Friday, July 18, 2014

On Virginia's wild stoned fruits - Robert Beverley History of Virginia 1705

The History and Present State of Virginia, in Four Parts published originally in London in 1705. Beverley, Robert, ca. 1673-1722.


§11. Of fruits, natural to the country, there is great abundance, but the several species of them are produced according to the difference of the soil, and the various situation of the country; it being impossible that one piece of ground should produce so many different kinds intermixed. Of the better sorts of the wild fruits that I have met with, I will barely give you the names, not designing a natural history. And when I have done that, possibly I may not mention one-half of what the country affords, because I never went out of my way to enquire after anything of this nature.

§12. Of stoned fruits, I have met with three good sorts, viz: Cherries, plums and persimmons.

1. Of cherries natural to the country, and growing wild in the woods, I have seen three sorts. Two of these grow upon trees as big as the common English white oak, whereof one grows in bunches like grapes. Both these sorts are black without, and but one of them red within. That which is red within, is more palatable than the English black cherry, as being without its bitterness. The other, which hangs on the branch like grapes, is water colored within, of a faintish sweet, and greedily devoured by the small birds. /The third sort is called the Indian cherry, and grows higher up in the country than the others do. It is commonly found by the sides of rivers and branches on small slender trees, scarce able to support themselves, about the bigness of the peach trees in England. This is certainly the most delicious cherry in the world; it is of a dark purple when ripe, and grows upon a single stalk like the English cherry, but is very small, though, I suppose, it may be made larger by cultivation, if anybody would mind it. These, too, are so greedily devoured by the small birds, that they won't let them remain on the tree long enough to ripen; by which means, they are rarely known to any, and much more rarely tasted, though, perhaps, at the same time they grow just by the houses.

2. The plums, which I have observed to grow wild there, are of two sorts, the black and the Murrey plum, both which are small, and have much the same relish with the damson.

3. The persimmon is by Heriot called the Indian plum; and so Smith, Purchase, and Du Lake, call it after him; but I can't perceive that any of those authors had ever heard of the sorts I have just now mentioned, they growing high up in the country. These persimmons, amongst them, retain their Indian name. They are of several sizes, between the bigness of a damson plum and a burgamot pear. The taste of them is so very rough, it is not to be endured till they are fully ripe, and then they are a pleasant fruit. Of these, some vertuosi make an agreeable kind of beer, to which purpose they dry them in cakes, and lay them up for use. These, like most other fruits there, grow as thick upon the trees as ropes of onions: the branches very often break down by the mighty weight of the fruit.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

1611 Written law on gardens in Virginia's "Lawes Divine, Morall and Martiall"

Woodcut of man at work in garden by Hans Weidig

The Virginia Company (in Virginia 1607-1624) asked Sir Thomas Gates (1585-1621) to impose a strict set of regulations on the colony. Gates, who became governor of the colony in 1611, and Sir Thomas Dale (c 1560-1619), the marshal, wrote, and enforced the laws, the earliest written English laws in the British American colonies.  These laws were more like a business "code of conduct" intended to regulate the everyday activities of its members, employees, & servants, both men & women,  working in Virginia.

What man or woman soever, shall rob any garden, publike or private, being set to weed the same, or wilfully pluck up therein any roote, herbe, or flower, to spoile and wast or steale the same, or robbe any vineyard, or gather up the grapes, or steale any eares of the corne growing, wheter in the ground belonging to the same fort or towne where he dwelleth, or in any other, shall be punished with death.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Unusual history painting of George Washington at Bartram's Garden in Philadelphia

Jean Leon Gerome Ferris (American painter, 1863-1930, American) George Washington at Bartram's Garden in Philadelphia

George Washington wrote on June 10, 1787 "Sunday 10th. Breakfasted by agreement at Mr. Powell’s, and in Company with him rid to see the Botanical garden of Mr. Bartram; which, tho’ Stored with many curious plts. Shrubs & trees, many of which are exotics was not laid off with much taste, nor was it large." (Samuel Powell owned land across the Schuylkill River southwest of Philadelphia. The Bartrams, owned a well-known botanical garden on the west bank of the Schuylkill River 3 miles southwest of Philadelphia. )  Washington rode out once again to William Bartram’s botanical garden “and other places in the Country” on Sunday, 2 Sept. 1787 (Diaries, 5:183).

William Bartram (1739–1823) operated a botanical garden with his brother John, Jr. (1743–1812), on the west bank of the Schuylkill 3 miles from Philadelphia. The establishment was still called John Bartram & Sons, although it had passed into the hands of the sons upon the death of its founder, John Bartram (1699–1777). William’s reputation as a traveler-naturalist was enhanced by the publication in 1791 of his Travels through North and South Carolina. Washington was a subscriber to the book but declined a request that it be dedicated to him. On 2 Oct. 1789, Washington sent word to Clement Biddle, his agent in Philadelphia, that he wanted the Bartrams’ list of plants plus a note about the care of each kind (Washington-Biddle correspondence). In March 1792, Washington obtained plants of 106 varieties, the surviving list bearing the heading “Catalogue of Trees, Shrubs & Plants, of Jno. Bartram." These plants were sent to George Augustine Washington, Washington's manager at Mount Vernon, and a second shipment was sent down in November to replace the plants that had not flourished. 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

President Thomas Jefferson took his favorite garden tools with him to the White House!

Thomas Jefferson by Rembrandt Peale, 1800

Margaret Bayard Smith (1778-1844) was a friend of Thomas Jefferson & chronicler of early life in Washington, D.C. She met Jefferson through her husband, Samuel Harrison Smith, a Republican newspaperman & founder of the National Intelligencer.  She kept a diary of her experiences, which was published in 1906.

"When he took up his residence in the President's House, he found it scantily furnished with articles brought from Philadelphia and which had been used by General Washington. These, though worn and faded, he retained from respect to their former possessor. His drawing room was fitted up with the same crimson damask furniture that had been used for the same purpose in Philadelphia. The additional furniture necessary for the more spacious mansion provided by the government, was plain and simple to excess.

"The large East Room was unfinished and therefore unused. The apartment in which he took most interest was his cabinet; this he had arranged according to his own taste and convenience. It was a spacious room. In the centre was a long table, with drawers on each side, in which were deposited not only articles appropriate to the place, but a set of carpenter's tools in one and small garden implements in another from the use of which he derived much amusement. Around the walls were maps, globes, charts, books, etc."

1804 Jefferson's White House. Library of Congress.

Thomas Jefferson regarded the White House mansion as overly-grand & "Hamiltonian" & considered not moving in at all. Despite his complaints that the house was too big, "big enough for two emperors, one pope, and the grand lama in the bargain," his love of architecture got the better of him, & he began to consider the house a challenge.

The house that President Thomas Jefferson entered in March of 1801 was still unfinished. The great Public Reception Chamber (East Room) that Abigail Adams had used for laundry still had no plaster walls & ceiling.  A drawing of the White House's 1803 first floor marks the State Dining Room as the "Library or Cabinet" & shows that the Family Dining Room & the Butler's Pantry were a single public dining room space.

Jefferson created a wilderness museum first in the East Room & then in the Entrance Hall, with mounted animals & Indian artifacts. Jefferson bought various habits & inventions with him to Washington. He had many hobbies & filled his presidential library/office with them.

Back at Monticello, Jefferson used his Southeast Piazza as his greenhouse for growing plants. This greenhouse was part of Jefferson's suite of private rooms that included his book room, writing office (Cabinet), & bedroom. Flanked by two "venetian porches"  His workbench was also located in the greenhouse area, where he is known to have made locks & chains.  The room probably also served as home to the pet mockingbird he took with him to Washington DC.  The room contained his work table & tools, as well as flowers, seeds, & flats for sprouting.

It is not surprising that Jefferson brought carpenter and garden tools with him to the White House. One of his slaves, Isaac Jefferson, wrote of Jefferson in the 1780s. "My Old Master was neat a hand as ever you see to make keys and locks and small chains, iron and brass. He kept all kind of blacksmith and carpenter tools in a great case with shelves to it in his library...been up thar a thousand times; used to car coal up thar. Old Master had a couple of small bellowses up thar."

In 1786 on March 3, Thomas Jefferson wrote to Joseph Mathias Gerard de Rayneval, first secretary of the French foreign office, "...Vergennes having been pleased to say he would give orders at Calais for the admission of certain articles which I wish to bring with me from follows...A box containing small tools for wooden and iron work, for my own amusement..."

Margaret Bayard Smith commented in March of 1809, "In one of the rooms [in the Library], we remarked a carpenters workbench, with a vast assortment of tools of every kind and description. This, as being characteristic, is worthy of notice; the fabrication with his own hands of curious implements and models, being a favourite amusement."

Thomas Jefferson wrote to his friend & Revolutionary War hero, Tadeusz Kosciuszko, on 26 February 1810, "I am retired to Monticello, where, in the bosom of my family, & surrounded by my books...from breakfast to dinner I am in my shops, my garden, or on horseback among my farms...I talk of ploughs & harrows, seeding & harvesting, with my neighbors, & of politics too, if they chuse...& feel at length the blessing of being free to say & do what I please, without being responsible for it to any mortal."

After his death in 1826, visitor to Monticello Anne Royall wrote in February of 1830, "There were besides these [Entrance Hall, Parlor, Dining/Tea Room], four rooms on the lower floor, two on the right and two on the left, those on the right were quite small to those on the left: one was the room in which Mr. Jefferson worked, which it appeared he did, from the appearance of the room, the impliments for working in wood, squares, &c. lying about the room, --the one next to it, wsa Mr. Jefferson's chamber in which he died."

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Rochester, New York Seed Dealer James Vick 1818-1882

Vick's Illustrated Floral Guide for 1873, issued quarterly, pp. 132.

This article was written by seed dealer James Vick (1818-1882) of Rochester, New York, in  pages 21-24 of Vick's Illustrated Floral Guide for 1873.

 Store Front Wood engraving from Vick's Illustrated Floral Guide for 1873


It is acknowledged that I have the largest and best regulated retail Seed House in the world.  It is visited by thousands every year from all parts of this country, and by many from Europe, and 1 take pleasure in exhibiting everything of interest or profit to visitors.  As hundreds of thousands of my customers will probably never have the opportunity of making a personal visit, I thought a few facts and illustrations would be interesting to this large class whom 1 am anxious to please, and be, at least, an acknowledgement of a debt of gratitude for long continued confi­dence, which I can feel, but not repay.

Inside the Store Wood engraving from Vick's Illustrated Floral Guide for 1873

Two Catalogues are issued each year, one of Bulbs in August, and on the first of December a beautiful Floral Guide:, of 130 pages, finely illustrated with hundreds of engravings of Flowers and plants and colored plates. Last year, the number printed was three hundred thousand at a cost of over sixty thousand dollars. In addition to the ordinary conveniences of a well regulated Seed House, there is connected with this establishment a Printing Office, Bindery, Box Making Establishment, and Artists’ and Engravers’ Rooms. Everything but the paper being made in the establishment.

Vick Store and Processing Center on State Street in Rochester, NY 1873 Wood engraving from Vick's Illustrated Floral Guide 

To do this work fully occupies a building four stories in height (besides basement) sixty feet in width, and one hundred and fifty feet in length, with an addition in the upper story of a large room over an entire adjoining block.


The large basement is arranged with immense quantities of drawers, &c., for storing Bulbs.  Here, too, are stored the heavier kinds of Seeds, in sacks, &c., piled to the ceiling.  The heavier packing is also done here.


The first floor is used entirely as a sales-shop, or “store,” for the sale of Seeds, Flowers, Plants and all Garden requisites and adornments, such as baskets, vases, lawn mowers, lawn tents, aquariums, seats, &c., &c.  It is arranged with taste, and the songs of the birds, the fragrance and beauty of the flowers, make it a most delightful spot in which to spend an hour.

The Order Room Wood engraving from Vick's Illustrated Floral Guide for 1873


On the second floor is the Business and Private Offices, and also the Mail Room in which all letters are opened. The opening of letters occupies the entire time of two persons, and they perform the work with astonishing rapidity – practice making perfect – often opening three thousand in a day.  After these letters are opened they are passed into what is called the Registering Room, on the same floor, where they are divided into States, and the name of the person ordering, and the date of the receipt of the order registered.  They are then ready to be filled, and are passed into a large room, called the Order Room, where over seventy-five hands are employed, divided into gangs, each set, or gang, to a State, half-a-dozen or more being employed on each of the larger States.  After the orders are filled, packed and directed, they are sent to what is known as the Post Office, also on the same floor, where the packages are weighed, the necessary stamps put upon them, and stamps cancelled, when they are packed in Post Office bags furnished us by Government, properly labeled for the different routes, and sent to the Postal Cars.  Tons of Seeds are thus dispatched every day during the business season.

The Packing Room Wood engraving from Vick's Illustrated Floral Guide for 1873


Here is the German Department, where all orders written in the German language are filled by German clerks; a Catalogue in this language being published. On this floor, also, all seeds are packed, that is, weighed and measured and placed in paper bags and stored ready for sale.  About fifty persons are employed in this room, surrounded by thousands of nicely labeled drawers.


On this floor are rooms for Artists and Engravers, several of whom are kept constantly employed in designing and engraving for Catalogues and Chromos. Here, also, the lighter seed are stored.  In a large room adjoining, is the Printing Office, where the Catalogue is prepared, and other printing done, and also the Bindery, often employing forty or fifty hands, and turning out more than ten thousand Catalogues in a day. Here is in use the most improved machinery for covering, trimming, &c., propelled by steam.

The Bindery Wood engraving from Vick's Illustrated Floral Guide for 1873


The immense amount of business done may be understood by a few facts: Nearly one hundred acres are employed, near the city, in growing flower seeds mainly, while large importations are made from Germany, France, Holland, Australia and Japan.  Over three thousand reams of printing paper are used each year for Catalogues, weighing two hundred thousand pounds, and the simple postage for sending these Catalogues by mail is thirteen thousand dollars.  Over fifty thousand dollars have been paid the Government for postage stamps last year.  Millions of bags and boxes are also manufactured in the establishment, requiring hundreds of reams of paper, and scores of tons of paste-board.  The business is so arranged that the wrappers are prepared for each State, with the name of the State conspicuously printed, thus saving a great deal of writing. as well as preventing errors.

I had prepared several other engravings of German Room, Printing Office, Artists’ Room, Counting Room, Mail Room, Post Office, &c., but have already occupied quite enough space give readers somewhat of an idea of the character of my establishment.  Another year, I may give further particulars.  James Vick

Seedsman James Vick (1818-1882)

James Vick was one of the merchants who dominated the floral nursery industry in New York in the 19C. James Vick was born in Portsmouth, England on Nov. 23, 1818.  In 1833, at the age of 12, he arrived in New York City to learn the printing trade.   By the time he moved to Rochester, he had acquired skills as a printer & writer.

In 1837, he moved with his parents to Rochester, New York, where he set type for several newspapers & journals. In 1849, James Vick was elected corresponding secretary of the Genesee Valley Horticultural Society. From 1849 through the early 1850s, Vick edited & then bought the popular journal The Genesee Farmer in 1855.  He later owned part of a workers’ journal and helped to found Frederick Douglass’s North Star.

Vick’s house in 1871

With Vick as editor, the publication became more elegant & circulation rapidly increased.  A year later he sold out to Joseph Harris.  On the death of A. J. Downing, James Vick bought "The Horticulturist" & moved it to Rochester in 1853.  For for 3 years he published this with Patrick Barry serving as Editor. It was devoted to horticulture, floriculture, landscape gardening, & rural architecture.

About this time, Vick started to grow flowers & began sending seeds out by mail to the readers of his publication.  Vick also started importing seed stock. In 1855, he established a seed store & printing house in Rochester for his growing mail order business.  In 1856, Vick started "Rural Annual and Horticultural Directory".  The first half was a seed catalog & the second a list of nurserymen.  This was taken over in 1857 by Joseph Harris who continued it until 1867.

Vick's Home on the South Side of East Avenue in Rochester, NY. 1877

With Vick’s knowledge of chromolithography & printing, he produce a catalog & later a monthly magazine.  The first, "Floral Guide and Catalogue" was printed in 1862.  His "Floral Guides" provided gardening advice, quality color prints, & reached a circulation of 250,000.  He entertained his readers with anecdotes, published letters he had received, & had a special section for children.

By the 1870s, as many as 150,000 catalogs were sent out each year.  A staff of more than 100 worked in the office & packing house.  There were over 75 acres of seed gardens scattered about the city.  In 1878, Vick started a paper, "Vick’s Illustrated Monthly" which was published by the Vick Seed Company in Rochester & in Dansville until 1909.  This magazine was sold by subscription.  Vick also printed a set of chromolithograph prints which were either sold or offered as premiums with large orders.

The Seed House of James Vick 1881 From Commerce, Manufactures & Resources of Rochester, NY

Vick was one of the most successful American horticultural seedsman, writers, & merchandisers of his day.  The Vick Seed Company continued into the 20C before being sold to the Burpee Seed Co. 

Thanks to the Smithsonian Libraries Biographies of American Seedsmen & Nurserymen 

Friday, July 4, 2014

Revolutionary War Hero Thaddeus Kosciuszko's Secret 1778 Garden at West Point

Recently my husband was reading The Peasant Prince by Alex Storozynski, and he asked me if I knew of Kosciuszko's 18C garden at West Point. I did not.

c 1810 Artist Kazimierz Wojniakowski (1771-1812) Tadeusz Kosciuszko

Tadeusz Andrzej Bonawentura Kosciuszko (1746 - 1817) arrived in August of 1776, to aid the colonists in their fight against Britain. Born in Lithuania, then a part of Russian Poland, Kosciuszko sailed for America, after an extensive education in military engineering in both Poland & France. On October 18, 1776, Kosciuszko was offered the rank of Colonel of Engineers.

He set about designing a system of fortifications 3 miles downstream from Philadelphia, to protect from any possible attack by the British fleet. Kosciuszko worked on fortifications at Billingsport & Red Bank on the Delaware River until April 1777, at which time he followed his commander General Horatio Gates northward to defend the boundaries of the Canadian Frontier.

Gates asked Kosciuszko to select a site to station the army for what was felt to be a decisive confrontation with the British. Kosciuszko chose Bemis Heights along the Hudson River, fortifying it with five kilometers of earthenworks. From this vantage point the colonists defended themselves in what came to be a turning point in the Revolution, the Battle of Saratoga.

Six months later, George Washington assigned Kosciuszko to the fortification at West Point on the Hudson. West Point was Kosciuszko's greatest engineering achievement. The project took two & a half years to complete with a work force of 82 laborers, 3 masons, and a stone cutter. It would hold 2500 soldiers.

In 1778, West Point served briefly as headquarters for General Washington. For years West Point remained the largest fort in America.

While serving as Fortifications Engineer for West Point, Kosciuszko selected a secluded site for a personal garden on the ledge of a cliff below Fort Arnold. Because it was to be a private place of serenity for reading & contemplation, he never asked soldiers, civilian laborers, or prisoners of war to help him clear away the wild vegetation or to channel the mountain stream, or to cart soil down to the rock-bound garden.

Gardening & portraiture were his favorite pastimes. He devoted much of his spare time at West Point to planning his garden, constructing a fountain & waterfall, & carrying baskets full of soil to the rocky site, so that flowers might have some earth in which to grow. He discovered a spring bubbling from the rocks in the middle of the cliff, and there he fashioned a small fountain.

The garden ruins were discovered in 1802, during the first year of the Military Academy at West Point, and repaired by cadets. The spring water now rises into a marble basin. Seats overlook the fountain & ornamental shrubs dot the site which has a fine prospect of the river from the cliff.

Presidents & military officers as well as ordinary citizens have enjoyed the spot for over 200 years.

1778: Here I had the pleasure of being introduced to Colonel Thaddeus Kosciuszko, a gentleman of distinction from Poland... He had amused himself while stationed at the Point, in laying out a curious Garden in a deep valley, aboudning more in rocks than in soil. I was gratified in viewing his curious water fountain with spraying jets and cascades.--Military Journal during the American Revolutionary War, from 1775-1783; Describing Interesting Events and Transactions of This Period, with Numerous Facts and Anecdotes. Boston: Cottons and Barnard, 1827. Page 138. Entry for July 28, 1778.

1802: Early in this summer of 1802, Lieutenant Macomb and myself repaired to the dilapidated Garden of Kosciuszko, relaid the stone stairway to the dell, and opened the little fountain at the base of Kosciuszko's Rock in the Garden; planted flowers and vines and constructed several seats, which made the spot a pleasant resort for a reading party...--Memoirs of General Gardner Swift. (General Swift was the first graduate of the United States Military Academy.) United States Military Academy Archives, National Archives Record Group 404, Cadet Library, West Point, New York.

1817: The following day, the party at West Point, and Mr. Monroe (President James Monroe), met the officials in the Garden of Kosciuszko, and there he related the following story of that Pole: When Kosciuszko came from Europe wounded, he seemed unable to move when applying to Congress, and received a grant of land. It was said lameness was assumed to excite sympathy among cold-blooded members. Mr. Monroe said it was not, but to impress a Russian spy that he was not longer able to wield a sword, who was so impressed; and Kosciuszko resumed his health lost in a Russian prison. Mr. Monroe said Kosciuszko had been a faithful friend of the American cause, and that he had recently remitted him several hundred dollars to sustain him in his retreat in Switzerland. This sojourn at West Point and the examination of the Cadets, was very refreshing after city fatigues.--Memoirs of General Gardner Swift. Reference: "Tour of President Monroe in the Northern United States, in the Year 1817." United States Military Academy Archives, National Archives Record Group 404, Cadet Library, West Point, New York.

1834: After a fatiguing walk to Fort Putnam, a ruin examined by every visitor to West Point, I sought the retreat called Kosciuszko's Garden. I had seen it in former years, when it was nearly inaccessible to all but clambering youths. It was now a different sort of place. It had been touched by the hand of taste, and afforded a pleasant nook for reading and contemplation. The Garden is about thirty feet in length, and in width, in its utmost extent, not more than twenty feet, and in some parts much less. Near the center of the Garden there is a beautiful basin, near whose bottom, through a small perforation, flows upward a spring of sweet water, which is carried off by overflowing on the east side of the basin toward the River, the surface of which is some eighty feet below the Garden. It was here, when in its rude state, the Polish soldier and patriot sat in deep contemplation on the loves of his youth, and the ills his country had to suffer. It would be a grateful sight to him if he could visit it now, and find that a band of youthful soldiers had, as it were, consecrated the whole military grounds to his fame.--From the Diary of Samuel L. Knapp of New York. United States Military Academy Archives, National Archives Record Group 404, Cadet Library, West Point, New York.

1848: Emerging from the remains of Fort Clinton, the path, traversing the margin of the cliff, passes the ruins of a battery, and descends, at a narrow gorge between huge rocks, to a flight of wooden steps. These terminate at the bottom upon a grassy terrace a few feet wide, over which hangs a shelving cliff covered with shrubbery. This is called Kosciuszko’s Garden, from the circumstance of its having been a favorite resort of that officer while stationed there as engineer for a time during the Revolution. In the center of the terrace is a marble basin, from the bottom of which bubbles up a tiny fountain of pure water. It is said that the remains of a fountain constructed by Kosciuszko was discovered in 1802, when it was removed, and the marble bowl which now receives the jet was placed there. It is a beautiful and romantic spot, shaded by a weeping willow and other trees, and having seats provided for those who wish to linger. Benson J. Lossing. Pictorial Field Book of the Revolution. 1850. Vol. 1. Chapter XXX.

Portrait of Thomas Jefferson by Thaddeus Kosciuszko

Kosciuszko's Garden 19C

View of West Point on the Hudson River in New York. 19C

Kosciuszko's Garden 1963

Kosciuszko's Garden 2003

Kosciuszko's Garden 2003

A Little More About Thomas Jefferson and Thaddeus Kosciuszko...

Kosciuszko & Jefferson were dear friends. As abolistionist Kosciuszko was leaving the United States in March, 1798, to avoid the Alien & Sedition Acts, he wrote his will with Jefferson as witness, executor, & beneficiary. Kosciuszko wanted his money to go toward freeing & educating America's slaves, specifically Thomas Jefferson's slaves--all of his slaves, not just Sally Hemings & the her children.

I beg Mr. Jefferson that in the case I should die without will or testament he should bye out of my money So many Negroes and free them, that the restante (remaining) sums should be Sufficient to give them aducation and provide for thier maintenance, that . . . each should know before, the duty of a Cytyzen in the free Government, that he must defend his country against foreign as well as internal Enemies who would wish to change the Constitution for the worst to inslave them by degree afterwards, to have good and human heart Sensible for the Sufferings of others, each must be married and have 100 Ackres of land, wyth instruments, Cattle for tillage and know how to manage and Gouvern it well as well to know [how to] behave to neyboughs [neighbors], always wyth Kindnes and ready to help them . . . . T. KoĊ›ciuszko.

Jefferson called Kosciuszko "the truest son of liberty I have ever known;" but after the Pole's death, Jefferson did not live up to his pact with his friend, leaving the will to languish in American courts & leaving his slaves to be sold on the lawn of Monticello.

See Gary B. Nash & Graham Russell Gao Hodges. Friends of Liberty: A Tale of Three Patriots, Two Revolutions, and the Betrayal that Divided a Nation: Thomas Jefferson, Thaddeus Kosciuszko, and Agrippa Hull. Basic Books 3, April 2008.

Naming plants in Early America to honor national heros & republican ideals

Gardening To Honor National & Classical Heros

In the new republic the garden had inspired & been a stage for displaying nationalism since its inception. The names Annapolis craftsman William Faris (1729-1804) chose for his tulips reflect the craftsman's enthusiasms, for the new nation & for classical republican ideals.

Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder (Dutch Baroque Era Painter, 1573-1621) Glass with Four Tulips 1615 

Naming flowers for national & classical heros was not a new concept. In the 1630s, Dutch citizens from every walk of life were caught up in an extraordinary frenzy of buying & selling tulips. The flower rapidly became a coveted luxury item & status symbol.

Between December 1636 & January 1637, fortunes were made & lost in the Netherlands--in tulip bulb futures trading. In hopes of making their bulbs the most desirable, growers named their new varieties with exalted titles.

Many early forms were prefixed Admiral, often combined with the growers' names—Admirael van der Eijck was perhaps the most highly regarded of about 50 so named. General was another prefix that found its way into the names of around 30 varieties. Later came varieties with even more superlative names, Alexander the Great, "Admiral of Admirals," & "General of Generals."

A Dutch contemporary explained that you give a "name you fancy, and stand a bottle of wine to your friends that they may remember to talk about it." The market for tulips crashed in February of 1637, but the concept of naming tulips for heros lingered in the minds of early American flower growers.

In his diary on July 3, 1801, Annapolis clockmaker & silversmith William Faris listed his tulip varieties by name. They included war heros “General Washington & Lady Washington,” "General Williams,” “General Wayne,” “General Smallwood,” “General Putnam,” “General Harry Lee,” “General Morgan,” “General Gates,” & “Colonel Howard.”

Faris also named his precious tulips after political leaders--- “Adams,” “Hamilton,” “Madison,” & “Dr. Franklin”-- & for classical heroes-- “Aristides” “Fabius,” “Pompey the Grate,” “Archimedes,” “Cato,” “Cicero,” “Domostines,” & “Cincinnatus.”

Naming flowers after national & classical heroes was not peculiar to Faris in the early republic. On April 9, 1804, he recorded in his dairy receiving balsam plants from his neighbor Alexander Contee Hanson (1749-1806), whose father John Hanson (1721-83) had signed the Articles of Confederation & served as the first president of the Congress in 1781.

The son was deeply affected by the Revolution & wrote, “during the whole memorable interval between the fall of the old & the institution of the new form of government, there appeared to exist among us such a fund of public virtue as had scarcely a parallel in the annals of the world.”

It is not surprising that the younger Hanson named his balsam plants “General Washington,” which Faris described as white, purple, & crimson; “Franklin,” which was purple; “Lady Washington,” “flesh mixed”; “the President,” crimson & pink; “Aristides,” white & purple; & “General Green,” which Faris left undescribed.

Hybridizing new varieties of flowers to be named for classical & national heroes became a popular pastime after the Revolution in the Chesapeake.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Wonderful young woman's naive drawings-watercolors of 2 homes in Nantucket, MA 1797-1803

Phebe Folger Coleman (1771-1857)  

And here is another view of a Nantucket home from Phebe's commonplace book.

Phebe Folger Coleman (1771-1857)  Un receuil :containing painting, penmanship, algebra and pieces selected from various authors in prose and verse, with a few pieces in French with their translation by Phebe Folger of Nantucket : manuscript, c 1797. MS Typ 245. Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

Here 18C gentlemen fish from the front yard; ladies are picking an unidentified fruit from trees in round, wooded boxes; naked folks are swimming in the pond; rows of trees; flowers grown near the ladies with sheep; 2 gentlemen with their dogs head out on a hunt; & what looks suspiciously like a bull is nursing a calf.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Garden History - Yards

Brick-Walled Yard. 1750s Walled Garden & Grounds at Cleve in Virginia. Anne Byrd of Westover (1725-1757) (Mrs. Charles Carter). 

A yard is an enclosed division of uncultivated land usually attached to, or enclosed by a dwelling or public building or outbuildings usually defined by a fence or a wall.

At private homes in rural settings, defined yards often were attached to service buildings used to house livestock or to store firewood or to outdoor kitchens.  In Southern towns, yards sometimes were paved with bricks or crushed shells.  In 1753, in South Carolina Gazette, a dwelling for sale ad noted "a garden at the south front, and a yard lately paved in."

Brick walls often surrounded public yards at court houses, state houses, hospitals, churches, cemeteries, prisons, and inns. Wooden fences usually surround yards at private dwellings, but some gentry homes also had brick or stone walls.  By the last quarter of the 1700s, folks referred to the enclosed area, where those incarcerated  take exercise, as a prison yard.

In the 18C, the term yard was used to designate practical & often commercial work areas such as, hemp yards, wood or timber yards, and even dock & ship yards.

The term court yard usually referred to a public or private entrance greeting and meeting area. Because most courtyards were built to receive carriages and horses, they usually were located on the road side of coastline houses, not on the water-facing facade.

Other yards on larger rural properties were meant for livestock such as cow yards, pig yards, barn yards, poultry yards, chicken yards, turkey yards, & goose yards.  Domestic work yards, especially those used to house animals, were usually separated from kitchen & floral or pleasure gardens by fences or walls.

On smaller properties, homeowners often divided the land closer to the rear of the house into yards. These often included a woodyard or a stackyard for storing straw & a fenced family yard, which served as a barrier against potential domestic & wild animal intrusion. 

In his Essays and Notes on Husbandry and Rural Affairs, John Beale Bordley wrote that the family yard should be planted in clean, closely cut grass & that its margins alone should be allowed to contain purely decorative flowers. Bordely explained that the well often stood near the family yard & wood yard. Sheep houses & pigsties commonly had their own individually fenced yards, & many poultry houses, or coops, had a distinct poultry yard often covered with fresh sand & gravel. Sections devoted to animals usually had watering troughs within their yards. The women in the family did the washing & ironing in washhouses, which were usually within or near a separately fenced area where the wash was hung on lines or spread across shrubs to dry. Contemporaries called these areas “bleach yards.”

Often colonials & early Americans would simply refer to their yards. Occasionally writers, especially visitors from England or the Continent, would leave the term yard off of a description of a court yard, simply referring to acourt. 

The term yard appeared in the British American colonies in 1647, when a tenant agreed to "maintain the old dwelling house and quartering houses and Tobacco houses in repair, as well as the pales about the yard and gardens."

In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that in 1678, while visiting the coastline of New York, Charles Wooley used the term yard to refer to a mammal's penis. (Not 36 inches, but in the sense of a stick or rod.) "As to the nature of a Whale, they copulate as Land-beasts, as is evident from the female Teats and Male's Yard."  Shakespeare had used the term similarly in 1598, in Love's Labour's Lost.

In Virginia in 1686, a visitor noted of Green Spring, the former home of Governor William Berkeley, that the orchard was "well fenced in with Locust fence, which is as durable as most brick walls, a Garden, a hundred feet square, well pailed in, a Yeard where in is most of the foresaid necessary houses, pallizado'd in with locust Punchens."

In 1687, hungry French visitor Durand of Dauphine in A Huguenot Exile in Virginia, wrote that "There are also many doves, turtle-doves, thrushes, partridges in such numbers that they come into the court-yards; they are smaller than those of Europe, but taste the same." 

Public Yards

Public Yard - Courtyard at Governor's House

In 1706, the act of the Virginia legislature authorizing the building of the Governor's Palace allocated 635 pounds for the construction of the garden with these instructions, "that a Court-Yard, of dimensions proportionable to the said house, be laid out, levelled and encompassed with a brick wall 4 feet high with the balustrades of wood thereupon, on the said land, and that a Garden of the length of 254 foot and the breadth of 144 foot from out to out, adjoining to the said house, to be laid out and levelled and enclosed with a brick wall, 4 feet high, with ballsutrades of wood upon the said wall, and that handsome gates be made to the said court-yard and garden."

By 1723, Rev. Hugh Jones reported that the courtyard was "finished and with beautiful gates." But by 1776, the wooden components of the fences had begun to deteriorate, when note was made in the Virginia Council Journal that they were "Repairing Fodder Houses & paling round the Garden."
Twenty five men were appointed "to repair fences of park" in 1777. And it was recorded that "60 foot of plank, 250 nails" were purchased for the task.

Public Yard - Courthouse Yard

In 1743 Spotsylvania County, Virginia, A workman was hired to "rail in the Courthouse yard."

Reflection of the Old Courthouse Tower in Washington County, Tennessee.

In 1778 Alexandria, Virginia, a valuable one half acre lot "fronting the whole Courthouse yard and market place" was offered for sale.

Public Yard - College Yard

At the college which would become Harvard, as early as 1637-39, Nathaniel Eaton referred to "the frame in the College Yard & digging the cellar." At Harvard, the original college buildings formed a quadrangle. Visitor James Birket wrote that 1750 Harvard College at Cambridge, Massachusetts, "Consists of three Separate Brick of which is called Stoughton hall, And although the 2 wings do not Join to the Middle building yet they are So placed As to form a very handsom Area or Courtyard in the Middle."

Harvard Court Yard in 1726.

Ebenezer Hazard visited the college of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, in 1777, noting that "At this Front of the College is a large Court Yard, ornamented with Walks, Trees cut into different Forms, & Grass."

Court Yard at the College of William & Mary. Detail of Bodleian Plate England. 1740. 

In July of 1778, a large political meeting of men in Phildelphia, became rowdy. "At length General Cadwallader was invited down from the stage, and was followed by a majority of the citizens present to the College yard, where, ROBERT MORRIS, Esq; being appointed Chairman."

College of New Jersey, Princeton. Court Yard in 1764.

Moreau de St. Mery visited the College of New Jersey at Princeton, New Jersey in the 1790s wrote, "Before it is a huge front yard set off from the street by a brick wall, and at intervals along the wall are pilasters supporting wooden urns painted gray. This front yard is untidy, covered with the droppings of animals who come there to graze...Behind the college there is an extremely large courtyard. It is dirty and uncultivated, and everything in it is evidence of neglect."

Public Yard - Inn Yard

James Gordon of Lancaster County, Virginia, reported in 1759, "The Ministerial Play was read in the ordinary by Mr Parker, who received it from Mr Pinckard, who said he found it in the Courtyard."

Englishman Thomas Twining visited Baltimore, Maryland, in 1787. "We drove in good style into the court-yard of the 'Indian Queen,' a large inn of very respectable appearance...and was shown into the largest room I had ever seen in any hotel even in England. It extended the whole depth of the house, from Queen Street to the great court-yard...At four o'clock we drove into the great yard of the Indian Queen."

Public Yard -Statehouse Yard

In Philadelphia, citizens often met in the Statehouse yard during the Revolutionary period to discuss politics. In October of 1776, the Pennsylvania Gazette reported on "a Meeting of a large and respectable Number of the Citizens of Philadelphia in the Statehouse Yard."

In Philadelphia during June of 1777, the newspaper announced, "The two Classes of the City and Liberties Militia... are to parade with their arms and accoutrements in the Statehouse yard at five o this afternoon." During the war, militia regularly met there to perform exercises.

Walled State House Yard in Philadelphia.

The citizens of Philadelphia met in 1779, "in the State house yard, in order to determine upon the mode of choosing a new Committee."

When the war with Britain concluded, the Statehouse yard was often used for public celebrations. In 1782, the newspaper reported, "In the afternoon a dinner was provided by Congress for the Minister of France and his suite; and the evening was closed with a brilliant display of fireworks in the Statehouse yard."

Charles Willson Peale's (1741-1827) 1789 Depiction of the Statehouse in Annapolis, Maryland, with no visible yard, looks far less people-friendly.

In his 1789 Geography, Jedidiah Morse reported on the capitol in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, "The state house yard, is a neat elegant and spacious public walk, ornamented with rows of trees; but a high brick wall, which encloses it, limits the prospect."

Public Yard -Hospital Yard

1817 William Strictland (1787-1854). The South Front of the Philadelphia Hospital with Brick-Walled Yards.

Peter Kalm wrote of New York City, "In addition to the hospital...there is another farther up Broadway... There is a yard where patients are allowed to walk, and plans call for planting trees in it." The hospital in Philadelphia also had a walled yard planted with trees and criss crossed with walks for its patients and their visitors to walk in.

Public Yard -Church & Burying Yards

Newspapers often announced the burials of citizens in local church yards. The deceased were usually reported to be interred or deposited in the church yard. The 1732 South Carolina Gazette reported, "On Monday last, after a very long Disorder, died Mrs. Mazyck, the Wife of Mr. Isaac Mazyck, Merchant of this Town... she was interr'd in the Church-Yard of this Place, in a very handsome Manner, being attended to her Funeral by most of the chief Merchants, and publick Officers of the Province."

Church Yard with old Trees in Norfolk, Virginia.

The 1737 Williamsburg Virginia Gazette reported, "Last Monday Night died in this City, after a short Illness, Mr. Charles Chiswell, of Hanover County, aged about 60. He came to Town last Wednesday, in perfect Health, and was taken ill of a Pleurisy and Flux on Friday Night, which was so violent, that it carried him off the Monday Night following; and on Wednesday Night, he was decently interr'd, in our Church yard." In the colonial period, the deceased often were reported to be buried in the church yard "in a very decent Manner."

When a proud, perhaps even a little arrogant, London stone mason arrived in 1739 Philadelphia, he advertised his work by sending people to the Church yard. "Masons-Work in all its Branches, and with the greatest Speed and Accuracy, is performed by WILLIAM HOLLAND, lately from London; who being truly instructed in that Art, justly assumes the antique Name of the Mason, and owns not that vulgar calling of a Stone-Cutter ... has given the Publick a Specimen of his Performance in a Tomb-Stone now in the Church -Yard of this City."

Walled Church Yard at Ware Church, Gloucester County, Virginia.

The Church yard was a place well-known in most locations and was often used as a point of direction, as when the Charleston newspaper announced in 1732, "AT Dan. Bourget's, Brewer, in old church street, behind the old Church -Yard, is good Stabling, and Entertainment for Horses." For a public sale in 1734, "A Catalogue of all the Particulars, with the Price to each Article, may be seen from Monday morning till all are sold at the Blue House, against the French Church Yard in Charlestown."

Brick walls surrounded many church yards. The 1752 Virginia Gazette announced that an "Addition is to be built on one Side of the Brick Church in Bristol Parish, Prince-George County, 30 by 25 Feet in the Clear, with a Brick Wall round the Church Yard , 5 Feet high; the said Work is to be completed in June 1754."

During the same period, wooden fences were being built around other churches. In the summer of 1749, the vestry of Saint Anne's Parish in Annapolis Maryland, put out a contract for "any good Workman, to find Materials, and pale in the Church-Yard at Annapolis, with saw’d Poplar Pales, four Feet and a half in Length, three Inches broad, and one Inch think; saw’d Poplar Rails, 8 feet long and 6 Inches broad on the flat side, three Rails in each Length; the Posts to be of Cedar or Locust, to hew to six inches square at Top, to be 7 feet long and to be set 30 Inches in the Ground; the Posts to be morticed, and Rails tenanted in; the Pales to be nail’d on with Double Tenpenny Nails, three to each Pale." But by 1771, the vestry of Saint Anne's Parish decided to "have the yard secured so as to prevent the cattle from going therein."

Looking Over the Brick Wall at the Burying Yard at Saint Anne's Church in Annapolis, Maryland, which came into use in the 1780s.

Wandering livestock & wildlife interlopers also bothered the gentry in Virginia. Philip Fithian Vickers, teaching at Nomini Hall, Virginia, in 1774, noted that, "Mr. Carter observed that he much dislikes the common method of making Burying Yards round Churches, & having it almost open to every Beast." In 1771, the upper church in Saint Margaret's Parish in Caroline County, Virginia, also began walling in their churchyard.  However, in New York City in 1749, Peter Kalm reported a church yard without a traditional fence or wall, "Quite a large churchyard surrounds the temple, and about it are planted trees which give it the appearance of an enclosure."

Occasionally, a church yard was the scene of a violent act. Just after Christmas, the Pennsylvania Gazette reported in 1759, that in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, "a young Man, genteelly dressed, shot himself in the Church Yard at Burlington" with a "short Fowling piece loaded with large Duck Shot."

The Moravian Cemetery at Old Salem, North Carolina. The graveyard is surrounded by shady groves.

As political unrest began to stir in the British American colonies, even the church yard became involved in the protests. In 1766 Wilmington, North Carolina, "in the Evening, a great Number of People again assembled, and produced an Effigy of LIBERTY, which they put into a Coffin, and marched in solemn Procession to the Church Yard, a Drum in Mourning beating before them, and the Town Bell, muffled, ringing a doleful Knell at the same Time; --- But before they committed the Body to the Ground, they thought it adviseable to feel its Pulse; and when finding some Remains of Life, they returned back to a Bonfire ready prepared, placed the Effigy before it in a large Two armed Chair, and concluded the Evening with great Rejoicings, on finding that LIBERTY had still an Existence in the COLONIES."

Occasionally, the church yard became a place for recreation & reflection. Dr. Robert Honyman reported in 1775, Boston, Massachusetts, that he "went into a large church yard & viewed the Tombs & grave stones." William Loughton Smith wrote in his journal on May 5, 1791, of visiting Salem, North Carolina. "The church yard is on a hill above the town, surrounded by shady groves." The Moravian cemetery at Salem, God's Acre, has gravestones & burial plots which are exactly the same size and grouped together by marital status & gender - married sisters, single sisters, married bretheren, & single brothers.

Yards at Private Dwellings

Private Yards - Court Yards

The 1746 South Caroliana Gazette carried a notice about a missing horse, "SRTAY'D or stolen out of my Court -Yard formerly belonging to Mrs. Sarab Frott, a Roan Horse, with a black Bow Main, branded on the mounting shoulder B, shod his Fore Feet, and is brown by ten Name of Firefly."

Peter Kalm noticed on his travels throughout the colonies in 1748, "Mulberry trees are planted on some hillocks near the house, and sometime even in the court yards of the house."

Green Spring by Benjamin Latrobe, Showing Walls Surrounding the Court Yard at the Entrance Facade. (The garden was at the rear of the house.)

In the Pennsylvania Gazette of 1753, a house-for-rent ad noted, "To be lett, A large commodious house, 4 rooms on a floor, 3 stories high, with neat court yard, garden and good orchard, conveniently situated on Germantown road, about a mile distant from Philadelphia." Several months later, this description appeared, "a large commodious brick house, 40 feet square, 3 stories high, four rooms on a floor, a genteel court yard, neatly pailin, a brick wash house, necessary house, and pump in the yard, a good garden and orchard."

In an issue of the Pennsylvania Gazette of 1761 was a notice for a "A commodious Country Seat... a new Stone House three Stories high, being 41 Feet front, and 24 Feet deep, with Cellars under the whole; a Court Yard in the Front of the House, a Piazza joining the House, and a new Stone Kitchen, with a Pump before the Door."

Entrance to Court Yard at Mount Clare in Baltimore, Maryland. Here, as in most instances, the court yard was at the public entrance facade of the dwelling. The more private garden facade was usually on the opposite side of the house.

Virginia visitor Mary Ambler in 1770, observed at Mount Clare in Baltimore, "There is a Handsome Court Yard on the other side of the House."

In 1777, in his Virginia letter book, George Braxton recorded, "I agreed with Alexander Oliver Gardener to make a Court yard before my Door according to Art."

Courtyard at Mount Vernon in Virginia.

Just outside of Phildelphia in 1785, a country seat went on the market. "An elegant seat for a Summer residence of a genteel family, situated on the main street in Germantown, just beyond the six mile stone. This healthful retreat consists of a spacious house, two stories high, with four rooms on a floor, a piazza in the rear, 36 feet in length and 12 feet wide; a court yard about 80 feet square, neatly gravelled, sodded and surrounded with trees."

In his diary for August 30, 1785, at Mount Vernon, Virginia, George Washington reported that the workers had "Finished gravelling the right hand Walk leading to the front gate from the Court Yard."

1791 Edward Savage. Mount Vernon from the Court Yard Carriage Entrance.

Elbridge Gerry, Jr. visited Mount Vernon, about 14 years after Washington's death noting that, "On one side is an elegant garden, which has a small white house for the gardener, and a row of brick buildings back of it. All these are enclosed by a wall in an oval form, and leaving a large area before the house for the yard."

When artist Robert Edge Pine died, in Philadelphia his property went for sale in 1789. including "an elegant new Brick House 42 feet front by 50 feet deep, completely finished, and well accommodated either for a large family or for a public house; a good pump in the yard; a neat garden in the rear of the house, and a court -yard in front."

The Plantation 1825 Virginia. 

Private Yards 

In 1753, the South Carolina Gazette reported a dwelling for sale in Prince William Parish which included "a garden at the south front, and yard lately paved in." In the South, especially at urban sites, the yard was often paved with brick, tile, or crushed shells.

18C century Thomas Banister House with front yard.

The Moravians who settled in at Salem, North Carolina, wrote in 1772, "The family houses are to fence in their yards, in order better to keep the children at home and not let them run around the streets. Also, if the open building-sites could be fenced in, the cattle could be kept out of town."

Early Houses and Fenced Yards at Old Salem, North Carolina.

New England tutor Philip Fithian Vickers was working at Nomini Hall, Virginia in 1774. He reported, "From the front yard of the Great House."

1796 Ralph Earl. Detail Houses Fronting on New Milford Green with fenced yards.

Elizabeth Drinker wrote in her diary in 1796 of her home in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, "Our and Garden looks most beautiful, the Trees in full Bloom, the red, and white blossoms intermixt'd with the green leaves, which are just putting out flowers."

Fenced Utility Yard "Well Paled In" at Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia.

Private Yards -Court (Yard)

Jonathan Schoepf reported on the toilet facilities in 1783, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, "a little court or garden, where usually are the necessaries, and so this often evil-smelling convenience of our European houses is missed here, but space and better arrangement are gained."

Necessary House in Colonial Williamsburg.

Henry Wansey toured New England in 1794. He wrote of Worcester, Massachusetts, "most of the houses have a large court before them, full of lilacs and other shrubs, with a seat under them, and a paved walk up the middle." And in Connecticut, he wrote, "I arrived at Newhaven...Many handsome well looking houses, though chiefly built of wood and separated by a court or garden from its neighbour."

Private Yards -Livestock Yards

Trying to Escape the Goose Yard.

Private Yards -Goose Yard

You are going to have to humor me a little now and again. I just spent the past year in my book club reading all of Chaucer's writings, including Canterbury Tales, so references are bound to pop up in these blogs occasionally. In 1386, or thereabouts, Chaucer wrote in the Nun's Priest Tale, "A yeerd she hadde enclosed al aboute Withe stikkes and a drye dych with-oute In which she hadde a Cok." Here was a woman tending a poultry yard, just as women would in early America!

Often in the plantation society of the southern colonies, the mistress of the house would leave the raising of common chickens to the slaves, while she would concentrate on raising the more elite ducks, turkeys and geese. A visitor to a Mount Vernon quarter in 1797, noted that “a small vegetable garden was situated close to the hut. Five or six hens, each with ten or fifteen chickens, walked around there. That is the only pleasure allowed to Negroes: they are not permitted to keep either ducks or geese or pigs.” A 1768 newspaper reported that on a plantation in Fairfax County, Virginia, "Carpenters all...went to sawing railing for a goose yard."

Private Yards -Poultry Yard

The rooster ruled the poultry yard.

An account in a 1772 Queen Anne's County, Maryland deed book noted the presence of "one new paled garden 150 by 100 in good repair with a paled yard between the dwelling house and garden in good repair." Women usually tended the poultry close to the house.

Poultry Yard at George Washington's Birthplace in Virginia.

When Jacques Pierre Brissot de Warville visited Virginia in 1788, he reported "I hastened to arrive at Mount Vernon...In a spacious back-yard are turkies, geese, and other poultry."

Private Yards -Farm Yard & Barn Yard

The term barn yard was used in the British American colonies by the 1760s. In 1766 Pennsylvania, a parcel of land was offered for sale with "a fine run running through the barn yard." In 1771, Pennsylvanian Mordecai Cloud reported that his brown mare was stolen "out of the barnyard of the subscriber, in East Caln township, Chester county." Just a few months later, a black horse was "STOLEN out of the barnyard of the subscriber, living on Bread and Cheese Island, in Mill creek Hundred, New Castle county" Delaware.

Near Savannah, Georgia, in 1774, property was advertised, "choice Tide Land, on which are Two fine high Knolls fit for Buildings and Barn Yard." Near 1778 Philadelphia, a soldier was said to have made his escape, "by getting over a fence in the barn yard."

The term farm yard was seldom used until well after the Revolutionary War. It came into popular use after the 1790s publication of John Spurrier's "Compendious System of Husbandry, adapted to the different soils and climates of America; containing the mechanical, chemical and philosophical elements of agriculture; wherein the different soils and manures are analized, shewing their real properties, with their proper applications to each other, and the atmospherical influences; the best method of constructing and managing the farm-yard." John Beale Bordley's publication of "Sketches on Rotations of Crops, and other Rural Matters" also popularized the term.

In the late 1790s, Isaac Weld reported on a house at Lake Charles, near Quebec, "The dwelling house, a neat boarded little mansion painted white, together with offices, were situated on a small eminence; to the right, at the bottom of the slope, stood the barn, the largest in all Canada, with a farm yard exactly in the English style."

Private Yards -Cow Yard

A 1751 advertisement in the Pennsylvania Gazette described a plantation in Burlington fronting the Delaware River for 3/4 of a mile with 208 acres containing "a Dairey house, coach house, chaise house, a fine stable, a large barn, barrocks, hovels, a well in the cow yard."

In 1756, the same newspaper noted in New Jersey, "Commodious plantation, well watered and timbered, about four miles from Trenton, on the great road leading to Amwell, containing 236 acres, or thereabouts, of good land, with a good house, and a good cow yard, fenced with stone."

A good cow yard, fenced with stone.

Twenty years later, Pennsylvania Gazette land-for-sale in Newgarden, Chester County, Pennsylvania was described as a plantation of "112 acres...a two story square log house, with a cellar under, a well of good water at the door, a barn, with stabling and cow yard."

An 1800 newspaper noted that behind a house for sale in Savannah, Georgia, was "a garden 34 by 45 feet, a cow yard 20 by 15 feet."

The cow yard, pig yard, or barn yard was not just a pen for livestock, it was a hotbed of fertilizer production for the gardens & grounds of most industrious landowners in the colonies & early America.

Joseph Prentis (1754-1809), a judge of the General Court of Virginia, lived in Williamsburg, and wrote in his Monthly Kalender between 1775-1779. It survives as a manuscript at the University of Virginia. He noted in his Kalender, "Dung your Grounds. Such of the Garden as may be vacant should be well manured in October and also well spaded that it may have the advantage of fallow from the sun, snow, and air of the winter season...In December use every oppy of laying Dung on such parts of the Garden as may want it."

18C English Woodcut of a Dung Barrow

In Annapolis, Maryland, during the 1790s, clockmaker & silversmith William Faris planted most of his kitchen garden near his stables. Faris consistantly carted dung from his own stables to his garden, and he employed neighborhood haulers to bring extra cartloads of "tan" to his garden throughout the growing season into the fall.

Private Yards - Hog Yard

The Pennsylvania Gazette recommended creating a hog yard as a means of increasing manure to be used as fertilizer in March of 1791. "Adjoining the stye where your swine are shut up, which should be dry & warm, fence a yard for them to wallow in; 20 or 30 feet square will be large enough for 6 hogs; cover this in the fall or spring with mud...The hogs... will render this mud or earth, if not more than 2 feet deep, an exceeding rich compost in a year's time.

"They will keep it stirring & fermenting with their dung & urine, which will be incorporated with the mud, and thereby their whole strength will be saved; for the mud or earth will prevent the virtues of the dung & urine from being washed in the ground by the heavy rains, or evaporated by the sun and air --- it not only saves them, but makes them stronger, by keeping them in a state of constant fermentation; the fermentation will be increased, and the whole mass will be improved by making this yard the receptacle for the weeds of your garden --- throw into it your soap-suds, brine, and all the greasy slop of the kitchen; you may add potatoe-tops, which should be carefully saved for the purpose when you gather the potatoes; the stubborn corn stalks, which rot slowly in the cow-yard
, will soon consume in the hog-yard."

Some 18C Chesapeake farmers dug fenced "dung pits" near their "cow houses" & pig yards to systematically collect future garden fertilizer.

New Yorker John Nicholson wrote about barnyards in The Farmer's Assistant in 1820, "The practice of having a barnyard on a declivity is a bad one, as in this way very much manure is washed away, without essentially benefiting the adjoining grounds. The yard should be level, and lowest in the middle, in order to prevent the escape of much fertilizing liquor, that will otherwise run off from the dung during heavy rains.

"It should be cleared in the Spring of the dung made during Winter; and if the Milch-cows and other cattle are to be kept in it at night, during Summer, much manure may be made in it by carting in rubbish of various mix with the dung of the cattle and absorb their stale.

"The yard should also have a high close fence round it, as well for securing the cattle as for breaking off the winds; and, in order to make the most of the dung, the cattle should be kept constantly in the yard during the season of foddering, and have a well close adjoining to supply them with water."

Commercial Work Yards

Work Yards -Tan Yard

One edition of the 1732 South Carolina Gazette noted a "tanyard" for sale in Dorcester. In 1733, a tan yard in Delaware appeared for sale in the Pennsylvania Gazette, "Sold or Let, A Dwelling House, Tan House and Tan Yard, in the Town of New Castle."

The South Carolina Gazette offered for sale in 1737, "a fine Tan yard." In 1748, the same newspaper offered an estate for sale consisting of, "Field Slaves, House Wenches, several good, shoe-makers and Tanners, with a Tan-yard, a parcel of Bark, Oyl, and a large Quantity of Hides."

Another ad in the South-Carolina Gazette on June 10, 1751, offered, "One tract of land, about 30 acres, in St. Andrew's-town at Ashley-Ferry, with a good dwelling-house, out-houses and garden, hath been a tan yard, and stands very convenient for that and a shoemaker."

Work Yards -Timber and Wood Yards

The term timber yard usually referred to a commercial enterprise selling wood, while wood yard usually was a place for gathering and holding wood at a private dwelling.

In 1736, the South Carolina Gazette advertised a commercial Charleston ">Timber-Yard...where any Person may be supplied with all sorts of Boards, Scantling, Laths, Cedar Posts for Gardens, and Frames for Houses."

An edition of the 1740 South Carolina Gazette also advertised a private wood yard, "A House joining the Crown-Inn, with 6 Rooms, a Kitchen, Store Room, Garden and Wood Yard."

The 1761 Maryland Gazette in Baltimore, Maryland, advertised, "To be sold...a good Dwelling-House 80 Feet in Length...Garden...Wood-Yard, Etc."

Some business ventures required wood for fuel. The Pennsylvania Gazette noted in 1768, "a DWELLING HOUSE and BAKEHOUSE, very convenient for Loaf Bread or Sea Biscuit; with a large Wood yard, Stable and Garden, and a Pump at the Door."

Work Yards -Brick Yard

Near Charleston, South Carolina, a brick yard was advertised for sale in 1748, "at the landing a good brick-yard... and a good Brick Cafe for burning them, about 45 Feet in Length near 20 in Breadth, and 9 in Height, with 12 Arches, and a Division in the Middle, a large Quantity of Wood near at Hand... a Number of Slaves, among whom are... Brick Moulders."

Individually Stamped Bricks from a Brick Yard.

The 1764 Pennsylvania Gazette advertised for, "Able bodied Negroe Men and Boys, to work at a Brick yard."
In 1786 Alexandria, Virginia a newspaper noted a commercial, "Brick-Yard about a mile from the Court House; it has a case or wall built for burning bricks."

In the 18C, bleaching clothing was done as it had been for centuries. Shakespeare’s jokester, Autolycus, in The Winter’s Tale loves to see a “white shirt bleaching on the hedge.” In his 1745 Directions to Servants, Jonathan Swift suggests that “the place for hanging” laundry “is on young Fruit Trees, especially in Blossom; the Linnen cannot be torn, and the Trees give them a fine Smell.”

To bleach household & personal linen was spread on the grass, hedges, bushes, or on poles; soaked with buckets of lye at intervals; and eventually rinsed & dried. The lye was obtained by placing wood ashes in a barrel & pouring water over the ashes, until a brownish liquid oozed out the bottom of the barrel.

There were variations, such as using plain water & no lye. The bleaching process could last 3 days or longer, depending on available sunlight; and it took up valuable space. Bleach yards were sometimes called bleaching greens. Sometimes high-quality linen that was dried on grass yards was called lawn.

David Teniers the Younger (1610-1690) The Bleaching Ground

Because both bleaching & drying were outdoor activities, it was good to have an enlosed, grassy yard for these chores. As one 19th century housewife noted one needed a, "grassy corner well open to the sun,...sheltered from high winds...the attentions of wandering poultry... and the incursions of pigs, puppies and calves...they not only soil the clothes, but will tear and even eat them"

A Philadelphia newspaper in 1740, noted a public yard set aside for bleaching as a business enterprise, "Customers of James Rogers' bleach-yard are requested to leave cloth at the Three Tuns Tavern in Philadelphia."

In the spring of 1772, the Philadelphia "Managers of the House of Employment... prepared a piece of ground...suitable for a bleach yard, and provided utensils necessary for the bleaching and finishing of linen in a compleat manner."

The Pennsylvania Gazette advertised for sale in April of 1774. "18 acres... about 2 miles and an half from the Courthouse ...adjoining lands of Robert Morris, Joseph Shippen ...there has been a bleach yard on the lot, some of the bleaching utensils still remain, which will be sold at the same time."

By July of 1774, Philadelphia had a new enterpise, "A CALICOE PRINTING MANUFACTORY, and BLEACH YARD , is just opened...JOHN HEWSON...begs leave to inform the public... Linen sent for bleaching, from one yard to a thousand, shall be punctually returned in three weeks, compleatly finished, at 4d. per yard."

Linens Fresh From the Bleach Yard.

John Hewson (1744-1821), the first well-documented textile printer in America, arrived from London in September 1773 at the invitation of Benjamin Franklin. Trained to produce the highest quality block-printed textiles at Bromley Hall in London, Hewson set up his "Calicoe Printing Manufactory" in Philadelphia.

The Pennsylvania Packet advertised a piece of land to be sold in the summer of 1778 in Germantown near Philadelphia, "containing 24 acres, whereon is a compleat bleach yard , wash mill, and other conveniencies for carrying on the bleaching business."

Apparently, the bleach business, which seemed to be flourishing in Philadelphia, had dwindled by 1788, when the report of The American Cotton Manufactory to the Board of Managers of the Pennsylvania Society for promoting Manufactures and the Useful Arts noted, "it may be observed...the want of proper bleach yards, and the difficulty of procuring persons well skilled in bleaching."

Swept Yards

Sweeping the Yards in Rural South Carolina.

In the South, yards were often kept swept clean of any debris. Martha Ogle Forman wrote from Cecil County, Maryland in 1818, "preparing for company: made cake, and had all the yards swept."

Eventually the term yard evolved throughout the 18C into the description of a cultivated area enclosed or attached to a dwelling that might contain flowers, orchard or shade trees, or a lawn intended to be used as a pleasure ground and exercise area. Other 19C yards remained entirely utilitarian.

Entrance Facade of Montpelier. Baroness Hyde Neuville( 1750-1849). 

Archaeological studies at Montpelier, the home of President James & Dolly Madison in Virginia, reveal details of the yards associated with the slaves, who lived near the main house in an area known as the South Yard. The yard between the garden & the mansion in the early 19th century included 3 duplex slave quarters & 2 smokehouses. Here slaves would prepare the Madison family's meals, do the laundry, and provide for their own sustenance.

The slaves swept Montpelier's South Yard free of trash & debris. The quarters were in direct view of the rear lawn of the mansion, so that the Madison's could supervise the slave activities. Excavations show that the slave quarters backed up against a paling fence that likely contained a kitchen garden or barn yard for the stable. The South Yard was shielded from the view of guests approaching Montpelier along the carriage road by a row of trees & shrubs directing the visitor's line of sight to the mansion & away from the utilitarian outbuildings.

North Carolinian William Martin visiting Richmond, Virginia in 1813, wrote, "every private yard is decorated with the handsomest shade trees which our Country boasts." We have children and grandchildren living in Richmond today. And Richmond's yards still have the handsomest of shade trees, a beautiful town.