There are Remembering Days when we remember stories about family lives for the benefit of our descendants. There are Researching Days when we hunt for clues to our ancestors’ lives and their stories. And there are Underwear Days, when Remembering and Researching get tangled up in a pile on the floor, just like those mornings when you can’t get your feet out of your underwear, lose your balance, and fall over (especially when some jokester flings open the bedroom door and yells “freeze, sucker!!”). Underwear Days.
It was a Remembering Day when I thought of one of the stories carried on in my family. Supposedly my great-great-great-great-grandfather George Read III reserved in a deed his right “to sit under his favorite apple tree” for the duration of his life. It was a Research Day when I began looking for the old deeds of both family properties to verify that family apple tree story.
Apples have become such a part not only of our nutrition but also of our lexicon, music, and idioms that we seldom notice them. But last spring, once the winter’s mental fog lifted, I noticed that there are many very old apple trees on my family property, more than I had been aware of. Their white blossoms stood out against the bare limbs of other trees or the newly-green spring leaves. Until the early 1950s there was an old apple tree on Our Old House’s front lawn, and until we put in a new septic system there was a really old one outside my kitchen window, thoroughly rotted but a favorite of both squirrels and birds. My ancestors’ property next door had an orchard (it still stands for all its advanced age) from which we enjoyed huge Wolf River apples, Galas, Astrachans, Winter Ganos, and others eaten in hand, in pies, or pressed into cider. Some of the old trees in my “back 40” certainly look two hundred years old, but none invite “sitting.”
Apples have become such a part not only of our nutrition but also of our lexicon, music, and idioms that we seldom notice them.
I soon realized the importance apple orchards or individual apple trees held for my family as they became noted in the deed exclusions or in stated rights of way. Perhaps it was George Read Cony (1825-94) who had a favorite tree when he reserved the right of passage to that old orchard next door.
Before his death, George Read III deeded his homestead property to his daughter Experience Read Cony, reserving his right to stay in his home until his death. Was this perhaps where “the apple tree story” originated? No mention is made of apple trees in the deed, but he did “warrant and forever defend the premises to her the said Experience Cony . . . against the lawful claims and demands of all persons claiming by through or under me.”
A check of George’s probate records included a petition for guardianship filed by his son Luther alleging incompetency (perhaps because Luther didn’t get the homestead property?). That became a nice tangle by itself (George prevailed).
I began to think that maybe George wasn’t the main character of the apple tree story. Was it George III (my great-great-great-great-grandfather)? Or maybe George Jr. (his father), claiming his rights at his property in Sidney, Maine? Maybe George III’s son-in-law John Cony made that reservation. Another tangle, and I began to feel a bit unsteady: maybe the story was just a family comment that evolved into legend involving too many apple lovers named George.
While I have some new insight into how ingrained apples were in my ancestors’ everyday lives, no amount of research so far has given any substance to the “sit under my apple tree” story. I toppled over at that point. Gotta love those Underwear Days.