Monday, December 31, 2018

From Garden to Table at Mount Vernon - Veal Olives with Herbs & Vegetables

Martha Washington (1731-1802) - From the Garden to the Table 

While George Washington oversaw most aspects of managing Mount Vernon's  pleasure gardens & grounds, Martha Washington oversaw the Kitchen Garden (The Lower Garden), allowing her to keep fruits and vegetables on the table year round.

The Kitchen Garden at Mount Vernon

“…impress it on the gardener to have every thing in his garden that will be nece]ssary in the House keeping way — as vegetable is the best part of our living in the country.” – Martha Washington, 1792

Inside the Kitchen at Mount Vernon

Outside The Kitchen at Mount Vernon

Veal Olives

Veal olives are “a seventeenth-century variant of the so-called beef or mutton olives” that were stuffed, rolled up, and tied with string to be roasted on a spit or gridiron. Hannah Glasse suggested a lemon garnish for this recipe, which likely could have been a side dish or corner dish for a first or second course.

One of the most valuable tools in the Mount Vernon kitchen was Martha Washington's copy of The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy...By a Lady.  Martha's copy is in the Library at Mount Vernon. Hannah Glasse's (1708–1770) The Art of Cookery...was first published in 1747. It was a bestseller for a century after its first publication, dominating the English-speaking market. It was published in America from 1805.

Mrs. Washington may have owned a number of cookbooks, but her 1765 edition of Hannah Glasse's The Art of Cookery and a manuscript cookbook (now at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania) are the only ones known to survive. The manuscript book  (under the title Martha Washington's Booke of Cookery) is a very early compilation of 16th and 17th century receipts and came into Martha's possession at the time of her marriage to Daniel Parke Custis who died in 1757.

This recipe is a modern adaptation of the 18th-century original. It was created by culinary historian Nancy Carter Crump for the book Dining with the Washingtons.

Ingredients

2 pounds veal scaloppini

1/2 recipe Mrs. Glasse’s Force-Meat Balls

1 cup fresh breadcrumbs

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 large egg, lightly beaten

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more as needed

8 ounces white button mushrooms, sliced

2 to 3 cups chicken stock (preferably homemade)

Browned bacon strips for serving

Lemon slices for garnish

Directions

1. Spread each piece of veal with about 2 tablespoons of Mrs. Glasse's Force-Meat Balls. Roll the slices, beginning at the long sides, and tie firmly with kitchen string, making “olives.”

2. Combine the breadcrumbs with the nutmeg, salt, and pepper.

3. Coat the veal olives on all sides with the beaten egg, then roll in the breadcrumbs, coating them well.

4. Melt the butter over medium heat. Sauté the veal olives on all sides until well browned, adding more butter, if necessary.

5. Stir in the mushrooms, and then pour in 2 cups of the chicken stock, stirring to blend with the butter in the pan. Cover and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, turning the olives occasionally, until the veal is fully cooked.

6. To serve, place the veal olives on a platter, and spoon the sauce over the top. Break the bacon strips into pieces, sprinkle over the veal, and garnish with lemon slices.

Research & images & much more are available from the Mount Vernon website, MountVernon.org.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Plants in Early American Gardens - Cymling or Pattypan Squash

Cymling or Pattypan Squash (Cucurbita pepo)

Commonly called Pattypan Squash, this variety originated among the Native North Americans. Cymlings were well-known in the colonies by the 1790s and Jefferson said they were “one of our finest and most innocent vegetables.” They were frequently grown in his retirement garden as well as in the gardens of Monticello’s enslaved African Americans, and were used in soups and stews with butter, salt, and pepper.

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

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Gardening Books in Early America - Owned by Landon Carter 1710-1778






Sabine Hall Home of Landon Carter. 
Landon Carter (1710-1778), was a planter from Virginia, best known for his account of colonial life leading up the American War of Independence, The Diary of Colonel Landon Carter.  Carter also wrote 4 political pamphlets & nearly 50 newspaper essays.  He was the son of Robert "King" Carter of Corotoman, Lancaster County, Va. and his wife, Elizabeth Landon Willis Carter. He was educated in England, built Sabine Hall in the 1740s, served in the local vestry, & commanded the militia.
After 3 failed attempts, Carter was elected to the House of Burgesses in 1752, & was rewarded with powerful committee appointments. He publicly defended the House in published pamphlets & newspaper essays until he was defeated in his bid for reelection in 1768. The first to raise the alarm in Virginia over the Stamp Act, Carter was chair of the Richmond County Committee (1774–1776) and a wholehearted supporter of independence during the American Revolution (1775–1783). He died at Sabine Hall in 1778. The list for his library books is based on 1) title pages of the libraries of Landon Carter and Robert Wormeley Carter at Sabine Hall, Richmond County, Virginia photographed by Colonial Williamsburg with the permission of the Rev. Dabney Wellford, Sabine Hall, September 9, 1958 and 2) Curtis, Carol Edith. "The Library of Landon Carter of Sabine Hall, 1710-1788." Master's Thesis, College of William and Mary, 1981. Many of these books are now owned by the University of Virginia Libraries.

Landon Carter's Books on Landscape, Garden, & Farm

Title: The New Gardener's Dictionary
Author: John Dicks
Info: London. Printed for G. Keith, J. Johnson; J. Almon; and Blyth and Beevor 1771.

Title: Memoirs of Agriculture, and other Oeconomical Arts
Author: Robert Dossie
Info: London. Printed for J. Nourse 1768, 1771

Title: The Experimental Husbandman and Gardener
Author: George Andreas Agricola
Info: London. Printed for W. Mears and F. Clay 1726.

Title: Farriery improved: or, A compleat treatise upon the art of farriery
Author: Henry Bracken
Info: Dublin. G. Ewing 1737

Title: The Art of Hatching and Bringing up Domestick Fowls of all Kinds, At any Time of the Year
Author: Rene Antoine Ferchault De Reamur
Info: London. Printed for C. Davis 1750.

Title: The Compleat Surveyor: Containing the whole Art of Surveying of Land, by the Plain Table, Theodolite, Circumferentor, and Peractor
Author: Leybourn William
Info: London. Printed by R. W. Leybourn for E. Brewster and G. Sawbridge 1653.

Title: The Culture of Silk, or, an Essay on its rational Practice and Improvement
Author: Samuel Pullein
Info: London. Printed for A. Millar 1758.

 "The Diary of Colonel Landon Carter of Sabine Hall, 1752-1778" was edited by Jack P. Greene & published by the Virginia Historical Society in 1965.

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Friday, December 28, 2018

From Garden to Table at Mount Vernon - Green Peas with Cream and Thyme

 

Martha Washington (1731-1802) - From the Garden to the Table 

While George Washington oversaw most aspects of managing Mount Vernon's  pleasure gardens & grounds, Martha Washington oversaw the Kitchen Garden (The Lower Garden), allowing her to keep fruits and vegetables on the table year round.

The Kitchen Garden at Mount Vernon

“…impress it on the gardener to have every thing in his garden that will be nece]ssary in the House keeping way — as vegetable is the best part of our living in the country.” – Martha Washington, 1792

Inside the Kitchen at Mount Vernon

Outside The Kitchen at Mount Vernon

In the matter of eating & drinking George Washington was temperate. For breakfast he ordinarily had tea & Indian cakes with butter & perhaps honey, of which he was very fond. His supper was equally light, consisting of perhaps tea & toast, with wine, & he usually retired at nine o'clock. Dinner was the main meal of the day at Mount Vernon, & usually was served at two o'clock. One such meal is thus described by a guest:  "He thanked us, desired us to be seated, & to excuse him a few moments.... The President came & desired us to walk in to dinner & directed  us where to sit, (no grace was said).... The dinner was very good, a small roasted pigg, boiled leg of lamb, roasted fowls, beef, peas, lettice, cucumbers, artichokes, etc., puddings, tarts, etc. etc."   The General ordinarily confined himself to a few courses & if offered anything very rich, he would protest, "That is too good for me." He often drank beer with the meal, with one or two glasses of wine & perhaps as many more afterward, often eating nuts, another delicacy with him, as he sipped the wine.

Green Peas with Cream

Delicate green peas were a favored spring vegetable, eagerly anticipated by Virginians after long winters during which fresh vegetables were at a premium. Washington noted in his diary on May 25, 1785, that the family “Had Peas for the [first] time in the season at Dinner.” Writing three years later, Virginia planter Robert Carter III of Nomini Hall likewise heralded their arrival, asserting that “Pease ought to be preferred [,] they being a more succulent Vegetable.”

Hannah Glasse’s delectable recipe makes a welcome addition to a spring menu. One of the most valuable tools in the Mount Vernon kitchen was Martha Washington's copy of The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy...By a Lady.  Martha's copy is in the Library at Mount Vernon. Hannah Glasse's (1708–1770) The Art of Cookery...was first published in 1747. It was a bestseller for a century after its first publication, dominating the English-speaking market. It was published in America from 1805.

Mrs. Washington may have owned a number of cookbooks, but her 1765 edition of Hannah Glasse's The Art of Cookery and a manuscript cookbook (now at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania) are the only ones known to survive. The manuscript book  (under the title Martha Washington's Booke of Cookery) is a very early compilation of 16th and 17th century receipts and came into Martha's possession at the time of her marriage to Daniel Parke Custis who died in 1757.

This recipe is a modern adaptation by culinary historian Nancy Carter Crump from the book Dining with the Washingtons.

Ingredients

6 cups small fresh or frozen green peas

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 tablespoon sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme

1 1/2 teaspoons dried marjoram

1/2 teaspoon dried savory

4 sprigs fresh parsley, stemmed and chopped

1/2 cup boiling water

1 cup heavy cream

Directions

1. Combine the peas, butter, salt, nutmeg, sugar, thyme, marjoram, savory, and parsley in a saucepan over medium heat.

2. Pour in the boiling water, cover, and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat and cook at a slow simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender.

3. Add the cream and heat through.

4. Pour into a serving dish, and send to the table immediately.

Research plus images & much more are available from the Mount Vernon website, MountVernon.org. 

Plants in Early American Gardens - Thyme

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)

Thyme was first cultivated by the Assyrians and used to treat nightmares and short-windedness. Also long-cultivated for its culinary uses, it was brought to the American colonies at an early date, and Thomas Jefferson recorded it in his list of "Objects for the garden" at Monticello in 1794. This evergreen Mediterranean herb grows well in rock gardens, containers, and other well-drained garden locations, and the flowers attract pollinators.

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

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Gardening Books in Early America - Owned by Richard Cranch 1726-1811 in Massachusetts




Richard Cranch (26 October 1726 - 16 October 1811), Massachusetts watchmaker, legislator, local official. Born at Kingsbridge, Devonshire, Cranch arrived in Boston in November 1746 and established a shop as a card-maker, but quickly became known for his interest in religious scholarship. He taught himself Latin, Hebrew, and Greek.

Cranch relocated to Braintree in 1750, and later to Weymouth, where he took up the business of watch repair. He married in November 1762 Mary Smith, the sister of Abigail Smith (later the wife of John Adams). By 1766 the Cranches had moved to Salem, but returned to Braintree in 1769. Cranch served two terms in the state House of Representatives (1779-1783) and a term in the State Senate (1785-1787), and held the office of Justice of the Court of Common Pleas for Suffolk County from 1779 through 1793, along with several local offices at various times. Cranch was a delegate to the Massachusetts convention to ratify the federal constitution, and supported ratification.
He was a supporter of the Harvard library, and the college granted him an honorary M.A. degree in 1780, placing him with the class of 1744. He was a founding member of the Massachusetts Charitable Society, and the Massachusetts Society for Propogating the Gospel in North America (in its 1787 iteration). He sat as a fellow in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, but declined membership in the Massachusetts Historical Society (he did donate a book to the Society's library).
Cranch's interests ranged widely, as his book collection makes clear. He was regarded as an authority on the biblical prophecies and the Antichrist by ministers of all stripes, and was a strong Federalist politically.

Richard Cranch and his wife died within hours of each other in 1811; their daughter Elizabeth Cranch Norton died the same year. Another daughter, Lucy Greenleaf, lived until 1846, and their son William Cranch died in 1855. The largest list of Richard Cranch's books is found in a notebook kept by his grandson Richard Cranch Norton (in the Jacob Norton Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society). RCN inventoried his grandfather's books on 18 January 1812.

The gardener's dictionary by Philip Miller

Of gardens. A Latin poem in four books by René Rapin

The herball or Generall historie of plantes by John Gerard

The new art of gardening, with the gardener's almanack: containing, the true art of gardening in all its particulars. ... To each head is added an almanack, shewing what is to be done every month in the year by Leonard Meager

A general treatise of agriculture, both philosophical and practical; displaying the arts of husbandry and gardening: in two parts. Part I. Of husbandry; ... Part II. Of gardening; ... Originally written by R. Bradley, ... And now not only corrected and properly methodised, but adapted to the present practice, ... Illustrated with twenty copper-plates by Richard Bradley

Instruction pour les jardins fruitiers et potagers by Jean de LaQuintinie

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Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Plants in Early American Gardens - Scarlet Runner Bean

Scarlet Runner Bean (Phaseolus coccineus)

A Central American native that was popularized by the great 18th-century English garden writer, Philip Miller, Scarlet Runner Bean is still very popular in Europe for its edible beans. Jefferson planted this lovely annual vine with its showy scarlet flowers in 1812, noting: "Arbor beans white, crimson, scarlet, purple...on long walk of garden." In 1806 the Philadelphia nurseryman Bernard McMahon wrote that it was grown in America exclusively as an ornamental. Attractive to hummingbirds.

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

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Gardening Books in Early America - Owned by Michigan Fur Trader John Askin's 1739-1815





Native Americans Trading Furs 1777.  John Askin 1739-1815 (or Erskine), fur trader, merchant, office holder, & militia officer; b. 1739 in Aughnacloy (Northern Ireland), son of James Askin, a shopkeeper, and Alice Rea (Rae); d. 1815 in Sandwich (Windsor), Upper Canada.  According to family tradition, the Askins were related to John Erskine, 23rd Earl of Mar, whose unsuccessful revolt in 1715 forced some of the family to move to Ireland from Scotland. John Askin came to North America in 1758, & was a sutler with the British army at Albany, N.Y. Following the capitulation of New France he entered the western fur trade.

Some time in the mid 1760s Askin had moved to Michilimackinac (Mackinaw City, Michigan). He ran a trading store in the settlement, was commissary for the garrison, & farmed.  In 1780, a conflict with Patrick Sinclair, who had recently arrived to take charge at Michilimackinac, may have been instrumental in Askin’s decision to move to Detroit, Michigan).
Colonial Fur Traders.  The animal population was declining & the Indians were in a state of more or less open warfare with the Americans. Fur exports from Detroit continued to drop – from 5,000 packs in 1784 to 1,900 in 1796.  In 1788, the British had opened the Great Lakes to private vessels, & Askin took the opportunity to go into the shipping business; & from 1791 to 1795, another chance of sales to the government presented itself – the furnishing of supplies to the Indians who had gathered on the Miamis (Maumee) River to make a last stand against the Americans.

Much of Askin’s hope for prosperity seems to have been pinned on his land speculations.  By 1794, the British government had agreed to evacuate the posts south of the Great Lakes that it had retained – after the 1783 treaty with the United States, & many British residents of Detroit tried to accumulate land holdings from the Indians before the transfer to American authority occurred. Over the years Askin succeeded in accumulating numerous properties in Upper Canada, which was to become his home after 1802.
Native Americans Bartering Furs for Goods at Trading Post 1800
Although Askin’s first 3 children, John, Catherine, & Madelaine, were probably born to the Indian slave Manette (Monette) whom he freed in 1766, he made no distinction between them & the 9 children of his marriage to Marie-Archange Barthe at Detroit on 21 June 1772.  His kindness extended beyond his own family. In a letter of 1778 from Michilimackinac to trader Charles Paterson he rebuked Paterson for allowing a child “that every body but yourself says is yours” to be sold to the Ottawas. Askin had retrieved the child & he informed Paterson, “He’s at your service if you want him, if not I shall take good care of him untill he is able to earn his Bread without Assistance.”

From the American Revolution to 1796, Detroit was under military government, with little civil jurisdiction. In 1789 Askin became a justice of the peace there.  In the spring of 1802 Askin moved to Sandwich, Canada. He seems to have lived in considerable comfort. An inventory of his estate in 1787 listed among other things carriages, silver plate, mahogany furniture, & a well-stocked library.

Askin's library, one of the first known collections in Michigan, is documented in annual inventories of his estate dated 1776, 1777, 1778, 1779, 1787, & ~1808, plus an 1821 inventory of Askin's estate titled "Inventory of Property Real &Personal Belonging to the Estate of the Late John &Archange Askin, Sandwich." Each of these contains a section headed "Writing Implements, Books, & etc." - these list the books by author and/or short title & an assigned monetary value. Askin's library is examined fully in Agnes Haigh Widder, "The John Askin family library: a fur-trading family's books." Michigan Historical Review 33:1 (Spring 2007), pp. 27-57.

John Askin's Garden & Farm Books

Title: A complete body of planting and gardening Containing the natural history, culture, and management of deciduous and evergreen forest-trees; ... Also instructions for laying-out and disposing of pleasure and flower-gardens; ... To which is added, the manner of planting and cultivating fruit-gardens and orchards. The whole forming a complete history of timber-trees... 
Author: William Hanbury

Title: A compleat body of husbandry Containing, rules for performing, in the most profitable manner, the whole business of the farmer and country gentleman. ... Compiled from the original papers of the late Thomas Hale, ... In four volumes
Author: Thomas Hale

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Monday, December 24, 2018

Plants in Early American Gardens - Costoluto Genovese Tomato

Costoluto Genovese Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum cv.)

Thomas Jefferson was a pioneer in tomato culture, planting the relatively unfamiliar tomato from 1809 until his death in 1826. He also noted that “tomatas” were grown in Virginia gardens in Notes on the State of Virginia (1782). Costoluto Genovese is an old, Italian preserving tomato. Although an oddity in today’s vegetable garden, this variety’s heavily-lobed and convoluted shape reflects the character of early 19th-century tomatoes. Its stellar flavor is intense and acidic.

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

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Gardening Books in Early America - Owned by Joseph Priestley (1733-1804)



English educator, theologian, political philosopher, scientist, Joseph Priestley (1733-1804)is perhaps best known today for the 'discovery' of oxygen. A supporter of the French Revolution, he fled England for America in 1794, not long after his house was torched by a mob. Priestly fled Britain just ahead of a series of arrests and the notorious“1794 Treason Trials,”sailing to the warm embrace of America.Later the King, George III, reportedly said, “I cannot but feel better pleased that Priestley is the sufferer for the doctrines he and his party have instilled, and that the people see them in their true light.” Taking refuge in Philadelphia, he gave a series of sermons which would result in the gathering of the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia, the 1st church in America to claim the name “unitarian.”He was the author of more than 150 published works during his lifetime. A devoted student of languages (along with so much else), Priestley learned French, Italian, German, Chaldean, Syriac and Arabic. Priestley's friends included Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin, among many other leading luminaries of the day. Priestley's library is listed in Catalogue of the Library of the late Dr. Joseph Priestley(Philadelphia: Thomas Dobson, 1816). The collection was sold off by Dobson after Priestley's death; Thomas Jefferson purchased several of the books for his own library.
Priestly's Books on Landscape, Garden, & Farm

Planting and ornamental gardening a practical treatise by William Marshall

The British fruit-gardener and art of pruning by John Abercrombie

The botanist's and gardener's new dictionary containing the names, classes, orders, generic characters, and specific ... by James Wheeler

The farmer's instructor; or, the husbandman and gardener's useful and necessary companion. Being a new treatise of ... by Samuel Trowell

The abridgement of The gardeners dictionary containing the best and newest methods of cultivating and improving the ... by Philip Miller

The complete forcing-gardener; or, The practice of forcing fruits, flowers and vegetables to early maturity and ... by John Abercrombie

The botanic garden; a poem, in two parts. Part I. Containing The economy of vegetation. Part II. The loves of the ... by Erasmus Darwin

A treatise of fruit-trees by Thomas Hitt

The propagation and botanical arrangements of plants and trees, useful and ornamental, proper for cultivation in ... by John Abercrombie

Letters and papers on agriculture, planting, &c. selected from the correspondence-book of the Society instituted ... by Bath Society for Agriculture

The complete farmer, or, A general dictionary of husbandry, in all its branches

The improvement of waste lands, viz. wet, moory land, land near rivers and running waters, peat land, and ... by Francis Forbes

A treatise on planting, pruning, and on the management of fruit trees by John Kennedy

Letters and papers on agriculture, planting, &c selected from the correspondence-book of the Society instituted at ... by Hans Caspar Hirzel

Ecole d'architecture rurale; ou, Leçons par lesquelles on apprendra soi-même à bâtir solidement les maisons de ... by François Cointeraux

The vvhole art and trade of husbandry Contained in foure bookes. Viz: I. Of earable-ground, tillage, and pasture. ... by Conrad Heresbach

A new system of husbandry. From many years experience, with tables shewing the expence and profit of each crop. ... by Charles Varlo

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Saturday, December 22, 2018

History Blooms at Monticello

Thomas Jefferson's “Plane-tree” (or Sycamore, Platanus occidentalis) 

Peggy Cornett at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello in Virginia, tells us that -

Jefferson noted “Plane-tree” (or Sycamore, Platanus occidentalis) in a list of ornamental plants in his only published book, Notes on the State of Virginia. In 1812 he sowed Plane-tree seeds in his nursery, eventually intended for the Monticello landscape. Jefferson was captivated by the quality of shade that different species afforded.

In July 1793 Thomas Jefferson wrote from Philadelphia to his daughter Martha Jefferson Randolph “I never before knew the full value of trees. My house is completely embosomed in high plane-trees, with good grass below; and under them I breakfast, dine, write, read, and receive my company. What I would not give that the trees planted nearest round the house at Monticello were full-grown.” The mottled bark of American Sycamore (Jefferson’s "plane-tree") makes a dramatic statement in the winter landscape.

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

Friday, December 21, 2018

South Carolina - Plantation Barn

c 1799. Charles Fraser (1782-1860). View of a South Carolina Plantation Barn. The Carolina Art Association Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston, South Carolina.

The watercolors of Charles Fraser allow us feel the South Carolina landscape around us as we learn how it was being groomed & planted. Thanks to South Carolina native Fraser, we have a chance to see, through his eyes, the homes & gardens there as he was growing up. Although he was primarily known his miniature portraits, he also created watercolors of historical sites, homes, & landscapes. He painted while working as a lawyer, historian, writer, & politician. Today, many of Fraser's works are displayed at the Carolina Art Association & the Gibbes Art Gallery in Charleston.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Plants in Early American Gardens - Turk's Cap Lily

Turk's Cap Lily (Lilium superbum)

This spectacular native lily grows from New York and New Hampshire south to Alabama and Georgia. Also known as the Spotted Canada Martagon, this lily has been in cultivation since the late 1700s, and Jefferson received roots from Bernard McMahon in 1812. Jean Skipwith of Prestwould Plantation in south central Virginia also grew it.

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

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Geo Washington (1732-1799) - Lots of Poor Soil

George Washington as Farmer by Junius Brutus Stearns. 1851

George Washington: Farmer (1915) by Paul Leland Haworth (1876-1936) 

Washington's Problem  

"No estate in United America," wrote Washington to Arthur Young in 1793, "is more pleasantly situated than this. It lies in a high, dry, and healthy country, 300 miles by water from the sea, and, as you will see by the plan, on one of the finest rivers in the world. Its margin is washed by more than ten miles of tide water; from the beds of which and the innumerable coves, inlets, and small marshes, with which it abounds, an inexhaustible fund of mud may be drawn as a manure, either to be used separately or in a compost "The soil of the tract of which I am speaking is a good loam, more inclined, however, to clay than sand. From use, and I might add, abuse, it is become more and more consolidated, and of course heavier to work. "This river, which encompasses the land the distance above mentioned, is well supplied with various kinds of fish at all seasons of the year; and, in the spring, with great profusion of shad, herring, bass, carp, perch, sturgeon, etc. Several fisheries appertain to the estate; the whole shore, in short, is 'one entire fishery."

The Mount Vernon estate, amounting in the end to over eight thousand acres, was, with the exception of a few outlying tracts, subdivided into five farms, namely, the Mansion House Farm, the Union Farm, the Dogue Run Farm, Muddy Hole Farm and the River Farm.


On the Mansion House Farm stood the owner's residence, quarters for the negroes and other servants engaged upon that particular estate, and other buildings. The land in general was badly broken and poor in quality; much of it was still in woodland.


The River Farm lay farthest up the Potomac, being separated from the others by the stream known as Little Hunting Creek. Visitors to Mount Vernon to-day, traveling by trolley, cross this farm and stream. It contained more tillable ground than any other, about twelve hundred acres. In 1793 it had an "overlooker's" house of one large and two small rooms below and one or two rooms above, quarters for fifty or sixty negroes, a large barn and stables gone much to decay.


Muddy Hole Farm lay across Little Hunting Creek from the River Farm and back of the Mansion House Farm and had no frontal upon the Potomac. It contained four hundred seventy-six acres of tillable soil and had in 1793 a small overlooker's house, "covering for about 30 negroes, and a tolerable good barn, with stables for the work-horses."


Union Farm lay just below the Mansion House Farm and contained nine hundred twenty-eight acres of arable land and meadow. In 1793 it had, in Washington's words, "a newly erected brick barn, equal, perhaps, to any in America, and for conveniences of all sorts, particularly for sheltering and feeding horses, cattle, &c. scarcely to be exceeded any where." A new house of four rooms was building, and there were quarters for fifty odd negroes. On this farm was the old Posey fishery and ferry to Maryland.


Dogue Run Farm, of six hundred fifty acres, lay back of Union Farm and upon it in 1793 stood the grist mill and later a distillery and the famous sixteen-sided "new circular barn, now finishing on a new construction; well calculated, it is conceived, for


That Washington saw the distinction so clearly is of itself sufficient proof that he pondered long and deeply upon agricultural problems. getting grain out of the straw more expeditiously than the usual mode of threshing." It had a two room overseer's house, covering for forty odd negroes, and sheds sufficient for thirty work horses and oxen. Washington considered it much the best of all his farms. It was this farm that he bequeathed to Nelly Custis and her husband, Lawrence Lewis, and upon it they erected "Woodlawn..."


The problem confronting "Farmer Washington" was this: He had a great abundance of land, but most of it on his home estate was mediocre in quality. Some of that lying at a distance was more fertile, but much of it was uncleared and that on the Ohio was hopelessly distant from a market. With the exception of Mount Vernon even those plantations in Virginia east of the Blue Ridge could not be looked after in person. He must either rent them, trust them to a manager, or allow them to lie idle. Even the Mount Vernon land was distant from a good market, and the cost of transportation was so great that he must produce for selling purposes articles of little bulk compared with value. Finally, he had an increasing number of slaves for whom food and clothing must be provided.


His answer to the problem of a money crop was for some years the old Virginia answer—tobacco. His far western lands he left for the most part untenanted. Those plantations in settled regions but remote from his home he generally rented for a share of the crop or for cash. The staple articles that he produced to feed the slaves were pork and corn, eked out by herring from the fishery.


From his accounts we find that in 1759 he made thirty-four thousand one hundred sixty pounds of tobacco; the next year sixty-five thousand thirty seven pounds; in 1763, eighty-nine thousand seventy-nine pounds, which appears to have been his banner tobacco crop. In 1765 the quantity fell to forty one thousand seven hundred ninety-nine pounds; in 1771, to twenty-nine thousand nine hundred eighty six pounds, and in 1773 to only about five thousand pounds. Thereafter his crop of the weed was negligible, though we still find occasional references to it even as late as 1794, when he states that he has twenty-five hogsheads in the warehouses of Alexandria, where he has held it for five or six years because of low prices.


He tried to raise a good quality and seems to have concentrated on what he calls the "sweet scented" variety, but for some reason, perhaps because his soil was not capable of producing the best, he obtained lower prices than did some of the other Virginia planters, and grumbled at his agents accordingly.


He early realized the ruinous effects of tobacco on his land and sought to free himself from its clutches by turning to the production of wheat and flour for the West India market. Ultimately he was so prejudiced against the weed that in 1789 we find him in a contract with a tenant named Gray, to whom he leased a tract of land for ten pounds, stipulating that Gray should make no more tobacco uian he needed for "chewing and smoaking in his own family."


Late in life he decided that his land was not congenial to corn, in which he was undoubtedly right, for the average yield was only about fifteen bushels per acre. In the corn country farmers now often produce a hundred. He continued to raise corn only because it was essential for his negroes and hogs. In 1798 he contracted with William A. Washington to supply him with five hundred barrels annually to eke out his own crop. Even this quantity did not prove sufficient, for we find him next year trying to engage one hundred barrels more.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Plants in Early American Gardens - Floss Flower (Ageratum houstonianum)

Floss Flower Seeds (Ageratum houstonianum)

Peggy Cornett, who is Curator of Plants at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello in Virginia, tells us that -

Floss Flower was discovered in Central America by William Houston (c. 1695-1733), a Scottish botanist, plant collector, & ship’s surgeon. Houston sent seeds to England in the early 18th century & British author Philip Miller referenced the species in a 1768 edition of his Gardener’s Dictionary. It was first documented in American gardens in 1836. This self-seeding species forms a spreading, loose-growing plant. The pale blue, & occasionally white, tassel-like flowers bloom from midsummer until the first autumn frost.

William Houstoun (occasionally spelt Houston) (1695?–1733) was a Scottish surgeon & botanist who collected plants in the West Indies, Mexico and South America.  Houstoun was born in Houston, Renfrewshire. He began a degree course in medicine at St Andrew's University but interrupted his studies to visit the West Indies, returning circa 1727. On 6 October 1727, he entered the University of Leyden to continue his studies under Boerhaave, graduating M.D. in 1729. It was during his time at Leyden that Houstoun became interested in the medicinal properties of plants. After returning to England that year, he soon sailed for the Caribbean & the Americas employed as a ship's surgeon for the South Sea Company. He collected plants in Jamaica, Cuba, Venezuela, & Vera Cruz, despatching seeds & plants to Philip Miller, head gardener at the Chelsea Physic Garden in London. Notable among these plants was Dorstenia contrayerva, a reputed cure for snake-bite, & Buddleja americana, the latter named by Linnaeus, at Houstoun's request, for the English cleric & botanist Adam Buddle, although Buddle could have known nothing of the plant as he had died in 1715. Houstoun published accounts of his studies in Catalogus plantarum horti regii Parisiensis.

When Houstoun returned to London in 1731, he was introduced to Sir Hans Sloane by Miller. Sloane commissioned him to undertake a three-year expedition, financed by the trustees for the Province of Georgia 'for improving botany & agriculture in Georgia', & to help stock the Trustee's Garden planned for Savannah. Houstoun initially sailed to the Madeira Islands to gather grape plantings before continuing his voyage across the Atlantic. However he never completed his mission as he 'died from the heat' on 14 August 1733 soon after arriving in Jamaica; he was buried at Kingston. Houstoun was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in January 1733.

Houstoun's writings & plant specimens, preserved in the botanical department of the British Museum, passed from Miller to Sir Joseph Banks, by whom the manuscripts were published as Reliquiae Houstounianae in 1781.

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

Monday, December 17, 2018

Garden Location--Powerful Propects

Images of many American 18th century homes sited on a the highest property available are available today without any contemporary comments, and some of the historic homes themselves remain.

These houses & grounds built on eminences & commanding grand views & prospects do seem to create an impression of a powerful owner.
The Plantation. Probably an idealized view of a Virginia plantation. 1825. Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

The house Druid Hill still exists within the 745 acre Druid Hill Park in Baltimore, Maryland, which ranks with New York's Central Park begun in 1859, and Fairmount Park in Philadelphia, as one of the oldest landscaped public parks in the United States.

The land was originally part of Auchentorlie, the estate of George Buchanan, one of the 7 original commissioners of Baltimore City. The dwelling was rebuilt after a fire & renamed Druid Hill in 1797 by Colonel Nicholas Rogers, a flour merchant & amateur architect, who married Eleanor Buchanan who had inherited the property.

The estate of Druid Hill was purchased for use as a park in 1860, by the city of Baltimore with the revenue derived from a one-cent park tax on the nickel horsecar fares. The house is now used as the administrative headquarters for the Baltimore Zoo which is located in the park.
Francis Guy. 1811 View of Seat of Col. Roger near Baltimore, depicts Druid Hill in Baltimore, Maryland, now the administrative headquarters for the Baltimore Zoo.

Many of the existing depictions of these houses high upon the hills of the new nation come from English artist Francis Guy and from English engraver & designer William R. Birch.

London silk dyer Francis Guy (1760-1820) arrived in Baltimore in 1795, where he worked at that trade until 1799. From 1800 to 1815, he was known as a landscape painter, holding his 1st exhibit in 1803.

Guy painted country estates on canvas & furniture plus scenes from the War of 1812. Guy was also an inventor & writer of religious essays & poetry. He moved to Brooklyn, New York, about 1817, painting in that state until his death.
William Russell Birch (1755-1834) View of Montebello, the Seat of General Samuel Smith. The plan for Montebello still exists at the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Montebello was designed by Birch and was probably begun in 1799. Birch may have met General Smith, when Smith was in Philadelphia serving as a U. S. Representative.
Montebello in Baltimore, Maryland, about 1899. Photograph at the Maryland Historical Society.

Englishman Birch immigrated to Philadelphia in 1794, hoping to make his living producing books of scenes of the new nation in order to promote "taste" in architecture & landscape design. His The City of Philadelphia in 1800 went through 4 editions to 1828.

Birch's 3rd publication, The Country Seats of the United States published in 1808, resulted from Birch's travels along the Atlantic coast & contained 20 views including one of New Orleans.
Francis Guy. Perry Hall near Baltimore, about 1803.

In 1774, wealthy merchant & planter Harry Dorsey Gough (1745-1808) purchased an 1,000 acre estate called the Adventure north of Baltimore. Gough renamed the estate after his family's home, Perry Hall in Perry Barr, Birmingham, England. From the 16-room mansion on the hill, Gough administered his plantation's operation, where dozens of slaves tended cattle, various food crops, and stands of tobacco.

Visitors commented on the distinctive architectural features of the home on the hill as well as the lush gardens on the surrounding grounds. The impressive wine cellars & expansive grand hall used for entertaining symbolized Gough's socially prominent, powerful life before his profound religious conversion. Gough then built a chapel near the mansion's eastern wing that allowed him to quietly pursue his worship, along with his family, servants, & neighboring landowners.

It was at Perry Hall mansion that plans for the American Methodist Episcopal Church were developed by Gough, his Birmingham neighbour Francis Asbury, & other religious leaders. In 1808, Asbury would write that "Mr. Gough had inherited a large estate from a relation in England, and having the means, he indulged his taste for gardening and the expensive embellishment of his country seat, Perry Hall, which was always open to visitors, especially those who feared God."
Parnassas Hill home of Dr. Henry Stevenson by Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827) about 1769. Maryland Historical Society.

An earlier Maryland neighbor, who also built high up on a hill, had helped found the Presbyterian Church in Baltimore in 1763. Irishman Dr. Henry Stevenson (1721-1814) built Parnassus Hill between 1763 & 1769 on the Jones Falls north of Baltimore, where he & his brother, also a physician, actually made their money as wheat exporters. Dr. Henry Stephenson, who had come to Maryland in 1745, also pursued medicine pioneering a smallpox vaccine.

In February of 1769, the Maryland Gazette noted, "Dr. Henry Stevenson devotes part of his mansion on 'Parnassus Hill' to the use of an Inoculating Hospital, and opens it to all who may apply." The hospital closed in 1777, as staunch loyalist Stevenson left Baltimore to serve in the British service as a surgeon in New York, returning to Baltimore in 1786, when Revolutionary tempers had cooled. The terraced gardens at the combination home & hospital were among the earliest in Baltimore.
Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827) painting of William Paca with the naturalized area of his garden in the background.

William Paca (1740-1799), a signer of the Declaration of Independnce & a federal district court judge, was born in Harford County, Maryland, and educated in Philadelphia and London. In 1763, Paca ensured his social & economic position by marrying Mary Chew, the daughter of a wealthy Maryland family.
William Paca's falling, terraced garden in Annapolis.

Four days after their wedding, Paca purchased two lots in Annapolis and began building the five-part mansion plus an extensive pleasure garden.
View from William Paca's house across his garden to the city of Annapolis.

Constructed between 1763-1765, the estate is known chiefly for its elegant falling gardens including 5 terraces, a fish-shaped pond, and a wilderness garden.
View from the natural area of William Paca's garden up to the house.

One of my favorite early depictions of the view from a garden out into the surrounding countryside is at Colonial Williamsburg. It is fun not only for its view, but also for the dog, its master, and the busts of busts.
William Dering painted this portrait of young George Booth between 1748-1750 in Virginia, showing the view of the countryside beyond the garden.

A much later view of the surrounding countryside just outside of the doorway of a home built on the highest prospect is below.
1835 painting by Ambrose Andrews of the Children of Nathan Starr in Middletown, Connecticut, with a beautiful view of the countryside just outside the doorway.

Falling terraced gardens and houses built on the highest property continued as a tradition, as settlers moved from the Atlantic coast down the Ohio River.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Plants in Early American Gardens - Listada de Gandia Eggplant

Listada de Gandia Eggplant (Solanum melongena cv.)

The eggplant was long cultivated in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East before its introduction to Europe in the mid-1500s. Thomas Jefferson first planted eggplant at Monticello in 1809. The Listada de Gandia Eggplant is an heirloom from Southern France that was introduced in 1850. Its attractive fruits are white with bright purple stripes. When ripe, the 7-inch long fruits have thin skin and sweet and tender flesh.

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

Saturday, December 15, 2018

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.

Friday, December 14, 2018

History Blooms at Monticello


Peggy Cornett, who is Curator of Plants at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello in Virginia, tells us that -

The male and female Ginkgoes at Monticello are showing their golden fall color. In 1806, William Hamilton wrote to Thomas Jefferson that he intended to send him three trees that he thought Jefferson would "deem valuable additions" to his garden. Ginkgo biloba or the China Maidenhair tree was one of the three. Hamilton went on to say that it produced a "good eatable nut."   The Gingko is a large, hardy, deciduous tree with delicate, fan-shaped leaves that turn bright yellow in fall, and it has been used medicinally for thousands of years. The female trees produce edible fruit, which many find malodorous.

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

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Gardeners - Wanted

Landowners Looking for Gardeners in the Mid-Atlantic & South

By the middle of the 18th century, both gardeners searching for employment & gentlemen looking for gardeners began placing ads in local newspapers in hopes of finding one another.

Even though independent gardeners appeared in South Carolina looking for work in the early 1730s, apparently there were not enough to meet the demand. In July, 1736, Robert Hume, a Charleston attorney, advertised in the South Carolina Gazette for an overseer “that understands Gardening to live at his Plantation near Charlestown.”

Robert Hume had been born in London and married Sophia Wiggington (1702-1774) in 1721, at St. Phillip's Church in Charleston. In 1726, Hume had bought 174 acres of Magnolia Umbra, north of "Exmouth lying East of the Broad Path," to which he added 110 acres; and the property became his residence and country seat. Robert died just a year after looking for an independent gardener for his property in Goose Creek Parish.

In Philadelphia in 1758, a gentry garden fancier placed an ad in the Pennsylvania Gazette. "Wanted for a Gentleman's Seat in the Country, a Person who understands Gardening." The gardener would have to be well recommended and would work on a yearly basis.

In the same newspaper in 1760, John Mifflin, a Pennsylvania plantation owner, was searching for a man "with a small Family who understands Gardening and Plantation Work."

During this period notices appeared in the South Carolina Gazette searching for gardeners. On March 16, 1765, “A GARDENER, who understands laying out and executing work in the- present taste, and skilful in a Kitchen-Garden” could hear of a good place by applying to the printer of the Gazette.

In April 1765, professional gardener & marketman Christopher Gadsden advertised for an assistant in the local newspaper, “Person that understands the managing of a garden and orchard (particularly a kitchen garden) and is willing to tend the markets constantly,” and in that June, he continued to search for a gardener “that understands the management of a garden, orchard, marketing” was would be offered “employment on a pleasant place within two miles of Charles-Town.”

John McPherson of Mount Pleasant in Pennsylvania, advertised for a gardener in 1766. McPherson was looking for a single man of "proper Resolution, Discretion, and Humanity, to command several other Servants under him."

Several gardeners worked at four shillings per day in the mid 1700s in the Annapolis & Eastern Shore gardens of Edward Lloyd IV. One of these gardeners (with a highly improbable name), James Lilleycrap, worked as a contract gardener at the Lloyds’ Annapolis garden on a daily basis during 1778 & 1779. In February 1780, he contracted to work for a full year at 300 pounds.

Apparently Lilleycrap was a trained gardener hired to undertake major garden redesign & installation. He probably employed others to assist him & paid them out of the 300 pounds. Lilleycrap’s arrangement illustrates just one of the new approaches to pleasure gardening in Maryland after the Revolution.

In 1772, another Pennsylvania gentleman, who knew what he wanted, advertised for "A Gardiner, Who understands his Business very well, and no other need apply." A similar ad appeared in 1773, appealing for " Single Man...willing to work on a Plantation (principally in a Garden)."

Robert Kennedy in Philadelphia, placed an extremely specific ad in 1775. "Wanted, On a pleasant well situated Farm, not many miles fro this city, A Middle aged Man and his Wife, the man to understand gardening and plantation work, the woman to be compleat at dairy business and house work." In the same year, another gentleman was searching for a "Gardener and his Wife, To take Care of a Gentleman's Country Seat, about four Miles from the City."

Apparently, the position with Robert Kennedy did not work out, for the Pennsylvania Gazette contained an ad in 1776, from a gardener and his spouse seeking a place for a "Gardener or Overseer of a Farm, a Person who can be well recommended; he has a Wife, who can cook and manage a Dariy."

In the summer of 1776, Frederick Hailer in Arch Street in Philadelphia advertised for a gardener. And in 1781, the French Consul in Arch Street was looking for a gardener "to work and manage a Garden a little Way out of Town."

When independent white gardeners started proliferating after the Revolution, they hired out by the day, month, or year. Visiting English agriculturalist Richard Parkinson reported that he hired a white man in Baltimore in 1799, to mow at “a dollar a day, with meat & a pint of whisky.”

He also recorded the costs of labor of various agricultural & gardening tasks at different seasons of the year around 1800 near Baltimore. In Baltimore, the town market supplied the produce needs of most of the citizens. Richardson recorded that for this market stall work, “Bartering in town costs one dollar & a half per day; at harvest-work, one dollar per day & a pint of whiskey.”

After the Revolution, gentlemen seldom sent to England for their gardeners but began to place advertisements for professional gardeners in local newspapers. Just north of Baltimore, Harry Dorsey Gough advertised in 1788, “I want to employ a complete gardener at Perry Hall…to undertake the management of a spacious, elegant Garden & Orchard.” A similar Baltimore notice in 1795, pleaded for a gardener who was specifically adept at managing strictly ornamental flower gardens.

In Richmond, Virginia, Adam Hunter placed a notice in the local paper searching for a “Complete Gardener, with or without a family (the latter would be preferred)” for his land near Fredericksburg in Stafford County.

After the Revolution, white gardeners working in port towns such as Philadelphia, Annapolis, & Baltimore, were as likely to be European as they were to be British. Europeans were favored by some hiring gentry in the postwar years. One gentleman searching for a gardener in Baltimore in the 1790s wrote, “A Dutch or Frenchman speaking English would be preferred.”

In 1782, Robert Monckton Malcolm of Monckton Park, between Neshaminy Ferry and Bristol, on the river, placed an ad in the Pennsylvania Gazette, "Wanted to Hire, Two German young or middle aged single Men, who understand farming, clearing and fencing of land; it will be necessary that one of them understands gardening."

In Prince George's County, Maryland, Rosalie Stier Calvert sought help planning her garden and grounds, and employed Philadelphia artist William Russell Birch in 1805, to draw up a landscape plan for Riversdale. She wrote that he was “busy making plans for the grounds of the house. I think he is very good at it and he is doing them with an eye to economy.”

Her father wasn't so sure she should take Birch's recommendations without a second opinion--his-- and wrote back, “glad to learn that you are using the architect Birch. You must not concern yourself about the cost of the plans. Copy them and send them to me. I’ll give you my observations.”

Occasionally foreign-born gardeners speaking little or no English contracted to work in gardens in the new republic confused their hopeful employers. In October 1816, Rosalie Calvert wrote her sister, “We have a German who seems to be knowledgeable and this greatly relieves me. One small inconvenience, however, is that he doesn’t understand a single word of English.”

By March 1819, the frustrated Rosalie wrote her father, “I recently discharged my German gardener...He knew nothing at all and couldn’t tell a carrot from a turnip.”.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Plants in Early American Gardens - Greek Oregano

Greek Oregano (Origanum vulgare subsp. hirtum)

Greek Oregano, native to Greece and Turkey, bears especially flavorful leaves and has a long history of culinary use. Philadelphia nurseryman Bernard McMahon listed Winter Sweet Marjoram (O. heracleoticum), a synonym of Greek Oregano, in The American Gardener’s Calendar (1806). In 1820, George Divers sent Jefferson “Marjoram,” which was another name for Oregano at the time, instead of the “Sweet Marjoram” (Origanum hortensis) requested by Jefferson.

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

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

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

When my husband was reading The Peasant Prince by Alex Storozynski, 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. Kościuszko.

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.