Thomas Jefferson Papers

Enclosure: Thomas Main to James Henderson, [1811]


Thomas Main to James Henderson


“The Hedge Thorn Plants are the best that ever left my Nursery of one year old, and the Pyracantha are equally excellent.

You will, I am certain, scarce believe that such plants could be raised at once from the seed gathered from my Hedges last year—1810—and now fit to plant in the Hedge row. As soon as the plants come to hand they are to be taken out of the boxes and submersed in cool water, for an hour or two. After which they may remain with their roots only in the water until they are planted in the hedge. But if they cannot be planted immediately or for four or five days they had better be laid in a trench and covered well with mould to keep them moist untill they be planted: four and an half inches apart is the best distance for the Hedge Thorn and from two to three feet asunder for the Pyracantha. In my opinion it will be best to plant the gooseberry cuttings in a long shallow box, and keep it in the House continually damp until they are rooted. I lost every one of my Gooseberry cuttings last year by the extraordinary dryness of the season. The Chinese Arbor Vitae is a beautiful evergreen & grows to a considerable height.

The seed of the Hedge Thorn (Crataegus Cordata) may be gathered any time after they are fully ripe. Put them in a trough and pound or crush the Haws or berries until the stones are completely separated (taking care to proportion the strokes of the pestle so as not to break the stones) turning over the mass repeatedly until the whole of the berries are mashed. The stones are then to be washed from the pulp, and deposited in a box or other convenient vessel in the coolest situation (out of doors) that can be had. They are to be kept in a damp or humid condition through the winter (or frozen). At the commencement of vegetation in the Spring they must be inspected every 3 or 4 days, and when they begin to feel slimy on being handled it is an indication that they are about to open. The ground must then be prepared for their reception. And as soon as the little white point or rootlet of some of them appears protruded, then is the critical time to sow them as soon as the state of the soil & weather will permit. I commonly mix them plentifully with Plaister of Paris at the time of sowing—an inch apart is the best distance. Cover them with half an Inch of fine mould as evenly as practicable. The stones may be1 cleaned from the pulp any time in the winter before march.”

Tr (DLC: TJ Papers, 147:25565); extract in Joseph C. Cabell’s hand; undated, with year conjectured from internal evidence; at head of text: “Extract of a Letter from Thomas Main of the District of Columbia to James Henderson esq. of Williamsburg”; notation by Cabell at foot of text: “Thomas main’s method of preparing Haws”; endorsed by TJ: “Agriculture. Thorn Hedges. Maine’s process.”

James Henderson (1764–1818), Episcopal minister and educator, emigrated from Scotland to America in 1785. He was ordained by Bishop William White in Pennsylvania on 19 Dec. 1788. Henderson served successively as rector of Westover Parish, Charles City County, from at least 1790 to 1792, and of Yorkhampton Parish, York County, from 1793 until at least 1797. He was appointed an adjunct professor of humanity in 1792 at the College of William and Mary. In 1796 Henderson was named a director of the Public Hospital, Williamsburg’s institution for the insane later known as the Eastern State Hospital. From about 1800 he resided at the corner of England and Nicholson streets in Williamsburg. Henderson’s father-in-law was United States Supreme Court justice John Blair. At the time of his death Henderson owned stock in bank, canal, insurance, and land companies, as well as Blair Park, an estate in Albemarle County. His will freed two slaves and stipulated that, in the sale of slave families, spouses were not to be separated and young children were to remain with their mothers (G. MacLaren Brydon, “A List of Clergy of the Protestant Episcopal Church Ordained after the American Revolution, who served in Virginia between 1785 and 1814 …” WMQ description begins William and Mary Quarterly, 1892–  description ends , 2d ser., 19 [1939]: 407, 426, 434; The History of the College of William and Mary from its Foundation, 1660, to 1874 [1874], 81; Lyon Gardiner Tyler, Williamsburg, The Old Colonial Capital [1907], 244, 250; Eastern State Hospital, Annual Report 143 [1916]: 54; DNA: RG 29, CS, York Co., 1810; Henderson Family Bible Record, 1795–1872 [Vi]; Mary Blair Andrews to TJ, 16 Oct. 1815, and note; Henderson’s will in Bernard M. Caperton, “Three Williamsburg Wills,” Virginia Genealogist 29 [1985]: 205–12; Virginia Patriot, and Richmond Daily Mercantile Advertiser, 15 Dec. 1818; gravestone inscription in Bruton Parish Cemetery, Williamsburg).

crataegus cordata: Washington hawthorn, also classified as Crataegus Phaenopyrum (Hortus Third description begins Liberty Hyde Bailey, Ethel Zoe Bailey, and the staff of the Liberty Hyde Bailey Hortorium, Cornell University, Hortus Third: A Concise Dictionary of Plants Cultivated in the United States and Canada, 1976 description ends , 329–31).

1Cabell here canceled “cleared.”

Index Entries

  • arborvitae search
  • gooseberries; care of search
  • gypsum (plaster of paris); used as fertilizer search
  • Henderson, James (1764–1818); and hawthorn hedges search
  • Henderson, James (1764–1818); identified search
  • Henderson, James (1764–1818); letter to, from T. Main search
  • Main (Maine), Thomas; and hawthorn hedges search
  • Main (Maine), Thomas; letter from, to J. Henderson search
  • Main (Maine), Thomas; plant nursery of search
  • thorn; Maple-leaf (Washington hawthorn) search
  • thorn; propagation of search
  • thorn; pyracantha search
  • thorn; writings on search
  • trees; arborvitae search