The Old Apple Tree in Vancouver, Washington, planted in 1826, provides a living connection to the earliest days of settlement in the Pacific Northwest. It also is considered the matriarch for the entirety of the region’s apple industry. Nearing its 200th birthday, the apple tree has significantly outlived any of its contemporaries.
The traditional origin story of the Old Apple Tree is traced back to a farewell dinner party in London. Lieutenant Emilius Simpson, cousin of Hudson’s Bay Governor-in-Chief George Simpson, was departing for Fort Vancouver. A lady at the farewell party placed the seeds from her dessert apple inside his waistcoat pocket and asked him to plant them on the other side of the world.
Which he did, in the company of Dr. McLoughlin and Pierre C. Pambrun in 1826. The seeds were planted just outside of the fort itself, where McLoughlin thought they might thrive. Four years later, the first apple crop in the Pacific Northwest was harvested.
Today, the city of Vancouver has protected the Old Apple Tree, which has its own designated park surrounding it. The city also holds an annual Old Apple Tree Festival in the park on the first Saturday in October, where the festivities include giving away cuttings from the tree to start your own apple orchard.
Update as of September 2020: The Old Apple Tree has died.