Historic Amherst

Peach Farmers in 19th-Century Amherst     CONTINUED FROM PREVIOUS PAGE

      Another private Village garden – “with strawberry and grape vines, apple, peach and plum trees, in bearing, [and] shade trees, evergreens, roses” – was at 94 Boston Post Road, described thus in April 1852 by Edward D. Boylston (1814-1895), newspaper-man, who had lived there for four years in house (called Ephraim Blanchard House after earlier owner) “with ten rooms” on half-acre lot that also held three sheds and a large barn.

      In the Village on Sunset next to Meadowview cemetery, when Levi Cummings, a laborer, offered for sale his two-story house and shop “standing a few rods west of the Iron Foundry” (house and foundry both now gone), the 3/4 acre lot contained “about 20 Apple Trees of selected fruit with Cherries, Plums, Peach, Currants, &c.”  (Jan. 1859.) (He moved to Iowa.)

      In the Village at 8 Foundry Street, when Sylvester Colby (1809-1887), foundry worker, in April 1870 offered for sale the “Cottage House” containing seven rooms (which he had built in 1850), there were on the half-acre lot “about 30 apple trees of different varieties, all in good bearing condition; also peach, pear and cherry trees, and a variety of small fruit [berries].” Colby lived there until his death.

      Did you notice a geographical distribution for peaches?  One section of town is clearly missing – the southern part.

Southern Competition     

      In the 1870s through the end of the 19th century, peaches from the Chesapeake Del-Mar-Va peninsula made their way to Boston and on to New Hampshire. (At that time, New Jersey too produced a good quantity of peaches but they were gobbled up by New York City markets.) In August 1872, Amherst’s newspaper reported on the “peach trade”:  “Last week the peach dealers of Wilmington, Del. sent north 218,000 baskets of peaches. … The headquarters for peach canning is in Maryland and Delaware.”

(The grocery store in Amherst Village did at that time carry canned peaches, although its advert did not give their source.)  In late July 1880:  “The advance guard of the peaches has been in New England now for some weeks, and the peach trains will very soon begin the distribution of the Delaware peninsula’s 4,000,000 baskets among the Northern States.” In the 1880s, on that Del-Mar-Va peninsula there were reportedly about 6 million peach trees, producing more peaches than any other territory of the same area in the world. A rail line ran right through the orchards in Delaware and once the cars were loaded up with fruit baskets, a train ran through to Boston without a stop, four days a week. By 1888, California peaches were coming into New England, “but though they are large and fine they are so expensive when compared with the Delaware fruit that they do not sell so well.”(Farmers’ Cabinet, 25 Aug 1882, p. 1; 16 Aug. 1888, p. 3.) In July 1888,  C. L. Wilkins & Co. advertised California peaches and apricots among the canned goods offered at “The Old Corner Store” (now gone) in Amherst Village.

      At the end of the 18th century, eastern American farmers were advised:  “The Peach is

the most delicious fruit that can be produced in this or any other country, and is at the same time most wholesome. … but so precious a fruit is forbid[d]en to the slothful, the negligent, and the ignorant:  for they can neither be obtained nor preserved without some care.” (“Advice to Farmers from Poulton’s Town and Country Almanack,” published in New Hampshire Journal, or, the Farmer’s Weekly Museum of Walpole, N.H., 18 October 1796. Much of the same was recycled verbatim as “Rural Economy:  The Peach Tree,” attributed to “A Maryland Farmer” in July 1810 in the Farmer’s Cabinet of Amherst, N.H. ) Not quite a century later,  an agricultural advisor grumbled:  “There is not fruit more neglected and ill-treated than the beautiful and delicious peach. The trees are very cheap, usually costing but a few cents each; they are bought by the thousand from careless dealers, planted with scarcely the attention given to a cabbage plant, and too often allowed to bear themselves to death.” (Farmers’ Cabinet, 2 July 1886.)

Katrina Holman welcomes comments to HistoricAmherstNH@juno.com

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