The Heritage Legacy Society sprouted from the story of Vancouver’s “Old Apple Tree,” a powerful reminder of how a simple gift can create a legacy that bridges generations, creating boundless impacts on the people, places and cultures it touches.
The story, as told today, began at a farewell dinner party for Lieutenant Emilius Simpson in London. It was here that a female friend playfully placed a few seeds from her dessert apple into the lieutenant’s formal waistcoat. She insisted that he plant them as soon as he arrived at his destination on the other side of the world — a budding settlement known as Vancouver.
In November of 1826, Simpson arrived in Vancouver and was cordially invited to dine with Dr. John McLoughlin, the Chief Factor of the Columbia Fur District at Fort Vancouver. As the evening unfolded, Simpson placed a hand in his waistcoat pocket and discovered his forgotten gift of seeds. He pulled the apple seeds out and shared his story with Dr. McLoughlin.
The tale inspired Simpson, McLoughlin and Pierre C. Pambrun to plant the well-traveled seeds and nurture them in safe keeping until one of the saplings could survive on its own. The time came and the group decided to plant its tree just outside of Fort Vancouver’s walls. In 1830 the Old Apple Tree produced its first apple — an English Greening Apple that is commonly referred to as an antique, or heritage, apple. This heritage apple was also Washington’s first apple and marks the beginning of one of our state’s most fruitful industries.
Today, the Old Apple Tree has lives on, logging more than double the normal lifespan of most fruit trees. It has endured through pests, floods, freezes, storms and urban growth over the last 188 years, and still stands tall. Each year is has produced a crop of apples, and now a propagated young sapling grows nearby to ensure that the Old Apple Tree’s bounty lives on for years to come.