Orange Trees Bow to Progress

Daniel Saunders, called the Founder of Lawrence, had a grove of osage orange trees at his property on 73 Prospect Street. The stand of trees,thought to be the only one of its kind in New England, were sacrificed in 1966 for a connecting link between the heart of the City of Lawrence and Interstate 495. The trees, 30 - 40 feet in height, were located a few yards off Prospect Street, which in 1966 was the convent of the Venerini Sisters.
The osage orange trees, called machura pomifers ,are named for the Oasge Indian tribe. The non-edible fruit has a wrinkled surface, grows to 4 inches in diameter.
The planter of the trees,Daniel Saunders, was born in Salem, NH on June 20, 1796, the son of a farmer. As a young adult he moved to Andover. He was affiliated with the Essex Company in acquiring land from Andover landowners to create the new city of Lawrence, MA. According to history, Mr.Saunders never strayed far form the Valley - certainly never to the area where one would find these orange trees growing.
No one will ever know for sure how the orange trees came to Lawrence but one answer might be found in Mr. Saunders active participation in the anti-slavery movement in the area in the mid-19th century.
The early Lawrence Saunders homestead, located at the SE corner of S. Broadway and Andover Streets until it was torn down in 1949, was said to have been a used as a station for the Underground Railroad, the secret system which aided in freeing many southern slaves. It is possible that one of the travelers from the south brought the fruit pods with them and gave some seeds to Saunders in gratitude. (Saunders later moved to his estate on Prospect Street, today the home of the Lawrence Community Day Charter School.)
With the land taking for the 495 Interchange, including a portion of the convent property, the orange trees ended their hundred year life in Lawrence.
Source: Lawrence Eagle Tribune December 24, 1966

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Founded in 1978 as the Immigrant City Archives, the mission of the Lawrence History Center is to collect, preserve, share, and animate the history and heritage of Lawrence and its people.