History of the Apple in Lincoln

Lincoln is a small town lying 20 miles southwest of Fayetteville on U.S. Highway 62, and about 8 miles from the border of Oklahoma. Like all small towns with no major industry it is fostered by the surrounding agricultural interests. Actually, the roots of Lincoln are enmeshed with the roots of the apple trees that originally fostered it. As one old time puts it, "Apples, principally the Ben Davis, made the town."

Once, not so many years ago, in the estimation of those who have passed their primer, this whole mountain area was beautified and mad fragrant-as well as prosperous-by the pink and white apple blossoms in spring and winy sweet odor of ripened apples, handling red and yellow, from the trees in the fall.

But now since changing climatic conditions, plus increasing costs of production, have caused many apple growers to bulldoze their orchards and turn them back to pasture. Beef, dairy products and poultry rank first in produce. Names of apples formerly grown here such as the Shannon, Romanite, Howard Sweet and Limbertwig, are like the names of departed friends to those who dealt in them.

The apple industry in Arkansas has an old and varied history. In the 1830's, pioneers from the Carolinas, Georgia, Kentucky, and Tennessee came to Arkansas bringing seed of their favorite varieties of apples. In 1833, the first grafted apple nursery stock was brought by boat in Van Buren and then to Washington County. In 1852, the first boat load of apples of shipped from Van Buren to Little Rock.

By 1907, there were over 4,000,000 apple trees growing in Benton and Washington counties, more than in any other two counties in the United States. In 1919, Arkansas orchards produced over 5 million bushels of apples. Between 1930 and 1940, there was a serious decline in apple production to 745,000 bushels annually.

At the present time, Arkansas produces approximately 250,000 bushels annually. In recent years, a renewed interest has developed in apple production and many new orchards have been planted.

The major apple producing areas are located in Northwest Arkansas. However, other scattered commercial areas are found in the state, and apples are grown in most home orchards.

The pioneers built their log cabins - most of them were double cabins with an open hall between - cleared the land and proceeded to make their living from the soil. The soil there seemed to be well adapted to the growing of orchards and in a few years this area became almost exclusively apple country. Many farmers turned nurserymen and this part of northwest Arkansas became the seed-bed of several varieties of apples. Their method of grafting was to take the team (usually oxen,) plow up the roots of the trees, cut them up for grafts to use on the twigs, called scions, form different trees.

Earl Holt, son of the early settler, Jack Holt, owned the first commercial nursery, in 1850. His brother, De Kalb Holt, originated the Arkansas Black Apple. De Kalb's son, Sam worked in his father's nursery and later, De Kalb turned his nursery over to his son-in-law, Wm. Norwood - about 1900.

George Collins originated the Collins Red and his son-in-law, Wellington (Wirt) Waller, originated the August Beauty, and Summer Queen and the Summer Champion - the latter he sold to Stark Bros. of Louisiana, Mo., for $45. The original Summer Champion tree still stood on the Waller farm a few years ago when Mr. Waller's daughter-in-law, widow of George Waller, sold the farm. Since then the old orchard has been pulled up.

The Black Ben Davis apple was proven to have originated from a seedling that came up voluntarily from a refuse heap of an apple dryer on a farm known as "Parson" Black farm. It was about four years old and beginning to bear when John Reagan bought the farm in 1883 and the Reagans propagated it, introducing it in the neighborhood. It was called "Reagan's Red" for a time but the name Black Ben Davis settled on because of its resemblance to the Ben Davis and because it originated on the "Parson" Black farm.

This fruit was grafted and grown extensively on a farm owned by George Guthrie, in fact it was Guthrie who first grafted the tree from scions taken from the original. Guthrie's farm was later sold to John Bain of Illinois who became another early fruit grower. Mr. Bain sent a sample of the Black Ben Davis to the State Fair in Little Rock where it received such favorable notice a sample was later sent to the World's Exposition in Paris, France, where it also received great acclaim. C. A. Bain was an early orchardist but moved to Lincoln later and became manager of the Lincoln Lumber Company.

The Shannon apple acquired its name from having been grown extensively on a farm belonging to the Shannons, pioneers here. Early settlers received a shipment of seedlings from the east and when they arrived at Van Buren there was no label on one bunch. It was this unnamed bunch of seedlings that were grown on the Shannon farms. A Mr. J. H. Hudson, uncle of Mrs. Hunton, lived on the Shannon farm at one time and she states samples of apples were taken from the farm to the World's Fair in St. Louis where they won a medal. This medal is in the possession of Mrs. Hunton and is dated 1904. Mr. Hudson, starting about 1880 near Rock Springs, had one of the major orchards of the era.

W. G. Vincenheller was the first apple buyer in this part of the state and was Director of the Experiment Station and president of the Arkansas State Horticultural Society for several years. He built a cold storage plant on the old Mark Bean Farm which now belongs to Wade Bishop. The original rock building still stands and the walls are nearly three feet thick.

Apples were either dried in a fruit dryer (evaporator) barreled and shopped by railroad or peddled in Indian Territory. A farmer would load up his covered wagon, tack a "grub box" on the rear of the wagon bed and start out to peddle and his family would not see him again sometimes for several weeks.

The first barrels were hooped in Doke Holt's apple shed on his farm north of town. Barrels were stacked on the wagons and hauled to the nearest shipping point. Sacks of dried fruit were loaded on the wagons, the kids piled on top, Pa and Ma took the wagon seat with perhaps the smallest child between them and the whole family got to go to town at least in the fall. These fall sales of apples were depended upon to clothe the family and provide most of the commodities for another year - with enough left over for peppermint stick candy, a huge quarter of cheese and crackers to munch on a they jolted over the rocky roads home.

At first apples were either hauled to Fayetteville or Westville but the railroad was being extended down from Fayetteville and Stambro Switch was soon available to shorten their journey. It was located at the foot of the mountain between Lincoln and Prairie Grove near the old Kirkland farm. A little later Suttle Switch was located three miles east of Lincoln.