Founder of the Home Orchard Society: Pomologist Larry McGraw

"One day, Larry discovered an envelope that contained apple seeds that were a hundred years old.
The letter inside the envelope referenced Marcus Whitman and his orchard."

January 29, 2005 

On this day, the founder of the Home Orchard Society, Larry L. McGraw, died.

His obituary stated that pomology was his passion for more than fifty years.


Pomology is the science of growing fruit.

To preserve fruit trees in the Northwest, Larry began collecting scion wood specimens in his twenties.

He founded the Northwest Fruit Explorers, an organization that acted as a clearinghouse for fruit information and fruit growers in the Northwest.


During his retirement, Larry worked as a horticulturist for the Oregon Historical Society.

One day, Larry discovered an envelope that contained apple seeds that were a hundred years old.

The letter inside the envelope referenced Marcus Whitman and his orchard.


Marcus Whitman was a doctor who led a group of settlers West to Washington State by Wagon Train.

His wife was named Narcissa, and she was very bright, a physics and chemistry teacher.

Marcus and Narcissa were part of a group of missionaries.

They settled in an area now known as Walla Walla, Washington, and had an orchard.


Beyond that, their time in Washington was not fruitful.

They attempted to convert the local Native Americans to Christianity but were unsuccessful mainly because they didn't bother to get to know or understand them.

Their only daughter drowned when she was two years old. Narcissa's eyesight began to fail.


When the Indians came down with measles, they blamed the settlers, specifically Marcus, since he was the town doctor.

After almost all the Indian children died, the surviving Indians attacked the settlers and killed Marcus and Narcissa in their home on November 29, 1847.

The event became known as the Whitman Massacre.


The seeds that Larry found were one of the last pieces of the Whitman legacy.

Larry's attempts to germinate the Whitman apple seeds were unsuccessful.


However, Larry successfully obtained apple trees from Russia for his Portland Orchard.

By 1973, Larry had over 300 varieties of apples growing in his garden.

Two years later, in May 1975, Larry hosted a meeting with other orchard growers.

It was the official first meeting of the Home Orchard Society.


Larry taught thousands of people how to prune and graft fruit trees during his lifetime.

During his 50 years of researching apples, Larry estimated that he had come across over 2,000 different apple varieties worldwide.

This post was featured on
The Daily Gardener podcast:

helping gardeners find their roots,
one story at a time
Larry L. McGraw
Larry L. McGraw
Narcissa and Marcus Whitman
Narcissa and Marcus Whitman
Apple Orchard
Apple Orchard
Crated apples ready for market
Crated apples ready for market


  1. Carol on October 6, 2022 at 1:05 am

    Thank you for honoring his passing. Larry was my Dad. I had no idea. He was definitely passionate about apples.

  2. The Daily Gardener on October 4, 2023 at 9:31 pm

    Hi Carol.
    I’m so pleased you enjoyed the post.
    If you have a photo of your dad that you’d be willing to share, I’d be honored to include it with the text.
    Feel free to email me at

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