Grand River Branch
United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada
Selected Reprints from the
Grand River Branch Newsletter, Branches
"The Story of The McIntosh Red"
Muriel Fearnall, August 1995, Vol.7 No.2, Page 16
Several years ago, one of our members, Muriel Fearnall,
sent a short item on the origins of the "McIntosh Red", the apple so familiar to those of us born and raised in Ontario. The "McIntosh" has an interesting history and we thought that many of you would welcome this "vignette" from our Upper Canadian heritage. This brief essay is based on an article by O. J. Stevenson, appearing in The Ontario Readers Third Book (Toronto: T. Eaton Co., 1925), 136-140.
Among the early U.E. Loyalists who settled in the Eastern District of our province, was John McIntosh. He migrated from New York State and settled near what is now the small town of Dundela in Dundas County, bordering on the St. Lawrence River. In 1796, John McIntosh was clearing his land when he discovered about twenty young apple trees. It is possible that the seedlings may have sprouted from seeds left by other travellers, perhaps a small band of Natives. Apple trees were often difficult to obtain in those times, so John McIntosh transplanted the young trees to a clearing near his dwelling.
In several years, the trees began to bear fruit and the apples were of different varieties. Unfortunately, most of them were not hardy and all but one eventually died. The apples from the lone surviving tree had an excellent flavour and texture and a beautiful red colour. This particular strain was very hardy and the tree continued to bear fruit for many years. In that part of the country, the apple became widely known and was soon called the "McIntosh Red".
John McIntosh was content to harvest his apples largely for his own use. His son, Allen McIntosh, started a small nursery and sold offshoots from the original tree. The new variety of apple, the "McIntosh Red", was soon known across Upper Canada as a fine winter apple. The old tree bore fruit for nearly one hundred years. In 1893, the farmhouse was burned to the ground and John McIntosh's original tree, only fifteen feet from the house, suffered severe damage from the fire. All the limbs nearest the house were burned away. In the spring, the tree blossomed but by summer, the leaves turned yellow and fell to the ground. Only the leafless branches and trunk remained and the old, dead tree was cut down.
It was appropriate that the first McIntosh apple tree was to be honoured as part of our local history. When it grew as a seedling by the St. Lawrence, Upper Canada was a wilderness, a pioneer land of scattered farms and a few small communities. For nearly a hundred years it stood by John McIntosh's home near Dundela and were it not for the "McIntosh Red", we would probably have long forgotten the names of John McIntosh, a pioneer and his son, Allen. In the neighbourhood of Dundela, in the early years of this century, a number of people felt that the old tree and its discoverer should be remembered. By the roadside at Dundela, they erected a monument with the following inscription: