A Portsmouth Myth: The Origins of the Rhode Island Greening Apple

Even before the Revolutionary War, wealthy Newport merchants had their country farm out in Portsmouth.  At that time Newport was the fifth largest port in the colonies. Many merchants became rich in the shipping trade. Among the most successful merchants was Metcalf Bowler who owned many ships that sailed around the world.  Bowler’s Portsmouth farm, Vaucluse,  was off of Wapping Road.

One day one of Bowler’s ships was caught in a typhoon. Captain Chausan, the master of the ship, skillfully sailed his ship through the bad weather. Floating on the rough seas, however, was what remained of another ship that did not fare so well in the storm. Captain Chausan rescued the men who had clung to the pieces of the boat. Among these men was a man of great importance – he was the son of the Shah (ruler) of Persia in the Middle East. Captain Chausan brought the men into a safe port and went on his way with his journey.

When Captain Chausan returned to the East Indies area again, a group of men representing the shah arrived. They offered a gift to the Captain as a thanks for the rescue. Although it seemed like a simple gift of a graceful tree that had been planted in a porcelain pot, it turned out to be a priceless gift. The Shah’s representatives told the captain that the shoot of the tree had been carefully nourished because it was a very special tree. The Shah’s palace was on the very site of the famous Garden of Eden. The gift tree was a shoot from the very tree that tempted Adam and Eve.

Bowler’s Vision

Captain Chausan accepted the gift and took good care of the plant on the way home to Newport. Upon landing he presented the tree to his employer, Metcalf Bowler. The potted tree was brought to Bowler’s Portsmouth farm. His intention was to place the tree in his green house. The first night the tree was in Portsmouth, Bowler had a dream. A woman appeared to him. She was dressed in shimmering clothes and she had a golden halo around her head. She told Bowler that she was Mother Eve and instructed him not to plant the tree in the green house. The soil and the climate of Aquidneck Island is the same as that of the Garden of Eden. The tree must be planted in open air under the heavenly sky. The Vision faded and disappeared, but Bowler followed the advice it gave. He very carefully planted the tree outside. It became a great tree that produced delicious apples that were green in color with a hint of yellow. The seeds of the fruit were planted and a whole new variety of apple was established – the famous Rhode Island Greening Apple.

There are other stories about the beginnings of the Rhode Island Greening Apple that are not quite as fanciful.

— Source: Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 31, 1908