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 

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 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.

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 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."

Sunday, March 24, 2019

History Blooms at 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 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 

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Teenage Geo Washington (1732-1799)- 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 (1732-1799) 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 - from Geo Washington's (1732-1799) Ferry Farm

George’s First Job - About The Land

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.

By Zac Cunningham, Manager of Educational Programs

History Blooms at 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 

Ferry Farm, Geo Washington's (1732-1799) reconstructed Boyhood Home opens

A rendering of Geo Washington's family house at Ferry Farm in Stafford County, c 1738. A ferry, which gave the farm its name, crosses the Rappahannock River in the foreground

George Washington's reconstructed boyhood home opens

By KRISTIN DAVIS The Free Lance-Star Oct 7, 2017  

FREDERICKSBURG The last photographic evidence of a once-impressive house poised high on the Rappahannock River terrace across from Fredericksburg dates to 1830. America was barely a half-century old then. The Civil War was three decades in the future.

The home where the nation’s first president spent his formative years had crumbled in on itself. Just a heap of rubble remained in the place where George Washington watched English merchant ships sailing upriver and first dreamed of a life of adventure.

Even that would disappear, receding into the earth, it seemed, forever.

Now, it has risen again.

After decades of searching, archaeologists in 2008 announced they had at last uncovered the remains of the house. So began the laborious feat of raising from its footprint a replica so historically accurate that the iron hinges from which the paneled doors hang are hand-wrought.

On Saturday at Ferry Farm, the George Washington Foundation celebrated the home’s construction with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Those responsible for its discovery, including Ferry Farm archaeology director Dave Muraca, as well as the highly skilled artisans and craftsmen who built the replica from the ground up, were on hand to talk about their work.

The house is part of a $40 million fundraising campaign that will include transforming the grounds into a living history museum so that visitors might experience life as it once was.

Guests for the first time will get to wander the rooms that look much as they did when Washington was a boy and the house stood like a sentry on the Rappahannock’s shore.

To understand the significance of Saturday’s event is to know that the Stafford County farm where Washington grew up was nearly lost to commercial development in the mid-1990s. Regents and trustees of what would become the George Washington Foundation, along with community members and organizations, saved the property, with the goal of telling the stories of the nation’s first president, Fielding and Betty Washington Lewis, and their families.

Washington moved to Ferry Farm in 1738 at age 6. He left at 22.

Nearly a century of searching for his boyhood home — once the grandest in at least two counties — had turned up nothing when Muraca arrived in 2001.

“When I got here, I knew it had the potential to be an incredible find,” Muraca said. “It lived up to its potential.”

Much of the work before he arrived involved “small peeks into the ground,” he said. “It became apparent to me we had to approach it in a different way. This is a site that doesn’t like to give up its secrets.”

To put in everyday terms, Muraca knew he and a team of archaeologists would have to “dig really big holes” if they were to ever uncover the Washington house remains.

Six years later, on an autumn day in 2007, he called George Washington Foundation President Bill Garner. The archaeologists had come upon what appeared to be a cellar, cut from Aquia sandstone. The material, once common, had not been mined locally since the 1800s.

Garner knew right away they had found what they’d been looking for. But nine more months would pass before the foundation announced to the public with certainty its find.

“You have to eliminate all other alternate possibilities,” Muraca said. “Then really it’s the only plausible explanation.”

The artifacts they uncovered — 750,000 of them — helped tell how the Washingtons lived, Garner said, all the way down to their diet.

“The soil composition acts almost to preserve what is left,” he said. “Fish scales, peach pits and cherry pits — yes, cherries — eggshell fragments, animals butchered, give us a wonderful opportunity to examine how they lived when they first got here.”

Other artifacts would help put together a picture of the house itself, from oyster-shell mortar and lime plaster to scalloped shingles and handmade brick.

Geo Washington's (1732-1799) Ferry Farm


Geo Washington's (1732-1799) Ferry Farm

Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington Digital Encyclopedia by Gwendolyn K. White

...Augustine and Mary Ball Washington moved their family to the 280-acre farm in 1738. A few years later, Augustine rented an adjoining 300 acre tract. The farm was conveniently located near the Little Falls Run property that Mary Washington had inherited from her father, as well as Augustine Washington's iron works located at Accokeek Creek. Primarily involved in growing tobacco, corn, and wheat, Augustine sought to diversify his income through wool production and iron manufacturing. However, neither endeavor was particularly successful. A ferry ran between the Washington property and Fredericksburg, situated on the opposite bank of the Rappahannock River. However, the ferry was never operated by the Washington family.

A dwelling already stood on the site when the Washingtons took possession of the property. The one-and-one-half story frame building had four rooms below with a central hall, four rooms above, and a sixteen-by-sixteen foot cellar. The foundation, stone-lined cellars, and two root cellars of the Washington home were located in 2008, and archaeological excavations are ongoing. The evidence revealed that the house was a clapboard-covered wooden structure of one-and-one-half stories with two end chimneys. 

Archaeologists also found evidence of a fire that damaged the dwelling in December of 1740, but it appears to have been to a small portion of the house, and the Washington family soon resumed living there afterwards. Excavators also found the remains of a kitchen and slave quarters, as well as numerous eighteenth-century artifacts.

Augustine Washington died in 1743 at the age of forty-nine, just five years after the family had moved to Ferry Farm. George Washington inherited the farm, but it remained under his mother’s care until he was twenty-one years old. It was at Ferry Farm that Washington learned the principles of agriculture, a passion that would endure throughout his life. Washington spent much of his time away from Ferry Farm once he began surveying work at the age of sixteen. The farm remained Washington’s principal residence until he moved to Mount Vernon in 1754 after his brother Lawrence's death.

Mary Washington continued to live at Ferry Farm until 1772 when George Washington bought her a house in Fredericksburg. In 1774, Washington sold the 600 acre farm for two thousand pounds to Hugh Mercer, a Scottish immigrant and physician who served as a brigadier general in the Revolutionary forces.

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.

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Saturday, March 16, 2019

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.

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Thursday, March 14, 2019

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.

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Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Gardens Display Economic & Cultural Ambitions - 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

History Blooms at 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!

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.

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Monday, March 11, 2019

History Blooms at 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.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Plants in Early American Gardens - Tassel Flower

Tassel Flower (Emilia javanica)

Tassel Flower, a native of the Far East introduced into England in 1799, bears flame-colored, button-like flowers on slender stems in summer. Also called Irish Poet and Flora’s Paintbrush, this fast-growing, self-seeding annual is an attractive addition to the flower border and makes a lovely cut flower.

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Saturday, March 9, 2019

History Blooms at Monticello

Note from Monticello's Peggy Cornett

On March 31, 1774, Thomas Jefferson recorded in his garden diary planting four "Ciriege Corniole" or Cornelian Cherry (Cornus mas) trees along with 16 other varieties of fruit trees and vegetables.

The Cornelian Cherry,which is flowering now in Monticello’s South Orchard, is a native to southern Europe and western Asia and has been cultivated since ancient times for the fruit, which is excellent for preserves and syrup. However, by the 19C, the use of this fruit was already in decline, and it wasn't until the 20C that gardeners appreciated its ornamental features (a winter flower display and attractive red fruits in late summer).

18C American Garden & Cultural Landscape -

Friday, March 8, 2019

Plants in Early American Gardens - Hyacinth Bean

Hyacinth Bean (Dolichos lablab)

The Hyacinth Bean is featured on the arbor in the Monticello vegetable garden and draws countless questions from visitors every year. In his Garden Book in 1812, Jefferson mentioned, "Arbor beans white, scarlet, crimson, purple . . . on the long walk of the garden." Although not specifically mentioned by Jefferson, Hyacinth Bean was sold by his favorite nurseryman, Bernard McMahon, in 1804. This tender annual vine produces attractive purplish-green leaves, showy rose-purple flowers and pods, and unusual black and white seeds.

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Thursday, March 7, 2019

Geo Washington (1732-1799) - Student of Agriculture

George Washington as Farmer by Junius Brutus Stearns. 1851

George Washington: Farmer  
Paul Leland Haworth (1876-1936) 
Student of Agriculture

Washington took great pains to inform himself concerning any subject in which he was interested and hardly was he settled down to serious farming before he was ordering from England "the best System now extant of Agriculture." Shortly afterward he expressed a desire for a book "lately published, done by various hands, but chiefly collected from the papers of Mr. Hale. If this is known to be the best, pray send it, but not if any other is in high esteem." Another time he inquires for a small piece in octavo, "a new system of Agriculture, or a speedy way to grow rich."

Among his papers are preserved long and detailed notes laboriously taken from such works as Tull's Horse-Hoeing Husbandry, Duhamel's A Practical Treatise of Husbandry, The Farmer's Compleat Guide, Home's The Gentleman Farmer, and volumes of Young's Annals of Agriculture.

The abstracts from the Annals were taken after the Revolution and probably before he became President, for the first volume did not appear until 1784. From the handwriting it is evident that the digests of Tull's and Duhamel's books were made before the Revolution and probably about 1760. In the midst of the notes on chapter eight of the Compleat Guide there are evidences of a long hiatus in time...

Tull's Horse-Hoeing Husbandry was an epochmaking book in the history of English agriculture. It was first published in 1731 and the third edition, the one I have seen and probably the one that Washington possessed, appeared in 1751. Possibly it was the small piece in octavo, "a new system of Agriculture, or a speedy way to grow rich" concerning which he wrote to his agent. It deals with a great variety of subjects, such as of roots and leaves, of food of plants, of pasture, of plants, of weeds, of turnips, of wheat, of smut, of blight, of St. Foin, of lucerne, of ridges, of plows, of drill boxes, but its one great thesis was the careful cultivation by plowing of such annuals as potatoes, turnips, and wheat, crops which hitherto had been tended by hand or left to fight their battle unaided after having once been planted.

Duhamel's book was the work of a Frenchman whose last name was Monceau. It was based in part upon Tull's book, but contained many reflections suggested by French experience as well as some additions made by the English translator. The English translation appeared in 1759, the year of Washington's marriage. It dealt with almost every aspect of agriculture and stock raising, advocated horsehoeing, had much to say in favor of turnips, lucerne, clover and such crops, and contained plates and descriptions of various plows, drills and other kinds of implements. It also contained a detailed table of weather observations for a considerable time, which may have given Washington the idea of keeping his meteorological records.

Young's Annals was an elaborate agricultural periodical not unlike in some respects publications of this sort to-day except for its lack of advertising. It contains records of a great variety of experiments in. both agriculture and stock raising, pictures and descriptions of plows, machines for rooting up trees, and other implements and machines, plans for the rotation of crops, and articles and essays by experimental farmers of the day. Among its contributors were men of much eminence, and we come upon articles by Mr. William Pitt on storing turnips, Mr. William Pitt on deep plowing; George III himself contributed under the pen name of "Ralph Robinson." 

As one looks over these publications he realizes that the scientific farmers of that day were discussing many problems and subjects that still interest those of the present. The language is occasionally quaint, but the principles set down are less often wrong than might be supposed. To be sure, Tull denied that different plants require different sorts of food and, notes Washington, "gives many unanswerable Reasons to prove it," but he combats the notion that the soil ever causes wheat to degenerate into rye. This he declares "as ridiculous as it would be to say that an horse by feeding in a certain pasture will degenerate into a Bull." 

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Plants in Early American Gardens - Japanese Anemone

Japanese Anemone (Anemone hupehensis)

Japanese Anemone was introduced to western gardens by plant hunter Robert Fortune in 1844. In Our Garden Flowers (1910), Harriet Keeler declared, “[t]he autumnal equinox comes and goes, but the Anemones bloom on, careless of threatening skies or pinching cold.” A. hupehensis may require staking but is generally a low-maintenance plant that is great for cutting and makes an impact in the fall garden, especially if planted in large groupings.

For more information & the possible availability for purchase
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Plants in Early American Gardens - China Pink

China Pink (Dianthus chinensis)

This showy, short-lived perennial, often grown as an annual, bears single to semi-double, mixed-color flowers from early June until late fall, and has dark-green, grass-like foliage. Thomas Jefferson planted China Pinks along his winding flower border in 1807, along with Sweet Williams and Carnations. Although its fringed petals resemble the perennial Fringed Pink (D. superbus), this species has no fragrance.

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