There have been apples in Langley since not long after the first European traders and settlers arrived in the 1820s.
With the annual Apple Day taking place on Saturday, Sept. 29 at Derby Reach Regional Park's Heritage Area, locals say they have uncovered the oldest known apple tree in B.C.
Sharon Meneely, who is heading up Apple Day for the Derby Reach-Brae Island Park Association (DRBIPA) said the tree was found on the old Nordman farm on Allard Crescent.
Sitting on a property line, the tree is reputedly the last remaining apple tree from the first Hudson's Bay Company orchard.
"There are a few [apples] on it," Meneely said.
Meneely was speaking to members of the Nordman family last year when the matter came up. Another former neighbour confirmed that oral history has always claimed the apples go back to the 1830s.
The park association has added the tree to its list of those to preserve, and it has taken some cuttings to keep the tree's lineage alive.
While many of the heritage apples showcased at apple days are crisp, tart, and delicious, it's unlikely the old HBC apple was all that amazing, taste-wise, said Meneely.
The apples would have been grown from seed, and were likely "greenings," apples grown for cider rather than for eating, said Meneely.
All modern apple varieties are propagated by grafting, rather than planting seeds. Seeds may not carry the same traits as the parent tree.
"There was no consistency on what you got from one tree to the next," Meneely said.
Much of the orchard was apparently toppled by 1962's Hurricane Freda, the most powerful storm to hit B.C. in the last century.
Members of the park association have also turned up an unusual tale of a local farmer who met his end in an apple tree.
In 1880, the Haney Slide was a massive landslide into the Fraser River. It raised a tsunami up to 60 feet tall, and a Derby area farmer, William Edge, was found tangled in the branches of one of his trees after the wave had passed.
The constantly changing course of the river is one reason why some of Langley's earliest orchards are missing, or in danger.
"A lot of it's gone, a lot of it is in Richmond," quipped arbour-ist Bill Wilde.
The same erosion and local flooding that drove the HBC to move its first fort from Derby to present-day Fort Langley has swept away orchards and individual trees over the years.
Apple Day is about the history that is now being saved and resurrected.
There is a small orchard near the Houston House on Allard Crescent, created by the association, which is growing varieties like Northern Spy and Baldwin.
Once common, they are now next to impossible to find commercially.
But those old apples sustained many a pioneer family in the 19th and early 20th century.
"They live better around here than the modern varieties," said park association chair Jeremy Smith.
This year's event will celebrate those old varieties, possibly with a ceremonial picking, Smith noted.
There will also be voyageur reenactments, an art show, music from the Langley Community Music School, a tree planting at 1 p.m., orchard tours led by Fort historian Jane Watt, and historical walks led by Jill Deuling of Metro Vancouver Parks.
All the events take place between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., at the historic site near the cairn marking the old Fort site on Allard Crescent.
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