The Sweetest of all Peaches

Submitted by Katharine Allen

 Henry Lyons,  Historic Columbia collection, HCF 2015.1A

Henry Lyons, Historic Columbia collection, HCF 2015.1A

Henry Lyons (1805 - 1858), the eldest son of Isaac Lyons (1774 - 1843), was a Jewish merchant who arrived in Columbia with his father and elder brother, Jacob, in the 1820s. He served as Columbia’s warden from 1842 until 1850, when he was elected as the city’s intendent, or mayor, for one year, becoming the second Jewish man to hold this post. Sometime after 1839, Lyons and his wife, Elizabeth Wolff Lyons, purchased the four-acre garden, “Laurel Hill,” previously cultivated by renowned winemaker Nicholas Herbemont. Bounded by Gervais, Lady, Bull, and Pickens streets, the garden featured an astonishing array of local and exotic fruits and nuts that were regularly featured in the Charleston Courier.

Lyons’ early agricultural successes included “Osage Oranges” picked from a 20-foot-tall orange tree, “English Walnuts,” prunes, peaches, and nectarines. In 1854 and 1855, he received acclaim for his grapes, which were described with alliterative adoration by a visitor to the Newbery Agricultural Society’s annual meeting:

“We observed, also, adorning the speaker’s stand, festoons of magnificent grapes from the grapery of our glorious fellow citizen, Captain Lyons, of Columbia, which were complimented by a special award of a silver cup, and which attracted unusual admiration from watery mouths and longing eyes.”

Yet Lyon’s greatest achievement was cultivating a new peach in the mid-1850s from grafts sent to him by Charles Downing. Downing, who first planted the seedlings from “Peach stones brought from China,” was ultimately unsuccessful in propagating them, leaving the sole "tree standing in Lyons’ downtown-Columbia garden. In 1858, the peaches from this tree were officially named Honey Peaches for their sweet taste.

 The only depiction of the former Lyons’ garden is from the 1782 birdeye view of Columbia, drawn more than 20 years after his death.  Image courtesy Library of Congress

The only depiction of the former Lyons’ garden is from the 1782 birdeye view of Columbia, drawn more than 20 years after his death. Image courtesy Library of Congress

  Reprinted from  The Horticulturist, and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste, Volume 13,  1858

Reprinted from The Horticulturist, and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste, Volume 13, 1858

Peach Cobbler

By Rachel Gordin Barnett

Peach cobbler is a summer staple in my household.  It could have something to do with the wonderful local peaches that we are so fortunate to enjoy from our local farmers’ markets or it could be because my husband’s family were peach farmers until the mid-1990’s (peach cobbler was served rather than cake at our wedding!)

peaches.jpg

My recipe for peach cobbler is common and you will find variations of this in many publications, but I have found that my recipe is tried and true. Add a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and it’s a real homerun!

Ingredients

  • 4 cups sliced peaches
  • 1 stick butter (½ cup)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • 1 cup milk

Directions

Melt butter in 9x13 baking dish. Mix together flour, 1 cup sugar, baking powder, and milk. Pour batter over melted butter. Do not mix.

Add sliced peeled fresh peaches. Do not mix. Sprinkle remaining cup of sugar over peaches. Bake 350 F until crust forms and browns.

Serve warm or cool.