Historical Society working to bring new life to “oldest living thing in Southborough”

by beth on December 8, 2016

Post image for Historical Society working to bring new life to “oldest living thing in Southborough”

Right: Interested residents may be able to “adopt” a piece of living history to plant in their yards. (image from Southborough Historical Society website)

The Southborough Historical Society continues its work to maintain and even restore town history. The most recent posting by the Society shares news on what may be “The Oldest Living Thing in Southborough” and how residents can be part of an effort to keep it alive.

As you probably guessed from the photo, it’s a tree. But it’s not just any old tree.

The Lyscom Apple Tree in the Town Hall parking lot was planted in the 70s. But as those of you who have grown apple trees probably know, each new plant from a grafting is actually part of the original. That means “it’s a living piece of the original tree grown by Samuel Lyscom 300 years ago.”

The Society plans to follow up on a project from the 70s to propogate more trees throughout town in time to harvest for Southborough’s tricentennial.

On their website, Michael Weishan explains the heritage associated with the man who made the original planting:

The name Lyscom rings large in local history, as Samuel Lyscom was one of the signers of the petition to separate Southborough from Marlborough in 1727. During his lifetime he held every office in the new town and, and eventually became a judge. He was also Southborough’s second representative to the Colonial legislature.

As for the project to restore it:

The Lyscom apple – with its distinctive large red fruit streaked with yellow – was last recorded as being grown in Southborough about 1917. Miss Mary Finn (of Finn school fame) remembered seeing a tree along Flagg Road, where the apples would fall into the path and be eaten by the cows. Probably others survived too, until a Depression era WPA program eradicated “wild” apple trees thought to be a source of disease for commercial growers. Fortunately, a few avid collectors in the 1950s began to rescue old varieties, and a Preservation Orchard was founded at Old Sturbridge Village in 1973, which is where the one sole surviving example of the Lyscom apple was discovered by members of the Southborough Historical Society. From this, 32 new trees were propagated, and carefully spread throughout the town to the celebrate the 250th. Unfortunately, rather than giving them to longer-lived institutions, they were mostly distributed among then-members of the Society, and over the years have fallen victim to development, disease, decay and destruction until now there is once again only one left. (Well, maybe two: the other may be in the courtyard of the Neary School.)

So to celebrate the 300th anniversary of Southborough in 2027, the Society has decided to try this project again, albeit a bit differently. In conjunction with our dedicated Director of Public Works, Karen Galligan, this spring we will take grafts from the Town Pound tree, but this time we will distribute them to organizations as well as individuals, with the goal of having bushels of Lyscom apples available for our 300th anniversary celebrations. If you are interested in adopting a tree, be in touch as we’re taking names for 2019 delivery. (Yes, 2019, things move very slowly in the tree world, but if you are Lyscom apple, you already have learned plenty of patience.)

You can read more about the apple tree’s history and the Lyscom legacy here.

To support the Southborough Historical Society and their ongoing work, click here.

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