Friday, December 31, 2010

Garden History - Tools


Dear friends gave me an old dibble yesterday. To celebrate my great good fortune in both friends & dibbles, I am posting this non-American print of working in a more sophisticated European 18th-century garden. Enjoy, while I will be caressing my smooth, smooth old hand-carved wooden dibble.


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Primary Source - 1768 Runaway Gardener

RUN away...a likely young negro man named BEN, about 27 years old, near 6 feet high. Carried with him a pair of leather legging, and a variety of other cloaths, by trade a farmer and gardener, and is very handy at many other businesses.

Virginia Gazette (Rind), Williamsburg, March 3, 1768.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Garden History - 18th-Century New England Landscapes

Michele Felice Corne (1752–1845) Ezekiel Hersey Derby Farm

Michele Felice Corne (1752–1845) Harbor View

Michele Felice Corne (1752–1845) New England Country Seat.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Garden History - Late 18th-Century Landscapes of South Carolina

South Carolina artist Charles Fraser (1782-1860) painted some watercolors of the landscapes he saw around him in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. These are from the Carolina Art Association Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston, South Carolina.

The South View of Fort Mechanic Charleston, July 4, 1796.

South West View of Newport.


Near Charleston, June, 1805.

Capt. Frederick Fraser's Place, Prince William's Parish.

Another View of Richmond.

A View on Mepkin.

A View Near Charleston , 1801, Where St. Paul's Church Now Stands, Ratcliffe Lands.

A View Mr. Lindsay's From South Bay, May 10th.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Garden History - Charleston, SC Before 1776 - Seen through the eyes of Gardeners, a Plant Collector, a Ship Captain, & a Patriot

1773 Charleston, South Carolina. Library of Congress

Early views of Charleston do not portray the genteel town of our imaginations.

Charles-town 1769.

Black and white all mix’d together,
Inconstant, strange, unhealthful weather
Burning heat and chilling cold
Dangerous both to young and old
Boisterous winds and heavy rains
Fevers and rheumatic pains
Agues plenty without doubt
Sores, boils, the prickling heat and gout
Musquitos on the skin make blotches
Centipedes and large cock-roaches
Frightful creatures in the waters
Porpoises, sharks and alligators
Houses built on barren land
No lamps or lights, but streets of sand
Pleasant walks, if you can find ’em
Scandalous tongues, if any mind ’em
The markets dear and little money
Large potatoes, sweet as honey
Water bad, past all drinking
Men and women without thinking
Every thing at a high price
But rum, hominy and rice
Many a widow not unwilling
Many a beau not worth a shilling
Many a bargain, if you strike it,
This is Charles-town, how do you like it.

This poem was written by a Captain Martin, captain of a British warship, a Man of War.

It is certainly true that several other pre-Revolution chroniclers wrote of Charleston's trendy and affluent high society and of her pesky crawling critters.

English plant hunter and naturalist John Lawson (1674-1711) wrote in 1709, "The Town has very regular and fair Streets, in which are good Buildings of Brick and Wood...This Colony was at first planted by a genteel Sort of People that were well acquainted with Trade, and had either Money or Parts to make good Use of the Advantages that offer’d, as most of them have done by raising themselves to great Estates...and...considerable Fortunes...They have a considerable Trade both to Europe and the West Indies, whereby they become rich and are supply’d with all Things necessary for Trade and genteel Living."

John Lawson was an explorer, plant collector, surveyor, and author of A New Voyage to Carolina (London, 1709). A London botanist and apothecary, James Petiver (1658-1718), was seeking someone to collect American specimens for him, and Lawson volunteered to do this without charge. Thirty of the South Carolina plant specimens that he sent still survive in the Sloane collection at the British Museum. Hans Sloane (1660-1753) was a friend of Petiver. Sloane amassed a huge collection of plants, animals, and objects which became the founding core of the British Museum and Natural History Museum in London.

Agriculturalist & gardener Eliza Lucus Pinckney (1722-1793) wrote to her brother Thomas in England in 1742, "The people in general hospitable and honest, and the better sort add to these a polite gentile behaviour...4 months in the year is extremely disagreeable, excessive hot, much thunder and lightning, and muskatoes and sand flies in abundance. Charles Town, the Metropolis, is a neat pretty place. The inhabitants polite and live in a very gentile manner; the streets and houses regularly built; the ladies and gentlemen gay in their dress."

Rev. Johann Martin Bolzius (1703-1765),
leader of the German Lutheran settlement of Ebenezer, Georgia, wrote of Charleston in 1750, "It is expensive and costly to live in Charlestown...The splendor, lust, and opulence there has grown almost to the limit...Its European clothes it would have to change according to the often changing Charlestown fashion. Otherwise there would be much humiliation and mockery."

In Georgia, Bolzius was also intensely interested in gardening & agriculture. He urged the adoption of new agricultural technology and helped the struggling community to construct a gristmill, a rice mill, and a sawmill to supplement their funds. He encouraged his wife to experiment with the cultivation of black and white mulberry trees to help the women of Ebenezer develop a small-scale silk production.

Philadelphia merchant, Pelatiah Webster (1725-1795), wrote of his business trip to the city in 1765, "The laborious business is here chiefly done by black slaves of which there are great multitudes...Dined with Mr. Liston, passed the afternoon agreeably at his summer house till 5 o’clock P. M. then went up into the steeple of St. Michael’s, the highest in town & which commands a fine prospect of the town, harbour, river, forts, sea, &c...The heats are much too severe, the water bad, the soil sandy, the timber too much evergreen; but with all these disadvantages, ’tis a flourishing place, capable of vast improvement."

Pelatiah Webster, while not known for his gardening efforts, was the author of a number of thoughtful and accurate pamphlets on the potential finances and government of the United States, most of which he reprinted in his “Political Essays” in Philadelphia in 1791. He was such an ardent supporter of the patriot cause, that the British imprisoned him for 4 months in Philadelphia; before they were dispatched back to the beautiful emerald isle.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Garden History - Landscapes of South Carolina Churches & Meeting Houses

Artist Charles Fraser (1782-1760) painted a series of watercolors of churches & meeting houses in South Carolina. He depicts broad swipes of landscapes allowing the viewer to see the buildings in the ground planned around them. These images are from the Carolina Art Association Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston, South Carolina.


The 1765 church was called "Punkin Hill" locally. The Parish of St. Thomas & St. Dennis was made from the union of the Huguenot Church St. Denis & the Parish of St. Thomas which had been laid off by the Church Act of 1706. In Day on Cooper River it says: “on a high bluff, raising abruptly from the bed of the river, stands the Parish Chapel, commonly known as Pompion Hill Chapel, taking its name from the hill on which it stands.”

Charles Fraser (1782-1860) THE CHURCH IN ST. ANDREW’S PARISH, APRIL 1800.

Established on the west bank of the Ashley River in 1706, by 1722 the original church had became too small for the parishioners. The church was enlarged in the form of a cross, with a gallery at the west end designated for “people of colour.” Destroyed by fire, it was rebuilt by subscription in 1764, and it covered a great territory. It maintained a Chapel of Ease on James’ Island, which was attended by many Presbyterians on the Island; but, after 1787, the Reverend Thomas Mills states that “the inhabitants of James Island, who were nearly all Presbyterians, or Independents, had procured a minister and organized a Church of their own. After this period, in conformity with the injunctions of the Vestry, my Pastoral duties were generally confined to St. Andrew’s on the main.”

Charles Fraser (1782-1860). CHURCH IN ST. JAMES’ PARISH, GOOSE CREEK.

St. James’ Parish, Goose Creek, was laid off in 1706, and the church was completed in 1719. “So numerous was the congregation of this church that its capacity was found in a few years wholly insufficient”, and a Chapel of Ease was erected about 7 miles from the original church structure.

Charles Fraser (1782-1860) CHURCH ON JOHN’S ISLAND.

This was St. John’s Colleton, which had been a part of St. Paul’s but was separated from it in 1734, and served “John’s Island, Wadmalaw Island, Edisto Island, and the other adjacent Islands to the seaward.”


The Stony Creek Presbyterian Church built in Indian Land on Stony Creek near Pocotaligo in 1743. Fraser notes in his Reminiscences, even during his boyhood, the Presbyterian "dissenters" never called their places of worship churches.

Charles Fraser (1782-1860)A MEETING-HOUSE NEAR JACKSONBOROUGH, 1799.

This is the meeting-house of Bethel Congregation of Pon Pon organized in St. Bartholomew’s Parish in 1728 and first ministered to by the Reverend Archibald Stobo, the Father of Presbyterianism in South Carolina. One historian told of Reverend Robert Baron, sent out to St. Bartholomew’s Parish by the Society for the Propagation of the gospel in 1753: “He arrived at Charles Town June 1st and entered on the duties of his cure on the 7th of that month. Mr. Baron was soon after taken ill, and had a severe seasoning, as it is usually called. His Parishioners were scattered over a great extent of country, and were an orderly and well behaved people. The Presbyterians were numerous, but they all lived together in mutual friendship and Christian charity.”


This parish was often called Sheldon Church because of its proximity to the Bull plantation of that name. “An instance of the hospitality of Carolina, connected with the history of Sheldon Church, has been stated to us b y those who knew the fact. Stephen Bull who live in its vicinity, usually invited as his guests, on the Sabbath, the more respectable part of the Congregation who attended divine service; while his overseer, by his direction, and at his expense, liberally entertained the rest. At that time, seldom less than 60 or 70 carriages, of various descriptions were seen at the Church on the Lord’s Day. It was burnt in 1780 by the British under General Prevost, on their march from Savannah to the siege of CharlesTown.” It was rebuilt on its original lines after the Revolution.

Charles Fraser (1782-1860) THE CHURCH IN ST. BARTHOLOMEW’S PARISH, 1796.

“This part of Colleton County was made a Parish, by an act passed Dec. 18, 1708.” The first missionary, sent by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts was a Reverend Mister Osborn, who arrived in 1713. “His cure was very extensive, and his duty laborious. It was 40 miles long, and 30 wide…He officiated at five different places for the accommodations of his parishioners…Mr. Osborn was greatly esteemed and the Church flourished under his care. This prosperity, however, was soon interrupted. In 1715 the Indian War [Yemassee] broke out and the savages destroyed all the plantations in the Parish…The Missionary with difficulty escaped to Charles Town." By 1760 two brick Chapels of Ease had been built. The Church in this sketch was the Chapel of Pon Pon, which was burnt to the birck walls by the British during the Revolution but rebuilt after the war. The locals then called it "the Burnt Church."


The parsonage stood on a slight hill and its lane led dircectly to the church door. In the woods is a small 1759 vestry building, where Parish business could be transacted and where coachmen & grooms might take shelter.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Garden History - Gardeners - Indpendent Contractors in South Carolina

Charles Fraser (1782- 1860). Mr. Gabriel Manigault's Seat at Goose Creek, 1802. The Carolina Art Association Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston, South Carolina. The estate was called Steepbrook.

Independent Gardeners Working in South Carolina

Gardeners appear in South Carolina records in a variety of ways--deeds, estates, administration records, and newspapers. Often, the identification "gardener" is all that is available about these men. They don't place ads seeking work or advertising plants, but they should not be ignored.

1796. Charles Fraser (1782-1860). The Seat of Joseph Winthrop, Esq. on Goose Creek, South Carolina. The Carolina Art Association Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston, South Carolina. Joseph Winthrop was married to Charles Fraser's older sister.

Thanks to South Carolina native Charles Fraser (1782 - 1860 ) we have a chance to see, through his eyes, the homes & gardens there as he was growing up. These were some of the gardens & grounds, that the independent gardeners listed here helped plant & tend. Although Fraser was primarily known for his miniature portraits, he created watercolors of historical sites, homes, & landscapes, while also working as a lawyer, historian, writer, & politician. Today, many of Fraser's works are housed & displayed in Charleston's Carolina Art Association Gibbes Museum of Art.

The first professional gardener on record in South Carolina was a Frenchman. Mathurin Guerin was a French Huguenot who took refuge in the province and requested to be naturalized as an English citizen under the act passed on March 10, 1697, designed to grant to all aliens that were inhabitants of the Province of South Carolina the same privileges as those persons born of English parents. Mathurin Guerin was a native of St. Nazaire, son of Pierre Guerin, and of Jeanne Bilbau. His wife was Marie Nicholas, daughter of Audre Nicholas and Francoise Dunot.

While Guerin may have been the first French Huguenot gardener in South Carolina, he certainly was not the last. French gardeners and seedsmen arrived in the Mid-Atlantic and upper south after the Revolutionary War. But in South Carolina, French gardeners influenced the gardening from the beginning of the 18th century. South Carolina saw a large influx of French Huguenots – individuals who were probably familiar with the garden designs of Le NĂ´tre. Garden designs in South Carolina continued to have a formal aspect well into the 19th century.

1803. Charles Fraser (1782-1860). Ashley Hall near Charleston, South Carolina.The Carolina Art Association Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston, South Carolina. Fraser wrote in his Reminiscences that the oak trees were planted by a "visitor," Mark Catesby, who came to Carolina in 1722, and whose Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands was published in England a decade later.

More independent white gardeners appear in South Carolina records earlier than in the northern colonies. While most independent gardeners in the Mid-Atlantic and upper south worked in public gardens, fewer independent gardeners appear in the records at private properties in early Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia during the first half of the 18th century.

Charles Fraser (1782-1860). A Seat on the Ashely River, April, 1802. Carolina Art Association The Carolina Art Association Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston, South Carolina. This house is typical of much South Carolina & West Indies plantation architecture which have a basement story of masonry and upper floors of wood. The double stairway to the semi-classic porch is also very characteristic of this architecture.

South Carolina’s next gardener of record was Bartholomew Garret who was dead in 1719, when his widow Elizabeth (Major), originally of London, declared her “love and affection” for Thomas Hayward of Charleston.

Charles Fraser (1782-1860). Another View of Brabants. The Carolina Art Association Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston, South Carolina.

In the South Carolina Gazette of May 12, 1757, Henry Middleton placed a notice to settle the estate of his deceased gardener, George Newman.

The only knowledge of gardener Robert Hunter comes from his June 15, 1767 notice in the Gazette, "NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN THAT frequent and repeated trespasses have been committed, at Mr. Daniel Cannon’s garden, up-the-Path, This is therefore to inform and forwarn all persons whatsoever, for the future, as they must expect to answer the consequences by a gun, or dog, or both. ROBERT HUNTER, Gardener."

In 1774, John Bert is identified as a gardener in a land transaction. George Reynolds is listed in the 1790 Charleston City Directory as a gardener at 42 George Street. He also appeared as a gardener in sureties and administrative settlements beginning in 1782.

Charles Fraser (1782-1860). Another View of Mepkin, May, 1803. The Carolina Art Association Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston, South Carolina.

Peter Boutiton
was a fiesty French gardener who also signed his name Pierre. He was active in the Charleston area from 1776, until his death in 1783. He married he widow Mary Air on January 9, 1777 at St. Philip’s. Mary Air was the granddaughter and heir of Charleston merchant, Peter Benoist. On July 21 of that year he placed the following notice in the Gazette of the State of South Carolina in Charleston, "PETER BOUTITON, Gardener, near and wit in the town gate, having suffered…frequent robberies of the produce of his hard labour, and greatly also by loss of rest, is watching by himself and two negroes, and frequent firing of guns, with no other intent than to deter the thieves-which not having answered his purpose-He now gives public notice and warning. That whoeverhereafter shall presume to enter his inclusures in the night, must do it at the risk of their lives.” Boutiton was identified as having been a gardener in Charleston during the settlement of his estate in 1783 ,and in South Carolina court records for several years thereafter.

1797. Charles Fraser (1782-1860). Mrs. Robert Gibbe's Place on John's Island, South Carolina. The Carolina Art Association Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston, South Carolina. The two sea-islands lying southwest of Charles Town were originally named after two parishes in the Barbadoes, St. James & St. John, but soon the locals were calling them simply James’ Island & John’s Island.

Anthony Farasteau
was another French gardener. His was alternately listed as a gardener and a weaver in several land transactions and at the settlement of his estate, in the Charleston papers. He was active in Charleston records from 1776, until his death in 1785. Weavers often were also gardeners who grew their own dye plants.

William Kirkpatrick appeared in 1786 in the will of a friend mentioned as a gardener to the estate of the late Colonel Maurice Simons. Philip Hartz was also mentioned as a gardener in a will in 1788.

Charles Fraser (1782-1860). Another View of Richmond, May, 1803. The Carolina Art Association Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston, South Carolina.

Charles Gross was listed as a gardener in the 1790 Charleston City Directory at 152 King Street. He moved to Hampstead in 1792-1793 and began to garden and sell seed from there, until he died in 1802. Englishman James Sommers appears in the settlement of his estate after his death in 1794 as having been a gardener in Charleston. In his will he mentions being from Ilfondcombe in the County of Devon in England.

The will of gardener Robert Johnston noted that he came from Greenwill Street, Newtownards, Ireland, where he owned a house and land. Morris Conner was a gardener from St. Bartholomew’s Parish who died in testate in 1795. Elisha Diven was a gardener in Charleston in the same era. He is identified as a gardener in a 1797 estate proceeding and at his own death in 1798.

1796. Charles Fraser (1782-1860). A View of Mr. Linsay's in Charleston, South Carolina, Taken from Savage's Green. The Carolina Art Association Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston, South Carolina. In Fraser’s Reminiscences he states, “There was Savage’s Green at the lower end of Broad Street, which, until the building of the old Theatre, was entirely vacant, and spacious enough to be used for military exercise. The old battalion often paraded and fired their pieces there.” Fraser remarks that the end of Savage’s Green was a favorite swimming place for boys. Across the creek from the Green “was the town house of Mr. Thomas Ferguson, a large planter of the Parish of St. Paul, and a prominent leader of the Revolutionary party.. His house in Charles Town long bore the mark of a British cannon ball fired into the town in 1780.”

John Hope
was listed as a gardener of Charleston at the administration of his estate upon his death in 1800. Neal McGregor (1773-1819) was a gardener who was born in Perthshire, North Britain in 1773, and immigrated to Charleston, sometime before his December 1802, marriage to Mrs. Jane Phipps. He was listed as a gardener in the 1809 Charleston City Directory and when he was naturalized in 1813. He and his wife lived on Vanderhorst Street in Charleston, until his death in 1819.

George Smith was a Charleston gardener who was born in Wicklow, Ireland, in 1784. He immigrated sometime before his 1810 Charleston marriage to Margaret Morgan in 1810. James Mair was a gardener who was born in Scotland in 1772. He immigrated to Charleston, and went into partnership with Robert Brown of Beaufort until 1801. He owned 779 acres of land on John’s Island and was listed in the 1809 Charleston City Directory as a gardener operating on King Street. He married Martha Graham, the youngest daughter of the then deceased Rev. William Graham in January of 1805, and he died in September of 1809. He was in partnership, until his death, with James Fraser, son of John Fraser, seedsman, nurseryman, and botanist of London.

Charles Fraser (1782-1860). The Seat of John Julius Pringle, Esq. on Ashley River, 1800. The Carolina Art Association Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston, South Carolina. When the land was bought by John Julius Pringle in 1795, the Duke de la Rochefoucault Liancourt spent some time with him in Charleston. He wrote of a trip up the Ashley River to the new property, “We crossed the River, and stopped at a plantation lately purchased by Mr. Pringle, the former name of which was Greenville, but which he has named ‘Susan’s Place’ in honour of his lively wife…The new mansion…will be finished this summer.”

Samuel Anderson
was also listed as a gardener of Hampstead in the Charleston City Directory and appeared in several Charleston County land transactions from that time on.

James Neswitt
was noted to be a gardener of Charleston Neck in the administration of his estate in 1813. John Jarman is another gardener of Charleston identified through estate matters between 1805 and 1818.

And Daniel A. Stark was a gardener with wanderlust who preferred not to walk, according to a notice in the Charleston Times on April 19, 1819. "Caution. A MAN, who said his name was DANIEL A. STARK, and had been working as a Gardener for Mrs. Kennedy, at Gordon & Spring’s Ferry, absconded on Wednesday week last, taking with him a Gun, Shot-Bag and Powder-Flask; and on the next day a Horse belonging to Mrs. K. was missing."

Robert DuBois (1740-1823)
who was also listed as a gardener in the 1809 Charleston City Directory, working out of King Street. At the time of his 1823 will, he was living at Charleston Neck in the forks of the road of King Street.

James Waddell was another South Carolina gardener and weaver originally from Ireland. He and his wife Ann, the widow of Benjamin Wood, appear in 1783 and 1785 estate matters. In 1798 and 1799, they appear in land records as residents of Charleston Neck and members of Christ Church parish. In 1804, Waddell conveyed 1,082 acres he owned on John’s Island. The City Gazette in Charleston on June 5, 1823 reported his death.

Charles Fraser (1782-1860) The Carolina Art Association Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston, South Carolina.

Marmaduke Jenny
was identified as a gardener “late of Charleston and the village of Washington” when he died in 1821.

Joseph Parsons (c1743-1823) was also listed as a gardener on Hampstead in the 1809 and 1813 Charleston City Directories. Parsons was born in Henrico County, Virginia. He married Alcey Goolsby in 1763 in Laurens, South Carolina, and served as an Indian spy in the Revolutionary War.

Joseph Parsons appeared in the records as a gardener in 1807, as the husband of Esther, the widow of Conrad Hook, a carpenter. They appeared in land records; until his death in 1823. His obituary in the City Gazette in Charleston on April 23, 1823 read, “Died, in the city on Monday, the 7th inst. after a long illness, Mr. Joseph Parsons, aged 40 years, formerly of Wiscasset, but for the last 20 years a resident of this state.” When he died, they were living in Hampstead “near Mr. Nell’s Rope-Walk.”

1802. Charles Fraser (1782-1860). A View Near Charleston, South Carolina. The Carolina Art Association Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston, South Carolina. Fraser wrote, “A large part of Harleston (a village) and more especially the lots bordering upon the low ground and marches of Coming’s Creek, was nearly acquired by Mr. Thomas Bennett Sr., who, with Daniel Cannon, utilized the ebb and flow of the tides by establishing on these water large lumber mills. This tidal power was also used largely upon the rice-growing rivers for pounding mills, which separated the husk from the grain;…Nor was it only the waterpower which was utilized, for among the lots conveyed in 1804 by Thomas Bennett Sr. to Thomas Bennett, Jr., later Governor of South Carolina, was the lot of marshland on which the windmill stood near by a branch of Coming’s Creek.” In the Charleston Courier December 15, 1825, appeared a notice: “At Private Sale…that large Brick Wind Mill, situate on Harleston’s Green, adapted for the sawing of lumber.” Windmills & watermills with vast undershot wheels, worked by the tides, were common in the neighborhood along the Ashley River.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Garden History - Gardeners - Family

Family Garden Helpers
Surprisingly, landed gentry & small town merchants & artisans generally employed the same kinds of help in the garden during the latter half of the 18th century in the Mid-Atlantic & Upper South. (That region usually includes Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Washington DC, & Virginia; but my research seldom is all-inclusive for the entire area.)

While there are not many records of exactly who was working in the garden during the growing season, there are a few. Hard-working Annapolis craftsman William Faris used apprenticed & indentured white servants, free & slave blacks, & his own family to maintain his Annapolis garden. Here the use of garden labor between the artisan & the gentry differed.

At the homes of the gentry, the family seldom helped with garden tasks, except that the wives usually managed the daily activities of the kitchen garden and the poultry yard, as well as daily tasks of the house staff.

All of craftsman Faris' children, who were living close to home between 1792 & 1804, (when Faris was recording daily in his diary) helped in the garden, usually assisting a slave or temporary hired help.

Faris’ unmarried sons still living in Annapolis, who had apprenticed under their father before going out on their own as professional clockmakers & silversmiths, continued to serve as occasional garden labor for their aging father, who was 64 years old in 1792. One son was 27, & the other was 23 in 1792.

The craftsman’s unmarried daughters all helped in the garden, until they left home. Faris first mentioned his youngest daughter’s helping in the garden in 1794, when she was fifteen. His two oldest daughters, unmarried & heavily into the Annapolis social scene, also assisted in Faris’s garden in 1799, when the eldest was 25 & her sister was 24.

Notation of garden work by Faris’s wife, Priscilla, appears only once. In his diary Faris noted that she was usually employed at “woman’s work.” She fed & sewed clothing for her family & helped Faris with his need for extra hands by raising a large family.

British agriculturalist Richard Parkinson & his family rented a farm in Baltimore County for several years at the end of the century before returning to England, where he wrote of his American experiences. Parkinson also noted that his children helped with gardening & farming chores but that his wife did not.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Garden History - Gardeners - Under Public Contract

Gardeners Under Contract to Work at Public Buildings in the Chesapeake & Upper South
Records indicate that independent professional gardeners plied their trade much earlier in publicly-owned gardens than in the gardens of the gentry in the Chesapeake. While laborers in one form of bondage or another maintained most privately-owned Mid-Atlantic & Upper South pleasure gardens, the church & state often used independent professionals to supervise the planting efforts of slaves & servants well before the War for Independence.

In Virginia early in the century, a succession of professional gardeners, who were not serving under an indenture, worked at institutions of the royal government in Williamsburg, including the Governor’s Palace & the College of William & Mary.

Some of these professional gardeners held pristine credentials. James Road, an assistant to George London, Royal Gardener to King William & Queen Mary, was sent to Virginia in 1694, to collect plants for shipment back to Hampton Court Palace. He also probably to laid out the earliest gardens at the new college in Williamsburg. London had served as a gardener at Versailles and had traveled to Holland to study their smaller flower gardens, as well.

It is likely that James Road's supervising gardener George London(1681-1714) actually drew up the plans for the gardens at the College of William & Mary. Virginia planter John Walker wrote to John Evelyn in 1694. He received a reply to his particular query in May of 1694, in which Eveyln wrote, "Mr. London (his Majs Gardner here) who has an ingenious Servant of his, in Virginia, not unknown I presume to you by this time; being sent thither on purpose to make and plant the Garden, designed for the new Colledge, newly built in yr Country." The servant was London's assistant at Hampton Court, James Road.

The College, which was formally established by Royal Charter in 1693, began as a 330-acre tract of land purchased from Col. Thomas Ballard. William & Mary's first chancellor was Henry Compton, bishop of London. He was a serious gardener & horticulturalist who helped train George London to become a gardener.

Upon James Road's return to London, he was followed by Richard Hickman. Soon after Hickman's appointment, the records indicate that Thomas Creas or Crease (c1662-1757) was paid to assist Hickman in getting the gardens in order. After that, only Crease's name was associated with the ongoing management of the gardens at the Governor’s Palace for an unusually long tenure, from 1726, until he died in 1756.

It is unclear whether the new gardener was born, and perhaps trained, in the England. Some report that Thomas Crease was the head gardener at the Governor's Palace during the administration of Alexander Sportswood who served from 1710-1722. Others claim that Crease came over from England with Governor Hugh Drysdale in 1722. Drysdale was the first Governor to occupy the new "Governor's Palace" in Williamsburg, from 1722-1726.

Others suggest that Crease may have begun his gardening work at Westover, the home of William Byrd II. Byrd refers to a gardener "Tom Cross" in 1720. The same Tom Cross carried at least one letter from Byrd's Williamsburg brother-in-law John Custis during one of his visits to Westover. Byrd, Custis, and Tom Cross/Crease were all accomplished gardeners.
Two years before his appearance in the Governor's Palace records, in 1724, Crease was identified as a "gardener of Williamsburg, married and owning a half acre lot." His house was on the land now supporting the "Taliaferro-Cole" house.

According to York County, Virginia, records Crease married the widow of Gabriel Maupin, Marie Hersent, in 1724. Gabriel Maupin, his wife Marie, and family had sailed to the Huguenot settlement at Manakintown, in Virginia, in 1699-1700, after passing through the Spittalsfield (now Bethnell Green) "suburb" of London in the late 1690s.

Gabriel had operated a tavern in Williamsburg from 1714-1718. After her husband died, Marie ran the tavern from 1719-1723. When she married Crease in 1724, they operated the tavern together. Marie, born in France, died in Williamsburg in 1748.

Crease began to be "paid for his Service and labourerers in assisting in putting in order the Gardens belonging to the Governor's house" in 1726. He also was "Gardener to the College, in Williamsburg."

In addition to operating a tavern in Williamsburg, Thomas Crease supplemented his income by selling plants. In January 1737, he placed an ad in the Virginia Gazette, "Gentlemen and others, may be supply'd with good Garden Pease, Beans and several other sorts Flower Roots; likewise Trees of several sorts and sizes, fit to plant, as ornaments in Gentlemen's gardens...Thomas Crease--Gardener to the College in Williamsburg."
When Crease died in 1756, his estate was valued at 166.4.3 pounds, and he owned 6 slaves according to his January 1757 inventory. His will, which was proved in York County on January 17, 1757, named a brother Thomas Hornsby & his wife Margaret, and friend Hugh Orr & Catherine, his wife.

James Nicholson
, who was born in Inverness, Scotland, sailed to the colony in 1756, to garden at the College of William & Mary. He remained in the position until his death in 1773, at which point he was earning the unusually high salary of 50 pounds a year. The salary probably covered the payments to garden helpers as well.

James Wilson began as college gardener at William & Mary in 1773, after a politically unsuccessful tenure as palace gardener from 1769 through 1771, & he managed to remain at the college as head gardener until 1780.

The royal government appointed its first native-born Virginian, Christopher Ayscough, to the post of head gardener at the Governor's Palace in 1758. When he left the post in 1768, he was earning only 20 pounds annually for his labors.

Immigrant English gardener James Simpson briefly replaced Ayscough at the palace for 16 pounds a year, but either the low wages or the high humidity caused him to beg to return home a scant year later.

John Farquharson, served as the palace’s head gardener, supervising the slaves who did the daily labor, from 1771 until 1781, when the Governor's Palace, by then a military hospital, was destroyed by fire.

Many members of the colonial clergy were sometimes assigned the task of both the ornamental & the practical aspects of gardening for the religious order. Between 1739 & 1765, Father Arnold Livers, a Jesuit priest who was raised in Maryland, kept lists of both his kitchen garden plants & the flowers grown in the parish gardens, as part of his official church records. Sometimes the church employed professional gardeners.

The Society of Jesus occasionally paid independent garden contractors to maintain their kitchen & medicinal botanical gardens. In May 1741, Father James Whitgrave, at Newtown, Maryland , hired William Hues as gardener, his payment to be partially in cash & partially in tobacco.

Gardeners working at public buildings in colonial America usually worked from season to season supervising the work of slave & servant gardeners at a governmental or religious property. At least one, came from England to the colonies to help establish and lay out public gardens in the British American colony Virginia.

When America gained its independence, public contracts for seasonal gardening at churches, colleges, & public buildings surely continued, but records of them are more difficult to find as governmental, educational, & religious institutions grew in number.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Primary Source - 1729 Garden Vandalized

One Night this Week, some vile Miscreants got into the fine Gardens of the Honourable Clement Plumstead, Esq; and cut down many of the fine Trees, and tore up the choicest Roots &c. and as 'tis said, the Damage whereof comes to a very considerable Sum.

Pennsylvania Gazette, March 20, 1729.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Garden History - Plants - Vines

During the 18th century, American gardeners trained vines to grow on wooden fences, brick walls, columns, dwellings, arbors, and outbuildings. Vines are plants with supple stems that can climb, trail, or creep which need some support to grow erect. Some are rambling, some twining, and some sprawling.

American Bittersweet (Celastrus scandens)

Trained climbing vines could supply early American gardeners with some edibles; dramatic decoration; cooling shade; food to attract songbirds; some privacy; & lingering fragrances as well as softening the lines of buildings & screening undesirable views. Fast-growing plants, like the Carolina Trumpet Vine, could offer a relatively quick solution to hide an unsightly area. Climbing vines could break up stiff horizontal and vertical lines. And most of the vines could be found in the surrounding woods.

Balsam Apple (Momordica balsamina)

Among the hardy vines in early American gardens were the Carolina Trumpet Vine (Campsis radicans), Dutchman's Pipe (Aristolochia macrophylla), Virgin's Bower (Celmatis virginiana), honeysuckles, and rambling roses like sweetbriars, treasured for both their fragrant leaves & flowers. The orange, red, & yellow flowers of the Trumpet Honeysuckles (Lonicera sempervirens) are an excellent source of nectar for hummingbirds.

Carolina Jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens)

Thomas Jefferson grew the lush purple Hyacinth Bean (Dolihos lablab) as well as Scarlet Runner Beans (Phaseolus coccineus). He called the wonderfully scented Snail Flower or the Caracalla Bean (Vigna caracalla) with its twining stalk, "The most beautiful bean in the world." Philip Miller's 1768 edition of The Gardener's Dictionary noted that in Europe, "the inhabitants plant it to cover arbours and seats in gardens for which it is greatly esteemed...for its beautiful sweet smelling flowers."

Carolina Trumpet Vine (Campsis radicans)

Jefferson also grew the Nasturtium (Tropaeloum majus) as both a vegetable & an ornament in 1782. In Bernard M'Mahon's 1806 American Gardener's Calendar, he recommended the Balsam Apple (Momordica balsamina) as a tender annual flower of the "twining sort." Balsam Apple has lobed, glossy-green leaves, delicate tendrils, and soft pale-yellow flowers. But the resulting fruits are anything but delicate spikey yellow-green pods which turn a bright yellow-orange before bursting open with sticky bright red seeds. Jefferson tried this vine in his gardens, along with the Cypress Vine (Ipomoea quamoclit), the seeds of which he sent Patsy to grow indoors at Monticello in 1790.

Cypress Vine (Ipomoea quamoclit)

My favorite from the period is the Carolina Trumpet Vine. Its 3-inch-long tubular, horn-like, orange flowers are an amazing, defiant show of color blooming throughout the summer. For some garden visitors direct contact with the vine can result in skin irritation. I also enjoy the Carolina Jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens) which keeps it shiny dark green leaves year-round & shows vivid yellow blossoms. A shrubby, vine of moderate growth, jessamine climbs by twining its stem around a supporting structure. The fragrant, tubular, yellow flowers form in clusters during the early spring.

Dutchman's Pipe (Aristolochia macrophylla)

Also used in early gardens was American Bittersweet (Celastrus scandens) whose orange & red berry-like fruits & seeds of are showy and provide winter food for wildlife. The leaves are glossy dark green, oval shaped, and turn yellow before dropping in the fall. Native American Bittersweet vine is often confused with the invasive, weedy pest Oriental Bittersweet, which appears to be reducing the number of American Bittersweet plants.

Hyacinth Bean (Dolihos lablab)
Some theorize that vines were not much used as ornaments in gardens in the colonial & early republic periods of our county's history. Gardens during the 18th-century Age of Reason are thought to be too orderly to tolerate vines. The 19th century would bring in the passionate, vine-filled, romantic garden. But, early American gardeners were intentionally planting vines on their grounds long before the Romantic period.

Nasturtium (Tropaeloum majus)
Early in the 18th century, Robert Beverley reported in in History and Present State of Virginia about the garden at Westover, "Have you pleasure in a Garden?....Colonel Byrd, in his Garden, which is the finest in that Country, has a Summer-House set round with the Indian Honey-Suckle..."

Scarlet Runner Bean (Phaseolus coccineus)

In 1743, Eliza Lucas Pinckney wrote of William Middleton's Crow-field in South Carolina, "The house stands a mile from, but in sight of the you draw nearer new beauties discover themselves, first the fruitful Vine mantleing up the wall loaded with delicious Clusters..."

Snail Flower Vigna caracalla).

George Washington seemed to enjoy planting vines to soften the look of his covered walkways at Mount Vernon in Virginia. In March of 1785, he noted, "Planted the Scarlet or French honey each Column of my covered ways, as also against the circular walls between the Store house."

Sweetbriar Rose

When Manasseh Cutler visited the public pleasure grounds in 1787, Gray's Garden near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he wrote, "At every end, side, and corner, there were summer-houses, arbors covered with vines or flowers or shady bowers encircled with trees and flowering shrubs, each of which was formed in a different taste."

Trumpet Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens).

Francois Jean Marquis De Chastellux visited Westover many years after Beverley in 1782, noting, "As for the hummingbirds...the walls of the garden and the house were covered with honeysuckle, which afforded an ample harvest for these charming little animals."

Virgin's Bower (Celmatis virginiana).

Several years after planting his honeysuckle vines, George Washington wrote, "I desire that the honey suckles against the Houses and brick walls, may be nailed up and made to spread regularly over them. Should those near the Pillars of the Colanades, or covered ways, be dead, their plants should be supplied with others; as I want them to run up, and Spread over the parts which are painted green." Washington apparently liked the sweet smell of his honeysuckle vines and did not worry about the vine's affect on his wooden columns. Here was a man known to like the tried and true; and his fragrant, familiar honeysuckle provided him with that comfort.

Vines in Early American Paintings
Detail. 1772 William Williams (1727-1791). The William Denning Family.

1787 Detail. Salem, North Carolina.

Detail Lewis Miller (1796-1882) Lewis Miller Sketchbook.