Grand opening planned for Barbara McRae Cherokee Heritage Apple Orchard

by Mar 20, 2023General Announcements0 comments

FRANKLIN, N.C. – The Barbara McRae Cherokee Heritage Apple Orchard will host a grand opening on Arbor Day – Friday, April 28 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.  The orchard is on the Macon County Greenway ½ mile downstream from the Big Bear Pavilion.

Elaine Eisenbraun, executive director of Nikwasi Initiative said, “This orchard is established near the Noquisiyi (Nikwasi) Mound and is likely on land that had once been farmed by Cherokee women. Bringing back the apple trees is like restoring a small fragment of the Cherokee agronomic lifestyle that residents enjoyed. Future visitors will be able to have a holistic experience of scented blossoms, tasty apples, and a lovely little path to build their understanding of the prior residents of these mountains.”

Franklin is home to the only Native American apple orchard in this region. In 2020, Barbara McRae spawned the idea of honoring the story of the Cherokee apple varieties and the people who grew them. Together with Nikwasi Initiative’s Executive Director Elaine Eisenbraun, a plan began to unfold. Today. a mini orchard highlights apple varieties with close ties to Cherokee farmers of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Many people know the history of the Trail of Tears and the suffering that beset the hardy people who were marched to Okalahoma. But, few are aware of the possessions that were left behind including the long sustained and nurtured fruit trees. Some relocated people later made claims against the U.S. government for the lost trees.

Development of this humble orchard depended on the input of David Anderson, horticulturalist with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI). Anderson is an expert on apples. The orchard site had to be cleared from a brush field full of invasive species, so Carolina Underbrushing masticated the undesirable trees. The N.C. State Historic Preservation Office oversaw a cultural survey carried out by S&ME consultants to assure that no archeological sites would be disturbed by the planting. Then a group of hardy volunteers planted, fenced, and watered the trees. The Macon Early College and Summit Charter schools helped with the caretaking.

  • Nikwasi Initiative release