This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V23", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
I have been much interested during the past year in studying a few seedling apples planted about the first of the century by Dominie Kirkland, then missionary to the Oneida Indians, and the founder of Hamilton College. Happening to own a part of the orchard planted by him and old Sconondo, the Oneida Chieftain, I have been familiar with the fruit as well as the history of these trees. They were raised from seed sown in England, and were transferred to this country when quite young, and were never grafted, at least not in the days of the Dominie. All grafts are of more recent date, and were inserted mainly by my father, John Powell, or more recently by hired grafters. Unfortunately the grand old trees were sawed and cut about twenty years ago in a barbarous way in order to make a profitable job for a young grafting vandal. This has hastened decay so that to-day over half of the trees are either dead or useless. By careful selection of suckers or high side shoots, I have found new tops for several.
What has specially interested me is:
1. The palpable resemblance between some of these seedling fruits and old English apples. These trees bear fruit with an inheritance easily tracked to the Yellow Belleflower. The core, the seed and the shape is unmistakably Belle-flower.
2. Of these three two are so nearly identical that I will defy the best judges to separate a mixed dozen apples into their proper piles. I do not think I could do it after my long acquaintance with them. In size, color and all the usual peculiarities by which we separate apples these seem to be identical. One of these trees I own, the other stands further along the hillside. I had named mine the Kirkland, and long supposed my claim to the original tree to be absolute; but here are two trees with almost or quite identical fruit. It is a large apple with open core, small seed, light yellow, mild flavored, very late keeper, growing fine, deep yellow as it ripens. It keeps well till May and June, and is of decided value as a market fruit.
3. The third apple of this trio is very like the others in core and similar in flavor. The color is slightly more of a green, and the season earlier, but a good judge can at once perceive the peculiar flavor of the Kirkland, as well as other family traits. The tree of this variety bears invariably on opposite sides alternate seasons. I don't know of any other freak of this kind except caused by grafting. But here is a staunch old seedling without a graft giving us annual crops on one half of its branches. The dividing bearing line runs nearly north and south.
4. From these and other seedlings, especially one plainly traceable to the Spitzenberg, but a younger tree, I am inclined to think, the tendency is to improve the toughness of the wood fibre. I say only the tendency with a good many exceptions. The wood of the Kirkland is so tough that it may be said never to break with any load, although it is without exception my heaviest cropper.
5. We are certainly losing many very choice fruits from the carelessness or ignorance of those who claim to possess them. The old seedling orchards are dying out, and with them varieties of apples which will rank with our best.