In 1960, Kentuckians interested in forming a nut growers association were invited to the spring meeting of the Indiana Nut Growers at Ford Wilkinson's place. About 25 people were present and about 75% were not members of the Indiana Nut Growers Association. At this meeting the Kentucky Nut Growers Association was formed.


Some of the charter members were:

Mr. Tubby McGill, Extension Service              Mr. and Mrs. Carl Vannoy

W. D. Armstrong, Extension Service             Mr. and Mrs. Ch. Collier

Mr. and Mrs. Harold Rice, Hickman                Mr. and Mrs. J. L. Morrill

Mr. Makin, Tiptonville TN                                 Mr. Boynton Merrill

Mr. Henry Converse, Henderson                   


Mr. Henry Converse was elected President and Boynton Merrill Vice President. W. D. Armstrong was newsletter editor, but the newsletter, The Kentucky Kernal, was issued irregularly. This organization was active until about 1966 meeting in Princeton and once in the Baptist Church in Henderson, until the group suspended activities.


In the fall of 1973, Les Wilmoth attended the NNGA meeting in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, as a guest speaker on the subject of Bench Grafting Nut Trees. There he met Henry Converse and learned of the Kentucky Nut Growers Association, which had been inactive since about 1966. He and Henry decided to call a meeting to discuss re-activation of the KNGA. A few known members of the old KNGA were invited to a spring meeting at Wilmoth's place in Elizabethtown about 1975-76 to discuss the re-activation endeavor.


A partial list of those attending:

Dr. W. D. Armstrong, Princeton KY               Gary Cardin, Elizabethtown KY

Leslie Wilmoth, Elizabethtown, KY                 Richard Wilmoth, Elizabethtown, KY

Henry Converse, Madisonville, KY                  Albert Cook, Gentryville, IN

Leon Pounds, Gentryville, IN                           Ford Wilkinson, Rockport, IN


At this meeting it was decided that a meeting would be held at Princeton, Kentucky for the purpose of electing officers and directors to re-establish the Kentucky Nut Growers Association. W. D. Armstrong wrote a letter to all last known members of the old KNGA to announce a meeting to be held April 10, 1976 at Princeton, Kentucky.


For the first few years meetings were held in the basement of the Bank of Glendale. At several of these meetings Ford Wilkinson said that he was proud that the KNGA was first organized at his place. When the group got too large they moved to the Extension Service building in Elizabethtown. Meetings always included a pot luck luncheon, which was a great attraction. Many seeds, plants, and scions were exchanged.



Most meetings were held in the Extension Service office building in Elizabethtown, and in the Baptist church in Henderson. The group also met at Kentucky State University, Paris, Mammoth Cave (to see chestnut trees), Bernheim Forest, and the Extension Service building in Georgetown.



Exploring for nuts can be exciting. Ed Canty tells of Ford Wilkinson's experience with the Major pecan, our most valuable variety in Kentucky, although he is not sure of all the details. Ford discovered this tree near the confluence of the Green and Ohio Rivers, on Colonel Majorís land. Mrs. Major gave him permission to collect scion wood and he collected a great deal of it. Mrs. Major finally told him to stop, and got a warrant forbidding him to enter her land. However, the sheriff was sympathetic with Ford, and did not diligently enforce the warrant. Ford made many trips by boat to collect wood; once when flood water was almost up to the tree, Alvie Cook took Ford by boat to collect scion wood. While he was up in the tree Mrs. Major came down with a double barrel shotgun and treed him. A Mexican standoff ensued. He was about 80 feet up in the tree, far enough to weaken the effect of bird shot, but not buckshot. He kept the trunk of the tree between him and Mrs. Major and apparently felt more secure there than on the ground. Mrs. Major did not shoot. Eventually she felt a compelling urge to return to the house, and Ford came down and quickly gathered up his scion wood. Then he and Alvie left.



Dr. W D Armstrong was an expert horticulturist at the Experiment Station at Princeton. Before he came there, he developed the Hale Haven peach at the experiment station in Texas. He kept very careful notes of his experiments and observations. Dr. Armstrong considered his records so valuable that he sent copies to another building just in case something happened to the originals in his office. When he died they needed extra space in his office, and knew that he had copies in another building, so someone destroyed the records in his office. At the other building, they also needed space and knew that Dr. Armstrong kept his originals in his office, so they destroyed the copies in their building. Thus a valuable store of research on fruits and nuts in Kentucky was completely lost.



Ed Canty has tried to develop a statewide interest in pecans. His first effort was a grove on Coldstream Farm at the University of Kentucky. This was first vetoed by the Dean of Agriculture, but Dr. John Strang repeated the request and it was granted. KNGA appropriated $300 for the first year and $300 for the second, and plantings were made in 1986 and 1987.

The grove was named the W.D. Armstrong Memorial Grove and joins the north side of 1-75, beside the apple orchard. It is on rich Maury soil.


Plat of W. D. Armstrong Pecan Grove. The top of plat is south.


Row 1

Row 2

Row 3

Row 4








Hartman hc

Major 87

Fisher 90


Bixby hc 87

Yates 68 87

Mohawk 87



Palmer 87

JAMES hc 94

Pawnee 87

Carlton Center


Hirschi 87

Bolds 87

Major 87








Burkington 86

Best Eaarly 87

Cheyenne 86

Indiana 86


Kentucky 86

Lucas 86

Gibson 86

Lucket 86



Posey 86

Armstrong 86

Green River 86


Duffy 86

Busseron 86

Indiana 86

S-24 86












Lloyd 87

Campbell 4 87

Chief 87

Fisher 87


First planting 3-29-1990.

Spacing 30' x 30'.

Capitalized planted 4-9-1991

Kentucky River to left of chart.



History contributed by Jim Durell, Henry Converse, and Leslie H. Wilmoth.


Questions about nut growing or pawpaws?
Contact Dr. Kirk Pomper at: kirk.pomper@kysu.edu or telephone # 502-597-5942

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