To discuss the Rome Beauty Apple, one must discuss Joel Gillette. Joel Gillette came to Lawrence County (then Washington County) in the fall of 1816. Originally from Connecticut, Joel was the son of farmers. He developed a love of fruit trees that would serve him well later in his life.
Joel and his family lived in Marietta, Ohio for three years. In Marietta, Joel began experimenting with apple trees.
In the spring of 1817, Joel brought his family to the Proctorville, Ohio area. Their home was located where the Lawrence County Fair Grounds reside. Joel brought seeds and seedlings from Marietta with him when he moved.
The Birth of the Rome Beauty
One day, Joel was sorting through his seedlings. He came across a seedling that almost dried out. He gave this seedling to his thirteen year old son, Lanson. Lanson took the seedling and planted it near the river.
Eight years the Gillette family noticed a tree has grown from the seedling. The tree produced apples, but not typical apples. In fact, the tree produced a new type of red apple.
The tree’s fruit became well known in the area. The plant was called Gillette’s seedling.
The name Rome Beauty did not appear until the late 1820’s. George Walton was give credit for naming the apple. He named the apple “Rome” for Rome Township where it was grown and “Beauty” for its appearance.
The Fame of the Rome Beauty
In 1830, Nelson Cox, the grandson of Joel Gillette, wrote an article for the Ohio Farmer magazine about the “Rome Beauty.”
In 1845, the Ohio State Horticultural Society met in Columbus, Ohio. One of the topics up for discussion was the Rome Beauty. Captain H. N. Gillette, Joel’s cousin, brought samples of the apple to the meeting. The new apple was well received.
Eventually the Rome Beauty Apple’s fame spread throughout the country and then the world.
A marker stands on the Lawrence County Fairgrounds to commemorate the Rome Beauty’s birth place. The original tree which produced the Rome Beauty was washed away in a flood in 1856. However, its fruit lives on.