A pecan tree, 5.30 meters around, stands in the village of Riocaud in the Gironde departement of south-west France. It was most likely planted in the middle of the 18th century. Pecan trees are not native to France. Another tree of a similar age in Gironde is tied to Thomas Jefferson’s visit to the region. So how did this old pecan come to grow in a tiny village in France?
Riocaud was the birthplace of Apollos Rivoire, born November 30, 1702. He later emigrated to America, changed his name to Revere, and had a son in Boston, Paul, born April 18, 1775. Hero of the American Revolution, Paul Revere left Boston on April 18, 1775 to warn the insurgents of Lexington and Concord of the arrival of the English troops. His night ride was immortalized in Longfellow’s celebrated poem, still taught to American schoolchildren today.
The relationship between Paul Revere and the village of Riocaud is clear, but knowing who provided the seed or planted this tree, and on what date, is still a mystery. In Gironde since the 18th century, four sites have been planted with pecan trees, living witnesses to the long-standing ties between the two countries.
Paul Revere’s Ride
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807 – 1882)
« Listen, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five:
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.
So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm,–
A cry of defiance, and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo forevermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere. »