This article originally ran in a Fall 2004 Edina Historical Society newsletter. We're dusting off the story in honor of apple season and to dispel a few myths still circulating about Edina's contribution to the apple world.
Jonathan T. Grimes
What apple did Edina pioneer Jonathan Grimes develop?
D. A and C
E. None of the above
Although a local newspaper once quoted Grimes descendants as crediting Jonathan Grimes as the developer of the Jonathan apple, horticultural sources say otherwise.
“I think that’s some family folklore that just isn’t correct,” said Grimes' great-grandson Boyd Phelps. The claim is not substantiated by any source, including Jonathan Grimes’ daughter Ella Grimes Eustis, who wrote a memoir Out of My Mind.
“My grandmother was a stickler for detail, and she never mentioned the Jonathan apple,” Phelps said.
The fact that Jonathan Grimes shares the name of the above apple breeds is a confusing coincidence, especially since Grimes was a prominent Minnesota horticulturalist and apple grower. From 1866 to 1883, he owned the Lake Calhoun Nursery, (later subdivided into the Morningside neighborhood.)
Although Grimes did grow apple trees, he achieved his greater fame developing shade trees hardy enough to withstand Minnesota winters.
As his daughter writes, “My father’s evergreens and shade trees were sold and planted in many parts of Hennepin County. The large shade trees that adorned Nicollet, Hennepin, Lyndale and University Avenues came from his nursery.”
Grimes imported some exotic – for the times – tree varieties, including the ginkgo tree from China. “Only one of these trees survived,” Eustis writes. “… (The tree) was only a few blocks from Central High School, and for many years the botany classes came to study it. It grew about fifty feet high... Now ginkgo trees may be found in nurseries but they are scarce.”
If Jonathan Grimes did indeed create any new apple variety, Ella Grimes Eustis had the perfect opportunity to mention his accomplishment when she writes of Peter Gideon, a fellow horticulturalist who bred the Wealthy apple.
But she mentions only Gideon’s well-known eccentricities.
Peter Gideon and the Wealthy apple
“In connection with his nursery and his experiments with new and hybrid shrubs, trees, etc., my father became acquainted with Peter M. Gideon, later the originator of the Wealthy apple. He lived on the west side of Gideon’s Bay, Lake Minnetonka, where he had his orchard. With horse-drawn vehicle it was a long, slow trip to Minneapolis from his home, so he planned his trips very nicely by arriving at our house always just before supper and staying overnight with breakfast included.
“Mr. Gideon was a great talker and bragger, and a strong spiritualist. Mother took his all too frequent visits in her stride, but, having been brought up in a strictly orthodox faith, she did not relish his enthusiastic harangues on spiritualism – especially with children of impressionable ages sitting around with their ears wide open. The last straw came when he claimed he could cure anybody or anything by laying his hands on the individual and calling up on the Spirits. Father had had a prolonged case of rheumatism, so at the height of this emotional discourse my mother said, ‘Mr. Gideon, if you can cure anybody, I wish you could cure Mr. Grimes of his rheumatism.’ This came as a surprise, and Mr. Gideon’s reaction was terrific. He jumped up and down in a combination of excitement, hysteria, anger, and apparent insult; and uttering a tirade of unprintable words, he flew out the door and down the road. Mr. Gideon never returned – but the rheumatism never returned either….
“Mr. Gideon had to find another free lodging to take the place of ours. He selected the Hankes’ on the Excelsior road. As it was late and dark when he knocked on their door, Mr. Hanke opened a window to ask who was there. The answer came. ‘I’m Gideon.’ ‘Who?’ ‘Gideon!’ Whether or not Mr. Hanke wanted to understand I do not know, but his reply was, ‘No, you don’t gid in.’ ‘Don’t you understand – I’m Gideon!’ whereupon Mr. Hanke (a German) said in his broken English, ‘You tank you gid in, but you no gid in!’ And down went the window. Where Gideon went from there, we never knew.”
Despite their disagreements, Jonathan Grimes praised Gideon in his eulogy to colleagues of the Minnesota State Historical Society , saying Gideon would be “known by his fruits” and his perseverance in creating a hardy Minnesota apple, the Wealthy. “…This tree alone would stand as a monument to his memory.”
Minneapolis Tribune, March 25, 1885
Addendum: "An Orange Social"
As for Jonathan's daughter Ella, she was more intrigued by a strange new fruit: the orange. In 1876, she attended an "Orange Social," a gathering of more than 200 people who saw an expert demonstrate how to peel the exotic citrus.
She was not alone in her fascination: the Minneapolis Tribune reported on several such functions during this period.
For more information on Peter Gideon, see MNopedia website created by the Minnesota Historical Society.
Search this blog:
Jennifer Adam is the Executive Director of the Edina Historical Society. She welcomes your contributions. Comment on a post or send an email (see below). Traditional mail, of course, can also be sent to:
Thank you, your message has been sent
Support this blog!
Help us bring you Edina history with this web site by becoming a member or donating today. Click on the link to our GiveMN.org site to make a donation with a credit card. The Edina Historical Society is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that depends on contributions to continue operation.