Barbra McRae Cherokee Heritage Apple Trail
Do you have a favorite variety of apples? There are over 2,500 types of apples growing in the United States, but did you know that several of those varieties were developed by Cherokee people who lived in the southern Appalachians before their removal to Oklahoma?
The Cherokee farmers were quick to adopt domestic fruit tree cultivation as soon as the produce arrived on the continent. Thanks to research by Barbara McRae, we know that apple husbandry and breeding were common around Noquisiyi and growers were very focused on their craft, developing new cultivars that proved desirable to orchardists. Some of those varieties include Junaluska, Alarka, Beecher, and Nickajack.
Barbara McRae was the former Vice Mayor of Franklin, Editor of the Franklin Press, and a founding member of the Nikwasi Initiative. She enjoyed studying history and through her studies, discovered that apple husbandry and breeding was a common practice of the Cherokee who lived around Noquisiyi, which is now a part of Franklin, NC. Barbara imagined an apple orchard that would honor the original residents of this area and highlight their contribution to modern food and lifestyle. Barbara passed away in March of 2021 and the Nikwasi Initiative’s Board of Directors voted to honor her vision by naming this orchard path the Barbra McRae Cherokee Heritage Apple Trail.
On March 5, 2022, the Nikwasi Initiative with help from our partner organizations and volunteers planted nine apple trees and two peach trees, most of them cultivars developed by Cherokee farmers. These varieties include Cullasaga, Junaluska, Horse, and Cling Peaches, creating a living link to history that will provide visitors with fun and engaging ways to learn, and maybe the chance to enjoy a nice crisp apple too!
The Barbra McRae Cherokee Heritage Apple Trail is located along the Little Tennessee River at the half-mile marker on the Macon County Greenway when entered from the Big Bear Pavilion. It is within walking distance of the Noquisiyi Mound.
This project is made possible in part by a grant from the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Partnership. Learn more about them by visiting their website at www.blueridgeheritage.com
The Percy B. Ferebee Fund • Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians • Mountain True
• Friends of the Greenway • Horne Creek Living Historical Farm