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By P.H. Woodward, Esq.

From the Records and Papers of the New London County Historical Society, 1891.

    In a deep valley in the town of Franklin, Conn., about eighty rods from the New London and Northern Railway Station, stands a time-scarred apple tree, the lineal representative of a variety that from the early settlement of the region by the whites, has been perpetuated by successive sproutings over the original roots, and that for one hundred and seventy years has kept alive in the vicinity a tradition of crime and retribution.  For nearly a century and three-fourths every apple grown upon that spot has contained a small red globule resembling a drop of blood.  Within the memory of the living the fruit ranked as par excellence the local favorite, on account of luscious juiciness, and rich spicy flavor.  Latterly, its reputation has declined, partly from neglect and natural deterioration, and partly from the introduction of improved varieties.

    It is claimed as a result established by numerous experiments that while seedlings grafted from the primitive stock preserve the other qualities of the fruit, in all such the blood spot refuses to materialize.  This elusive peculiarity can only be fixed and diffused by transplanting shoots from the root.  From its birth place in Norwich-West-Farms- now Franklin- the "Mike" or "Rood" apple, for it is know by both names, spread over the adjacent country, and for a long period in Eastern Connecticut no orchard was thought complete without it.

    In 1699, Micah Rood, youngest son of Thomas Rood, migrated from east of the Shetucket River, settled in Norwich-West-Farms upon the lands where he subsequently lived and died.  West of his house not far away the Susquetonscut danced through a wild, dark, rocky ravine- a retreat still unshorn of its weird, primeval beauty.  On the east rose a steep hill destined in due time to be crowned by the Puritan church.  Then as now the whippoorwills loved the deep seclusion of the well wooded, well watered valley, and with their melancholy notes broke the solemn stillness of summer nights.  Indians were numerous though peaceful.  On the western slope of the hill toward the setting sun the colonist built his house.  He was young and strong.  The acres around were fertile.  The situation seemed to hold for him the promise of a long, reputable and tranquil life.

    In blessed monotony the seasons came and went, bringing moderate gains to the farmer.  Suddenly, however, as the tradition goes, a great change clouded the spirits and altered the habits of Micah Rood.  He lost interest in work and worship.  Cattle were neglected and neighbors shunned.  With swift decline, as autumn deepened into winter, he grew idle, restless and intemperate.  Some attributed the change to witchcraft.  Others discerned in these wayward actions premonitory signs of madness.  In a sparsely settled community, occupied as such are, outside of the routine of daily duties, with matters personal rather than general, the good people discussed the subject with curious but kindly interest.

    Winter wore away, the melting snows poured their roaring floods through the chasm near by, the birds returned, and the orchard of Micah Rood bloomed again.  On one tree, however, it was noticed that the flowers had turned from white to red.  In an age inclined to superstition and credent of marvels, the phenomenon attracted the attention of passers, assuming more ominous significance when afterwards recalled.  To this tree, too, Micah seemed to be drawn by a cruel but resistless fascination.  After the nerveless labors of the morning, which left his corn overrun with weeds, he sought beneath its shade relief from the heats of midday.  Evening found him in the same retreat, alone with the katydids and whippoorwills.  Toward the close of August the red blossoms had developed into fruit.  When the large, yellow apples fell from the branches, though as fair, juicy and toothsome as of old, each one was found to contain the well defined globule to be known thereafter as the "drop of blood."

    If the conduct of Micah, his lapse from industry, thrift and contentment, into idleness and solitude, had bee discussed around many scattered fire-sides, the still more unaccountable behavior of the apple tree deepened the mystery.  To a large degree the history of the different colonists was known to each other.  What was there, they asked, in the monotonous common place record of this one to provoke the doom, already sounded in multiform warnings?  His father, Thomas, had lived decorously and died in the faith.  No ancestral curse visited upon the son vicarious punishment for the sins of the sire.  Yet not only did the current judgment of the time pronounce the poor man accursed, but easily passed on to assert that the blight extended to the acres he tilled.  Around the victim consumed by the fires of some hidden sin an occult power was throwing out signals of knowledge if not of wrath.

    One circumstance, seemingly unimportant at the time of its occurrence, came into prominence a year later as offering the probable explanation of the secret.  It was remember that the previous fall a pedlar of foreign aspect and vending wares too luxurious and costly for the lean purses of an outlying settlement, had called at several houses in West-Farms and passed a night at Micah Rood's.  No one in the township had seen him afterwards.  Then and there all trace of the stranger disappeared.  Rising early the next morning he might have pushed on east or west, but if so his departure was unnoticed.  Like countless other incidents this one would speedily have been swallowed up forever in the sea of oblivion, except that it marked a turning point in the fate of the host.  When pursuit fairly started on the trail indicated by the coincidence, the public made up for lost time in the collection of facts.  The apparent intervention of a supernatural power- the dissonant to the moral tone of the period.

    The unusual mien of the pedlar made it the more easy to trace his steps from door to door.  After comparing impressions the settlers quite generally concluded that he was a French emissary, sent to spy out the weakness of the infant colony.  Traffic could hardly have been his object, for his wares were too unsuited to the market.  A secret agent of an unfriendly power, starting on an extended circuit in the character of a trader, would, they argued, naturally take a stock at once attractive to win admission everywhere and stimulate talk, and also unsalable that the pack might travel a long way without need of replenishment.  Having progressed thus far in the investigation, by a bold leap the public jumped to the conclusion that Micah, overpowered either by avarice, or perhaps by a freak of patriotic frenzy, had stabbed the pedlar in the orchard, and that the blood, absorbed by the roots of the overhanging tree, became reincarnate in flower and fruit.  Thus both in seed time and harvest that silent but awful witness denounced the murderer for the deed.

    We may imagine that stealthy visits were made to the orchard by persons intent on unearthing more substantial proofs of the crime.  Early comers, however, found no seam in the sod to indicate that it had been broken for a grave.  Cautiously as befitted the strange solemnity of the situation, but with an acuteness that suffered no fact which might throw light upon the case to escape attention, was the search pursued.  Yet the inquest failed to disclose a trace of the missing man.  The foreign finery which made up the stock of the pedlar had disappeared as completely as the owner.  By not so much as a fragment of the well-remembered stuff was the abode of Micah garnished.  Zeal unrewarded by discovery was exhausted in time from lack of aliment.  After the inquiry, hushed but keen, had spent its force, the case remained precisely as at first.  At the close as at the beginning the evidence was summed up in the manifestations of a troubled spirit and in a blood-mottled apple.  If a load rested on the conscience of the wretched farmer, it forced no confession from his lips.

    In time the suspicions of the neighborhood softened into sympathy.  In sore need of sympathy did poor Micah stand, for his worldly affairs drifted from bad to worse as he sank ever deeper in the slough of poverty and dejection.  Around the orchard the fence fell to decay, the unfilled barn tottered in the winds which swept through the valley, and the habitation grew more and more desolate.  To listless to cultivate the soil, or possibly terrified by spectral fears while working in the fields alone, he assumed the care of the meeting-house in 1717, receiving as compensation a peck of corn yearly from each family in the society.

    For ten years thereafter a curtain hides the sufferer from the view of posterity, but it is lifted to disclose the end.  The records of the ecclesiastical society, still extant, contain these entries:

    "July 5, 1727.  The inhabitants do now, by their vote, agree to allow to each man that watches with Micah Rood, tow shillings per night;  also to those who have attended sd Rood by day, three shillings per day."

    "December 17, 1728.  to Jacob Hyde for digging Micah Rood's grave, 4 s."

    Such are the outlines of the story as told to persons still living by old people whose birth-date reached far back into the last century.  Apparently they experienced no difficulty in accepting both the alleged facts and the implied philosophy.  As then viewed the Seen and the Unseen, the Natural and the Supernatural, crossed each other in unaccountable ways.  It did not seem unreasonable that Nature should thus overtly record her abhorrence of human crime.

            "For murder, though it have no tongue, will speak
               With most miraculous organ."

    On the other hand, traditions involving the improbable fare roughly in the alembic of modern criticism.  Reasoning from the universality of invariable law, the iconoclast will say that a freak of nature was perverted to blast the life and blacken the memory of one who was probably little better or worse than the average of his neighbors- that in the confusion of sequences effect was confounded with cause.  He will urge that the long-endured misery resulted less from the stings of avenging conscience than from the cruelty of unjust suspicions.  Be that as it may, while the blood-spotted apple continues to grow, it will be linked with the name and fame of Micah Rood.

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