Saturday, March 23, 2019

Landscape Design - Public Church & Burying Yards

Public 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 -Yardis 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 Yarda 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.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Flowers & Plants in Early American Gardens - Balsam; Touch-Me-Not

Balsam; Touch-Me-Not (Impatiens balsamina)

This is the traditional impatiens popular in old-fashioned gardens. Thomas Jefferson planted double-flowering Balsam seeds at Shadwell in 1767, and also received seeds from Philadelphia nurseryman, Bernard McMahon, in 1812. Bushy plants bloom in shades of pink, white, red, and salmon throughout the summer and fall until the first frost.

For more information & the possible availability
Contact The Tho Jefferson Center for Historic Plants or The Shop at Monticello 

Thursday, March 21, 2019

News on Gardens & Slaves from Colonial Williamsburg

Colonial Williamsburg investigates gardens of Martha Washington's first father-in-law

Colonial Williamsburg has cleared out the cows so its archaeologists can take a crack at Custis Square. The foundation hopes that underneath the grass its livestock has grazed on, it will find artifacts related to the volatile planter and one-time father-in-law to Martha Washington, John Custis IV.
A painting of John Custis IV standing by a cut tulip blossom ca. 1740 attributed to Charles Bridges. (Courtesy of Washington and Lee University, University Collections of Art and History, Lexington, Va.)

The foundation has launched a multi-year archaeological investigation at Custis’ home and gardens, known as Custis Square. Colonial Williamsburg hopes to learn more about Custis, the enslaved people who lived at the site and horticulture of the early 18th century at what is a major and mostly unexplored site.

“We’re thrilled to be able to do this. It’s one of the more important sites that has not been excavated at Colonial Williamsburg,” said Jack Gary, the foundation’s director of archaeology.

Gary spoke just a couple hours after the first shovelfuls of dirt were removed from the pasture Monday, which sits on top of the 4-acre Custis Square site. Around him were a handful of archaeologists digging, scraping and peering into a few 50-centimeter squares of exposed dirt arrayed in a grid and marked with tiny pink flags. Prior to the start of the excavation, livestock had grazed on the property; they will be moved to other pastures to make way for the dig.

The archeologists’ mission is two-fold: to learn about the broader landscape of Custis Square, particularly its garden, and to learn about the people who lived there, particularly the enslaved Africans who actually created and tended the garden.

By 1717, after buying the property a couple years earlier, Custis had built a house at the site, which is on Francis Street between the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts and the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art museums and the Colonial Parkway.

In his personal letters of the time, Custis wrote of his budding interest in gardening. That interest would blossom into a passion.

“As we read more of his letters, we learn he didn’t just get into gardening, he really got into gardening,” Gary said...

Custis developed an elaborate garden for this property, one that was known even in England. Records show Custis ordered a range of plants from England and kept up a correspondence with notable naturalists. Historians believe the garden featured topiary, gravel paths and three statues, Gary said.

“This is a high-end garden being developed by an incredibly wealthy individual,” Gary said. The space is more than a collection of curated plants. It’s also a window into the development of an aspect of American culture, albeit gardening, and how English and African culture informed it.

“He took garden conventions from England, even plants from England. How did he translate that into a completely different physical setting, a completely different environment and a completely different cultural setting?” Gary said.

There’s also a darker side of Custis Square. The wealthy garden enthusiast was a slave owner. Learning more about the lives of those enslaved people is also a priority of the project.

“This was a landscape of enslavement. There were enslaved people who worked on this property,” Gary said. “How did they transform this landscape? They were the ones building it and maintaining it.”

Custis owned almost 200 people when he died. While some lived and worked at Custis Square, most worked on his four plantations outside Williamsburg, according to a Colonial Williamsburg news release.

One phase of the project is excavation of outbuildings, with an emphasis on enslaved inhabitants of the site. The project will also conduct materials analysis and research Custis’ enslaved laborers to identify descendants, the release states.

Those efforts will be helped by the size of the site.

“Because it’s such a large lot, there may be more discreet places where enslaved people are living in their own quarters. Once we find those, that allows us to say ‘this stuff belonged to enslaved people as opposed to John Custis,’ ” Gary said.

Custis, who lived from 1678 to 1749, led a prominent family that initially settled on Virginia’s Eastern Shore in the mid-1600s. He moved to Williamsburg after his rocky marriage to Frances Parke Custis ended with her death by smallpox in 1715.

Insight into that tempestuous relationship can be found on Custis’ Eastern Shore grave, which reads in part, “Yet lived but Seven [sic] years which was the Space [sic] of time he kept a Batchelors [sic] House at Arlington on the Eastern Shoar [sic] of Virginia.”

In Williamsburg, Custis served on the royal Governor’s Council and had a falling out with Lt. Gov. Alexander Spotswood after Spotswood had trees felled near Custis Square to create a better view from the Governor’s Palace, the release states.

There’s also a connection to America’s first First Lady. Custis’ son by Frances Parke, Daniel Parke Custis, married one Martha Dandridge in 1750. He died in 1757. Martha Dandridge inherited Custis Square from her late husband and likely lived there before she married George Washington in 1759, Gary said.

In addition to politics and gardening, Custis was a savvy, perhaps even cutthroat, tobacco planter. Letters to merchants show a man willing to put pressure on business associates, Gary said.

Custis, at 61 years old, fathered a son named John by one of his enslaved women, Alice. Custis secured John’s freedom by petitioning the colonial government. Custis deeded John land in York County, as well as enslaved people including John’s mother and her other children, according to the release.

Custis was also interested in medicine and fancied himself an amateur physician. He developed his own medicinal remedies and created hundreds of recipes to cure everything from heartburn to deafness. He treated his slaves with his medicines and even provided his remedies to Williamsburg’s poor for free, Gary said.

“If they couldn’t go to a real doctor, they could come to John Custis and get free medicine,” Gary said. “He’s like all of us. He has multiple sides to him.”

Senior staff archeologist Mark Kostro examined a smattering of brick debris within one of the dig site’s small exploratory squares of excavated dirt on the chilly Monday afternoon.

There’s a method to the small squares that represent an initial foray into the site. In January, the team used ground-penetrating radar to identity anomalies in the dirt to follow up on with excavation.

“One of the things we do when you have a big landscape like this is try to narrow down where are the points of interests for us to do larger excavations,” Kostro said. “It gives us a window every 10 meters of the whole project area.”

The idea is to create this grid across the site to inform archaeologists where to concentrate the digging effort. Kostro gestured to another square, sans brick, closer to Francis Street.

“Right away, we’re seeing some differences even here,” he said, adding that the brick debris could be a pathway, building debris or a dumping ground.

This effort isn’t the first time Colonial Williamsburg has explored the site. Colonial Williamsburg bought the site in 1966 and during that decade unearthed the residence’s foundations. The home is believed to have been a six-chimney building built in the Jacobean style, similar to Bacon’s Castle, according to Colonial Williamsburg.

In the years immediately after Custis’ death, the property housed trade and residential tenants. The building currently on the site was built by James McClurg in the early 1800s and is known as the Custis Kitchen. In 1851, the property was purchased by Eastern State Hospital, according to the release.

In the 1960s, Colonial Williamsburg excavated the foundation of John Custis IV's residence at Custis Square. In the 1960s, the focus was on finding buildings, and only a small portion of the site was explored. This time, Colonial Williamsburg will examine the entire property. The foundation waited about 50 years because the technology and techniques didn’t exist yet to thoroughly study the garden areas. Now, they do.

“Well, we’ve finally reached that point. The future is now,” Gary said. “We’re at a point where we feel confident we can tackle this site and do it the justice it deserves.” Now there’s the means to extract centuries-old pollen from soil and mortar to identify what kind of plants grew in the area, as well the ability to conduct chemical studies of the soil, Gary said.

That means the team is in a better position than its predecessors to figure out which herbs the medicine man may have grown in the garden. Finding evidence of those plants can be compared with Custis’ documents to confirm and expand on what historians know.

“We can check what we find archeologically against what we see in the documentary record and fill in the gaps with the two sources of data,” Gary said.

You’ll see folks digging around at the site for the next few years. The project kicks off with site mapping, surveying and excavation of the kitchen this year. Garden excavation, materials analysis and research of Custis’ enslaved laborers to identify descendants is slated for 2020-2021. After that comes open excavation of the outbuildings, with a focus on enslaved inhabitants at the site (2022-2023) and then cataloging and reporting in 2024-2025, according to the release.

In time, the project site will be open to the public, so visitors can follow along with discoveries made at the site. The plan is that by the fall, there will be formal tours open to guests, Gary said.

“More than 90 years after its establishment, Colonial Williamsburg continues to pursue a fuller understanding of 18th-century America, its people and their culture in order to tell our shared American story more fully,” Colonial Williamsburg President and CEO Mitchell Reiss said in the release.

Landscape Design - Yards at Private Homes

Yards & Courtyards at Private Dwellings

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.The word 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 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 inA 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."

The 1746 South Caroliana Gazette carried a notice about a missing horse,"SRTAY'D or stolen out of my Court -Yardformerly 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 yardsof 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 Yardin 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 Yardon 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 yardbefore 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 yardabout 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 yardlately paved in."In the South, especially at urban sites, the yard was often paved with brick, tile, or crushed shells.
18C 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 yardof 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,"Ourand 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 courtor 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 courtbefore 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 courtor garden from its neighbour."

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Garden News from Thomas Jefferson's Monticello

Note from Peggy Cornett

After his death in 1826 Thomas Jefferson’s granddaughter, Cornelia Jefferson Randolph, sketched the ground plan of Monticello, which included a south corner “triangle bed” meant to grow violets and other fragrant flowers: intending it to be a “nest of sweets.” Archaeologists confirmed this design feature and today it is planted with Hyacinths, sweet white violets, Historic tulips, and Dianthus.