Gardeners Looking for Work in the Mid-Atlantic & South
Independent professional architect and draftsman Peter Chassereau, newly arrived in South Carolina from London, advertised in the Charleston newspaper in January, 1734. "Mr . Peter Chassereau, newly come from London, surveys Lands, and makes near Maps thereof, draws Plans and Elevations of all kind of Buildings whatsoever, both civil and Military, likewise perspective Views or prospects of Towns or Gentlemens Houses or Plantations, he calculates Estimates for Buildings or Repairs, inspects and measures Artificers Works, sets out ground for Gardens or Parks, in a grand and rural manner, and takes Level ; young Gentlemen and Ladys will be attended at their own Houses to be taught Drawing ." He may have been visiting relatives in South Carolina. He would return to York, England and execute plans of towns, country houses, & gardens there.
Gardeners looking for employment began advertising for work in the Mid-Atlantic well before the Revolution. In 1749, a notice in the Maryland Gazette announced, “James Cook, Gardener, from England…performs all Sorts of Gardener’s Work….by the Year.”
Cook initially had come to Annapolis to garden for Provincial Secretary Edmund Jennings four years earlier, as an indentured servant. Cook advertised for independent work as a gardener in 1749 & 1750, but evidently he was less than successful at finding steady employment.
On November 3, 1751, Cook reindentured himself as a gardener, this time to Edmund Jennings’ wife, Catherine. In 1752, the Jenningses attempted to sell the time of the indentured gardener, noting that he was “an extraordinary good Gardener… understands the laying out of new work or anything belonging to a Garden.”
In the 1751 Pennsylvania Gazette, a young man "having serv'd a regular apprenticeship to a gardener in Scotland, having proactised it for several years in England, and is ready to answer any quorum of society of gardeners, in the several brances of gardening" had just arrived from Antigua and was looking for a position as a gardener and foreman over garden labourers for a gentleman in the region. He could be contacted at the London Coffee House in Philadelphia.
In several notices in the South Carolina Gazette during November 1752, John Barnes advertised, “This is to give Notice, to such Gentlemen and others, as have a taste in pleasure and kitchen gardens, that they may depend on having them laid out, leveled, and drained, in the most compleat manner, and politest taste, by the subscriber; who perfectly understands the contriving of all kinds of new works, and erecting wa(ter) works, &c. as fountains, cascades, grottos, &c. Planting)) vineyards and making of wines. As his stay in the province) will be but short (if he does not meet with sufficient en(cou)ragement) he desires those who ware inclined to employ (him) will signify their pleasures as early as possible to him, at Thomas Doughty’s, and they shall be wafted on by JOHN BARNES, Garden Archite(ct). He continued to advertise in Charleston as a garden architect through 1764.
In 1756, William Meyer notified the citizens of Philadelphia that he had opened an employment office, which he called the Office of Intelligence at the sign of the Sun on Moyamensing Road. He stated that "Any merchant incling to emply a person in a midling was of trade" could contact him. In October of 1756, he was looking for a "gardiner." By 1774, the office had moved to Front Street next to the London Coffee House, and was once again looking for a "good Gardener." In the Pennsylvania Gazette in 1782, the Intelligence Office placed a notice that "Clerks, Gardeners, Coachmen...of every description, may enter their names in said Office, after paying Eighteen pence; the same sum is to be paid by persons who are accomodated with servants by means of the Office."
John Watson was an immigrant gardener from England who advertised in the June 12, 1755 South Carolina Gazette, “JUST come from England, a Man that is a good gardener. Any gentleman that has occasion for one, or any planter that would employ him as an overseer, may hear of him by enquiring of the Printer.”
Watson was to become a long-lasting figure in the South Carolina gardening scene. He imported plants and gardening tools for sale. He was still advertising in the Gazette of December 10, 1763, “GARDENING in all its various branches will be done by him, either by the day or year.” He placed a similar ad in the same paper on September 16, 1765, and on February and November 10, 1766.
On April 27, 1767, he placed a notice in the Gazette of his moving. "THE Subscriber returns his most hearty thanks to all his friends who have been pleased to favour him with their custom, and hopes for a continuance thereof, and begs leave to acquaint them that he has removed to the hose known by the name of the Brew House, where he still continues gardening, selling of seeds, tools, fruit-trees, American plants, etc. as formerly.”
Watson was Henry Lauren’s gardener among others. He was the son of James and Jan Watson. Watson’s wife Catherine was buried in St. Phillip’s Parish on June 8, 1782, and he died, in the spring of 1789.
His sons James Mark and John carried on his nursery business until 1802, when John left South Carolina for health reasons. The Charleston Times ran the following notice on April 30, 1802. “The Subscriber BEING obliged to leave the country on account of his bad state of health, offers his handsome retreat for sale-There is on the premises a small Dwelling House, Stable and Fowl House, known to be a part of the Watson’s Gardens. Lot No. 3; in the vicinity of Hampstead. It is well worth the attention of any gentleman wishing a situation of the kind, as there is not for miles equal to it; the land is in the highest state of cultivation, both with vegetables and as complete a Nursery as Carolina can produce. He likewise offers his valuable NEGRO FELLOW, complete gardener and understands perfectly the management of raising, grafting, budding, and pruning of trees-it is unnecessary to mention any particulars about him, as he is well known in this city, JOHN WATSON.”
Thomas Horsey was a Charleston tinsmith & gardener who placed notices in Charleston newspapers in 1765 and 1766 “acquainting his friends and customers” that he had moved from his house on Broad Street and opened a shop on Meeting Street opposite Dr. Alexander Garden's. Horsey was a native of London. Dr. Alexander Garden was one of Charleston’s physicians and botanists before the Revolutionary War. Unlike his neighbor, however, Horsey was sympathetic with the patriot cause and served in the Charleston Militia, after which he returned to live at 4 Guigrand Street.
Virginia also saw independent gardeners searching for work before the war . In 1766, an immigrant placed the following notice in the local paper, “Lately arrived in this colony a young man who professes himself a GARDENER, understanding both flower & kitchen garden…grafting & budding.”
George Renney, an English gardener, advertised in the 1769 Virginia Gazette in Williamsburg “to undertake by the year to keep in order a few gardens at a reasonable price.”
In 1768 “James Callahan, lately from Philadelphia perfectly acquainted with all branches of gardening” advertised for work in the South Carolina Gazette on December 22. Perhaps the cold winters drove Callahan south.
In 1767, Alexander Petrie was advertising in the Savannah Georgia Gazette that, “GENTLEMEN in town or country may have their Gardens made in the neatest manner, or looked after by the year, by their humble servant, ALEXANDER PETRIE, at Mr. O’Connor’s. N.B. Work to be done by the day or piece.”
Apparently, Petrie moved throughout the South offering his gardening services. On December 13, 1783 Petrie placed the following ad in the Richmond Virginia Gazette and Weekly Advertiser, “Alexander Petrie, Gardiner (sic) and Ground-Workman, INTENDS living near this city, to carry on the different branches of his BUSINESS. He will take two or three boys as apprentices, if affable; their masters hay have them taught to any particular branch, as may be agreed on, such as ditching, ground-work, &c necessary to every Gentleman’s plantation, who wishes to improve it. He would be obliged to those Gentlemen who may choose to employ him, to acquaint him of it before the last of this month, that he may procure a number of hands to discharge what work he may undertake with punctuality and satisfaction.”
His name was listed as having an unclaimed letter as the Richmond Virginia Post Office in the Virginia Independent Chronicle of April 16, 1788. But, in October 8, 1796, he was advertising in The Norfolk Herald, Virginia, "ALEXANDER PETRIE, GARDENER, HAS FOR SALE, Asparragras Plants, of the best quality, N.E. Old beds replanted, where the ground is high and dry it is proper to plant this fall; if low and wet to plant in the spring, when the sap is rising."
By March 31, 1798, he had returned to Charleston and was involved in the 1798 Fire. His wife Eliza died in Charleston in 1801, after which nothing more appears about gardener Petrie.
Another professional English gardener immigrating to Charleston, was William Bennett. The May 13 and June 11, 1771 issues of the South Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, carried the following ad, GARDENING. The Subscriber takes this Method to acquaint the Public, That he will undertake to MAKE, or put in COMPLEAT ORDER, the GARDEN of any Gentleman or Lady in or within Two or three Miles of Charles-Town, at an easy Expence, either by the Day, Year or Quarter, as may best suit them; and can be well recommended by the Gentleman he came out of England with. Enquire at Mr. Harper’s, Taylor, in Church-Street, opposite Thomas Laughton Smith, Esq. WILLIAM BENNETT. Bennet also sold seeds in Charleston during this period.
"A Man who understands Gardening, and Plantation Work" was looking to work in Pennsylvania in 1774, as a gardener & overseer to a gentleman's country seat. As an enticement, the gardener noted that his wife was capable of all kinds of housework and they had no children. In the same year, a single man in Philadelphia "Wants a Place in the Capacity of a Gardener" who was "regularly bred to the Business."
By 1778 in Philadelphia, a man wanting employment in the gardening business advertised that he "understands both building and managing the hot and green huoses, and laying out ground." In the spring of the next year, a man placed a notice in the Pennsylvania Gazette seeking employment and calling himself "A Compleat Gardener."
After the Revolution, most professional gardeners, both those born in the colonies and those immigrating into the new republic from across the Atlantic, began to sell their services aggressively, through newspaper advertisements & personal promotion.
In 1781, Cornelius Heagerty, "Gardener and Nurseryman" advertised that he was available for gardening in & about the city of Philadelphia, for the rest of the season. He would also prune fruit trees of every kind from November 15th through March 15th of the coming winter.
In 1794, the following ad appeared in the Charleston City Gazette, "Wants a place, a French Gardener, from Paris, having been in this Country three or four years, during which time he was greatly improved under the skillful Mr. Michaux, a French botanist...at length, he knows every line of his profession and to conclude he is very well recommended."
André Michaux (1746-1802) established a botanical garden that could supply French garden and collect specimens for Le Nôtre’s work at Versailles. His garden was actually a nursery for these and the other plants, that he was collecting from around the region. Established about 10 miles north of St. Michael’s, in the Goose Creek area, he was forced to return to France in 1796. His son, Francois, returned to Charleston in 1801, and wrote, "I found in this garden a superb collection of trees and plants that had survived almost total neglect for nearly the space of four years."
An Englishman, John Bryant, advertised as a gardener in the City Gazette and the Daily Advertiser in Charleston on June 6, 1795. “GARDENING. THE subscriber, well acquainted with the European method of gardening, being a native of England, and likewise well acquainted with it in this state, having been in constant practice for some years, takes this method of informing his friends and the public in general that he proposes superintending ladies and gentlemen's gardens in or near the city, whether intended for pleasure or profit. He also plans and lays out gardens in the European taste on moderate terms.”
Bryant also sold seeds, trees and shrubs. On October 4, 1794, he married Jane Thornton in St. Philip’s Parish in Charleston. In 1796 he advertised for an apprentice to help him. “An Apprentice is wanted to the above business, either white or colored. A Lad that is honest and industrious will meet with every encouragement.”
Bryant continued in the gardening and seed business until the fall of 1809, when he died. Jane Bryant, his wife, kept the business going into 1810. The inventory taken at his death included a greenhouse in the garden and pots, shrubs, and trees in the garden valued, at $675.
Michael O’Brien was another gardener advertising for work in the City Gazette and Daily Advertiser on September 8, 1796. "MICHAEL O’BRIEN RESPECTFULLY acquaints the Citizens of Charleston, and its environs, that he proposes to undertake the LAYING OUT OF GARDENS, in all the different branches, comprizing taste and utility. He has been regularly brought up to the above undertaking, and practiced in Europe for many years with great success.”
William Aitkin advertised in the same newspaper on December 7, 1796. “A Gardener. WANTS A PLACE, a regular-bred Gardener. He can be well recommended. A line left for him with the Printers will be duly attended to.” Robert Day advertised as a projector and gardener in the January 9, 1798, issue of the Charleston City Gazette and Daily Advertiser.
One independent gardener searching for work, Luke O‘Dio, wrote to President Thomas Jefferson on June 23, 1801. As proof to Jefferson that he has gardened for notable men, O’Dio stated that he had “done 2 pices of work on the Eastern shore of Maryland & one for a Wm Paca Esqr. Who was once Governor of this state & one for Mr. Chew near the same place.”
Towns such as Philadelphia, Baltimore, Annapolis, Richmond & Williamsburg did not hold a monopoly on pleasure gardening in the Mid-Atlantic & Upper South after the Revolution. In the 1790s & early 1800s, gardeners placed notices in the Maryland Herald & Elizabethtown Weekly Advertiser advertising a full range of services to prospective clients in Washington County & Frederick. These gardeners offered to lay out & manage greenhouses, hothouses, kitchen gardens, flower gardens, orchards, nurseries, & pleasure grounds.
Edward Otter was a gardener who arrived in Charleston, South Carolina, from England in 1803. He brought seeds and trees with him and advertised in the Charleston Courier on December 28, 1803 that “He may be found in the Market on the Bay all the forepart of the season, or at the City Hotel. He would contract with any person to lay out ground and plant it.”
Other gardeners & nurserymen publicized themselves & their wares more subtly, by writing books on gardening. Two gardeners who lived in Anne Arundel County at the turn of the century were David Hepburn & John Gardiner.
David Hepburn had been gardener at General John Mason’s estate on Analostan Island in the Potomac River, & at Cedar Park, the seat of Governor Mercer in Anne Arundel County. Cedar Park boasted a deer park, a rare feature on Maryland estates.
Hepburn & Gardiner combined their knowledge with information lifted from English gardening books to write an early American gardening book, The American Gardener, which was published in Washington D.C. in 1804.
French gardeners were still flowing into Charleston, South Carolina, after the War of 1812. French gardener advertised in the December 12, 1818 Courier in Charleston. “Mr. MENANT, Gardener, A PUPIL of Mr. THGUIN, one of the Brothers of Mr. THOUIN, Professor of Culture of the Museum of Natural History of Paris, has the honor to inform the public, that he undertakes to construct all kinds of Terraces, lay out Ornamental Gardens, and attend to the Planting of Fruit Trees and Ornamental Shrubberies. He also arranges the Decorations for Entertainments; and request those persons that wish to employ him, to have the goodness to address themselves to MR. FRANCIS CARMAND, No. 96 Queen-Street, or to Mr. NOISETTE, Botanical Agriculturist, King-street Road.”