My Denman family line first migrated from Ditchling, Sussex, England to New York state up the Hudson River around Kingston and Rondout Creek in about 1795. They settled in the Neversink area in Sullivan County. It was from there that some of the family moved on westward to northern Ohio.  A booklet put together by the Town Clerk of Neversink, celebrating the Bi-Centennial of the Town of Neversink (Ackerley, Loretta.  1998.  Township of Neversink 1798-1998.) described the early days of the William and Ann Denman family as follows.  They lived in a rough log lean-to on a remote hill, the building described in a letter as having no plaster but only leaves stuffed in the cracks.  The hill is now known as Denman Mountain.  Through much hard work, the Denmans survived and prospered.  A proper house was built and the Denmans raised 10 children to adulthood.  Their daughter Elizabeth who was born in England not long before the family left for the new country, died soon after they arrived.  My ancestor, John, was ther oldest living son, born in England in 1791.  Before 1819 John was in northern Ohio having purchase land and begun clearing and farming.  Here is Grandpa Lyle’s telling:

“In the trips from New York to Ohio the first year two members of the Denman family (John and his brother William) carried what they could carry on their shoulders and then the next trip or the trip after that they had an ox team. But on one trip, one of the men brought back a quantity of apple seeds. The story has varied from a quart to a peck. You can use your own judgment on how many they had. Those apple seeds were planted and that was the start of an apple industry in northern Ohio.  This is the Denman family’s own Johnny Appleseed. At one time, the apples produced in northern Ohio in those in the state, northern York state as they called it then, the northern part of New York, was the apple producing area for the United States. A few years later it began to spread and it, by the present time, as you are aware, apples are produced in central Ohio, in Virginia and many other states, and then particularly in the northwest, Oregon, Washington. The apple industry is entirely changed. But at the time I am telling you about the early orchards were around northern Ohio.”

FA Denman childhood home

FA Denman childhood home

“Father had two orchards. One of about ten or eleven acres, right near the homestead where he was born and where I was born.  And the other orchard was a short distance south of that of about five acres. And they were mostly Baldwin apples, Russet apples, a certain number of what they called Rhode Island Greenings, and a certain number of Ben Davis which are, which were in my opinion practically worthless there — they had no flavor whatever. But they had a number of other flavors. They had Rambos and they had Gravensteins which were, is spelled G-r-a-v-e-n-s-t-e-i-n but the family always called them Garvusteens. And there were other various.”

Gravenstein apple

Gravenstein apple

“That orchard has all been destroyed as of the present time. But it was very active and father would spray it and harvest it. And some years he would have a light crop and they, I think the big, the heaviest crop he ever had was along in the early 19–, let’s say somewhere in 1910 to 1915, along in there. He had a matter of around 4,000 bushels of apples. The price, of course, was not high. But it was a nice, nice crop of apples.”

“Now another, the thing, one of the things that will be of interest to you folks.  (Grandpa Lyle knew that all of his grandchildren would be listening to these interviews, so he liked to put in tidbits he thought we would like.) In going to the market you will find on the shelves of most markets the J.M. Smucker jellies, jams and various types of preserves by the J.M. Smucker corporation of Orrville.  Mr. J.M. Smucker, the founder of that, was a friend of my father’s and each year he would come to Wakeman on the train. He’d go into Cleveland from Orrville and then come to Wakeman on the train. Father would meet the train in the morning and would drive Mr. Smucker around from orchard to orchard in northern Ohio. At that time they, their chief product was Smucker’s apple butter. And that was known all over the country and that was the start of the Smucker organization that we have today that produces everything in the way of fruit preserves and jellies. And Father would drive Mr. Smucker around from orchard to orchard and he would arrange to buy the product from the various orchards. Sometimes one day would take the trip and occasionally he would have to stay overnight at the Denman home. But I thought it might be a matter of interest to you to know that my father was a business acquaintance of J.M. Smucker and J.M. Smucker had lived at our home and stayed overnight there on certain occasions.”  The website for the Smucker Company has a nice history section that talks about the beginnings of the Company, shows a timeline, and gives a very brief history of the Smucker name.

“The orchards in northern Ohio are now practically depleted. It’s industrialized and built up with people who work in the different cities there. Central Ohio still has some nice orchards I am told, and down to the central part of Ohio I am told there are many nice orchards yet. But orchards are available, apples are available now from so many different places that the crop, that the center of the — there is no particular center that I know of.  New York state still produces apples and central Ohio, Virginia, Kentucky and different states. Particularly, though, in Washington and Oregon, the northwest has immense orchards in that area. I believe that would cover the history of the orcharding and the early settlement of the Denman family in northern Ohio.”

2 Responses to “Wakeman 5. Early Denmans and Apple Orchards in Northern Ohio”

  1. Pat says:

    How very odd! We are probably related – I’ll have to see if your father is in my database.

  2. John Denman says:

    This is very ironic. My name is John Denman. I work at the J.M. Smucker Company. My grandfather, Franklin John Denman, was born in Toledo and eventually settled in Orrville, Ohio (home of the Smucker Company).
    Thank you for sharing the story.

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