The 375-year-old Endecott Pear Tree in Danvers was planted under the direction of the first Massachusetts Governor, English Puritan John Endecott (c 1588-1665). Endecott sailed from England to the New World aboard the ship Abigail in 1628, landing at a small peninsula the native inhabitants called Naumkeag. Endecott established a permanent settlement there and gave the location the Hebrew word for “peace” – Salem.
On July 3, 1632, Endecott received the first grant of land by the colonial legislature, 300 acres in an area along present day Endicott Street in Danvers and extending to Danversport. All traces of Endecott’s homestead, farm and wharfs have disappeared, save the Endecott Family Graveyard, and an ancient pear tree located at what was once the front of his house, planted sometime between 1632 to 1640. The pears from the Danvers tree have been known as “Endecott Pears” for several hundred years, and have also been identified with a variety of sugar pear known as “Bon Chrétien.”
Endicott served for two years as the first governor of Massachusetts and an additional sixteen years over the next four decades. He died in Boston on March 15, 1665.
The Endecott Pear Tree has been celebrated in history, art, and poetry, as well as illustrated in books, magazines, murals and postcards from as early as the 18th century. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote of its longevity and President John Adams spoke of its significance.
Over four centuries the tree has survived numerous challenges but always, miraculously, springs back:
- The Rev. William Bentley of Salem visited the tree in 1796 and wrote: “There is only one tree left which bears the Sugar Pear, and by tradition was planted in 1630. It is much decayed at bottom, but the branches at top are sound.”
- In 1837, Charles Moses Endicott (1793-1863) wrote an “Account of the present condition of the Endicott Pear Tree.” and noted the dilapidated condition of the trunk.
- By 1804, the tree lay prostrate,shorn of all its branches, and its trunk split and divided.
- In the heavy gale of September, 1815, the limbs were either split or broken, and it appeared doubtful, for some time, if it would ever recover.
- In 1848 the people of Danvers were concerned about decay which was detected in the main part of this tree but as vigorous suckers were sent out from the roots, fruit continued to appear annually.
- In 1858 Charles Endicott again wrote about the tree, “The vigor of its youth has now passed away & it may not survive the storms of many winters more.\
- By 1924, the original trunk had entirely disappeared, but two suckers about two feet in circumference were in good condition
- “The Endecott Pear Tree survived a number of terrible storms and hurricanes (1770, 1804, 1815, and the famous New England Hurricane of 1938 which seriously damaged the tree.
- In 1952 CBS-Hytron built a large plant on the site, and a parking lot that left the tree virtually hidden.
- On October 18, 1956, it was noted that the Endicott Pear tree was bearing fruit in its 321st year.
- The worst threat came in late July 1964 when a teenage vandal dismembered the tree. Not a leaf, not a twig, not a branch, not a limb was left on the two main trunks. The news was printed throughout the country.
- Despite the failure of human efforts to graft onto the tree, it sprouted about 100 suckers the next year.
- In 2002 the North Shore Medical Center created a new large Ambulatory Care Center, and development further encroached upon the pear tree site.
- The Medical Center took responsibility for preserving the tree.
- In 2009 a permanent display panel featuring text written and images selected by me concerning the history of the pear tree, was installed in the public lobby of the Medical Center.
- In 2011 an historic marker was placed adjacent to the parking lot at the viewing level overlooking the pear tree site.