Cultivation of Nuts
Visit to Chief Johnson's, in Onondaga
Walnuts, Butternuts and Hickory Nuts in abundance
Fruit Growers' Association Advocate their Culture
At the summer meeting of the Fruit Growers' Association of Ontario, held at Stratford in July last, one of the subjects for discussion was "The nut-bearing trees of the Province; and their adaptability for ornamental purposes, as well as a source of financial profit to the farmer." The discussion which then took place was animated and interesting, and resulted in the appointing of a committee to visit the groves of Chief Johnson, of the Six Nation Indians, situated on the river between the villages of Middleport and Onondaga, in the Township of Onondaga. The Committee consisted of Mr. Charles Arnold, of Paris, and Mr. John Freed, of Hamilton, who with a representative from the Spectator paid the visit on Wednesday.
The gentlemen named took the 8 o'clock train of the H.&N.W. Railway, arriving in Caledon in due time. Here one of Leith's spanking teams was hired for the drive, a delightful one along the banks of the Grand River - and although some of the farms presented a sterile appearance, without exception the late sown wheat looked well. In fact, it was more than once remarked that in some instances there were fears of the growth being too forward.
The company was augmented at Caledonia by Mr. W.T. Sawle, of the Caledonia Sachem, and on arriving at the residence of Chief Johnson, the party were received in the most courteous manner possible, and offered the hospitality of his household.
The worthy chief has many curiosities which it gives him pride to exhibit to visitors, and his guests were shown without parley a magnificent silver calumet (or pipe of peace) which was, prior to the revolutionary war, presented to the Mohawk Indians by the nine European patentees of the tract near Schoharie, granted in 1769, as a testimony of their sincere esteem. The bowl of the pipe is beautifully carved, there being a representation of an English army officer and an Indian chief linked together by a chain. Directly above is the sun, and beneath a fire, the former carrying out the idea that no dark misunderstanding should come between them, and the latter that their friendship should ever be warm. On the stem was engraved "E.Milne fecit." This valuable relic was given the chief by his father, who is still alive, rejoicing in the ripe old age of 84. Chief Johnson says that this mark of appreciation on the part of the settlers towards the Mohawks had a decided influence upon their actions in the American revolution.
After the rebellion of 1837, Chief Johnson opposed vigorously the passage of a bill to indemnify those who took the part of Mackenzie against the Canadian Government, and his course was met with such favour among his fellow Indians that the Cayugas presented him with a magnificently finished tomahawk, and an old British officer made him the recipient of a sword, properly engraved. Both of these momentoes of the stormy times of '37 were shown the guests. An hour or so was most pleasantly spent in the interior of the residence, in examining these and other Indian relics, after which the committee had an opportunity of visiting the groves.
The farm, two hundred acres in extent, and of the richest sandy loam, is delightfully situated on the banks of the Grand River. Twelve or fourteen acres are comprised in the nut groves, which are without exception the most extensive in the Dominion. On his grounds, standing singly, are most magnificent specimens of the black walnut trees, and the yield this year is said to be immense. Wagon load after wagon load have been driven off by friends of the chief from Brantford, Caledonia, Ancaster and elsewhere, and still there are thousands upon the ground.
There are also a great variety of hickory and butternut trees. These have borne immensely this season, and the quality of the fruit is fine.
Little doubt exists but that the committee were impressed with the desirability of encouraging nut-planting, and from what one can see at chief Johnson's groves it could certainly be made a profitable investment for the farmer.
A great many homesteads throughout the country would be much improved in appearance by the planting out of walnut, butternut or hickory trees, and besides the shade afforded, a rich profit could be made in a few years from the products therefrom.
The committee propose preparing a report which will be submitted at the next meeting of the Association, and it will be looked forward to with interest.
The Association are deserving well of the country, and our only wonder is that there is not a much larger membership, as the society sends out annually one or more new or choice plants to the subscribers. Next year a grapevine will be sent out - "The Burnet" - a hybrid between the black Hamburg and Hartford prolific, said to be the best grape in the country. The subscription to the society is only $1. Mr. D.W. Beadle, St. Catharines, is the Secretary, and when the annual report is published, the observations taken by the Committee yesterday at chief Johnson's, will appear therein, together with a large amount of other interesting matter.
reprinted from the Weekly Spectator, Hamilton, 8 November 1877, in the Annual Report of the Fruit Growers' Association of Ontario, 1877
Report on the Nut Bearing Grove of G.H.M. Johnson, Esq. to the Ontario Fruit Growers' Association, 1877.
The Committee appointed by the Association for the purpose of examining the various nut-bearing trees found growing on the property of G.H.M. Johnson, Esq., Chief of Six Nation Indians, beg to report :-
That this lovely native park is situate on the east bank of the Grand River, in the Township of Onondaga. That the land rises from the river to the commodious dwelling of the Chief in three broad and beautiful natural terraces of some seventy feet or more in height. That the various kinds of nut- bearing trees, enumerated below, were found growing and bearing in equal luxuriance on each of the terraces.
Your Committee were informed, by the Chief and his very intelligent and communicative son, that there were growing on their estate some 800 walnut, 300 butternut, and about 200 hickory trees of various kinds. Many of these trees were noble specimens - especially the walnuts. One upon the terrace below, and almost in front of the house, was really a majestic tree, with a large massive globular head of some 120 feet in circumference. The lower branches nearly touching the ground, and the head rising to at least 40 feet in height, and every branch drooping with its load of large fruit, some specimens measuring eight inches in circumference.
Your committee were informed by the worthy Chief that he sold - or we might say, gave away - the walnuts at $2 for a waggon-box full, and the butternuts at 50c per bag.
There are thousands of persons, doubtless, in our large cities and towns who would be glad to purchase these nuts at a much higher price if it were known where they could be got. Still there are various opinions as to the market value of these nuts as we now see them in their purely wild indigenous state. But when we consider that all of these nuts, viz.: walnuts, butternuts, and hickory nuts, show a disposition to vary, so much so that scarcely two trees bore fruit exactly like its fellow of the same species. And when we remember also that the English Walnut (Juglans regia) grows and bears fruit in a few favourable localities in Ontario, surely no one will doubt the value of a walnut that should be equal in size and in thinness of shell to the English walnut, and as hardy and productive as our native black walnut. With such materials to work upon, who can doubt that in the hands of our skilful hybridist this desideratum being achieved.
Let us hope that the above remarks of your committee may induce some young enthusiastic hybridist to undertake this work, and we will venture to predict that abundant success will crown their labours, and an intelligent and appreciative posterity bless their memory.
It is said, that in some parts of Germany there used to be a law, that no young farmer was permitted to marry a wife till he prove that he had planted and was the father of a certain number of walnut trees.
When your Committee consider the rapidly increasing value of the timber of these trees (if for nothing else), they have no doubt but that it would be a good investments for many a young man to plant walnut trees on their sloping river banks, that are too steep for cultivation. That in time the timber alone would lend much to increase the glory and wealth of the Dominion, and well reward the planter. There are tens of thousands of farms in Ontario that would be very much improved, both in real value and in appearance, by the planting of the various kinds of nut-bearing trees we have mentioned. The size and situation of the house and other buildings. The position of the land and various tastes of the proprietors will easily decide as to where to plant.
The butternut and the walnut will perhaps be the most prized, but the following named hickory were growing here and fine healthy trees.
Carya, Hickory. Carya alba, shellbark or shagbark hickory, leaflets five; fruit depressed globulous; nut somewhat flattened, nearly pointless, with a rather whitish shell and a large kernel, the principal nuts of the market, of this species we found some very good varieties.
Carya sulcata. Thick shellbark hickory; leaflets 7-9, nut strongly pointed, slightly flattened, with, I think, a yellowish shell, nuts nearly as sweet as carya alba.
Carya tomentosa. Mocker nut, white heart hickory: leaflets 7-9; a tall tree with resinous scented foliage, the wood celebrated for its excellence as fuel, nut somewhat six angled, the shell very thick and hard, light brown, the small kernel is difficult of extraction from the thick and bony nut.
Carya glabra. Pig-nut or broom hickory, leaflets 5-7; fruit pear-shaped or roundish obovate, skin splitting about half way down into four coriacious valves, nut hard and tough, with a sweetish or bitterish kernel, exceedingly tough sprouts used as hickory withes, the nuts of variable form.
After partaking of a bountiful repast provided by the good lady and daughters of our host, and had examined numerous valuable presents to his forefathers, various implements of a savage warfare - relics of a bygone age, and smoked a valuable silver pipe of peace; your committee returned home, much gratified with their visit to the Chief of Six-nations of Indians, who two hundred years ago owned a large portion of this continent.
Respectfully submitted. Charles Arnold, John Freed.