George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 20 May 1786]

Saturday 20th. Thermometer at 56 in the Morning—60 at Noon and 59 at Night. Morning clear with the Wind at South West. About 8 oclock it began to thicken to the westward which increased with distant thunder. By ten o clock it was quite overcast and began to rain moderately & continued to do so without wind for more than two hours when it ceased & the Sun came out but was more [or] less cloudy all the Afternoon, and cool, the wind having shifted to the South East and got fresher.

Rid to Muddy hole and the Neck. The ground at the first having got drier, the harrow plow was again set to work in the drilled ground. Finished planting (yesterday evening) corn in the Neck with the Barrel plow and set about sowing pease there again.

Finished planting with corn the cut at Dogue Run, which includes the Houses that were Barrys and began in that nearest the Overseers House.

Having received from Holt of Williamsburg through the hands of Mr. Dandridge, about 6 gills of the Eastern shore Peas (or as he calls them beans) so celebrated for fertilizing Land I began, & before the rain fell, planted 3 Rows in the inclosure below the Stables adjoining the row of yellow clover, & in a line with the Cape Wheat, being a continuation of those rows (2 feet apart). The Seeds were placed a foot asunder in the rows.

William Holt (d. 1791), an influential citizen of Williamsburg, was a Presbyterian who joined with Rev. John J. Smith of Long Island, N.Y., in establishing a settlement in New Kent County, Va., where they had a forge and mills. GW had several business transactions with Holt at this time.

eastern shore peas: Later in his diaries, and in his correspondence, GW will call this crop the wild bean or the Maggity Bay pea. It was widely called the Magothy Bay or Eastern Shore bean, and farmers had high hopes for it as a fallow crop for soil replenishment. GW paid a large price for a small quantity of seed, had little luck with it, and later reported that it was simply a variety of Cassia chamaecrista, the partridge pea which grew wild on his Mount Vernon farms. Its fame persisted, however; calling it the Magadaba bean, the Farmers’ Register, 1 (1833–34), 285, described it as an annual with black pods, very durable in hot weather.

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