WELLSBURG - The Wellsburg Applefest Committee has made beautifying the Grimes Golden Park at state Route 27 and Bradys Bridge Road a pet project, and for good reason.
The park is the origin of the Grimes Golden variety of apple and the inspiration for the annual festival, which will be held Friday through Sunday on Charles Street and the Wellsburg Town Square.
The group's efforts have received a boost through a $4,000 grant from the West Virginia Development Office secured by state Del. Roy Givens, D-Brooke.
PARK IMPROVEMENTS SOUGHT — The Wellsburg Applefest Committee has secured a $4,000 grant for improvements to the Grimes Golden Roadside Park at the intersection of state Route 27 and Bradys Ridge Road just outside Wellsburg. The discovery of the Grimes Golden apple near that site was the inspiration for the annual festival and is believed to be linked to the legendary Johnny “Appleseed” Chapman. - Warren Scott
Norm Schwertfeger, Brooke County West Virginia University Extension agent, submitted the grant application.
Michael O'Brien, who co-chairs the committee with Ernie Jack, said the improvements that may be made with the grant, depending on cost, would include the shelter there, a walkway from it to the park's sign, planting additional Grimes Golden trees and flowers and possibly incorporating the legendary Johnny "Appleseed" Chapman into the sign.
Chapman was known for planting apple trees through much of the Northeast, including Georges Run in Jefferson County, and is believed to have supplied the seeds for the first Grimes Golden tree discovered in 1802 by Thomas Grimes, a public official whose farm included the area now occupied by the park.
O'Brien said a children's book about Chapman, written by Mabel Leigh Hunt and titled "Better Known as Johnny Appleseed," makes reference to Grimes. In it, Chapman mentions pruning orchards he planted near Wheeling and Georges Run and planting a nursery for Grimes.
Various sources describe Grimes as a member of the Wellsburg and Washington Turnpike Commission who enjoyed creating new varieties of fruit through grafting.
O'Brien said the Grimes Golden is a spicy apple well suited for pies and is a parent of the better known Golden Delicious variety.
In 1922 the Franklin Women's Club and county officials were involved in establishing a monument near the spring that once served the Grimes farm. A number of groups have been involved in marking and improving the site over the years.
The sign and park's picnic shelter were established through the efforts of the Friends of Brooke County with support from the Franklin Community Fire Department and Auxiliary, Northern Panhandle Resource and Conservation Development Council, Aladdin Signs and Geraldine MacWilliams, Grimes' great-great-granddaughter.
In recent years the Applefest committee has held various fundraisers, including a reception celebrating the apple's 200th anniversary in 2002, to raise funds for the park, and volunteers with the festival recently cleared debris from the site.
O'Brien noted the park is among landmarks noted on brochures for the Wellsburg and Bethany Scenic Byway. Among byways promoted by the West Virginia Department of Transportation, it consists of 22 miles extending from Brooke Hills Park through Wellsburg and to the Alexander Campbell Mansion in Bethany and back to the park via state Route 88.