Maria Ann Smith
Maria Ann Sherwood was baptized on 5 January 1800 in the church of St Peter and St Paul, Peasmarsh in the English county of Sussex. She was the daughter of John Sherwood, a farm labourer, and his wife Hannah, née Wright. Maria began work as a farm labourer and married another farm labourer, Thomas Smith (1799–1876) on 8 August 1819 in Ebony, Kent. Both were illiterate. The Smiths lived at Beckley, Sussex for the next nineteen years, during which time Maria bore eight children, three of whom died in infancy.
The Smith family migrated to New South Wales as free settlers under a government bounty scheme, arriving in Sydney on the Lady Nugent on 27 November 1838. Thomas found employment with a settler in the fruit-growing district of Kissing Point, near Ryde. He and Maria remained in the district for the rest of their lives. In the mid-1850s, Thomas bought two blocks of land for an orchard, totalling about 24 acres (9.7 ha) on the edge of the Field of Mars Reserve near Eastwood.
The Granny Smith apple
Maria observed a seedling apple growing by a creek on her property and noticed that the seedling had developed from the remains of some French crab apples grown in Tasmania. The apples had been stored in a barrel and were discarded when the barrel was needed again. Some time later, Maria noticed that the apples had seeded and she began to work a few of these seedling trees. Soon afterwards Edward Gallard, a local orchardist, planted out a large number of these trees, from which he marketed a crop annually until his death in 1914. The greasy skin and keeping quality of the fruit point to it being related to a crab apple. The cultivar was named "Granny" Smith in honour of the old lady who had first cultivated it.
Death and legacy
Maria Ann Smith died on 9 March 1870 at Ryde and was buried in St Anne's churchyard. Her husband, three sons and two daughters survived her. The apple was not a commercial variety in her lifetime but its cultivation was sustained by local orchardists, including Gallard, who purchased part of the Smith farm after Thomas's death in 1876. By 1891–92 Granny Smith's seedlings had begun to win prizes in the cooking apple class and several local growers were exhibiting the apples. In 1895 Granny Smith's seedlings were planted on a large scale at the Government Experimental Station at Bathurst. That year the variety was included in the Department of Agriculture's list of fruits suitable for export and began its long and successful commercial life.