Tom Brown’s Annual Apple Newsletter
To: Friends of Old Apples February 7, 2018
From: Tom Brown
Some of the apples found during the past year include: Banana (very large, yellow, sheepnose shaped),
Biddick Sweet, Hall Stripe, Kinnaird’s Choice, Possum, Sam Apple, and Sharpshin. I am making changes in my
nursery operation so I can have more time to “apple search” next year. [I report only apples I personally find,
and it took me until this year to find the Kinnaird’s Choice. I have a good lead for a Cox’s Orange Pippin.]
On a personal note, we were fortunate enough to be able to visit Scotland: Shetland Islands, Orkney
Islands, Edinburgh, & Rosslyn Chapel. Our trip started in very late April so we could attend the Shetland Folk
Festival, the United Kingdom’s northernmost music festival, featuring Scottish and international bands.
Another memorable event was going to Greenville, SC, to observe the total solar eclipse of August 21.
Greenville was in the “Path of Totality” for over two minutes (2:09). It is a beautiful city where we enjoyed
visiting the Falls Park on the Reedy and their unique restaurants. We were fortunate that the sky was totally
clear for the entire almost three-hour eclipse cycle. Merrikay and I enjoyed the day with our friends Paul &
Betty. The next USA crossing eclipse is April 8, 2024, with a path from Dallas, TX, to Buffalo, NY.
Dillard, GA, is an entry point for Rabun County, where I went searching for the Fort’s Prize apple. It was
almost on the center line of the eclipse. It is a special small city and I always looked forward to stopping at the
soda fountain of Frank Cathey’s Valley Pharmacy (now closed). They had delicious sandwiches: egg, tuna, &
chicken salad, plus pimento cheese. My favorite treat was their “Orange Aid” drink. I spoke with Anita
Chastain, who had worked at the Pharmacy for over thirty years. She told me how they made the Orange Aid.
First, make the “Simple Syrup”: pour 5 pounds of sugar into a gallon container and fill with hot water, making
sure that all the sugar is dissolved. [A small-scale equivalent would be two teaspoons of sugar in a tablespoon
and fill with hot water.] Next, fill a 16-ounce glass with shaved or chipped ice (the ice should be as fine as
possible). Add the juice from 1.5 fresh squeezed oranges and 1.5 to 2.0 teaspoons of the Simple Syrup. Stir.
[The ratio of orange juice and Simple Syrup is variable according to the orange size, juiciness, and sweetness.]
Finish filling the glass with water and stir to mix thoroughly. DELICIOUS.
I have another adventure to share. For many years I have heard of apple trees “up on the mountain” in
the Bluff section of Madison County, NC. Everyone said that it was an extremely rough road. One group of
hunters said, “No way that I would attempt to go there.” Billy Joe Naillon agreed to take me to the top of Bluff
Mountain in his pickup truck. After leaving the pavement, it took us about 1.5 hours to get to the first apple
trees and probably 10 minutes to go further up the mountain. I would not call what we traversed a “road.” It
is a vehicle-wide opening through the forest with no maintenance. Over the years the vehicle track has eroded
down to bedrock. Billy had to skillfully negotiate each protruding rock, and even then there was occasional
truck bottom scraping. There were several apple trees of interest, and I want to return to see the apples later
in the season.
I would like to share with you interviews that I conducted this year with four older apple growers (ages
81-90) from the Brushy Mountain area of North Carolina. These are people who have provided considerable
assistance to my apple search. The “Brushies” is a low mountain area in southern Wilkes and northern
Alexander Counties, which once had a large apple production. These counties are my most productive area for
finding lost apple varieties. The rich apple heritage of this region is celebrated every first Saturday in October
at the Brushy Mountain Apple Festival in North Wilkesboro, NC.
Bobby Lowe of the Sugarloaf Apple House allowed me to copy a historic apple grower’s map of the
Brushies. Lowell Hendren had originally given it to him. Lowell said that the map dates from 1938 to 1940
when Ray Hendren was President of the Brushy Mountain Fruit Growers Association. It shows the orchard
locations of 96 fruit growers, of whom 27 were members of the BMFGA. This compares with the current
number of fruit growers—about eight. [The historic growers map is at the end of this document.]
The highest peak in the Brushies is Pores Knob at 2,680 feet. I recall from growing up near Statesville,
NC, a wonderful Sunday family picnic on top of Pores Knob.
Lowell Hendren (age 81)
Lowell had a family history of growing apples that goes back to the mid-1800s. His great grandfather,
Enzer Hendren, made legal government apple brandy. The stone foundation for the old boiler is still down the
hill from Lowell’s home. His father, William Hendren, “who lived over the hill” had an orchard of mostly
Limbertwig apples on 4 or 5 acres. Brushy Mountain Limbertwigs provided a good late crop which would keep
all winter. They also had Royal Limbertwigs. The late ripening apples were important, since in the earlier days
there was no refrigerated storage. He also had pigs, wheat, corn, and barley.
Large Family—–Lowell’s parents, Clarence and Zella Hendren, married in 1922 and had a family of fourteen
children, twelve of whom were home at the same time. Lowell (no. 8) jokingly said, “I had it rough being born
among three girls.” They lived in a two-story house with five rooms downstairs and three rooms upstairs. The
children were, in birth order: Gladys, Jim, Donald, Max, John, Libby, Betty, Lowell, Jo Ann, Sally, Janey, William,
Martha, & Rodger. When they have family gatherings, there are frequently one hundred people or more in
Lowell said that 150 years ago people lived mainly where there was fresh spring water, on Rocky Creek.
When better wells could be dug, people moved to the mountain top, more favorable for apple growing.
In the earlier days, there was extensive making of moonshine in the area. Someone once asked the
popular Roy Lowe (“the Mayor of the Brushies”) how much moonshine you could get out of a bushel of apples.
His reply was, “I don’t know, but I got a year and a day”—in Federal prison for selling moonshine.
Lowell grew apples from 1961 until 2012, with a total orchard of 35 to 40 acres. He grew Red Delicious,
Brushy Mountain Limbertwigs, Golden Delicious, and Stayman, plus a few Magnum Bonum apples. When
growing up, they had a Yellow Potts apple tree which they used for cooking.
Lowell married his wife Sue in 1965, and they had three children: Barry, Kim, and Joel, plus 3 grandkids.
He told me about an apple their family had—a Lady Washington—which was 2 ¾ to 3 inches in
diameter, shaped like a Rome, yellow with red stripes, more red than yellow, sweeter than a Golden, ripe in
September. Once I tentatively identify an apple, I get knowledgeable apple people such as Lowell to also
confirm their identity. I need to show him the Lady Washington apple I found in Yancey Co., NC.
In the Brushies there was an apple Co-Op which was started in the mid-1950s to help the growers
market their apples. For several years Lowell was President of this organization.
Zella Henderson—Lowell’s mother Zella was an amazing person. Every morning she would fire up her wood
stove and make 36 biscuits plus many other nourishing breakfast items. Once she finished cleaning up from
breakfast, she would go out and work in the field until about 11:00 a.m., when it was time to start lunch. Every
day she made a pie or two—blackberry, apple, cherry, pumpkin, or raspberry. After lunch she worked three
more hours in the field. With such a large family she canned in half gallon jars. With so many kids, Lowell’s
dad bought beans and flour in 100 pound sacks. Zella lived until age 96.
Her specialty was Cinnamon Yeast Coffee Cake which she made for family gatherings and other special
occasions. The recipe is below. I wonder how many people will actually make a cake that requires two
intervals of letting the dough rise. But remember, Zella had time to make the cake, and she was much busier
than most folks who will read this.
Zella Hendren’s Cinnamon Yeast Coffee Cake
1 c. warm milk (100°-110°F) 1 egg
1 pkg. dry yeast Approx. 3 ½ c. sifted bread flour or all-purpose flour
1/2 c. margarine 1/3 c. margarine (for later melting)
1/4 c. sugar 1/2 c. sugar (for coating dough rounds)
1 tsp. salt 1 ½ tsp. cinnamon
To the warm milk, add yeast. Mix well and let stand until softened. Mix margarine, 1/4 cup sugar and
salt until fluffy. Beat in an egg. Add the yeast mixture. Stir in enough flour to make a soft dough.
Knead until smooth and elastic on a lightly floured board. Place in a greased bowl, cover and let rise until
double in size, about 1 hour. Turn out on lightly floured board and knead lightly 1/2 minute.
Roll the dough to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into rounds with a 2 inch biscuit cutter. Dip each in melted
margarine, then into the remaining sugar mixed with cinnamon. Stand up the rounds in a well buttered 9”
coffee cake ring pan, until the ring is filled (or use a Bundt pan). Make cinnamon rolls with the remaining
dough. Cover and let rise in warm place until double in size, about 1/2 hour. Bake the Coffee Cake in a 350
degree oven for 35-40 minutes or until done. Yield: 1 cake plus 6-8 rolls.
The Hendrens had a grade “A” dairy with 12 to 14 milking cows and they also grew numerous
agricultural crops, which provided a income to buffer against the variations in the yearly apple crops.
Every child helped with the farm chores as soon as they were old enough to carry a bucket. They had
Jersey cows, and they acquired a bull in a cooperative arrangement with NC State. At one point, State
personnel arrived and wanted to see how well the bull was doing. Lowell said that they were welcome to look
but he would advise against it. The men crossed the fence and entered the pasture, then quickly came back
with the bull chasing them.
In another incident, Lowell and two sisters were moving a 2 to 3-day old calf, and the mother took
offense. She knocked down a sister and chased the other two up an apple tree.
Weather Disasters—In 1946, a severe freeze wiped out much of the apple production on the east coast, but
the family still had a good crop of Limbertwigs, about 1,200 bushels. Lowell’s dad sold them for a high price in
Cherryville. With this profitable sale he was able to purchase a 1946 Chevy truck, one of the first to be made
after WWII. He also bought a tractor. There was a freeze in 1964 that caused the loss of the crop except for a
few Limbertwigs and Goldens. In 1955 the freeze was more severe, destroying the entire apple crop.
In the spring of 1952, there was a severe hail storm which made a half mile swatch of land look like
winter. The hail balls were hen egg in size, and a few were so large that you could not reach around them with
your hand. The hail came down the chimney and rolled out onto the floor. Lowell’s dad had a new ’52
Plymouth. He went out to move it to the garage, but the hail was so bad that he had to retreat back to the
house. The hail knocked off the small apples and small branches, and some of the tree bark. This ruined that
year’s crop, and because of the limb damage, the next year’s crop was also impacted.
The Hendren family served in the military from the Revolutionary War through the Civil War, WWI,
WWII, Korean, and Vietnam. They had distant relatives who fought on both sides of the Civil War. Two were
Confederate soldiers who were captured and held as Union prisoners of war. One returned from New York
after the war, and the other disappeared after being taken to Illinois. Lowell served in Vietnam, but was not
involved in combat.
One time a neighbor spoke of a “big dog” taking some of his chickens. After that Lowell carried his
single-shot 22 rifle. One day he was in the corn patch and noticed all the cows looking down the hill. He saw
what appeared to be a big dog with a chicken. He shot, reloaded and shot again. The dog fell. Lowell and his
dad took the animal to town. Everyone agreed that it was not a dog. A vet thought that it could be a wolf.
Bark Grafting—Lowell is an excellent tree grafter, predominantly using the bark grafting method. He also did
some cleft grafting. He showed Ryan Lowe how to bark graft, and Ryan used the technique to convert old large
Rome trees into Old Fashion Staymans, having very good success. Lowell showed me how to bark graft,
although I have not become proficient at it.
For the bark grafting you need a larger apple stem or trunk, 3/4” or more. It is sawed off, the bark is slit
and slightly pulled back, and a piece of bud wood cut on one side is inserted (with the cut side placed against
the wood core). The top cut, the slit area, and the top of the bud wood are sealed with wax or some other
compound. Lowell usually did his bark grafting when the trees are blooming. “It was a time when I could do
nothing else.” For the bark grafting, he collected his scion wood as late as possible, collecting some after the
trees had partially budded out.
I had two interesting apple events with Lowell. Once I found a beautiful tapered yellow apple in
northern Wilkes County. About a sixth of the apple was gone due to insects or birds. I showed the apple to
Lowell after storing it for about a month in a refrigerator. We both agreed that it had an amazing taste. I
got cuttings for Lowell, and he bark grafted one of his trees. Unfortunately, when the tree was grown, the
apples never duplicated the wonderful taste we both remembered. It was a Hogpen apple (Southern Porter).
Another time I was collecting a few apples from Lowell’s orchard and came across an apple I did not
recognize. I asked Lowell what it was. He replied, “It is the Pumpkin Sweet apple that you gave me.” I did not
recognize it because this was a very large apple. I had never seen one larger than medium in size. This just
shows how proper growing practices can have a tremendous effect on apple size and quality.
Linney Bryant Lowe (age 84)
“Lowe” is a famous apple growing name in the Brushy Mountains, and it is still represented by the
Sugarloaf Orchards (Bobby Lowe), Perry Lowe Orchards, and Brushy Mountain Orchards (Tom Lowe).
Bryant Lowe’s great grandfather, Isaiah Lowe, brought in LImbertwig trees from Bowling Green, KY.
Later he owned many thousands of acres and became the Sherriff.
Grandfather Robert Lowe set out a Red June apple tree in 1870, which lived until 1992. There were
some big Abram trees on the site when Robert Lowe bought the farm. Robert Lowe managed the immense
Smoot orchard, the largest in the area at that time. The typical worker was paid $1.00 per day. Bryant’s father
Linney Lowe carried water to the apple pickers for 50 cents per day.
Robert Lowe made legal brandy for three years. He used Payne and Brandy apples, which made brandy
of note. I was told that in northwestern Wilkes County the Yellow Hardin apple made the most brandy per
bushel. Bryant said that there were no “deer apples”, because there were no deer. All the faulty apples were
used to make moonshine. “Granddad also grew tobacco, oats, and cotton, and he sold timber.”
Uncle June Lowe would take apples to Charlotte in his 1922 Model-T truck, loaded with 40 bushels.
Bryant’s dad Linney eventually had a 7 or 8 acre orchard of mainly Limbertwigs. He leased additional
property with an established orchard. His family acquired over 100 acres from an elderly lady who approached
them, and gave them the property in return for her life-time care.Bryant and Bobby, his brother, cleared land in 1967 and set out a large apple orchard in 1968. They
eventually had 2,700 trees. In one block of the orchard they set out spur-type Goldens. When this orchard
became productive they harvested about 5,000 bushels, and that year the apples were unusually large. In
their big orchard they planted Red Delicious trees down low in the orchard. These bloomed too early, were
frequently damaged by frost and were replaced by the later blooming Arkansas Black apple trees.
In 1971 they moved into the Janfue apple house building and started operating it as Sugarloaf. They
purchased the building in 1975.Bobby Lowe told me about some of their early apple storage. They went to a valley where leaves
collected, and would put the leaves onto a sheet for transport to the apple house. They would lay down a
thick layer of leaves under the apples. Next leaves would be put into divider partitions, and finally used to
cover the apples.Tom Lowe showed my wife Merrikay and me his 1920 apple house. There was a 1 ½ inch gap between
each of the flooring boards to let the cooler air from the basement pass through the apples to cool them. The
apples were stored in twelve-foot wide bins. The first refrigerated storage was in 1952 at the Janfue apple
house, later to become Sugarloaf.Bryant sold apples to the famous NASCAR driver Junior Johnson, often taking him six boxes. Junior
loved especially their Brushy Mountain Limbertwigs.
Root Grafting—One thing that is unique about Wilkes County is that I would never see a graft line on the old
trees. This was because they never grafted onto young saplings, but rather would dig up a feeder tree root, as
Bryant’s dad would do. When planted, the tree’s graft line would be below ground. Bryant’s dad sold the
trees he grafted for 15 cents each.“One year the hail was so bad that it beat the bark off the trees’ top limbs.”
Bryant was fascinating to talk to because of his vivid remembrances of very early apple growing in the
Brushy Mountains. His recall of these events was as detailed as if they were observed yesterday.
Bryant’s favorite food was apple pie. His mother would also make “stack pie,” consisting of six to seven
layers of apples and dough, baked in a big cast iron pan.
Bryant remembers many of the old apple varieties. One was a Payne apple tree near the home that fell
over in rain-softened ground. Lester Lowe had Tenderskin apple trees, and Clyde Lowe had the Polk Seedling
trees, a variety offered for sale by a Pores Knob nursery. D.C. “Doc” Lowe had Fleming and Winter Bowman
apple trees. Their family also had Watts Limbertwigs, thought to be a cross of the Brushy Mountain
Limbertwig and the Virginia Beauty.
Tree Spraying—Initially no one sprayed the apple trees, but as time went by, problems arose with scab and
other diseases. There was a suspicion that some of the early scab problems started when nursery plants were
brought into the area from China.
One of the first spraying demonstrations occurred at the Lowe orchard. A Professor Hunt came from
Raleigh with his spray equipment in a surrey. He had traveled by train to Taylorsville and hired a surrey to take
him the 8 miles to the Brushy Mountains. He sprayed part of the Limbertwig trees—“some with trunks as big
as saw logs, 15 to 16 inches”. He used a Bordeaux mixture: lead arsenate, blue stone, and lime. Later in the
year he returned and compared the sprayed trees with the ones left unsprayed. The sprayed trees had apples
which were free from scab, but not those of the unsprayed trees.
For early season scab they sprayed with “liquid sulphur”. One time they sprayed with the sulphur, and
the next day it was unexpectedly hot, 90 degrees. Many of the Limbertwig apples fell from the tree. In a nearby
orchard, Clyde Lowe also sprayed with sulphur but he did not have the same problem because he added
lime to the spray mix.
At that time they started spraying their trees. At first they used a large hand pump system. This hard
work was done by Lloyd St. Clair, an extremely stout man who also did saw milling.
They next went to a one-cylinder engine and pump system which connected to a long hose which
would allow them to reach to the top of the orchard. Bryant remembers problems with using the Bordeaux
mixture. It was easy to burn the tree leaves with the blue stone. One time an early rain washed off the
protective lime, and the residual blue stone caused the leaves to burn badly and fall off, resulting in a tree with
apples but almost no leaves.
The early spraying involved lead arsenate and for this they had no breathing protective devices. The
only protective attire was a long sleeved shirt and a hat. Three of the four older growers interviewed never
used any protective respiratory equipment, and the fourth used it only very late in their career “when the
Government made him.” They all lived long lives—81 to 90 years and counting. It did not affect their
memories because they all had astounding memories. For example, if they mentioned a distant relative they
would remember their marriage date, death date, etc., and remembering dates of other events, as well.
Folk Medicine—Here are some of the early medical treatments that Bryant told me about. Mary Woodring,
his grandmother in Watauga County, performed the following treatment for an earache. She would go into the
woods, and in a rotten log find a “Bess” Beetle, which was broken open to give a “drop of oil” for the aching
ear. An elderly Indian lady gave his grandfather a tonic—“Steel Dust medicine” for anemia. [Some of the folk
medicine cures mention iron or steel for anemia.] People would heat turpentine and put it on a person’s
chest for congestion. Appendicitis was called “stomach colic.”
Civil War Stories–Uncle Bart Davis said that he killed a man in the Civil War. His commander told him to shoot
a sniper out of a tree, and all that could be seen of him was the glint of his shiny buttons. Bart shot and the
Union sniper fell. When later telling the story, he would break down and cry, hoping for forgiveness someday.
In that area there were men who did not want to go and fight in the Civil War. One was Bryant’s
granddad’s brother who was traveling with Aunt Mann. The Home Guard (Confederate) caught him. That
night, when they were not alert, he eased into the woods. A little later he could hear boots on gravel as they
were coming after him. He had a pistol and emptied it in their direction. He went to Uncle John’s place. The
Home Guard knew where to look and showed up at the home. Uncle John told them to leave or some of them
would be killed. They left. Near this home a 57 gallon/minute artesian well was dug in 1956.
On a nearby mountain a very large rock slid down over other rocks, making a shelter you could walk
into and there was water at the back. A Hodges man who wanted to avoid the war was hiding out there. The
Home Guard found him and he was shot. They call this place “Hodges’ House”.
Miscellaneous Stories—Bryant had many other fascinating stories. Some are below:
Bart Davis’ son who lived near Russell Gap, would walk to Taylorsville (11 miles) frequently carrying a
heavy load of “tobacco sacks” for sale. He had a bowed back from carrying such a heavy load.
At one time there was an immense White Pine in the area which was 12.5 feet around. Way up in the
forest behind Bryant’s home is a famous Hickory tree, notable because of its immense size.
A saying by Bryant’s dad: “It is plenty soon to get married the day before you die.”
Dried sweet potatoes could be chewed for half a day like you were chewing tobacco.
Bryant’s home has three large chimneys, two of them two stories in height. They are constructed of
laid stone, except the very top which is brick. They were constructed about 1898 by Levi Bumgarner who did
all the masonry work and supplied the materials for $60.
An old German who lived in the community was Robert Shufford. He did not start growing apples until
he was 65, and he lived until he was 97. Robert rode a white mule and had a long white beard like Santa Claus.
When he came to the house he would use his crooked cane to pull little Bryant near him, then sit him on his
lap. This scared the young, shy Bryant.
Ben Lowe, Bryant’s grandfather’s brother who died in 1918, specialized in delivering babies. People
would come from all over for his services. He never lost a case. He lived in a three-room house on the hill just
above Bryant’s home. He did a lot of walking to get to his patients. He wore high leather boots and showed
his dad fang marks where snakes tried to bite.
In the early days, not many people had cars, and there were walking trails in the mountains. One went
from the Lowes Creek area to behind the Lowe home. Bryant’s dad used this trail system to carry food and
water to the Smoot Orchard.
Jonah Parker (age 90)
Jonah always wanted to be a farmer and saw others doing well at raising apples. He had a more
challenging path than the other growers, because he did not have relatives already growing apples. Years
earlier, in 1935, his family had a setback when his father lost his farm because a $375 debt could not be repaid.
He had some familiarity with apples, because his father had helped in several orchards, and when Jonah was
14 he picked apples for the Cherry Hill Orchard for 10 cents an hour. He tried to work 10 hours so he could
make a dollar.
He bought his farm in 1948 and set out his first apple trees the next year. He ordered 100 Double Red
Staymans. The bundle turned out to include 9 Blacktwigs, and half the remaining ones were regular Staymans.
Some of these full-sized Blacktwig trees took about 20 years to have a full crop of apples. Fortunately, the farm
had a tobacco allotment, and he could grow tobacco until his apple orchard was well established. He set out
peaches to have some production before the apples. Jonah eventually had about 300 large apple trees in his
orchard, Parker’s Orchard on the Brushy Mountain Road. Jonah and his wife Helen did all the farm work for
the first 15 to 16 years, except for some help during apple picking time. They later had three children who
would assist them: Edmond, Carolyn, and Randy.
Jonah remembered using the Bordeaux mixture for early apple spraying in the area. The mixture they
used per 100 gallons of water was 2 lbs. arsenate of lead, 2 lbs. Blue Stone (copper sulfate), and 4 lbs. of
lime. The early apple tree sprayers involved a barrel with one man pumping and another person operating the
The orchard is currently managed by his grandson, Gray Faw. Jonah still sells the apples and peaches at
their apple house with the assistance of his sister, age 95.
Grafting Instructor—Jonah taught a grafting class at the Wilkes Community College for 10 years, educating
hundreds of people in the art of grafting. For grafting Jonah uses the “whip & tongue technique” where the
two pieces to be joined are cut on an angle with a very sharp knife then notched to help hold them precisely in
place; this method gives a very strong grafting union. Many of his students brought him apple cuttings and he
incorporated these into a 60-tree rare apple orchard. These trees are on more dwarfing rootstock. Customers
also brought additional rare apple cuttings. Into one large apple tree, Jonah grafted 120 apple varieties. Jonah
also sells apple trees of the old varieties which he proudly grafts, usually on EMLA-111 rootstock.
Special Apple Found—From earlier years Jonah fondly remembered a long-gone White Buckingham apple
tree. One day he went into Stanley Smithey’s store in Wilkesboro and was surprised to see a bin of apples
labeled “Buckingham,” the white ones that he had wanted to find. The store manager said that Wilburn
Anderson brought in some unknown apples, and later Roy Lowe came into the store and said that they were
Buckinghams. Jonah was able to get Buckingham cuttings from Wilburn’s old tree, and now he has 10 large
White Buckingham trees in his orchard. The trees have produced hundreds of bushels of apples for his
customers to enjoy. The White Buckingham is Jonah’s favorite pie apple.
One of his most beautiful apples is the Red Buckingham, which came from the Summit area of far
western Wilkes County. The trunk of the tree was so large that it was difficult for him to reach around it. After
Jonah got his cuttings, the tree blew down two weeks later.
Ministry—In 1950 Jonah started preaching as a Baptist minister. For about twenty years he was the Pastor of
Friendship Baptist Church in Elkin, NC. He kept detailed records of his ministry and has preached 1,400
sermons, and conducted 240 funerals and 88 weddings. Jonah frequently incorporates his apple knowledge
into his sermons. For instance: “Why does a fruit tree grow? To make seeds to reproduce itself. Our purpose
as Christians is to make more Christians.” He likes the old time hymns, with meaning in every verse, as
compared to the more modern hymns where the same phrases are often repeated. “The old apple varieties
are like the old hymns, with much more character. Modern apples are like the newer hymns, shallower in
nature and being just sweet or sour.” Jonah also said, “When an apple tree is grafted, its nature is changed.
When a person accepts Christ, his nature is changed.”
Jonah, like many of the apple growers, was in the military, joining the Navy in 1944. He was in a Navy
LSM group (Landing Ship Medium). These were ships over 200 feet long and 35 feet wide, designed to invade
Japan and capable of a beach landing. They had ten double barrel rocket launchers which could fire 20 rockets
every three seconds. They also had 5 inch cannons and 4 inch mortars. From his nearby Bethany Church,
twenty-eight people went into this war. Fortunately, they all came back.
Traveler—When you go into Jonah’s apple house on the Brushy Mountain Road, you will see many tools and
implements of yesteryear. You will also see photos of a Border Collie, Traveler. He was very friendly to visitors,
and he would frequently put an apple in their cars. People thought that he wanted to go home with them, but
he wanted them to toss the apple so he could chase it. Traveler loved Royal Limbertwig apples and would eat
an unlimited amount of thin slices. If offered a slice of Golden Delicious apple he would refuse to eat it. If an
apple was placed on Traveler’s nose, he would toss it into the air and catch it.
Traveler was afraid of electric fences and would not go near them. Once a ball was tossed and went
under the electric fence. Traveler chased it and ended up on the other side of the fence. He then realized
where he was, and lay there for a few minutes. He then crawled a long ways on his belly to finally get under
Waking-up Trees—Jonah shared his apple growing expertise with me. For instance, sometimes a tree will get
up to a fairly good size, perhaps 3.5 to 4” in diameter and still would not bloom. [People have described trees
such as this to me and asked, “What can I do?”.] Jonah said that about two weeks after they should have
bloomed, make a cut through the bark all the way around below the bottom limbs, cutting down to the wood.
The tree should bloom the next year. People have described multiple other ways of “waking up” a nonproducing
tree, such as hitting it with an axe handle or driving nails into the tree. Jack Masters of Erwin, TN,
told me about a promising technique for waking-up larger apple trees: with a worn-out bicycle tire (off the rim,
the old big kind), hit the tree as hard as you can twenty times about chest high.
Jonah told me about a person coming to him and describing multiple serious problems with his apple
trees. Jonah said, “For those trees, they need some sunshine on the roots.” I thought he meant to thin the
foliage to let more sunshine through, what he meant is for a bulldozer to push out the very faulty trees.
For cider (non-fermented), Jonah’s favorite blend would be 2 Staymans to 1 Golden.
In a hollow at the bottom of Jonah’s orchard is a Black Heart Cherry tree. These are trees as big as the
typical forest tree with full-sized cherries. I have occasionally seen this tree at several Wilkes County locations.
Bryant Lowe thought that an ex-Confederate soldier might have had some involvement in setting out these
unique cherry trees.
Grandfather John—Jonah told some stories about his grandfather, John Parker. John made government
inspected brandy and would go to the railroad depot in Statesville to deliver the brandy. He would hitch up his
team of mules, load the wagon with brandy, and start at 4:00 am down the mountain for the 29 mile trip. On
the return trip he would lie down in the wagon and go to sleep. The mules knew the route so well that they
would take him right back to his home. John would wake up when the wagon reached a steep part of the road
near his home.
John was hauling wood one day when the mules ran away with him. He fell and was run over by the
heavily laden wagon. When John got back to the house, he took a big dose of castor oil and said, “Tie that
mule outside my window and bring me my shotgun and if my bowels don’t move, I’m going to shoot that mule
before I die.” He thought that was a sign of not being busted up inside. He did not shoot the mule.
John decided that they needed a school closer to their community. He went to Wilkesboro and visited
the school board offices, and he told them if they would send a teacher, he would take care of the rest. He
built a school himself on the Trails End Road, which was named the Parker School.
Another time John had a barrel of apple brandy and knew the government tax inspectors were headed
his way. He did not want to pay taxes on the whiskey because it was so much he would only make a small
profit. He placed a wooden box over the barrel, then placed a little girl on top of the box and gave her a slice
of watermelon to eat. The tax people left without seeing the barrel.
Active at 90—I called on Monday, January 15, 2018, and asked to speak to Jonah. His wife said that he was
butchering hogs with Scott Faw. They each had a hog to butcher, and it was 14 degrees early that morning.
I asked Jonah if there was a secret to his long life (90) and continued vitality. He said, “Hard Work”.
Among Jonah’s greatest and proudest accomplishments is the completion of 69 wonderful years of
marriage to his wife Helen. Their anniversary was September 18th.
Jesse Henry Tevepaugh (age 82)
Vashti is a sparsely populated rural community in northeastern Alexander County, N.C. It is located
northwest of an important geographical feature—Rocky Face Mountain, a granite dome which extends about
600 feet above the surrounding countryside. The mountain top is covered with thin soil, trees, and surprising
Yucca plants. It is home to several rare plants and two rare butterflies. From 1922 until 1940 there was a
quarry at its southern end. In 2012 the Rocky Face Mountain Recreational Area was opened to the public, 318
acres with six miles of hiking trails, rock climbing, picnicking, etc. A hike of note is the Vertical Mile Challenge.
Vashti is one of the first places I started searching for old apples, I visited Houston Bowles who showed
me his old Limbertwig trees and a Yellow Potts tree. These were part of his small commercial orchard. Ex apple
grower, Flake Harrington, helped me find the Liddy apple. The most prominent Vashti apple grower was
Henry Tevepaugh (called “Hen” or “Tevie” by his friends). He had apples in his orchard such as Stayman, Red
Delicious, Goldens, and Limbertwigs. In an old orchard he had a Polk Seedling apple tree which was lying on
the gound, a remnant of a very old orchard. I was able to get cuttings for grafting from this tree. Once I went
to help Henry pick apples. He gave me an apple sack with a shoulder strap and a bottom which could be
opened for discharging the apples. I picked two trees of Staymans—good sized apples. And then I got on a
tree of smaller medium-sized Staymans, and I thought that I would never get my bag full.
Henry was an excellent apple tree grafter, having almost 100% grafting success.
He passed away in 2012 at the age of 82. The following stories were told to me by his wife of 53 years,
Clara, and his youngest son, Bryan.
Farm Life—Henry bought the farm in 1957. He added part of his parent’s farm in 1973. He eventually had
twenty acres of apples and peaches. He also raised tobacco, soybeans, wheat, rye, and corn. Plus he worked
as a full-time carpenter. When he came in from the carpentry job, he would work until dark on the farm.
Bryan can remember Henry’s plowing all night and returning to his carpentry job the next morning. Clara
and a daughter and four sons all pitched in and helped: Debbie, Howard, Tony, Joel, & Bryan. Having a variety
of crops was helpful in case they had a problem year with their apples, peaches, or tobacco.
Busy Hands—Bryan could remember spending two hours in the early morning emptying a tobacco barn, going
to school, coming home and working with apples until dark, then doing some more tobacco barn work, and
finally his homework. Someone once asked Henry about working the kids so hard. He replied, “If both their
hands are busy then they can’t get into trouble.”
There was lots of work to be done: two cows to milk; care for farm animals: a horse that was used in
tobacco work, hogs, chickens, ducks, and hunting dogs. It was not just hard work, but valuable skills were
being learned. “I know how to work,” said Bryan. “Dad taught us how to build, farm, garden, and hunt, and
Mom taught us how to cook and sew. I know how to milk a cow, bake biscuits, and light a fire. We learned
growing up what it took to survive.” Plus they also acquired a valuable work ethic.
“I still say that Dad made us use the horse, Nell, so we would appreciate the equipment we had and
would take care of it. My parents used to look for me when I was 3 or 4, but I would be down in the field with
the horse. I was just a little thing. The horse lowered her head so I could get the bridle on. I remember my
brothers plowing tobacco with Nell.”
Henry, with the family’s help and while doing everything else, built their house, the barn, pack and
Growing up, they always had two plates of biscuits for breakfast plus other great things. For dinner
, they always had biscuits and cornbread. Their favorite apple dish was stewed apples.
In their five gardens, they grew potatoes, cabbage, broccoli, tomatoes, corn, beets, radishes, beans,
peas, cantaloupe, watermelon, squash, peppers, and turnips, etc. “Henry always liked to make enough to carry
some to others.”
Henry did not believe in consuming spirits. He would not sell apples to anyone who planned to use
them to make brandy.
Unique Era—They were fortunate to grow up in a trusting era. They did not lock their doors until the late
1980s. After a day of sawing wood they would often leave the chainsaw on an apple crate in plain view of the
road, and a week later it would still be there.
Henry was a Ford man. He once owned a Chevy truck, “But never again, because it was soft in the rear
when carrying things.”
The daily work was broken up with hunting and fishing. They would go to the Granite Falls area for
catfishing, at night when the catfish would bite better. They would also go to Webb’s pond, the Catawba River
and other favorite spots. They would often get up before dawn, eat breakfast and go rabbit hunting. Henry
hunted until five months before his death.
Apple Crate School—Bryan said, “When I was growing up on rainy cold Saturdays when it was too wet to work,
Dad’s friends—Fred Barnett and Bob Wiles, plus others—who were old men at the time, would come over and
talk and whittle under the apple house front shed roof. It would be like nothing for them to set out there for
half a day. I would listen to them talk. I will never forget listening to them.”
“On one of these rainy Saturdays, my son Jesse, who was 4 or 5, and I were at the home visiting my
parents. Bob Wiles showed up. Bob and Dad sat down under the shed on apple crates. I sat down with Jesse
on my lap. Jesse just kept wanting to talk.” I told him to “Be quiet, be quiet because you are in school now.”
“School?” “You are in Apple Crate School now,” I said. “Listen and learn.”
“From these old timers I learned a lot about doing things the old way, such as hitching up a team of
horses, sitting out there listening to them.”
Folk Medicine—A home remedy they used for coughs and sore throats was “Onion Juice.” Clara would slice an
onion and put it into a bowl, alternating the layers with sugar. This was left to sit overnight. In the morning
there would be onion juice in the bowl. They would take a teaspoon of the juice as needed. I asked Bryan how
it tasted. His reply was, “Good. Good. Mom never had any trouble getting me to take it.” [Tom Brown–“I
made my own test batch of onion & sugar. The flavor is not bad; I could easily take it for a cold.”]
Korean War—Like the other apple growers, Henry was in the military, serving in Korea. He had one of the
most dangerous jobs imaginable—a forward observer. These are soldiers who go near or behind the combat
lines, observe enemy positions, and then call in artillery fire. It was just him with a radio, rifle, and a pistol out
there by himself. Henry told them about the intense cold of the winter and about being supplied by food air
drops. If they found a damaged food container they would still eat it because they were so hungry.
Henry was wounded twice. Both times he patched himself up and kept fighting. Once he was running
away from danger when a mortar round blast knocked him down. He could not figure why it had knocked him
over. He could not get his rifle up because it kept hanging on his arm. There was a large piece of metal sticking
in the butt of the rifle stock. As he was running, this big piece of metal hit his gun stock instead of hitting him.
The family still has the piece of metal. He got shrapnel in him twice. When he left Korea, there was still
shrapnel in him.
Henry was a forward observer in the critical battle of Taegu. He was in one of the four fox holes of
forward observers who called in strikes during a critical part of the battle when there was a surge of North
Korean Troops (KPA). A large number of KPA troops were killed or wounded.
While in Korea he used his building skills to lay out and construct foundations for their large assembly
tents, the ones that had floors.
After two years in Korea he returned to Fort Benning, GA, where he spent most of a year training
soldiers in the skills he had acquired in battle. Henry did not think that he was owed any military benefits,
saying “There are others who deserve it more.”
Two of their relatives were killed in Vietnam, a nephew and Clara’s brother.
Winter Fun—There is a very long hill from “downtown Vashti” toward the Tevepaugh home. It is straight and
of uniform downward slope heading South, about 1,000 feet long.
“Used to be when it snowed everybody and his brother would come and sled down the hill. The
neighbors would take their tractors and pull us up the hill. We used to get on inner tubes and sleds and slide
down the hill. You could not steer the inner tubes. People had bonfires lit all down the hill. When we got it
packed down, the snow would be on the road for two weeks. You would be coming down the hill so fast it
would make the water come out of your eyes and we would go way up the next hill.”
“When it started snowing the feed truck would get stuck, and Henry would have to hook up a chain to
his tractor to pull the truck around the curve so they could get feed to the neighbor’s chickens.”
“One time it started snowing, and it was really snowing. A tractor had gone back and forth, up and
down the hill, and that night when we got there the snow was mashed down in the middle and the sides were
up, making a track for us to slide in. You talk about FAST.”
What a rich and rewarding life this family had.
For many years we have been fortunate to have several owls live in our community. We frequently
hear their calls in the early evening and on rare occasions we actually see the owls. I remember an owl calling
loudly near our home. Answering way off in the distance was another owl with a different call. There were at
least fifteen rounds of calls between them—Pure Magic.
Tom Brown, 7335 Bullard Road, Clemmons, NC 27012; Phone: 336-766-5842
Email: email@example.com; Web site: www.applesearch.org © AppleSearch.org
Jonah Parker Bryant Lowe
Henry Tevepaugh Lowell and Sue Hendren