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He thought maybe she was a Kavanagh, tracing her roots. De Grandpre seemed entirely unsurprised to find another woman standing in front of his auto body shop asking questions about the Kavanagh. But none more attached than De Grandpre, a city councilman in Freeport who has owned the property since 1976 and has marked 38 seasons with it.There was also a man who came by regularly to check on the tree’s health (that would be Bunker). He understands that the tree has achieved a kind of fame, at least in the pomological world.
The tree was almost disappointingly easy to find for someone on a mission – I drove into Freeport from the south, looking left and looking right into parking lots.This is the tale of a rare apple tree, dating back to the Civil War era, a story constructed from some facts, some guesswork and many names, names of Maine and names of Ireland.Johannah De Grandpre, left, and Rich De Grandpre walk into R & D Automotive in Freeport.In between overseeing the businesses, they built themselves mansions, planted orchards and gave their growing community its first Catholic Church (over 300 Irish immigrants settled in Lincoln County between 17).They brought relatives in to help with the booming business, including Cottrill’s sister Catherine and her husband, who arrived in 1804 (“She could have brought some trees from the valley then,” Fidelma Mc Carron theorizes). Cottrill survived the time of embargo and strife better than Kavanagh, who is said to have later lost his taste for the sea entirely after his son John disappeared on a voyage to the East Indies in 1824.He left Ireland for Boston either in 1780 or 1784, depending on which history you believe, and in Boston partnered with another young Irish immigrant, Cottrill.
They were both Catholics and ambitious, although Kavanagh seems to have been the driving force behind the business they started in Newcastle around 1790.It is believed to be one of very few Kavanaghs left in Maine, and could have been planted during the Civil War era.Whitney Hayward/Staff Photographer For us, it started when Rowan Jacobsen, author of the recently published book “Apples of Uncommon Character,” mentioned offhandedly a specific Kavanagh apple tree in an interview last month with the Press Herald.I had barely driven a block or two when I spotted a likely candidate behind Antonia’s Pizzeria and in front of a long red building with R & D Automotive written across it.The tree was tall and gnarled and obviously an apple tree, although it bore no fruit.And his respect for the tree runs deep, even if at the beginning of his time there, he sometimes put it to work.