Orchards

Original plans of gardens from the early Western Reserve are scarce. In fact, so far, I have only been able to locate rudimentary sketches or stylized plans. On the other hand, there are many clues to be found by examining the accounts from travelers, explorers of the period, garden books, magazines, nursery catalogues and county atlases of the 1800’s. Among them are to be found descriptions of individual gardeners, and other activities which supported the development of the horticulture industry and the creation of gardens. When pieced together, an image of what those earlier gardens must have been like begins to emerge, as well as, an understanding of how gardens began to evolve from those meant to support a subsistence living towards a largely ornamental style, reflecting the affluence of later eras. In the final decades of the 18th century and the early 19th century the territory of Ohio was still at the edge of America’s western frontier. In the Western Reserve immigrants and settlers were just beginning to trickle in from the East. Many brought with them slips, scions and seeds to sow their first crops, plant fruit trees and set out small vegetable plots. The produce, that they grew, was intended to supplement whatever they were able to trap or shoot. Typically, pioneer orchards were laid out with several varieties of apples, a few of each, to provide fruit from summer through winter. They were classified as such: Summer apples: Yellow Transparent and Sops of Wine, fall Apples: Wealthy, Nonpareil, Maiden Blush. The winter varieties, such as, Mammouth Blacktwig, Baldwin, and Northern Spy, were expected to keep from December till June. Dr. Jared Potter Kirtland, better known for his contributions to medicine and natural history, also had an avid interest in the cultivation of fruit trees. In 1823, when Kirtland immigrated from Connecticut to Poland, Ohio in the Western Reserve, he brought not only scions of favorite fruit trees, but several nursery catalogues and books on growing fruit trees and gardening. It is believed he had quite an extensive orchard and nursery at the farm in Poland. Dr. Kirtland not only exchanged plants and cuttings with other gardeners, but could afford to buy stock and import new varieties from many nurseries in the east. Inside the cover of Kirtland’s edition of William Coxe’s A View of the Cultivation of Fruit Trees, is a diagram for the layout of his orchard, listing the cultivars of fruit trees, that Kirtland intended to grow. (Rogers) (image-‘Plan of my Fruit Trees’, Kirtland) During the 1800’s in the Hiram Township, and likely elsewhere in the Western Reserve, orchards were commonplace on nearly every property. (image: 1874 Hiram Township map from the Portage County Atlas). Plum Ridge is still the name of a street that runs along the north side of the Hiram College campus in Hiram Village. Today, remnant seedling plum trees may be found growing near there in the garden behind Bonney Castle. The orchards both supplied fresh fruit to 19th century households and, along with other agricultural crops, supported the local economy. The 19th century diary of Hiram farmer, John Ryder, refers to his orchards of apples, peaches, plums, pears, quince, and cherries that prospered there. Ryder himself sold bushels of peaches, apples and potatoes in Cleveland (Clarke). Only a few orchards exist in all of Hiram Township now. During the late 1700’s and early 1800’s, there were also explorers in this region whose activities were indirectly tied with the development of horticulture and gardening in North America and beyond. In fact, there were several plant explorers whose travels took them up around Lake Erie’s shores or down along the edge of the Ohio River. Francois Andre Michaux, Thomas Nuttall, Frederick Pursh were among the better know plant explorers in the region at this time. Incidentally, Thomas Jefferson helped to secure funds for many of their explorations. As botanists, these explorers were expected to name flora, learn about the newly discovered plant’s uses for food, medicine or building, as well as, to publish records of their plant discoveries. In addition, several of these botanists were either employed as gardeners, acquainted with major nurserymen of the day or themselves nurserymen. Frenchman Francois Andre Michaux initially worked with his father, Andre Michaux, plant collecting in eastern North America. The younger Michaux helped publish his father’s manuscript, Histoire des Chenes de L’Amerique, describing the North American oaks and later published his own studies of North American forest trees, The North American Sylva (1819). These included fine illustrations by the reknown botanical artist, Pierre Redoute. (image: title page from The Sylva’s French edition, Histoires des arbres forestiers de l’Amerique Septentrionale (1810-1813) and engraving of white oak by P. Redoute). In 1785, Andre Michaux, working with his son, set up a nursery in New Jersey and later a second one in South Carolina. Here they grew on many of the seeds and plants they collected. In its first year, some 5000 young trees and several thousand packets of seeds were reported to have been sent back from the New Jersey nursery to France.(Reveal) The French were not only interested in the new plants which were being introduced to their nursery trade, but were also eager, like the British, to find new sources for timber to supply their navy’s needs in the building of more warships. (Johnson) Francois Andre later returned to America to lead a plant exploration down the Ohio River from Pittsburgh to Kentucky, and Tennessee. His account of this voyage describes a huge Plane tree 47’ feet in diameter, growing on the fertile soils of the Ohio’s floodplain (Michaux). These early explorers not only contributed to the early knowledge of our own native flora, but they greatly expanded the nursery plants available at the time. Immigrant settlers initially came to Ohio with agents of land companies, in order to locate parcels of land that they had purchased. In The Eastern and Western States of America , James Buckingham provides accounts of early settlers in Ohio. In describing one group of immigrants who temporarily settled in an area, where they cleared land to build log cabins, he commented: “In the way of cultivation they did little. The land was not theirs and they had no motive to improve it; and moreover they were coming in the midst of the Indian War. Here and there a little vegetable garden was farmed, but their main supply of food they were forced to buy from boats on the river” ( Buckingham). Buckingham conveys how tenuous the first attempts at settlement were, given the hardships of clearing land, building shelter, finding enough food to survive and withstanding the effects of disease or injury. There was also the instability in many of the areas in the early nineteenth century, due to the on-going threat of native Indian attacks. In Hiram, after several earlier attempts to settle had failed, the record of the first permanent settler was in 1804, of the Redding family, and was followed by more families in successive years. In 1813, Benjamin Hinckley, immigrated from Connecticut, and settled a farm to the south side of Hiram. Hinckley is noted for establishing the first school which lasted only about two months. Accounts also mention that he set out a row of sugar maples trees, extending the length of a half-mile along the road in front of his farm. Even in the early1800’s tree planting along streets and in yards was valued, as a way of “improving” the settled appearance of the community. Apparently, this was the case in Hiram Village on the campus of the Eclectic Institute, later to become Hiram College. The site of the Eclectic Institute at the time of its founding in 1850 is described as “little more than a plowed field, except for some apple trees on the northwest corner.” According to accounts, in the spring of 1858, Mr. James Garfield, then President of the Institute (future Civil War General and U.S. President), rallied the students to plant collected saplings of maple and elm trees on the west side of the campus in an attempt to improve the site. It is said that Garfield himself directed the placement of the trees while standing on the rooftop of old Hinsdale. Thereafter this tree planting exercise for a time was adopted as a class tradition( Osgood).(Image: 1874 old Hinsdale, Hiram, Ohio, 1874 Portage County Atlas). In 1863, Dr. Andrew Jackson Squire moved to Hiram from Mantua.His teenage son, Andrew, helped him build their family home that remained standing until 1968 when it was razed to build the present Kennedy Center. (image: Dr. Andrew Jackson Squire’s house in Hiram, Ohio) The son, Andrew Squire, was enrolled in The Eclectic Institute, as a preparatory student. It is said that young Andrew Squire, helped to tend his father’s medicinal herb garden and worked in his father’s drug store at home, preparing herbs for prescriptions his father would take to his patients ( Kirkwood). Andrew Squire never pursued his father’s career as a country doctor and instead chose to become a lawyer. Nevertheless, he often referred back to the influence of his early experiences of working with medicinal plants. Years later, as a trustee of Western Reserve University, he offered to provide land at his farm in Hunting Valley to accommodate the medicinal trial gardens of the University’s School of Pharmacy. In the trial plots fifty varieties of drug plants were grown. Several of the plants, including digitalis, belladonna, and stramonium, were processed at the School and used to supply the University Hospitals (Bacon) (image: Andrew Squire standing among foxglove in the Experimental Drug Garden) A ninety acre arboretum was also created on Squire’s farm. The arboretum provided the right shade conditions to grow and study native medicinal plants. In a 1934 report, 153 species were said to be growing in the arboretum with plans to introduce more species and protect endangered native plants as well (Bacon). Andrew Squire was particularly proud of his ability to assist the Pharmacy School at Western Reserve University and provide an outdoor field laboratory for students. Unlike Dr. Kirtland, mentioned earlier, most Western Reserve settlers, living in the first half of the 19th century, did not have access to seed and nursery catalogues from the East. Nor could they afford the cost of ordering plants from catalogues and having them shipped. Shipping was not always reliable due to the bad condition of roads and fairly limited railroad access. Aside from trading plants among gardeners, nursery availability of trees, shrubs and seeds was primarily obtained from local suppliers within the region. The North Union community of Shakers outside Cleveland was known for the quality of seeds that they produced in their own community. The Shakers often consciously attempted to improve crop varieties by selecting out seeds of certain plants that performed well. They packaged the seeds that they produced and then peddled them with their other products from the back of wagons that roamed from town to town. In Portage County in the mid to late 1800’s, there were 2 or 3 nurseries, located in every major town, including Hiram. Ravenna had a large seed supplier, Frank Ford & Son. Frank Ford, a native of Connecticut, founded his company in 1881. (image: 1874 Atlas, Frank Ford’s Ravenna residence-a model farm and garden).Their catalogue provides a wide selection of vegetables and farm crop seeds, specializing in potato varieties. They also offered a good number of fruit trees, berry plants and flowers, including over 45 varieties of sweet peas! (image: Frank Ford & Son catalogue). Many of the catalogues of this period had beautiful full color illustrations on their covers (images: Nursery catalogue covers, Storrs & Harrison, and Childs ). Ford, however, chose the “no-frills” approach, shunning the flashy color covers and lengthy advice. Ford’s slim catalogues with delicate black and white engravings emphasized the reliability and quality of their seed and stock. This was critical to the success of pragmatic farmers who couldn’t afford to have a crop failure due to planting poor quality seed. Fortunately the Western Reserve was blessed with one of the best nursery growing regions in the world. The sandy soils of the ancient lake plain, bordering the present Lake Erie shore, provided ideal growing conditions. In the mid 1800’s, Lake County’s fertile and well drained soils attracted nurserymen, looking for just such an ideal place to develop their business. Jesse Storrs was a skilled grower of fruit trees in Cortland, NY. when he decided to investigate other locations for a better climate and soils more favorable to growing fruit trees. On a visit to the Lake County region just east of Painesville, he was impressed with the drainage and quality of the rich soils, as well as, the moderated climate, afforded along the Lake. He also liked that there was by then ready access to several train lines in Painesville that would facilitate shipping of his plants. In 1858 he purchased 80 acres of land there and soon established Storrs Nursery, later to become the famed Storrs & Harrison. By 1927, Storrs & Harrison was reputed to be the largest departmental nursery in the world, shipping plants both nationally and internationally. Within a few years of Storrs’ formation, several other tree nurseries were established nearby in Perry, Ohio. The first was Green and Sinclair, later known as Western Reserve Nursery. Started in 1865, it soon was followed by half a dozen others. (image: Western Reserve Nursery, 1870’s, courtesy Perry Historical Society of Lake County, Perry, OH).Though encroached on by development the Lake County Nursery district remains today one of the most successful nursery industries in the country. Some plant selections that were once in vogue in the 1800’s are no longer grown today or considered unworthy of being sold in the nursery trade. One rather unusual item found in several nursery catalogues, dating back to the 1830’s and earlier, was the listing of many species of mulberries. Prince Nursery that was located on Long Island and the oldest nursery in the U.S, listed twenty-two mulberry cultivars in its 1829 edition. The following note accompanied the list of cultivars: “In consequence of the attention of our government and of individuals to the rearing of silk, and the culture of the mulberry, great pains have been taken to introduce from France, Italy and elsewhere the kinds of these exertions, the following list will bear ample testimony” (Prince). Fifteen of the listed varieties of mulberries were solely grown for feeding silkworms. The list includes the Chinese cultivar, Morus muticaulis, the species used then by Chinese in their silk production. Between 1825 and 1844, American horticulture was caught up with what is sometimes referred to as the “Mulberry Mania”. When the Chinese Mulberry was introduced in 1830, many believed it was possible to establish a successful national industry in silk production. Even the federal government endorsed the idea, producing a manual to encourage silk culture. The media also jumped in, promoting it vigorously. Suddenly, anywhere that peaches could be grown, the mulberry trees were also being set out. Many nurserymen invested heavily, producing large stocks of trees. Then, just as suddenly, a period of severe cold weather and disease destroyed the non-hardy mulberry trees and the craze collapsed. As elsewhere, there were nurserymen in Ohio who invested a great deal in growing crops of mulberries only to find there was no market. (Hedrick). There are numerous accounts of attempts to breed and produce silk, including the Shakers of North Union, but few were successful and eventually sericulture, as silk production is called, was abandoned completely.Volunteer mulberry trees still abound in parts of the Western Reserve, a reminder of this past folly. Among the most notable horticulturists of the nineteenth century Western Reserve was the physician, Dr. Jared Potter Kirtland. Formally educated in medicine, Kirtland received a degree from Yale in 1815. After practicing medicine in his native Connecticut, he moved to join his father in Poland, Ohio, outside of Youngstown. Kirtland was highly regarded as a physician and later became one of the founders of the Western Reserve University’s Medical School where he also taught. Many readers may be aware that Jared Kirtland was also an outstanding naturalist, known for his discoveries of new species. A snake, a fresh water mussel, a fish and the Kirtland’s warbler, all bear his name. To be a good naturalist requires a keen sense of observation, a skill Kirtland also applied to his intense interest in horticulture. As a child his grandfather taught him to graft fruit trees, which he continued to pursue in Ohio. In 1840, Kirtland purchased 83 acres of land. He called it Whipporwill Farm. The site fronted on Lake Erie in Rockport, which is now part of Lakewood. The climate for growing was suitable, being moderated by the Lake. Several fruit and vegetable growers that supplied the city with produce, at that time, also had farms, located in this area. Kirtland set out to make his farm into a show place (image: Whipporwill Farm, as shown in 1874 Cuyahoga County Atlas) He began by doing several experiments with the soils, determining how best to improve the clay soils and maximize their productivity. He shared his results willingly with others. Kirtland was instrumental in the formation of the first of Cleveland’s horticultural societies. He also published his observations, so more could learn from his own firsthand experiences. In addition to his work with grafting to improve fruit cultivars, Kirtland was well known for his work with cherries that he experimented with extensively in hybridization and produced some 30 new cultivars. Hence, he was sometimes called “the Cherry King”. He is also recognized for his hybridization of peonies and introductions of non-native cultivars of magnolias. Through much of his adult life, Kirtland carried out extensive correspondence often with other plantsmen and scientists. In one letter in 1853, he wrote to a Mr. Whittlesey on the East coast, requesting that he send him plants of bayberry, a non-native here, but a plant that he wanted to try growing on his farm. Kirtland had several bound volumes of many different nursery catalogues and horticultural books that he acquired, as a young man, in the East and used to order plants, as well as, to consult as he developed his experimental farm-landscape. Among Kirtland’s horticultural books is an 1806 edition of Bernard M’Mahon’s American Gardener’s Calendar, (image: title page, M’Mahon’s American Gardener’s Calendar). This was the first significant work to be published on the subject of horticulture and landscaping in America. M’Mahon was also one of the older and better known Eastern nurserymen and seedsmen, who promoted his nursery and catalogue by combining it with his own publication which detailed at great length the “how to” for every imaginable horticultural practice. American Gardener’s Calendar was widely used in the 1800’s. Thomas Jefferson was known to have a copy in his own library. In addition to the detailed calendar of instructions on horticultural subjects, M’Mahon outlined his principles of landscape design. He based his concepts on the ideas of the noted English landscape gardener, Humphrey Repton. M’Mahon’s design broke from the formal geometric layout of earlier gardens (image: “Plan of a Farmer’s Garden”, The Ohio Cultivator, March 1845) and recommended a more natural style of plantings, incorporating a curvilinear layout. He recommended locating the house high atop a summit for a good vantage point. He preferred an open grass lawn in front of the house, enframed by a massing of trees and shrubbery to either side. He laid out serpentine walks. They were intended to meander around the perimeter of the lawn and among the shrubbery, where one might encounter vistas, statues, a grotto or even a water feature. Even though M’Mahon died in 1816 his book remained a popular classic. In 1841 M’Mahon’s guidelines for landscaping were superseded by A Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening, the work of Andrew Jackson Downing. (image: Landscape plan. Andrew Jackson Downing, Cottage Residences, 1844.) A nurseryman, architect and considered to be the first landscape gardener in America, Downing furthered the naturalistic effects, advocating the picturesque. This was a planting style that was meant to compliment the view and architectural style of the house. Both of these works had substantial influence upon the design of both public and private properties alike. In the public sector, the adoption of the rural landscape cemetery was gaining popularity. Rural Cemeteries were the forerunners of the public parks that began to flourish at the end of the 19th century. They were intended to replace the city’s crowded graveyards, believed to be unhealthy and disease ridden. The creation of the rural landscape cemetery marked a transition to a time when people were no longer focused purely on survival, but began to have more leisure and were able to set aside land not only for burials, but open space. These first parks, included meandering pathways to stroll along and encouraged recreation in the fresh air. No longer concerned only about utility, these sites were landscaped with ornamental trees and shrubs, planted in naturalistic settings that were prescribed by the landscape gardener. Here in Hiram, Fairview Cemetery is an example of a rural cemetery that dates from that period. By the mid 1800’s, larger urban communities of the Western Reserve, such as Cleveland and Akron, saw the increasing success of its industrialists, other businessmen and leading lawyers who began to amass significant wealth. With affluence came more opportunity for leisure and the desire of the wealthy to display their elevated status. Their homes became the perfect vehicle to show off their wealth. Downing’s landscape gardening style lent itself to setting off the elaborate homes of the well-to-do. Perhaps one of the best examples of these homes of wealthy tycoons were those of the so-called, millionaire’s row on Euclid Avenue in Cleveland. Estates of Italianate and later Gothic styles of architecture lined this once fashionable Euclid Avenue neighborhood. The popularity of the avenue reached it’s peak in the 1860’s and 1870’s. To support the creation of these landscapes demanded large numbers of nursery plants which now could easily be supplied. Railroads extended directly out from Cleveland into the heart of the Lake County nurseries. The Cleveland Business Directory for 1874 shows 20 entries for gardeners with another eight for “florists, growers of and dealers in fruit, flowers and vegetables”. (image: 1874 Atlas, Jaynes Florist on Euclid Ave). These are some images of fashionable residences of this era in the Cleveland area (image:1874 Atlas, Wades, Ambler residences with picturesque features) published in the Cuyahoga County Atlas of 1874. They illustrate the homes and details of Downing-esque landscapes. Among the Euclid Avenue homes was the Greek Revival estate of Andrew Squire who was by then a founding partner of the prominent law firm, Squire, Sanders & Dempsey and an active member in the civic and cultural life of the city. (image: photo of front of Andrew Squire’s Euclid Avenue estate). The stellar success of Andrew Squire was certainly a remarkable achievement of a dream of the son of a country doctor from the rural village of Hiram. (image: Andrew Squire on rustic bench in woods at his Vallevue Farm) The explorers and early settlers came to this area and found a richly endowed land of great beauty, but also a wilderness that was potentially perilous. The landowners imposed order on their land, clearing and enclosing them with fences and hedges, planting them with fruit trees and crops. Failure of their crops for whatever reason could spell disaster and threaten their very existence. The plant explorers found a seemingly limitless resource of timber trees, plants and seeds which they sent back to their patrons. As the early communities gradually stabilized their existence in the wilderness, improvements of tree plantings and ornamental landscapes soon followed. Eventually public lands were set aside for open space and recreational uses. With the spread of more localized horticultural knowledge the landscapes continued to improve. The Civil War era onward began to afford greater wealth to some individuals and in turn promoted the growth of nurseries and the horticultural industry in general. The influence of American Garden writers, such as M’Mahon and Downing, was aimed at improving both the skill and tastes of American gardeners, and directed them towards a new form of landscape expression. The example set by individuals like Jared Kirtland who shared his knowledge freely with the general public and other horticulturists, remains an inspiration to this day. Finally, the enthusiasm for horticulture and gardening from the early settlement times of the Western Reserve, reflected a pervasive and over-riding optimism and idealism that propelled the early citizens from a subsistence living towards a society of increasing affluence. References and Notes: Adams, Denise. Restoring American Gardens, An Encyclopedia of Heirloom Ornamental Plants, 1640-1940. Portland, OR: Timber Press, Inc.,2004. The American Florist Company’s Directory of Florists, Nurserymen and Seedsmen of the U.S. and Canada. 1918. Anderson, David, “A Sort of Connecting Link, Andrew Squire, James Garfield and the Village of Hiram” Hiram, Spring 1998:16-21. Bacon, Francis J. “The Squire Valleevue Medicinal Plant Garden,” Feb. 1934, typescript, Papers of the Andrew Squire Family, Case Western Reserve University Archives, Cleveland, Ohio. Bicentennial Atlas of Portage County, 1874-1978. Buckingham, James. The Eastern and Western States of America.2 vols. London: Fisher, Son & Co., 1840. Cigliano, Jan. Showplace of America: Cleveland’s Euclid Avenue, 1850-1910. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1991. Clarke, Vesta Ryder. “History of Old South Road,” Mildred Bennett Local History Collection, Archives of the Hiram College Library, Hiram, Ohio. Cole,W.B. ”History of the Nursery Industry in Lake County” The Painesville Telegraph, 21 June 1927, Perry Historical Society of Lake County, Ohio Archives, Perry, OH. Coxe, William.A View of the Cultivation of Fruit Trees, etc.Philadelphia:D. Allinson, 1817. Cuyahoga County 1874 Atlas. Downing, Andrew J. Cottage Residences. 2nd ed. New York: Wiley & Putnam, 1844. ________. A Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening. 6th ed New York: A.O. Moore.1859 (1841). Favretti, Rudy.,and Joy P. Favretti. Landscapes and Gardens for Historic Buildings.2nd ed.Walnut Creek, CA:Altamira Press, 1997. Gehr, Agnes. “Jared Potter Kirtland”The Explorer, Cleveland Museum of Natural History 2(7): 1-33. Hedrick, Ulysses P. A History of Horticulture in America to 1860. New York: Oxford University Press, 1950. Johnson, Stanley H. The Cleveland Herbal, Botanical, and Horticultural Collections. Kent, Ohio: The Kent State University Press, 1992. Kirkwood, Marie. “A Garden of Compassion.”Your Garden and Home March1933:13-15. Kirtland, Jared P. Letter to J.P. Wittlesey, E. Rockport, OH, 24 April 1853. Case Western Reserve University Biology Collection, Allen Memorial Medical Library, Cleveland, OH McIlhenny, Eleanor. “Sericulture, A Surprising Shaker Enterprise”Shaker Magazine July 1989, The Shaker Historical Society Library, Shaker Heights, OH M’Mahon, Bernard. American Gardener’s Calendar. Philadelphia: B. Graves, 1806. Michaux, Francois Andre. Voyage a l’ouest des Monts Alleghenys dans les etats de l’Ohio, du Kentucky et du Tenessee, et retour a Charleston. Paris: Crapelet pour Levrault, Schoell et Co., 1804. Osgood, Elliott. “In the Days of Old Hiram,”typescript,1931, Mildred Bennett Local History Collection, Archives of the Hiram College Library, Hiram, Ohio. Piercy,Caroline. Valley of God’s Pleasure. Prince,William. Annual Catalogue of Fruit and Ornamental Trees and Plants. New York: T. and J. Swords, 1829. Bound, sixth in a collection of six seed and nursery catalogues, owned by Jared P. Kirtland, Case Western Reserve University Biology Collection, Allen Memorial Medical Library, Cleveland, OH. Reveal, James L. Gentle Conquest.Washington, D.C: Starwood Publishing, Inc., 1992. Rogers, Rebecca M. “Dr. Jared P. Kirtland, Amateur of Horticulture,” Journal of Garden History, Vol. 6, No.4, 357-375. Notes: In the Appendices, Rogers compiled detailed lists of fruits, vegetables, ornamental trees, shrubs, vines and herbaceous plants that Kirtland ordered from nurseries. She also provides a bibliography of botanical and horticulture books, published before 1840 that were in Kirtland’s library.