Saturday, March 23, 2019

Landscape Design - Public Church & Burying Yards

Public Church & Burying Yards

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

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

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

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

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

During the same period, wooden fences were being built around other churches. In the summer of 1749, the vestry of Saint Anne's Parish in Annapolis Maryland, put out a contract for "any good Workman, to find Materials, and pale in the Church-Yard at Annapolis, with saw’d Poplar Pales, four Feet and a half in Length, three Inches broad, and one Inch think; saw’d Poplar Rails, 8 feet long and 6 Inches broad on the flat side, three Rails in each Length; the Posts to be of Cedar or Locust, to hew to six inches square at Top, to be 7 feet long and to be set 30 Inches in the Ground; the Posts to be morticed, and Rails tenanted in; the Pales to be nail’d on with Double Tenpenny Nails, three to each Pale." But by 1771, the vestry of Saint Anne's Parish decided to "have the yard secured so as to prevent the cattle from going therein."
Looking Over the Brick Wall at the Burying Yard at Saint Anne's Church in Annapolis, Maryland, which came into use in the 1780s.

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

Occasionally, a church yard was the scene of a violent act. Just after Christmas, the Pennsylvania Gazette reported in 1759, that in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, "a young Man, genteelly dressed, shot himself in the Church Yard at Burlington" with a "short Fowling piece loaded with large Duck Shot."
The Moravian Cemetery at Old Salem, North Carolina. The graveyard is surrounded by shady groves.

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

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

Friday, March 22, 2019

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

Balsam; Touch-Me-Not (Impatiens balsamina)

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

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

Thursday, March 21, 2019

News on Gardens & Slaves from Colonial Williamsburg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Landscape Design - Yards at Private Homes

Yards & Courtyards at Private Dwellings

The term court yard usually referred to a public or private entrance greeting and meeting area. Because most courtyards were built to receive carriages and horses, they usually were located on the road side of coastline houses, not on the water-facing facade.The word yard appeared in the British American colonies in 1647, when a tenant agreed to"maintain the old dwelling house and quartering houses and Tobacco houses in repair, as well as the pales about the yard and gardens."

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

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

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

Peter Kalm noticed on his travels throughout the colonies in 1748,"Mulberry trees are planted on some hillocks near the house, and sometime even in the court yardsof the house."
Green Spring by Benjamin Latrobe, Showing Walls Surrounding the Court Yard at the Entrance Facade. (The garden was at the rear of the house.)

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

In an issue of the Pennsylvania Gazette of 1761 was a notice for a"A commodious Country Seat... a new Stone House three Stories high, being 41 Feet front, and 24 Feet deep, with Cellars under the whole; a Court Yardin the Front of the House, a Piazza joining the House, and a new Stone Kitchen, with a Pump before the Door."
Entrance to Court Yard at Mount Clare in Baltimore, Maryland. Here, as in most instances, the court yard was at the public entrance facade of the dwelling. The more private garden facade was usually on the opposite side of the house.

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

In 1777, in his Virginia letter book, George Braxton recorded,"I agreed with Alexander Oliver Gardener to make a Court yardbefore my Door according to Art."
Courtyard at Mount Vernon in Virginia.

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

In his diary for August 30, 1785, at Mount Vernon, Virginia, George Washington reported that the workers had"Finished gravelling the right hand Walk leading to the front gate from the Court Yard."
1791 Edward Savage. Mount Vernon from the Court Yard Carriage Entrance.

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

When artist Robert Edge Pine died, in Philadelphia his property went for sale in 1789. including"an elegant new Brick House 42 feet front by 50 feet deep, completely finished, and well accommodated either for a large family or for a public house; a good pump in the yard; a neat garden in the rear of the house, and a court -yard in front."
The Plantation 1825 Virginia.

Private Yards

In 1753, the South Carolina Gazette reported a dwelling for sale in Prince William Parish which included"a garden at the south front, and yardlately paved in."In the South, especially at urban sites, the yard was often paved with brick, tile, or crushed shells.
18C Thomas Banister House with front yard.

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

New England tutor Philip Fithian Vickers was working at Nomini Hall, Virginia in 1774. He reported,"From the front yardof the Great House."
1796 Ralph Earl. Detail Houses Fronting on New Milford Green with fenced yards.

Elizabeth Drinker wrote in her diary in 1796 of her home in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,"Ourand Garden looks most beautiful, the Trees in full Bloom, the red, and white blossoms intermixt'd with the green leaves, which are just putting out flowers."
Fenced Utility Yard "Well Paled In" at Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia.


Private Yards - Court (Yard)

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

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

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Garden News from Thomas Jefferson's Monticello

Note from Peggy Cornett

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

Flowers & Plants in Early American Gardens - Globe Candytuft

Globe Candytuft (Iberis umbellata)

Globe Candytuft was established in early colonial American gardens, and Philadelphia nurseryman Bernard McMahon offered it in his 1804 broadsheet.  Globe Candytuft is a showy annual that forms dense mounds covered with flowers in spring and summer. The range of colors is broad, including deep purple, lavender, deep rose, light pink, cream, and white.

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

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Landscape Design - Theraputic Hospital Yards

Public Yard -Hospital Yard

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

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

Monday, March 18, 2019

Flowers & Plants in Early American Gardens - Strawflower

 Strawflower (Helichrysum bracteatum)

Strawflower (Helichrysum bracteatum)

Strawflower, a half-hardy annual that withstands light frosts, was introduced from Australia to England in 1791, and to the United States in the 19C.  In New England it has been collected in roadside fields in Connecticut & Massachusetts.  The species from which the garden plant is descended was created around 1850 in Germany from cuttings from Australia. The strawflower is one of the biological treasures gathered by Napoleon’s wife Joséphine de Beauharnais in her famous garden at Château de Malmaison.  The Latin name bracteatum is derived from 'bractea' & refers to the bracts which are often mistakenly thought to be petals. The actual flowers are tiny & are in the heart. It is treasured for its everlasting quality making it ideal for dried arrangements. They grow in a variety of colors - yellow, orange, white, & purple.

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

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Landscape Design - Farm & Barn Yards


Private Yards -Livestock Yards

Trying to Escape the Goose Yard.

Private Yards - Goose Yard
Chauser's Canterbury Tales, in 1386, or thereabouts, Chaucer wrote in the Nun's Priest Tale, "A yeerd she hadde enclosed al aboute Withe stikkes and a drye dych with-oute In which she hadde a Cok." Here was a woman tending a poultry yard, just as women would in early America!

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

Private Yards -Poultry Yard
The rooster ruled the poultry yard.

An account in a 1772 Queen Anne's County, Maryland deed book noted the presence of "one new paled garden 150 by 100 in good repair with a paled yard between the dwelling house and garden in good repair." Women usually tended the poultry close to the house.
There was a Poultry Yard at George Washington's Birthplace, Ferry Farm, in the Northern Neck of Virginia about one mile below the falls of the Rappahannock River.  George Washington's 1771 survey of the "Home House" farm locates the family "hen yard," adjacent to the kitchen garden to the north of the house.

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

Private Yards -Farm Yard & Barn Yard

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

Near Savannah, Georgia, in 1774, property was advertised, "choice Tide Land, on which are Two fine high Knolls fit for Buildings and Barn Yard." Near 1778 Philadelphia, a soldier was said to have made his escape, "by getting over a fence in the barn yard."
The term farm yard was seldom used until well after the Revolutionary War. It came into popular use after the 1790s publication of John Spurrier's "Compendious System of Husbandry, adapted to the different soils and climates of America; containing the mechanical, chemical and philosophical elements of agriculture; wherein the different soils and manures are analized, shewing their real properties, with their proper applications to each other, and the atmospherical influences; the best method of constructing and managing the farm-yard." John Beale Bordley's publication of "Sketches on Rotations of Crops, and other Rural Matters" also popularized the term.

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

Private Yards - Cow Yard

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

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

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

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

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

Joseph Prentis (1754-1809), a judge of the General Court of Virginia, lived in Williamsburg, and wrote in his Monthly Kalender between 1775-1779. It survives as a manuscript at the University of Virginia. He noted in his Kalender, "Dung your Grounds. Such of the Garden as may be vacant should be well manured in October and also well spaded that it may have the advantage of fallow from the sun, snow, and air of the winter season...In December use every oppy of laying Dung on such parts of the Garden as may want it."
18C English Woodcut

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

Private Yards - Hog Yard

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

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

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

New Yorker John Nicholson wrote about barnyards in The Farmer's Assistant in 1820, "The practice of having a barnyard on a declivity is a bad one, as in this way very much manure is washed away, without essentially benefiting the adjoining grounds. The yard should be level, and lowest in the middle, in order to prevent the escape of much fertilizing liquor, that will otherwise run off from the dung during heavy rains.
"It should be cleared in the Spring of the dung made during Winter; and if the Milch-cows and other cattle are to be kept in it at night, during Summer, much manure may be made in it by carting in rubbish of various kinds...to mix with the dung of the cattle and absorb their stale.

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

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Flowers & Plants in Early American Gardens - Arikara Sunflower

Arikara Sunflower (Helianthus annuus variety)

One of the major goals of the Jefferson-sponsored Lewis & Clark Expedition was botanical exploration of North America. In 1805 the members of the “Corps of Discovery” spent 6 winter months at Fort Mandan on the Missouri, near the Arikara, Hidatsa, & Mandan villages. The Arikara people planted these Sunflowers as the ice broke on the Missouri River, with soil temperatures at 45°F, because the seeds will not germinate in intense summer heat.

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

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Flowers & Plants in Early American Gardens - Globe Amaranth

Globe Amaranth (Gomphrena globosa)

Globe Amaranth seeds were first planted by Thomas Jefferson at Shadwell, his boyhood home, on April 2, 1767. It was introduced into Europe from India in 1714 and was grown in Virginia by John Custis of Williamsburg as early as 1737. The clover-like flowers bloom from summer through fall in shades of magenta, pink, and occasionally white. This plant thrives in hot, dry weather and the long-lasting flowers are superb for fresh or dried arrangements.

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

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Why Garden? For Refuge & Redemption...

Gardening in Early America for Refuge & Redemption

In a garden one could order a small corner of the world & each spring begin life all over again.
Nancy Shippen, daughter of Alice Lee Shippen of Stratford Hall in Virginia, had married Col. Henry Beekman Livingston, from a rich, New York family, in March 1781.  Nancy, just 18, moved to his house in Rhinebeck on the Hudson, with Livingston family.  There she soon learned that he was insanely jealous & had several illegitimate children, some with slaves.  Nancy, pregnant soon after marriage, moved back to her parent's house in Philadelphia to give birth to a girl they named Peggy.  She tried to mend her marriage by returning to the Livingston home in Rhinebeck, but left for good in the spring of 1783.  By 1784, Nancy Shippen, whose philandering husband had assumed custody of their only child, retreated with her mother to a country house that was “pleasantly situated on a hill with a green Meadow before it.” Behind the house were “a garden & a nursery of trees,” to which she directed daily attention.  She wrote in her journal of the consolation she expected to find there. Although she could not help feeling like an outcast, “with all these conveniences,” she declared, “I ought to be contented.”  

For centuries gardening had appealed to some fundamental spiritual need of humans, whose religions traditionally depicted a garden as the ideal abode for mankind on this earth & beyond. The ordered garden was, after all, Everyman’s refuge from the terrifying unknown, & certain evils, known & unknown.

The garden offered sanctuary from the threat of wild nature & escape from barbarian outsiders. The great garden of the vast American frontier held some frightening connotations for many early colonists. New Englander Michael Wigglesworth wrote of it in 1662, A waste & howling wilderness,
where none inhabited
But hellish fiends, & brutish men
That devils worshipped.


The evils of avarice & the injustices of power politics drove even wealthy colonists to seek spiritual refuge in a nature, that they ordered around themselves.

In 1771, as frustrations with England mounted, a future signer of the Declaration of Independence, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, wrote to a friend, “The wisest Philosophers, the greatest poets, & the best men have constantly placed the most perfect sublime happiness in rural retirement. Under the shades of Forrests statesmen have sought happiness having in vain sought after it in the perplexed mazes of ambition & interest.”
Charles Willson Peale (741-1827) Portrait of John Beale Bordley America was viewed by some as a seedbed in which to establish natural spirituality; & gardening was one method to nurture higher values. John Beale Bordley (1727-1804) gave up the public life in Annapolis to pursue experimental agriculture & moved to a 1600-acre Wye Island estate he acquired in 1770. He was instrumental in founding, the 1785 Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture, an association whose membership included 23 Marylanders by 1798.  In his 1797 Essays & Notes on Husbandry & Rural Affairs, Bordley offered his ideas on keeping the common man happy on the farm. He suggested that each worker be given a garden 80, 90, or 100 feet square, because “it was observed by a clergyman…cottagers who had a garden were generally sober, industrious & healthy; & those who had no garden, were often drunken, lazy, vicious & ailing.”

Thomas Jefferson agreed with Bordley. Jefferson wrote to James Madsion in 1785 that, "It is not too soon to provide by every possible means that as few as possible shall be without a little portion of land. The small landholders are the most precious part of a state."

Interestingly, there is a high correlation between those with whom Annapolis craftsman William Faris shared church membership & those with whom he exchanged plants & gardening advice. Even though it was 20 years after the colonial period of mandatory church attendance, the people Faris came to know through nearby St. Anne’s Church formed the nucleus of his pleasure gardening colleagues.

The garden was a symbolic religious battleground, where good battled evil, where temptation & sin were overcome by forgiveness & reconciliation. Philadelphia seed dealer, & writer Bernard M'Mahon (1775-1816) wrote that gardening could even end dangerous “intemperance.”

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Garden News from Tho Jefferson's Monticello

Note from Monticello's Keith Nevison

Common primrose coming into bloom now at the Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants. TJ listed this plant in his garden book in 1771. Native to Northern Africa, parts of SW Asia and across western and Southern Europe, Primula vulgaris has long been cultivated in gardens. Hooray for coming spring!

Flowers & Plants in Early American Gardens - Snow-on-the-Mountain

 Snow-on-the-Mountain (Euphorbia marginata)

Snow-on-the-Mountain (Euphorbia marginata)

On July 28th, 1806, William Clark, co-captain of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, collected this curious plant while exploring Montana's Yellowstone River. Plant hunter and botanist Frederick Pursh called it a "very handsome species" in his Flora Americae Septentrionalis (1813), which described many plants collected by Lewis and Clark. Snow-on-the-Mountain is distinguished by white-edged and veined upper leaves, is now popular in cutting gardens, and tolerates deer, drought, and poor soils.

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

Monday, March 11, 2019

Garden News from Tho Jefferson's Monticello

Note from Monticello's Peggy Cornett

Crocus tommasinianus, flowering now along the winding walk flower border, is native to the limestone hillsides and woodlands of Hungary, northern Bulgaria, and former Yugoslavia. This species was first introduced into cultivation in 1847 and was named after the Hungarian botanist, Muzio G. Spirito de Tommasini (1794-1879), who was mayor of the city of Trieste. Early twentieth-century American garden writer Elizabeth Lawrence had an enormous stand of this charming bulb in her Raleigh, North Carolina garden. Also known as tommies, these crocus are squirrel-resistant and great for naturalizing in lawns.

Landscape Design - Commercial Work Yards

Work Yards -Timber and Wood Yards
The term timber yard usually referred to a commercial enterprise selling wood, while wood yard usually was a place for gathering and holding wood at a private dwelling.
In 1736, the South Carolina Gazette advertised a commercial Charleston "Timber-Yard...where any Person may be supplied with all sorts of Boards, Scantling, Laths, Cedar Posts for Gardens, and Frames for Houses."

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

The 1761 Maryland Gazette in Baltimore, Maryland, advertised, "To be sold...a good Dwelling-House 80 Feet in Length...Garden...Wood-Yard, Etc."
Some business ventures required wood for fuel. The Pennsylvania Gazette noted in 1768, "a DWELLING HOUSE and BAKEHOUSE, very convenient for Loaf Bread or Sea Biscuit; with a large Wood yard, Stable and Garden, and a Pump at the Door."

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

The 1764 Pennsylvania Gazette advertised for, "Able bodied Negroe Men and Boys, to work at a Brick yard."


In 1786 Alexandria, Virginia a newspaper noted a commercial, "Brick-Yard about a mile from the Court House; it has a case or wall built for burning bricks." 


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

Pieter Gysels (1621-1691) A town with figures working in bleaching fields in the foreground
To bleach household & personal linen was spread on the grass, hedges, bushes, or on poles; soaked with buckets of lye at intervals; and eventually rinsed & dried. The lye was obtained by placing wood ashes in a barrel & pouring water over the ashes, until a brownish liquid oozed out the bottom of the barrel.

There were variations, such as using plain water & no lye. The bleaching process could last 3 days or longer, depending on available sunlight; and it took up valuable space. Bleach yards were sometimes called bleaching greens. Sometimes high-quality linen that was dried on grass yards was called lawn.
David Teniers the Younger (1610-1690) The Bleaching Ground
Because both bleaching & drying were outdoor activities, it was good to have an enlosed, grassy yard for these chores. As one 19th century housewife noted one needed a, "grassy corner well open to the sun,...sheltered from high winds...the attentions of wandering poultry... and the incursions of pigs, puppies and calves...they not only soil the clothes, but will tear and even eat them"

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

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

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

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

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

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

Calico Printer, 1805, New York Public Library

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