A Revolutionary War veteran who crossed the Delaware with George Washington and commanded the Woburn Regiment during the Battle of Concord and Lexington, Loammi Baldwin was a highly regarded soldier. Elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Massachusetts General Assembly he also served as high sheriff of Middlesex County and was the moving force behind the design of the Middlesex Canal, (connecting the Merrimack River to Boston Harbor) for which he became known as the Father of American Civil Engineering.
Yet, it is for a revered apple, prized by growers for its bountiful harvest, that his name is widely remembered.
Used for making cider and pie, the Baldwin apple was for many years the most popular fruit in New England. Remarkably free of blight and blemishes, in an 1885 article in the New England Farmer it noted, “What the Concord is among grapes, what the Bartlett has been among pears, the Baldwin is among apples.”
While building the Middlesex Canal Loammi visited a farm in Wilmington where an apple tree, derived from a wild seedling, grew. Called ‘Woodpecker’ because the tree attracted so many of the birds, the tree was also known as the Butters apple. Noting the apple’s appeal, Loammi cut scions from the tree and planted a row of trees near his house in Woburn.
How exactly the apple became named for Loammi is unclear. However, a monument to Loammi in Woburn reads, “Disseminator of the apple in honor of him called the Baldwin which proceeded from a tree originally growing wild about two miles north of this monument.”
While not extinct, Baldwin apples are not widely available today. Baldwin apple trees can still be found wild in abandoned orchards in New England and in selected orchards, including Carlson Orchards in Harvard.
Sources: John Bunker, Not Far From the Tree--a Brief History of the Apples and the Orchards of Palermo Maine 1804-2004.This story was updated in 2017