Sunday, March 31, 2019

1700s Colonial American portraits with Garden Fountains

1763 John Singleton Copley (Colonial American artist, 1738-1815). Mary Turner (Mrs. Daniel Sargent).  Unfortunately, Copley often used English prints as the format for his portraits, so it is impossible to know if this fountain, or even the lady's dress were actually in Colonial America.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Plants in Early American Gardens - Balsam Apple

Balsam Apple (Momordica balsamina)

Thomas Jefferson planted this annual vine along the winding walk flower border at Monticello in the spring of 1810. This curious vine was introduced to Europe in 1568 from the tropical regions of Asia and Africa, where it was used medicinally to treat wounds. An unusual addition to the summer garden, Balsam Apple bears glossy, delicate foliage, small yellow flowers, and bright orange-red fruits that burst open to reveal seeds covered with a brilliant scarlet, sticky coating.

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

Friday, March 29, 2019

Seeds for the 17C Kitchen Garden

Seeds for the 17C Kitchen Garden
The Fuller Garden in the English Village at Plimoth Plantation, in Plymouth, Mass.

By Michael Tortorello New York Times July 6, 2011

Who was Good King Henry?

I first encountered the label in the Fedco Seeds catalog, as a common name for a plant in the genus Chenopodium. It’s an edible perennial with shoots like asparagus and leaves like spinach. But before Good King Henry was a salad green, he was, ostensibly, something nobler: European royalty...

A 1545 French herbal, or primitive botanical guide, mentions a “bon-Henri” (perhaps Henry IV of France), said Kathleen Wall, who cooks and gardens at Plimoth Plantation, a living history museum in Plymouth, Mass. But then Ms. Wall, 53, has also found a “bad Henry,” of German origin: der böse Heinrich...

The mystery of Good King Henry made me wonder about other Colonial-era vegetables that have all but disappeared from our gardens and dinner plates. Gardeners today will routinely raise a dozen varieties of tomato, a plant utterly foreign to early Americans. So why do we neglect common Colonial food plants like burnet, smallage, skirrets, scorzonera, gooseberry and purslane? And how would they taste to us now?

When it comes to Good King Henry, Ms. Wall said, the flavor is easy to describe: bland. “That’s probably why it fell out of favor,” she said. “It wasn’t special. It doesn’t get into the recipe books, so it’s just forgotten.”

In contrast, she said, spinach, a green that “springs up in the English garden scene in the 1580s,” grew stalwartly through the country’s mild summers. And by the 17th century, “suddenly all the recipes called for spinach: salads of spinach, spinach boiled, with added butter and cinnamon and sugar and raisins.”

The story of early American kitchen gardening hides in recipes like these. Another source is herbals — what one modern historian calls “botanical bibles.” Yet botany, as we know it, is just a shadow on these pages. The herbal presents a pre-scientific universe, a realm of astrology and magic.

A “vegetable” could be any plant. An “herb” was a useful one, for the table or the medicine chest.

The colonists relied on popular guides like “The Herball, or Generall Historie of Plantes” (1597), 1,400 pages of reminiscences, folk medicine and superstition written by John Gerard. Domestic handbooks like Thomas Hill’s “Profitable Arte of Gardening” (1568) were more artful than horticultural.

“A lot of the time when they write about gardening,” Ms. Wall said, referring to authors like Hill, “they’re writing about the ancient Greeks” or Romans — that is, beliefs and ideals that dated back to Pliny the Younger.

Actually growing “herbs” to feed a New England household was anything but a scholarly pursuit. The average kitchen garden was about an acre, the historian James E. McWilliams wrote in a monograph titled “ ‘To Forward Well-Flavored Productions’: The Kitchen Garden in Early New England,” from the March 2004 issue of The New England Quarterly. Hired help was practically nonexistent. Given the abundance of land, settlers had their own acres to harvest. And men were preoccupied with tending livestock and sowing grains.

That meant “this arduous task fell almost entirely to women,” Mr. McWilliams wrote. Then, as now, raised beds were standard. The soil needed to be improved, Mr. McWilliams noted: “stirred,” loosened and loaded with dung. A garden often would include an orchard of fruit trees, like apples, pears, quince and plums. And these required their own pruning and picking.

Ms. Wall has tried this kind of labor for herself in the recreated gardens outside each of the 12 historical dwellings at Plimoth Plantation. “I’m a housewife of perpetual visitation,” she said. “I travel between houses and help people.”

After 30 years at the museum, Ms. Wall is past complaining about the period costumes. But going without glasses, as most 17th-century women did, is an abiding nuisance. “It’s really hard for me to put seed in without having my nose in the ground,” she said. And weeds “have to grow large enough that I can tell them from my plants.”

It doesn’t help matters that many Colonial-era “herbs,” like dandelions or patience dock (Rumex patientia), would now be tarred as weeds. Burnet (Sanguisorba officinalis), one of Ms. Wall’s favorites, can be found growing by the side of the road.

The plant has a tireless quality. The flowers, typically maroon, will bloom all summer if you keep picking them, she said. And the little leaves of salad burnet (Sanguisorba minor) can be harvested almost all year.

“Why is this something that doesn’t show up in all these salad mixes?” she said.

Burnet turns up on a list of 59 seeds that John Winthrop Jr., a future governor of the Colony of Connecticut, ordered in 1631 from a London grocer, Robert Hill. And herbals widely recommended burnet, with its cucumber-like flavor, for doctoring wine after long sea voyages. “I dare say a lot of that wine needed help,” Ms. Wall said.

Yet burnet fell out of favor. For all her research, Ms. Wall has yet to answer the question of what makes something fashionable.

A case study, she said, could be smallage (Apium graveolens). The biennial plant grows a stalk like celery, but thicker and taller. And for 300 years — in between “medieval English cookery” and the “18th century,” Ms. Wall said — it displaced celery in cookbooks.

She discovered why after she and the head Plimoth horticulturist conducted a long quest for smallage, and she finally grew out the seeds herself.

“I was making potato salad,” she said, “and I didn’t have any celery. Then I realized, I have smallage. And in potato salad, it was heaven.”

And then there are the historical plants whose disappearance is no cause for mourning. A good riddance goes out to the root crop skirrets (Sium sisarum), said Clarissa Dillon, 77, who practices historical cooking and gardening at the 1696 Thomas Massey House in Marple Township, Pa.

John Winthrop Jr. ordered three ounces of skirret seed for his father’s Massachusetts farmstead. The medicine of the era attributed some colorful qualities to the plant, notes Ann Leighton’s 1970 classic, “Early American Gardens: ‘For Meate or Medicine.’ ”

“ ‘They are something windie, by reason whereof they also provoke lust,’ ” Ms. Leighton wrote, quoting John Gerard’s herbal. “ ‘The women in Susula ... prepare the roots for their husbands, and know full well wherefore and why.’ ” (If ardor persists for more than four hours, call your physician.)

It’s no great challenge coaxing a bunch of skirrets to fill the yard. The horticulturist who started Dr. Dillon on skirrets “did not tell me how enthusiastic the seeds are,” she said. “And I have them everywhere.”

A cook needs an awful lot of plants to yield more than a teaspoon of roasted pulp. The edible root “is supposed to be the size of a man’s thumb,” Dr. Dillon said. But “my skirrets tend to be, as a friend said, the size of her dog’s toenails.”

And these toenails need to be peeled, too. “What’s really awful,” Dr. Dillon added, is the “wire” that runs through another forsaken and fast-spreading root crop, scorzonera (which botanists know as Scorzonera hispanica and civilians call viper’s grass). This core runs through the center of the root and must be removed. Far easier, she said, is to substitute parsnips, which are bigger, sweeter, better.

Gerard had his notions of why a woman would favor skirrets in the kitchen (and the bedroom). But Dr. Dillon wrote her dissertation on women and 18th-century kitchen gardens in eastern Pennsylvania, while she was teaching elementary school and raising a child. The experience helped her formulate a rule about why a taxing plant like skirrets might fall into the compost heap of history.

“Women don’t make work for themselves,” Dr. Dillon said. “They have enough to do.”
Clarissa Dillon at the 1696 Thomas Massey House in Marple Township, Pa.

 Like a lot of the “sallet” greens that the colonists brought with them to the New World, purslane (Portulaca oleracea) can colonize a yard all on its own. A single specimen can produce a million seeds. Let a purslane patch go, said Clarissa Dillon, a food and garden historian, and “it’s the plant that eats your driveway. “It will come up through asphalt,” she said.

You can spray the thick red stem and the sprawling oval leaves with weed killer, Dr. Dillon added, which is what most gardeners do. Or you can pickle the whole plant with “equal parts vinegar and stale beer,” which is what she prefers. Dr. Dillon recommends blanching the purslane first for a quick three-count. “I don’t want it to be limp,” she said. She learned this preparation from a “receipt” (that is, a recipe) in her 1750 edition of “The Compleat Housewife: Or Accomplish’d Gentlewoman’s Companion.”

Tricks like these were once common knowledge among kitchen gardeners, said Joel Fry, the curator at Bartram’s Garden in Philadelphia, which dates from 1728. “One of the reasons they’ve disappeared,” he said of some colonial-era food plants, “is we don’t know what to do with them...”

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Plants in Early American Gardens - Sensitive Plant

Sensitive Plant (Mimosa pudica)

Thomas Jefferson planted seeds of Sensitive Plant in an oval flower bed at Monticello on March 22, 1811. Sensitive Plant has been grown as a curiosity for centuries, and was included in many early 19th-century seed lists. A favorite feature of a child's garden, the unusual leaves fold together when touched. The plants produce pink, mimosa-like, pompom flowers in mid-summer and can also be grown in a container.

For more information & the possible availability
Contact The Tho Jefferson Center for Historic Plants or The Shop at Monticello 
 Sensitive Plant (Mimosa pudica)

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

History Blooms at Tho Jefferson's Monticello

Puckoon (a Native American name for Bloodroot), or Sanguinaria canadensis

Peggy Cornett tells us that the March of spring is constant but varied. So far the ephemeral wildflowers are a few days slower but advancing quickly. Jefferson made his first observation of Bloodroot April 6, 1766, writing in the first page of his Garden Book “Narcissus and Puckoon open.” Adding on April 12 “Puckoon flowers fallen.” Puckoon (a Native American name for Bloodroot), or Sanguinaria canadensis, is flowering now in the oval beds and winding walk flower borders at Monticello.  According to the American Heritage Dictionary, Puccoon is listed as deriving from the Powhatan language, but used in differing forms across most or all of the Algonquian languages.

Landscape Design - Public Courtyards at Government Buildings

Public Yard - Courtyard at Governor's House

In 1706, the act of the Virginia legislature authorizing the building of the Governor's Palace allocated 635 pounds for the construction of the garden with these instructions, "that a Court-Yard, of dimensions proportionable to the said house, be laid out, leveled and encompassed with a brick wall 4 feet high with the balustrades of wood thereupon, on the said land, and that a Garden of the length of 254 foot and the breadth of 144 foot from out to out, adjoining to the said house, to be laid out and leveled and enclosed with a brick wall, 4 feet high, with ballsutrades of wood upon the said wall, and that handsome gates be made to the said court-yard and garden."

By 1723, Rev. Hugh Jones reported that the courtyard was "finished and with beautiful gates." But by 1776, the wooden components of the fences had begun to deteriorate, when note was made in the Virginia Council Journal that they were "Repairing Fodder Houses & paling round the Garden."

Twenty five men were appointed "to repair fences of park" in 1777. And it was recorded that "60 foot of plank, 250 nails" were purchased for the task.

Public Yard - Courthouse Yard

In 1743 Spotsylvania County, Virginia, A workman was hired to "rail in the Courthouse yard."
Reflection of the Old Courthouse Tower in Washington County, Tennessee.

In 1778 Alexandria, Virginia, a valuable one half acre lot "fronting the whole Courthouse yard and market place" was offered for sale.

A yard is an enclosed division of uncultivated land usually attached to, or enclosed by a dwelling or public building or outbuildings usually defined by a fence or a wall.

Brick walls often surrounded public yards at court houses, state houses, hospitals, churches, cemeteries, prisons, and inns. Wooden fences usually surround yards at private dwellings, but some gentry homes also had brick or stone walls.  By the last quarter of the 1700s, folks referred to the enclosed area, where those incarcerated take exercise, as a prison yard.

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.

Often colonials & early Americans would simply refer to their yardsOccasionally writers, especially visitors from England or the Continent, would leave the term yard off of a description of a court yard, simply referring to a court.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Plants in Early American Gardens - Painted Lady Sweet Pea

Painted Lady Sweet Pea (Lathyrus odoratus cv.)

Francis Cupani, a Franciscan monk, first sent seed of the purple-flowered species of Sweet Pea to England from Sicily in 1699. Painted Lady Sweet Pea is a highly scented, pink and white bicolor variety, which was in cultivation by the 1730s and popular in American gardens through the 19th century. In 1811 Jefferson planted "Lathyrus odoratus. Sweet scented pea" in an oval flower bed at Monticello. This spring-blooming vine prefers cool weather.

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

Monday, March 25, 2019

History Blooms at Tho Jefferson's Monticello

Peggy Cornett writes, "We planted these clumps of Jeffersonia dubia in the Center for Historic Plants’ Nursery at Tufton Farm at lest fifteen years ago. The shade of the lath house provides the perfect conditions for this Asian species."

Landscape Design - College Courtyards

Public Yard - College Yard

At the college which would become Harvard, as early as 1637-39, Nathaniel Eaton referred to"the frame in the College Yard& digging the cellar."At Harvard, the original college buildings formed a quadrangle. Visitor James Birket wrote that 1750 Harvard College at Cambridge, Massachusetts"Consists of three Separate Brick buildings...one of which is called Stoughton hall, And although the 2 wings do not Join to the Middle building yet they are So placed As to form a very handsom Area or Courtyardin the Middle."
Harvard Court Yard in 1726.

Ebenezer Hazard visited the college of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, in 1777, noting that"At this Front of the College is a large Court Yardornamented with Walks, Trees cut into different Forms, & Grass."
Court Yard at the College of William & Mary. Detail of Bodleian Plate England. 1740.

Moreau de St. Mery visited the College of New Jersey at Princeton, New Jersey in the 1790s wrote, "Before it is a huge front yardset off from the street by a brick wall, and at intervals along the wall are pilasters supporting wooden urns painted gray. This front yard is untidy, covered with the droppings of animals who come there to graze...Behind the college there is an extremely large courtyard. It is dirty and uncultivated, and everything in it is evidence of neglect."
College of New Jersey, Princeton. Court Yard in 1764.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

History Blooms at Tho Jefferson's Monticello

Peggy Cornett of Monticello tells us that,

Today English Peas are sprouting in plantings throughout the Monticello Vegetable Garden. Among the 330 different kinds of vegetables in Thomas Jefferson's garden the English pea was considered his favorite. By staggering the planting of peas, Jefferson was able to eat them fresh from the garden from the middle of May to the middle of July.
Aside from personal preference, Jefferson might have taken special note of the English pea because of an annual neighborhood contest to see which local farmer could bring to table the 1st peas of spring. The winner would host the other contestants in a dinner that included the peas.
Though Jefferson's mountaintop garden, with its southern exposure to warmth and light, should have provided an advantage for the contest, it seems that the contest was almost always won by a neighbor named George Divers.  As Jefferson's grandson recalled: "A wealthy neighbor [Divers], without children, and fond of horticulture, generally triumphed."

George Divers (c 1748-1830) was an Albemarle County landowner, a merchant, & a friend of Thomas Jefferson. The two of them were known to exchange seeds & letters on farming & gardening. Divers married Martha Walker, daughter of Dr. Thomas Walker, & their only son died at a young age. In 1785, Divers bought the Farmington estate, & in 1802, he asked Jefferson to design his house.

Plants in Early American Gardens - Cyprus Vines

 Cypress Vines (Ipomoea quamoclit)
Cypress Vines (Ipomoea quamoclit)

Thomas Jefferson forwarded seeds of this vigorous vine to his two daughters, Mary and Martha, in 1791 from Philadelphia. The seeds of this morning glory relative were planted "in boxes in the window” at Monticello. Cypress Vine is a self-seeding annual with star-shaped scarlet flowers and ferny foliage that attracts hummingbirds and butterflies.

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

Saturday, March 23, 2019

History Blooms at Tho Jefferson's Monticello

Note from Monticello's Peggy Cornett

Peggy tells us today that Thomas Jefferson's Monticello’s South Orchard is waking up. This week the Moor Park Apricots are flowering and peach buds are swelling. Jefferson ordered the Moor Park from the William Prince Nursery in 1791 and later received scions from Timothy Matlack in 1807. The Moor Park was introduced into England in 1760 and was named for the estate where it first fruited. The tree produces large, roundish bright orange fruit with a very firm orange flesh.
Discover more about the over 170 varieties of fruits cultivated in Jefferson’s gardens in The Fruits and Fruit Trees of Monticello by Peter Hatch. 

Friday, March 22, 2019

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

Teenage Geo Washington - Professional Landscape Surveyor


Founders Online explains George Washington's (1732-1799) Surveying Appointment:   22 July 1749–25 October 1752

Between the ages of 17 & 20 GW was a practicing professional land surveyor. During that time he made more than 190 surveys, nearly all of them for grants of new lands on the frontiers of Lord Fairfax’s Northern Neck Proprietary. Frontier surveying was a lucrative business in Virginia at the middle of the eighteenth century, as swarms of settlers & speculators laid claim to the colony’s western lands, both inside & outside the Northern Neck. A diligent frontier surveyor working only a few months out of the year could clear annually £100 or more in Virginia current money, a cash income greater than that of most planters & tradesmen in the colony. Frontier surveyors, in addition, had ample opportunities to patent choice tracts of land in their own names, & many acquired holdings of several thousand acres. Surveying was a respectable occupation for a young Virginian in 1749, roughly on a par with law, medicine, the church, or military service, & most of the surveyors were drawn from the Virginia gentry.

GW’s career as a surveyor owed much to the Fairfax family. Close acquaintance with the proprietor, Thomas, Lord Fairfax, & with Fairfax’s relatives at Belvoir assured GW of receiving profitable surveying assignments in the Northern Neck, & it was probably at the behest of Lord Fairfax & through the agency of William Fairfax, who sat on the governor’s council, that GW obtained the surveyorship of Culpeper County at the start of his professional career. Young men of 17 usually did not serve as county surveyors. Most novice surveyors began as apprentices or deputies to county surveyors & did not become county surveyors themselves, if ever, until they had had some years of experience. Before 20 July 1749, nevertheless, GW received a commission from the president & masters of the College of William & Mary appointing him surveyor of newly formed Culpeper County. The college in its charter of 1693 had been granted the power to appoint all Virginia county surveyors & the right to collect one-sixth of their surveying fees, but in practice the college authorities were more concerned with their income than with who was appointed to the surveyorships. They regularly deferred to the wishes of powerful men in commissioning surveyors, & in the case of Culpeper, which lay in the Northern Neck, they were undoubtedly open to any suggestion that Lord Fairfax might make for the county’s surveyor. GW did not study at the college to qualify for the commission or stand any examination by the president & masters of the school. There is no evidence, in fact, that GW went to Williamsburg in the spring or summer of 1749. Most probably, William Fairfax, who attended council in Williamsburg from March to May 1749, secured the commission for him. On 20 July 1749 GW appeared before the justices of the Culpeper court &, after presenting his commission, took the oaths of public office for the first time & became the county’s first surveyor.

Two days later GW ran a survey of 400 acres on Flat Run in east central Culpeper County for Richard Barnes of Richmond County. GW decorated his plat of the survey with a handsome compass rose & a sketch of Mount Pony, an area landmark, & signed his name in full with his new title “Survy of Culpeper Cty.” It is the only survey that he is known to have made in the county in which he was commissioned. Thereafter, his surveying was done almost entirely in the Shenandoah & Cacapon valleys of Frederick County, which until 1753 embraced all of the Northern Neck Proprietary west of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Surveyors in the Northern Neck, unlike surveyors in the rest of Virginia, were allowed, at Lord Fairfax’s pleasure, to make public surveys outside the counties to which they were appointed. Under those circumstances it is not surprising that GW chose to survey on the frontier. Culpeper, although a new county, was fairly well settled. Most of its desirable lands had been surveyed & granted while it was part of Orange County, whereas on the other side of the Blue Ridge, in Frederick County, people were claiming many vacant tracts in 1749, providing a great deal of lucrative business for a surveyor...

Because in Virginia one could not legally make public surveys without a commission as a county surveyor, an assistant county surveyor, or special surveyor, the inclusion of GW’s title on these surveys was an indication that they were legitimate...The absence of any title at all on GW’s surveys after he stopped using “S.C.C.” suggests that he may have become one of the several assistants to Frederick County surveyor James Wood, since Frederick County assistants signed their surveys without title...Lord Fairfax continued to allow GW to survey for grants after he ceased to be surveyor of Culpeper County & that no one challenged the legitimacy of his work.
GW usually received his surveying assignments in packets of land warrants issued from the Proprietary land office at Belvoir. Addressed to GW & signed by William Fairfax, as the proprietor’s agent, or by William’s son George William Fairfax on behalf of his father, these documents instructed GW to survey an approximate acreage for a specific person at a general location by a certain date, normally 5 to 6 months from the date of the warrant...His surveys were often simple & near each other & sometimes had the additional advantage of being contiguous, making it possible to use one or more boundaries for two tracts. On at least  occasions GW was able to do four surveys in a day & on at least 13 other occasions three surveys in a day. At other times, of course, he worked more slowly, because the surveys were large or complex or there was some distance to travel between them.

GW, like most frontier surveyors, usually surveyed in the spring & fall, when the weather was most pleasant, snakes & insects were least troublesome, & the thin foliage of trees made it easier to sight long boundary lines through wooded areas...

GW gave no reasons for quitting the profession of surveying after the fall of 1752, but there are two evident ones. As lucrative as surveying on the Northern Neck frontier was between 1749 & 1752, it offered only diminishing prospects for the future. The supply of desirable new lands was already beginning to run low in the Northern Neck by 1752, & the dominance of Lord Fairfax in the whole land-granting process prevented Northern Neck surveyors, whether they held county appointments or not, from establishing power bases of their own in the way many frontier surveyors in other parts of Virginia did...In addition, GW had a strong appetite for soldiering, whetted no doubt by the example of his half brother Lawrence. By the spring of 1752 GW had learned that the office of adjutant for the colony, an office that Lawrence held, was to be divided into districts. On 10 June 1752 he asked Lt. Gov. Robert Dinwiddie to consider him for the Northern Neck adjutancy. Instead, the council on 6 Nov. 1752 appointed him adjutant for southern Virginia with a salary of £100 a year. GW did not survey professionally thereafter, but throughout the remainder of his life he frequently employed his surveying skills for his own private purposes: to acquire new land by purchase or grant both east & west of the mountains, to find & defend the boundaries of his many holdings, & to divide them into profitable fields & tenements. As late as Nov. 1799 he spent 3 days on Difficult Run in northern Fairfax County running the lines of his land there & of a nearby tract that he hoped to buy. Only his death 5 weeks later put an end to his surveying...

Teenage Geo Washington's Journal of his 1st Landscape Survey Adventure

A Journal of my Journey over the Mountains began Fryday the 11th. of March 1747/8  by George Washington (1732-1799)

[March 1748]
Began my Journey in Company with George Fairfax Esqr.; we travell’d this day 40 Miles to Mr. George Neavels in Prince William County.

In 1746 & 1748, young George Fairfax (1724-1787) son of Wm Fairfax, took part in expeditions to survey Lord Fairfax's western land. George Washington, age 16, accompanied him on the 2nd trip, & they became lifelong friends.  George Neville (Neavil) (d. 1774), a planter & land speculator, had settled on Cedar Run, then in Prince William County (now in Fauquier County), as early as 1730.

Saturday March 12th. This Morning Mr. James Genn the surveyor came to us. We travel’d over the Blue Ridge to Capt. Ashbys on Shannondoa River. Nothing remarkable happen’d.

John Ashby (1707–1789) was son of  Thomas Ashby, had settled in Stafford County in 1710. John was widely known as an Indian fighter

Sunday March 13. Rode to his Lordships Quarter about 4 Miles higher up the River we went through most beautiful Groves of Sugar Trees & spent the best part of the Day in admiring the Trees & richness of the Land.

GW probably was referring to land owned by Lord Fairfax on the east side of the Shannondoah River.

Monday 14th. We sent our Baggage to Capt. Hites (near Frederick Town) went ourselves down the River about 16 Miles to Capt. Isaac Penningtons (the Land exceeding Rich & Fertile all the way produces abundance of Grain Hemp Tobacco &c.) in order to Lay of some Lands on Cates Marsh & Long Marsh.

Jost Hite (d. 1760) was one of the leading land speculators and developers in Frederick, eventually settling families on a tract amounting to 94,000 acres. His land purchases involved him in a dispute with Lord Fairfax over ownership of his grants. The court case was settled in Hite’s favor in 1786, 26 years after his death.  Frederick Town is now Winchester, Va.  Isaac Pennington came to the Shenandoah Valley, about 1734 and settled a tract of some 600 acres on the south bank of Buck Marsh Run.  In 1750 GW surveyed a tract of land for him in Frederick County before he moved to South Carolina in the fall of 1754.

Tuesday 15th. We set out early with Intent to Run round the sd. Land but being taken in a Rain & it Increasing very fast obliged us to return. It clearing about one oClock & our time being too Precious to Loose we a second time ventured out & Worked hard till Night & then returnd to Penningtons we got our Suppers & was Lighted in to a Room & I not being so good a Woodsman as the rest of my Company striped my self very orderly & went in to the Bed as they call’d it when to my Surprize I found it to be nothing but a Little Straw—Matted together without Sheets or any thing else but only one Thread Bear blanket with double its Weight of Vermin such as Lice Fleas &c. I was glad to get up (as soon as the Light was carried from us) & put on my Cloths & Lay as my Companions. Had we not have been very tired, I am sure we should not have slep’d much that night. I made a Promise not to Sleep so from that time forward chusing rather to sleep in the open Air before a fire as will Appear hereafter.

On this day the party had surveyed a tract of land for George William Fairfax on Cates Marsh and Long Marsh, the “names of small streams which flow from the foothill of North mountain to the Shenandoah river and have along their course considerable meadow or marshy land” 

Wednesday 16th. We set out early & finish’d about one oClock & then Travell’d up to Frederick Town where our Baggage came to us. We cleaned ourselves (to get Rid of the Game we had catched the Night before) & took a Review of the Town & then return’d to our Lodgings where we had a good Dinner prepar’d for us Wine & Rum Punch in Plenty & a good Feather Bed with clean Sheets which was a very agreeable regale.

Thursday 17th. Rain’d till Ten oClock & then clearing we reached as far as Major Campbells one of there Burgesses about 25 Miles from Town. Nothing Remarkable this day nor Night but that we had a Tolerable good Bed [to] lay on.

Andrew Campbell, who lived northwest of Winchester, and several other residents to keep ordinaries “at their respective houses” and to “furnish lodgings and food and Liquors at prices fixed by the court.”

Fryday 18th. We Travell’d up about 35 Miles to Thomas Barwicks on Potomack where we found the River so excessively high by Reason of the Great Rains that had fallen up about the Allegany Mountains as they told us which was then bringing down the melted Snow & that it would not be fordable for severall Days it was then above Six foot Higher than usual & was Rising. We agreed to stay till Monday. We this day call’d to see the Fam’d Warm Springs. We camped out in the field this Night. Nothing Remarkable happen’d till sunday the 20th.

Thomas Barwick (Berwick) was settled in Frederick County as early as 1744.

Sunday 20th. Finding the River not much abated we in the Evening Swam our horses over & carried them to Charles Polks in Maryland for Pasturage till the next Morning.

Monday 21st. We went over in a Canoe & Travell’d up Maryland side all the Day in a Continued Rain to Collo. Cresaps right against the Mouth of the South Branch about 40 Miles from Polks I believe the Worst Road that ever was trod by Man or Beast.

Thomas Cresap (1694–1790) immigrated to America about 1719, in 1736, and he moved to the vicinity of Shawnee Old Town (now Oldtown, Md.), where he built a fortified trading post at the crossroads of a series of trails much traveled by Indians and whites. Cresap acted as a surveyor and agent for the Ohio Company and helped lay out the company’s road from Wills Creek to the Monongahela.

Tuesday 22d. Continued Rain and the Freshes kept us at Cresaps.

Wednesday 23d. Rain’d till about two oClock & Clear’d when we were agreeably surpris’d at the sight of thirty odd Indians coming from War with only one Scalp. We had some Liquor with us of which we gave them Part it elevating there Spirits put them in the Humour of Dauncing of whom we had a War Daunce. There Manner of Dauncing is as follows Viz. They clear a Large Circle & make a great Fire in the Middle then seats themselves around it the Speaker makes a grand Speech telling them in what Manner they are to Daunce after he has finish’d the best Dauncer Jumps up as one awaked out of a Sleep & Runs & Jumps about the Ring in a most comicle Manner he is followd by the Rest then begins there Musicians to Play the Musick is a Pot half of Water with a Deerskin Streched over it as tight as it can & a goard with some Shott in it to Rattle & a Piece of an horses Tail tied to it to make it look fine the one keeps Rattling and the other Drumming all the While the others is Dauncing.

Fryday 25th. 1748. Nothing Remarkable on thursday but only being with the Indians all day so shall slip it. This day left Cresaps & went up to the Mouth of Patersons Creek & there swum our Horses over got over ourselves in a Canoe & travel’d up the following Part of the Day to Abram Johnstones 15 miles from the Mouth where we camped.

Patterson’s Creek flows into the Potomac about 12 miles below Cumberland, Md.

Saterday 26. Travelld up the Creek to Solomon Hedges Esqr. one of his Majestys Justices of the Peace for the County of Frederick where we camped. When we came to Supper there was neither a Cloth upon the Table nor a Knife to eat with but as good luck would have it we had Knives of [our] own.

Sunday 27th. Travell’d over to the South Branch (attended with the Esqr.) to Henry Vanmetriss in order to go about Intended Work of Lots.

John Van Meter, a New York state Indian trader who carried on an extensive trade among the Delaware Indians, visited Virginia about 1725. With his encouragement, his sons Isaac & John obtained extensive grants of land on the South Branch of the Potomac and in the lower Shenandoah Valley in 1730 and brought in a number of settlers.

Monday 28th. Travell’d up the Branch about 30 Miles to Mr. James Rutlidge’s Horse Jockey & about 70 Miles from the Mouth.

On 29 Mar. the party surveyed a tract of land for James Rutledge (surveying notes, DLC:GW). 

Tuesday 29th. This Morning went out & Survey’d five Hundred Acres of Land & went down to one Michael Stumps on the So. Fork of the Branch. On our way Shot two Wild Turkies.

Michael Stump, Sr. (1709–1768), received a grant on the South Fork of the South Branch of the Potomac, on 8 Sept. 1749

Wednesday 30th. This Morning began our Intended Business of Laying of Lots. We began at the Boundary Line of the Northern 10 Miles above Stumps & run of two Lots & returnd to Stumps.

Thursday 31st. Early this Morning one of our Men went out with the Gun & soon Returnd with two Wild Turkies. We then went to our Business. Run of three Lots & returnd to our Camping place at Stumps.

Surveying the Land - New Post from Geo Washington's Ferry Farm

George’s First Job - About The Land
From Ferry Farm's Lives & Legacies Blog 3/20/2019

When visitors come to George Washington’s Ferry Farm, they can stand in what were once the fields of the Washington family’s farm, where they grew tobacco and other crops. While living here, Augustine Washington, George’s father, taught his sons – George, Samuel, John Augustine, and Charles – to see opportunity in land.
Ferry Farm Aerial View
Aerial view of the present-day Washington house replica, work yard, hen yard, and archaeological digs at George Washington's Ferry Farm. Credit: Joe Brooks, EagleOne Photography

Growing up at Ferry Farm, George Washington learned that land was wealth. He learned how to run a plantation and to manage the enslaved workers who lived and toiled on his family’s farms. He learned what crops to grow and livestock to raise, how to care for them, and how to put them to use.  George Washington was many things at different points in his life – diplomat, politician, general, president –  but, throughout his sixty plus years, he was always a farmer.

To George and the other Europeans who settled in British North America in the 1700s, land and its natural resources were privately owned commodities or raw materials to be bought or sold. Land was used to create goods for market or was sold for profit.  In other words, land was valuable and owning a lot of land made you wealthy.

Before growing anything on a farm, Washington and his fellow colonial-era farmers had to own land and the land they owned had to be defined legally. It had to have boundaries, so they and other people knew it belong to them.  If land was wealth, it was vitally important to know how much land you owned.

Creating these boundaries was the job of a surveyor and being a surveyor was, after his lifelong work as a farmer, George Washington’s first job.
Young George Washington, Surveyor From National Park Service 

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines surveying as “determining the area of any portion of the earth’s surface.”

Today, surveyors use the Global Positioning System (GPS), satellite imagery, lasers, and other advanced digital equipment to do their work more quickly and more accurately. When George Washington was a surveyor, he used simple tools compared to today but, 200-years-ago, these simple tools were as advanced technologically speaking as today’s surveying equipment.  Indeed, in the 1700s, surveying was relatively brand new.  The word itself first appeared only in 1682.

Although a relatively new science, young George Washington was probably familiar with surveying from an early age.  His father Augustine owned “1 Set Surveyors Instruments,” according to the probate inventory made of Augustine’s property after his death in 1743.

The state-of-the-art instruments of a surveyor in the 1700s included a surveying compass on a tripod used to figure out the bearing and direction of a proposed boundary line.  A surveying compass included “sighting vanes” used to point “the compass by peering through the slit in one of the vanes and lining up the horsehair or wire in the oval of the other vane with a target or object” along boundary line.  These targets were often just trees (sometimes marked in some fashion with a hatchet), boulders, steams, or any other landmarks.
Surveyor's Compass by David Rittenhouse, believed to be given to George Washington in 1782. National Museum of American History 

Measuring the distance between these targets set the property’s boundaries as well as its acreage. These distances were measured using chains carried by the surveyor’s assistants known as chainmen.  A full surveyor's chain was 66 feet long and 100 links and eighty of these chains equaled one mile. “Dragging a sixty-six-foot chain through the brush of colonial Virginia's forests was impractical.” These long chains snagged on trees and other vegetation so surveyors in the colonies used a chain that was only 33 feet long with 50 links.
Surveyor's Chain, c1830. Credit: National Museum of American History / 

George Washington began a survey by choosing a starting landmark as well as a landmark to travel towards.  He recorded the direction of the line using his surveying compass.  Then, to measure the distance, the rear chainman held one end of the chain at the starting point while the lead chainman walked a straight line toward the ending target.  As the surveyor, George constantly checked the compass to make sure the chainmen followed his line.  Keeping the line straight sometimes meant the lead chainman hacked his way straight through brush and undergrowth.  Once the he reached the end of the chain, the lead chainman pinned it to the ground and the rear chainman brought up the other end. They then repeated the process until the ending point of the line was reached. The rear chainman picked up the pins as they walked.

Fifteen-year-old George Washington made one of his first surveys on February 27, 1747 when he measured out his older half-brother Lawrence’s turnip field at Mount Vernon. According to Ledger Book Zero, Washington bought a Gunter scale, essentially a two-foot long ruler specifically designed to solve the trigonometry problems common to surveying, from his cousin Baily on September 20, 1747.
Gunter's scale. Credit: MIT Museum

Thirteen months later, on March 11, 1748, George accompanied George William Fairfax and James Genn, the Surveyor of Prince William County, on a month-long trip across the Blue Ridge Mountains and into Virginia’s frontier to survey land for Thomas, Lord Fairfax.  Young Washington kept a journal of his experiences.

In 1749, at age 17, George was commissioned the surveyor of the new county of Culpepper by the College of William & Mary, which appointed all county surveyors in Virginia This was unusual for someone this young to be appointed.  A year later, he began a two-year period of off-and-on trips throughout Virginia’s Frederick County, which at the time encompassed a vast swath of frontier land that today makes up nine separate counties in two states.  “By 1752, Washington completed nearly 200 surveys totaling more than 60,000 acres.”

In the later 1750s, George began to focus his work life more on soldiering (the French and Indian War) and farming. He never completely stopped surveying or acquiring land, however. In 1771, he surveyed Ferry Farm in preparation to sell the property and he surveyed for the last time in 1799, the year he died.

In the colonial age, land was wealth and was how many colonials, including George Washington, made their living.  As such, early Americans wanted to know what land they owned as well as how much they owned.  Surveyors, like George Washington, measured the land and created boundaries so ownership would be clear.  “At one time, Washington owned nearly 70,000 acres between the Potomac and Ohio Rivers.”  Surveying was Washington’s first job and allowed him to begin to build vast amounts of land holdings and thus wealth. This wealth, in part, propelled him to the heights of colonial American society and politics.  He began this journey as a surveyor while living at Ferry Farm.
Zac Cunningham
Manager of Educational Programs

History Blooms at Tho 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.

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

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."