or seed - how did the Butternut tree arrive in Tumwater?
are excerpts from the University of Washington Master's Thesis by Paul
Thomas in 1965...
They arrived on the Sound in November
1845, bringing them only those few belongings which they could tie on
the pack animals...
Just as the overall picture
of agriculture in the Oregon Territory in 1850 was good, so was life on
the Bush farm, which saw expanded cultivation, more crops, and larger
harvests... There was always
plenty in the
Bush household. Wheat and oats were the principal grains on the
farm. George and Isabella had brought with them the seeds of
various fruit trees, which were now beginning to bear fruit. The
storehouse was filled with different fruits and vegetables, such as
apples, pears, potatoes, cabbage, and turnips...
Another view by Iris White Heikell in her
"The Wind-Breaker - George
Washington Bush: Black Pioneer of the
...Before leaving Fort
Vancouver , George made his last visit to Dr. McLoughlin, thanking him
for allowing him to plant trees there and to bid him farewell.
"Oh, we will see you
George," the white-haired patriarch had said, "When you get those seedlings started you will
be back for your scions,
that I know.
I wish you well in your new home on the Sound, and I feel confident you
will be a credit to your country whichever one it might be.
A view by Georgiana
Blankenship in her fine old 1914 book "Early History of Thurston County
Washington Together With Biographies and Reminiscences of Those
Identified with Pioneer Days"
....Mr. Bush, shortly after his arrival,
set out fruit and shade trees, the seeds of which he had
brought with him from his old home. Many of these trees grew and
flourished and stand to this day, noble monuments to the hardy old
A view by Lenore
...They carried seeds, farm
implements, livestock, and even live
trees for their new home in the west. George and Isabella
seeds for cherry, plum, prune, pear, and crabapple trees but they
small poplar and quince trees with them. George thought that the
might be needed as windbreaks and that the quince trees were too lovely
the tarts and jellies made from their fruit too irreplaceable to leave
Bush is not officially given credit for
transporting fruit stock.
Lewelling carried the first grafted nursery trees over the Oregon Trail.
1847 Henderson Lewelling
and family moved from Iowa to Milwaukie, Oregon
...When the next spring came, he
(Henderson Lewelling) had secured the cooperation of a neighbor John
Fisher for the prosecution of his plans to take
the fruit trees. They had procured a stout wagon and made two boxes
twelve inches deep and of
sufficient length and breadth, that set in the wagon box side by side
they filled it full. These
boxes were filled with a compost consisting principally of charcoal and
earth, into which about
700 trees and shrubs, embracing most, if not all of the best varieties
in cultivation in that
section of the country were planted. The trees were from twenty inches to
four feet high and protected
from stock by light stripe of hickory bolted to posts set in staples on
the wagon box. Mr. Fisher soon died.
now had charge of the nursery wagon, and decided to carry it through in
his own way and time,
as he had already been criticized by some of his friends for attempting
to haul that
heavy load across the plains and over the Rocky Mountains. The trees
had to be watered every day if
possible, and thus the maximum weight of the load remained the same
throughout the entire
According to Alfred
Lewelling "There (at The Dalles) father joined with
constructed two boats to bring the wagons and other goods, as well as
their several families, down to the Willamette
"The boats were completed, loaded and
started down the Columbia River, about the first of November. They went
down as far as Wind River, where they were
unloaded and boats used to ferry our cattle and horses across to the
north side of the Columbia
River, then reloaded and taken to the Upper Cascades, again the boats
were unloaded and the wagons
set up and hauled to the Lower Cascades. The boats having been turned
adrift at the Upper
Cascades went bumping and tossing down the scathing current and were
captured below. (As
the Salem expedition carried no row boats, it has been suggested by
later writers that Indians
with their canoes were employed to capture the heavy barges.)
"At the Lower Cascades the boats were
reloaded and worked down the Columbia River to a point opposite Fort
Vancouver, reaching there the 17th day of
November, just seven months from the day of starting. Those of us who
drove the cattle down
the trail did not get there until the 20th of November.
trees were taken out of the
boxes when the boats were ready to start from the Dalles, and carefully
wrapped in cloth to protect them in the
various handlings, and from the frosty nights."
Lewelling had now reached the goal of his
expedition. He had arrived in the long cherished Willamette Valley with
his cargo of precious trees. The story of
his journey shows with what matchless energy he persevered in his
enterprise, and what
infinite care he bestowed upon his trees.
He next had to find a home for his family and
a permanent lodgment for his traveling nursery. He spent several days
exploring the country and on the
10th of December moved his family into a cabin opposite Portland, now
East Portland. From
here he made another survey of the valley, and finally purchased a
tract of land where some
clearing had been done adjoining the town site at Milwaukee.
On February 5th, he moved his family to this
place and began the making of a permanent home. The land was densely
covered with heavy fir trees, but by
a vigorous application of the ax and torch, a clearing was soon made
sufficiently large to plant
the orchard and nursery. Lewelling's ambition was now fully realized.
He had brought his
cargo of living trees across the plains and over the Rocky Mountains to
Valley, the first cultivated, or grafted
fruit to reach the Pacific Northwest.
About half the trees he loaded at Salem, Iowa, survived
the arduous transportation, and were now securely planted in the soil
of Oregon. Lewelling's fame and
fortune were assured. Emigrants were rapidly pouring into the
Willamette Valley and
around the Puget Sound, and the demand for fruit trees was unlimited.
He was in a position to
supply this demand with the choicest fruit trees America could furnish.
He had taken the
pains to transfer to Oregon the same variety of apples that had proven
so popular in Iowa. There can
be but little doubt that the superior quality of the apples supplied by
established the reputation of the Oregon fruits, and helped lay the
foundation of the great apple
industry of Oregon and Washington. A few years ago, when the writer was
touring Oregon, he was
shown the locality of the original Lewelling nursery, and he found
growing in that
vicinity the same varieties of apples he had known when a child in his
father's orchard near Salem, Iowa.
Lewelling, who like his friend, Dr. Marcus
Whitman, the missionary, knew the value of the region, was a strong
advocate of securing as much of the Oregon
country as was possible to obtain by fair and honorable means. He was
not, however, one of
those who raised the cry "Fifty-Four Forty or Fight". His Quaker
him to believe there was a better way. He was greatly pleased when the
final settlement secured to our
country the Puget Sound, for he believed that these waters would some
day be a powerful factor
in the commerce of the world. Soon after he established himself in
Oregon, Lewelling formed a
partnership with William Meek, a man from Bonaparte, Iowa, who had
crossed the plains the
same year, but not in the same train. This firm not only engaged
extensively in the
nursery business, but organized the Milwaukee Milling Company, and
operated several saw and grist
mills. At the same time they carried on several other enterprises.
When Lewelling and Meek were selling trees in
all parts of Oregon and Washington, John Lewelling left Salem, Iowa, in
1850, and located in California,
buying property at San Lorenzo, Alameda County. Here he started in the
obtaining his foundation stock from the Henderson Lewelling nursery, at
Milwaukee, Oregon. The
enterprise was successful. He reared his family here, and his
descendants are occupying
prominent positions throughout the State to-day.
In 1853, Henderson Lewelling sold all of his
interests in Oregon to his partner William Meek, and he and his son
Alfred moved to California, purchased
land in Alameda County, and engaged in the fruit and nursery business.
Alfred named the
locality Fruitvale. Soon a large population gathered in that locality,
and Fruitvale became a
beautiful little city adjoining Oakland.
Henderson and Alfred Lewelling sent out from
this place not only thousands, but hundreds of thousands of fruit trees
all over California. Again Henderson
Lewelling was in no small measure responsible for the beginning of the
great fruit industry of
another Pacific Coast State—an industry which has brought more wealth
to California than all
the gold the State has produced. Henderson Lewelling built a fine
residence in Fruitvale which in
later years was occupied by a Governor of the State.
After these achievements, and having acquired
for himself both wealth and an enviable reputation, he seemed to have
reached the limitations of his
work on the Pacific Coast. But he could not be content to stand still,
and look back upon past
achievements. He must still press forward, and be a leader among men.
About 1858, he conceived the idea of founding
a colony in Central America. He had crossed the Isthmus of Panama in
1851 in his travels back and forth to
the eastern States. He was much impressed by the mild climate, the
cheap land, and the luxuriant
growth of vegetation in that semi-tropical climate. He enlisted several
others in the
project, and in 1859 sold his valuable property in Fruitvale, purchased
a ship and all necessary
supplies, and he and his two younger sons together with his partners
and their families, embarked for
Prior to this, Lewelling had been successful
in his every undertaking, but in this project he met defeat. The
enterprise was a disastrous failure. He was the
principal capitalist in the scheme and he lost heavily. Returning to
California, he engaged in the
fruit business again; but by this time he had lost his former vigor,
and he never regained his
former financial standing. A part of the Lewelling estate in Fruitvale
was sold to a man by the name
of Diamond. This tract was later donated to the city, and is now known
as Diamond Park.
How many of the original trees carried by
Henderson Lewelling from Salem over the plains and mountains to Oregon
still survive is difficult to ascertain.
There is one tree, however, whose history has been accurately recorded
and is worthy of mention
here. In 1845, Lewelling planted a cherry pit which sprouted and grew.
In 1846, he grafted this
seedling with a Black Tartarion scion. In 1847, he carried this tree on
his seven months journey
to the Willamette Valley. In the spring of 1848 this tree was planted
in the soil of Oregon at
Milwaukee. In 1849 the tree was sold to David Chamberlain for five
dollars. Mr. Chamberlain
carried the tree by canoe, down the Willamette River to the Columbia
River, then down the Columbia
to the mouth of the Cowlitz, thence to Cowlitz landing where Toledo now
stands, thence by
horseback, seventy miles to Chambers Prairie, four miles from Olympia,
Washington. Here the
tree was planted and it is still bearing fruit. It is an immense tree
now, and three feet from
the ground it measures nine feet in circumference. Its limbs have a
spread of sixty feet.
George R. Haines, Curator of the Oregon State
Historical Society, in speaking of this tree said: "I stood under its
branches in 1853. In 1854 I ate
cherries from the tree, and for many years thereafter. In 1895 it bore
a crop of forty bushels of cherries.
In 1920, the crop was 1200 pounds."
Moses Votaw, a great nephew of Henderson
Lewelling, visited this tree in July, 1928. It was after the cherry
season, but he found many dried cherries still
hanging to the branches, and many dried cherries on the ground. One of
the lower limbs had been
removed by a saw. A measurement across the saw kerf showed that the
limb had a
diameter of sixteen inches. That this little cherry sprout, originating
at Salem, Iowa, should
withstand the risks of transportation across the continent and the
hazards of frequent
transplanting, and still live, is a towering monument to commemorate
the energy and enterprise of a
Salem (Iowa) pioneer, and to this writer a fact stranger than fiction.
Iowa Journal of History
Volume 27 October, 1929 No. 4
More can be found about the Lewellings in
this article in the USDA