Search of Pioneer Roses
we made the drive to see my grandparents when I was growing up,
we always passed by one old rickety farmhouse, grayed from the weather,
windows broken out, the porch sagging on one side. This old house
had become almost hidden by its overgrowth of brambles, trees, bushes
For some odd reason that we could
never quite figure out, the trees and weeds and wild roses grew
taller close to the porch than they did in the yard.
My father and I laughed every time we drove by, picturing a woman
and a man sitting in rocking chairs on that old porch, having a
seed-spitting contestlofting seeds that would someday bury
themselves in the dirt and grow.
Perhaps it is this childhood memory
of one old house and those growing things that came to life in my
heart when a kind gentleman appeared on our doorstep one morning
to install the natural-gas fireplace wed ordered. As he worked,
he began to tell the story of his mothers pioneer rose bush,
over 150 years old, which had been brought out on a wagon along
the Oregon Trail. He told me how his mother coddled the roses and
how visitors stopped by to see them and, if they were lucky, to
take home a cutting to start in their own gardens.
My mother-in-law, Mollie Jensen Bedford,
grew up in Washington State. When I asked her if she knew anything
about pioneer yellow roses, she jumping in with her own stories
of themhow they grew in profusion along the yards, how theyd
moved across the western states as the Oregon Trail settlers had
planted them, how the girlfriends she remembered always picked them
for bouquets. Harisons Yellow roses actually originated in
New York City. George Harison, an attorney and amateur rose-grower,
discovered the species in the 1830s growing in his backyard. The
roses were fragrant and hardy, they spread vigorously and they resisted
disease, all traits uncommon in yellow roses. Harison gave a slip
to Thomas Hogg, a local nurseryman, who assigned it its first and
perhaps most accurate name, given how far it would soon range: Hoggs
Yellow American Rose. A second nurseryman, William Prince,
better equipped to propagate and distribute it, renamed it Harisons
Yellow. In an 1846 rose catalog, Prince wrote that his rose
was brilliant and beautiful. He also wrote that a hot sun
makes its blooms expand and lose much of their beauty.
Rose bushes, advertised on
their own bottoms, not grafted, were sold for fifty and seventy-five
cents. But Harisons Yellow suckered so easily that it was
most often given away. Roy Sheperd wrote in his 1954 History of
the Rose that, No old rose is more generally distributed thorough
North America nor better known.
Donna Mileti Benenson writes in Early
Beloved by pioneers, this rose was carried by brides denied
more cumbersome mementos of home. They kept cuttings alive stuck
in raw potatoes or damp cloths. Flourishing, colonizing, the rose
outlasted those who planted it and survives on abandoned homesites
all over America. It haunts ghost towns and cemeteries and tumbles
down gaping cellar holes. It is seen running wild the length of
the Oregon Trail. Still commercially available, still cherished,
and still given away as a keepsake, Harisons Yellow travels back and forth across our county even today.
When I began writing A Rose By
The Door, the story of these tenacious roses came first. Bea
Bartling, Gemma, and Paisley came next. As I interviewed experts
on Harisons Yellow roses, it became evident that these roses,
coupled with the history of the brave pioneer women who planted
them, reflect a perfect, beautiful likeness of the resilience that
God has created in each of our human spirits. On a deeper level,
these roses are a humbling representation of Gods faithfulness
to us and our faithwhich is totally dependent upon Himblooming
back to him, through us.
May the Fathers love bring
its season of blooming into your heart.
You are never
going to believe this 'blessed' story! I don't believe it...but, I
lived it! Notice the date on your E-mail to me (below)...I have been
'continually' trying to get an "Oregon Trail Rose" to no
avail! I couldn't even find one I could look at to see if I really,
really wanted one. The only one I could find on the internet was almost
$30 PLUS shipping and handling. So, I almost gave up...but did give
it to the Lord to worry about.
I continued on with my genealogy process...(I was given up for adoption
at birth...just now getting around to digging up my 'roots'). This
week I went on a quick jaunt to Boise, ID where my birth-father's
maternal ancestors had settled...they had 3 donation land claims,
the largest being just outside Emmett, Idaho. I don't know if you
know anything about Idaho but when I think about Idaho I think of
rolling hills of brown, dry, arid land...dirty, dusty, hot, windy,
etc. NOT a place I would imagine my Pennsylvania German ancestors
would want to cross the entire country to settle. I HAD to go see
it! SO...no time like NOW (June), right!
As I travelled I shook my head..."Why would ANYBODY want to leave
PA and come here? Why would ANYBODY want to live here...EVER!" Mile after mile I thought that...and though less and less of my birth/blood
ancestors. Then, we went over the last hill and below us lay Emmett,
Idaho...the most beautiful, lush, green, rich valley I ever saw. We
drove right to the Donation Land Claim. It is now a fruit tree farm.
There was 360 acres so it took us a while to drive around it...and
in the very back of the property...I saw my first "Oregon Trail
Rose" (Harison's yellow). MOST GORGEOUS SIGHT EVER! Being June
it was FULL of the brightest yellow I'd ever seen. NEVER have I seen
a rose like this. And, there was one after another of them! All were
well over 8' tall...they must be VERY old because they were HUGE!
We took cuttings...about 12 of them...laid them in the back of the
car and took off for home. (Portland, 8 hrs away). When we got home
they were wilted and I put them in vases hoping they'd perk up. Sure
enough, when I got up this morning this is the view that greeted me...it
Hope you enjoy! As soon as I get them started and going well, I will
send you one!
Doneva Shepard in OR