decades he had 200 acres planted and a large maple sugar camp behind his house on the ridge. my cousin was the last one to keep the farm and the last farmer to go out of business in my town. there was 30 of them when i was a kid. my cousin still harvests from the original 3 apple trees my great grandfather planted. ones a y. transparent. the other 2 are large cortland type apples but no one knows for sure what they are. he still owns 100 acres of the original 520 acres as well as the parcel where my great grandfathers house once stood and the sugar camp. we used to harvest that field and all kinds of artifacts would be dug up with the potatoes. i feel a sense of pride and respect whenever i drive by there.


Another update in my search for “fruit growing family history”

More confirmation that my grandfather’s grandfather Everett Hobbs had ties to top Geneva New York researchers AND was one of the early pioneers of peach growing in the state of Maine.

The Camden Herald, Page7, 1941-09-11.pdf (308.2 KB) :
“Mr. Everett Hobbs recently entertained Prof. Richard Wellington, Dr. Cochett of the U of M. and Dr Neil Fogg of Rockland. Prof. Wellington is secretary of the N. Y. State Fruit Co-operative Association and is at the Experimental station at Geneva, N. Y. He reports the recent development of a new peach tree with fruit ripening in July. Mr Hobbs has some Fruit trees recommended by Prof. Wellington to him when he and Dr. Fogg attended a meeting out there a few years ago. Prof. Wellington said he had never seen a peach tree grown successfully in Maine until he saw those Mr. Hobbs has that have yielded well this year.”

Upon reading this I wanted to know a bit more about professor Wellington and what his research entailed. What I found absolutely blew me away.
Wellington_Richard_1975.pdf (230.9 KB)

“For forty-seven years he served the station in
horticultural research, twenty-four of these years as department head. Under his leadership, seventy new fruit varieties were introduced, and the department gained worldwide recognition for its accomplishments.”

“He was instrumental in the development of twenty-one apple varieties including Macoun, Lodi, Early Mcintosh, and Kendall; the Gorham pear; Newburgh and Taylor red raspberries; the Bristol black raspberry; the Fredonia gooseberry; the Catskill strawberry; the Stanley prune; the Gil Peck sweet cherry; and thirteen grape varieties, including Buffalo, Steuben, and Keuka. The Stanley prune is the plum most widely grown in the world. The Wellington apple, developed at the Geneva Station, was named after this distinguished scientist.”

He was truly one of the leading fruit breeders of the time and helped put Geneva on the map, and here he was choosing to take the time out of his precious sabbatical (the linked article mentions he was on sabbatical in 1941) to come to the very farm I am currently living, to see what Everett Hobbs was up to in his orchard in the middle of nowhere. That is just so impressive to me.


i love hearing of old family history. seems you have much to be proud of in your family. congrats! i come from a family of potato farmers going back to early 1800’s in Quebec, then immigrating to New Canada, Maine in early 1900’s. my great grandfathers’ yellow transparent apple trees that they brought from Quebec still fruit on what’s now my cousins land. i also grow my great grandfather’s rhubarb he brought from Quebec with him. got it from my father who got it from my grandfather.