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William Blaxton: The First Apple Planter

We encourage you to hand the basket over to William Blaxton this fall when you’re picking healthy apples from the tree, hunting for apples at Halloween, or enjoying your grandmother’s glorious apple pie at Thanksgiving.

Reverend Blaxton is said to have planted the first seeds that would pave the way for a pioneer nation and put apples into an image of all-American awesomeness.

The early English settler – literally lonely one – planted in the 1620s what historians believe was the first apple orchard in present-day Boston, the United States. His name, Braxton, is mostly modernized as Blackstone.

Like a true pioneer, he lived in Boston five years before Puritans and in Rhode Island one year before Roger Williams.

“There may be historical characters who did more than he did for apples in America, but he was certainly the first – and at least the first known – to bring this exotic crop to our shores,” stated John Bunker, an apple expert, grower, and author in America.

“That’s a pretty awesome legacy,” said the New England enthusiast, who was interviewed by Fox News Digital this week while “tracking down ancient trees” in the rural Maine woods. 

American national heritage is mixed with references to sweet and juicy fruits. The largest city in the country is called the Big Apple. Exceptional institutions are as “American as apple pie.” Johnny Appleseed made an American legend widely preaching the gospel and the apple throughout the heartland. 

But the fruit is from Central Asia, probably Kazakhstan.

It reached Europe at least by the time of ancient Greece and Rome.

Apples reached America shortly after the explorations of Christopher Columbus, sparking the most significant period of food fusion and cultural integration in history.

The New World’s people, plus the apples, later experienced Old World food like rice, onions, and coffee. Europeans, Asians, and Africans found Western Hemisphere flavors like corn, potatoes, and tomatoes. 

Julius Caesar never experienced the flavor of a tomato sauce, according to a note by one observer of the Roman diet ahead of the Genoe-born Columbus made it to America. 

Blaxton Was Always Moving

Blaxton pretty much permanently moved and usually lived by himself, but he did get married at the age of 64 and had a son named John at 65. Apparently, he wanted the company of his apple trees and his books more than the acquaintance of people. 

“I looked to have dwelt with my orchards and my books in undisturbed solitude,” says a memorial to him today in Cumberland, Rhode Island, close to Blackstone River. 

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New World for Blaxton

According to what people believe, William Blaxton was born on March 5, 1595, in Lincolnshire, England, to parents John and Agnes (Hawley) Blaxton. 

When he was young, his mother died. And in 1621, he was ordained by the Church of England, just to lose his father a year after. 

At this point, he fends for himself as a young man, and with news of English settlements in Jamestown and Plymouth dripping down to Britain, Blaxton left for the New World as chaplain aboard the ship “Katherine.” 

“William brought with him to the New World a large collection of books, approximately 186 in various languages,” said Nathaniel Brewster Blackstone in a biography of the settler and his descendants. 

Blaxton reached Wessagusset – what is now Weymouth, Massachusetts, only south of Boston in 1623. It was a settlement that was not meant to be. 

The expedition’s leader, Captain Richard Gorges, quickly returned to England. 

Blaxton hung back and navigated a few miles north to the Shawmut Peninsula, now present-day downtown Boston, 1625. 

The Puritans, spearheaded by John Winthrop, reached the place five years after. 

“For several years before Winthrop came in 1630, William Blaxton constituted the entire population of this peninsula … to which attached the name of Boston,” according to the Bostonian Society in an 1860 presentation.

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Photo: La Fountain