A Juicy Story: From McIntosh to Macintosh

The McIntosh is of considerable commercial significance to the Southern Georgian Bay Area.

The McIntosh apple has been grown in Ontario since the 1880’s. In the 20th century it was the most popular cultivar in Eastern Canada and the eastern United States, as well as in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia.

It is considered an all-purpose apple, suitable both for cooking and eating raw. Its beautiful red-cheeked appearance, speckled with green, makes it the favourite apple of Canadians and Americans

I could not find any evidence that the McIntosh apple was ever selected as the “national apple” of Canada, That usually happens when a small interest group votes for something they love, as is the case with all things “national”, such as animals, birds, flowers, horses and other creatures. Physical features can be measured, personal favourites are subject to people’s whims.

First of all, let us consider where the name McIntosh originates.

ApplesJohn McIntosh was a farm boy born in 1777, the son of Alexander and Jennet McIntosh, in the Mohawk Valley of New York.

Like a lot of Scottish Immigrants in that State, John’s parents were United Empire Loyalists, supporting the British during the American Revolution from 1775 to 1783. That made them subject to much prejudice, persecution and violence by the Americans. That may be one reason why they moved to Upper Canada at some time after 1785.

Another version is that John McIntosh originally went to Canada to track down his youthhood love Dolly Irwin, who had previously been taken by her Loyalist parents to Upper Canada. By the time he found her family, she had died.

He settled as a farmer along the St. Lawrence River and, in 1801, married Hannah Doran. They farmed along the Saint Lawrence River until 1811, when McIntosh exchanged his land with that of his brother-in-law Edward Doran, a farm in Dundela.

John’s wife Hannah was born in 1782 in Albany, New York, the daughter of Johannes Doran and Sophia Salome Doran.

John died in 1846 at age 69. Hannah died in 1857 in Iroquois, East Ontario at age 75.

There is considerable disagreement between the various sources as to how many children were part of their actual family. There are seven names listed in the Genealogy website Geni. They are Allen, Allen II, Edmund, Fanny, Lewis, Margaret and Sophia, plus the a note reading “and 13 others”. That would account for 20 children. Another source states that they had eleven children, six sons and five daughters.

Given that both John and Hannah were married once before, it is safe to say, with the very long cold winters and the absence of birth control measures at that time, that there may well have been 20 children.

So where did the McIntosh apple originate? Again, there are conflicting stories.

One story is that, when Hannah’s brother Edward Doran moved from New York state to Canada, he brought along a cultivar of the McIntosh apple. There is no mention of this until Edward bought land in nearby Dundela, and in 1811 exchanged this land for that owned by John McIntosh. The reason for this trade is not mentioned anywhere.

One story tells that John discovered the cultivar himself when he surveyed his newly acquired property, but another mentions that it was probably his son Allen who found the young tree in an overgrown part of their orchard in Dundela.

Apple logoLittle of that matters today. While the tart, acidic McIntosh apple is still fairly popular, it is being rapidly displaced by other, sweeter apple varieties.  Among these are Cortland, Empire, Honeycrisp, Rome, Macoun, Red Delicious, Gala and Golden Delicious. Some ripen in September, others are ready for picking in October.

To add another aspect to this story: Steve Jobs, Co-founder of the Apple Computer company in 1976, said that he was on a “fruit only diet” at that time, and because no one else suggested a better name he called it Apple after his favourite fruit, the McIntosh apple.

Apple phased out the Macintosh name in favor of “Mac”, which became sort of a colloquial “pet name” or “nickname” applied to the Macintosh computers by their users.

The reason why there is a bite (or byte) missing out of the apple logo is quite another story.

Written by

Peter Iden is a resident of Wasaga Beach and a Naturalist and Photographer who has a broad range of knowledge of the natural world. Peter is also a volunteer Warden for the Piping Plover Recovery Programme with the Friends of Nancy Island.

Email: cmis-cbc@rogers.com

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