Wednesday, August 30, 2017


I've written here before that a pear tree planted nearly 400 years ago by my 10x great grandfather Governor John Endicott  is still alive and bearing fruit in Danvers, Ma. Recently a news story
about it was the topic of some posts on Facebook and that prompted me to search the internet
to see what else I could find out about the tree.

What I found was a poem written 227 years ago, It's a long one, so I won't post it all here. You can read it in its entirety at Historical Collections of the Danvers Historical Society; Volumes 6-9.

There was a time in this country where Arbor Day was celebrated with ceremonies that included
speeches and sometimes poetry. Such an occasion was held in Danvers in 1890, which
Governor John Quincy Adams Brackett would attend  and then help plant an oak tree at Danver's
town hall.

Poetess Lucy Larcom wrote and may have recited a poem to commemorate the event, drawing
her inspiration from the story of Endicott's pear tree, which was nearly 250 years old in 1890:

                                                 THE GOVERNOR'S TREE
                                            Original Poem By Lucy Larcom
                               Written for the Danvers Improvement Society's Observation
                                                              of Arbor Day, 1890

                                                    Let us take a trip, in rhyme,
                                                     To the old Colonial time.

In his shallop, from the Bay,
Came the Governor one day,
Up the slow tide of the dreek,
On its inland shores to seek-
May be-just an hour of rest
From the homesick groups that pressed
Round him everywhere he went
In the new-born settlement.

Governors. we are aware,
Though they shirk no public care,
Thought they hold the people dear,
Do not always want them near;
Sometimes they may draw apart
From the crowd, to read itsheart.

Landing on a green slope's side,
Gazing round the region wide,
Over wind-swept forests free,
Down the inlet to the sea,
Quoth the Governor, "What harm,
If I here lay out my farm,
Plant my orchards, sow my maize,
and in peace live out my days?
In my little sloop sail down,
When I must, to Salem town,
Ruling the good folk as well
As I should with them dwell."

Grave old Governor Endicott
Always did the thing he thought-
Finished what he had begun-
Did it, if it could be done.

So this deed he pleased was wrought;
Birchwood for his farm he bought,
Where the yeoman felled his wood
Site whereon his mansion stood-
Shaded springwhereof he drank,
On the pleasant willow-bank;
By these tokens you may trace
Endicott's abiding-place.

Up and down his grape-vine walk,
Pacing silent, or in talk
With retainer, friend. or guest,
Or, perchance, with boyish zest,
Tasting some new-flavored fruit
That within his grounds had root-
Fancy paints the Governor
Who is best remembered for
Something all men do, who please ;
His delight was-planting trees.

Ms. Larcom then devotes several stanzas imagining Endicott and Governor Winthrop walking
about the grounds of Endicott's farm, perhaps eating pears:

Probably; we may suppose
That they did, since no one knows

After more stanzas which compare the growth of the nation to the growth of a tree, she returns
again to the subject of the poem:

Who would not be proud to say
Of the deed he does to-day,
If it be a worthy shoot
From an honorable root,
That, when centuries had passed,
Bloom and fruitage still wood last,-
Still a growing, breathing thing-
Autumn, with the heart of spring.

Such a wonder you may see;
For the patriarchal tree
Blossoms still,- the living thought
Of good Governor Endicott.
Fruit again this year to bear;
Honor to that brave old pear!

What our fathers did, we know;
Set out trees, and made them grow;
And their best bequests we find,
In the growths they left behind-
Trees of honor, faith and truth,
Vigorous with undying youth,
Blooming on and breathing, still
Freshness that no frost can kill.

The poem concludes with the hope that the oak tree Gov. Brackett would plant on Arbor Day
would have as long a life as Endicott's pear tree. (It didn't).

It still amazes me that there is a tree still living and thriving that my ancestor planted four
centuries ago!

Source: Historical Collections of the Danvers Historical Society; Volumes 6-9.   ,
Danvers Historical Society, Danvers, Ma, 1918. Pages 46-49

1 comment:

Linda Stufflebean said...

Have you visited the tree? If I lived in New England and was a descendant, I'd be hunting down its location and paying a visit. Thanks again for the Poetry Challenge. I've enjoyed each and every entry.