In the summer of 1847 Miss Mazilly Prather, a slim girl of sixteen with her hair down her back, had a terrible experience. Mazilly lived on her father's farm in Erie County, close to the Warren County line. In the flower garden at the Prather home, not in the vegetable garden, grew round, red love apples, very pretty to look upon, but deadly poison. Maybe Miss Mazilly hadn't heard about love apples being poisonous, perhaps she had heard it and doubted that a thing so beautifully smooth and round and red and good-smelling could really be poisonous to eat.
At any rate Mazilly Prather did something that stirred the whole neighborhood into a paroxysm of excitement, she went into the flower garden, picked a couple of big, red, ripe love apples and ate them. When she told her mother panic broke. A big brother was dispatched on a horse, galloping like mad for the doctor. The medical man arrived on horseback an hour later, his horse in a lather. Not long after, another doctor, called in consultation, also arrived at the Prather home, to snatch, if possible, the unfortunate Mazilly from the yawning jaws of death.
Mazilly was white, deadly pale, scared to pieces. Why shouldn't she be, everybody acted as if she were going to die, she'd eaten the deadly love apples. The doctors got Mazilly to bed, sweated her for hours, gave her tremendous doses of purge. This drastic treatment was followed with hot brandy. The girl fell asleep and on awakening was certainly no worse. After while they thought they could see a chance of saving Mazilly's life, "You sent for us just in time," they said. Mazilly survived, got well, her recovery due entirely to prompt and skillful treatment. The case made quite a reputation for the doctors. Mazilly had eaten two large, red-ripe tomatoes, "love apples" as they were called in Warren County in the year 1847.
Love apples were grown in flower gardens in Warren County for long years before they were recognized as a fruit fit for human food. The bright red love apples were so pretty the housewives used them as decorations. And by a strange coincidence Thomas Prather, father of Mazilly, was one of the first men in the region to learn the truth about the love apple.
Prather had gone down the river to Pittsburgh on a raft, the way everyone went to Pittsburgh in those days. While in the busy town at the junction of the Allegheny and Ohio he boarded with a French family by the name of La Montaigne.
The La Montaigue's had a strange dish for dinner, a reddish looking stew. Prather examined it, leaped from his chair and exclaimed, "Don't touch it, it will kill you, don't you know those are love apples, they're deadly poison !"
"We are not afraid of them, we have eaten them for years," smiled the wife of the Frenchman. And Prather, being a man of daring was actually persuaded to taste of the love apples. He found them good, the half-expected bad symptoms failed to arrive. Next day he ate more stewed love apples and relished the dish. And a week later he went home afoot to proclaim to the region where he lived that love apples were not poisonous at all, in fact really excellent food.
The doctors demurred, had not Mazilly been deadly pale? But a bad scare and worse sweating might have accounted for that, as some simple folk reasoned. And the people in Erie County and Warren County began to put a love apple or two into their stews and soups. And after while "love apples" were rechristened "tomatoes."
SOURCE: Page(s) 197-199: Old Time Tales of Warren County; Meadville, Pa.: Press of Tribune Pub. Co., 1932
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