George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 10 June 1787]

Sunday 10th. Breakfasted by agreement at Mr. Powell’s, and in Company with him rid to see the Botanical garden of Mr. Bartram; which, tho’ Stored with many curious plts. Shrubs & trees, many of which are exotics was not laid off with much taste, nor was it large.

From hence we rid to the Farm of one Jones, to see the effect of the plaister of Paris which appeared obviously great—First, on a piece of Wheat stubble, the ground bearing which, he says, had never recd. any manure; and that the Wheat from whence it was taken was so indifferent as to be scarcely worth cutting—The white clover on this grd. (without any seed being sown & the plaister spread without breaking up the soil) was full high enough to mow, and stood very thick. The line between this and the herbage around it, was most obviously drawn, for there nothing but the naked stubble, some weeds & thin grass appeared with little or no white clover. The same difference was equally obvious on a piece of mowing grd. not far distant from it for where the Plaister had been spread the White and red clover was luxuriant and but little of either beyond it and these thin. The Soil of these appeared loamy—slightly mixed with Ising-glass and originally had been good; but according to Jones’s account was much exhausted. He informed us of the salutary effect of this plaister on a piece of heavy stiff meadow (not liable however to be wet) where it transcended either of the two pieces just mentioned in the improvement.

This manure he put on the 29th. of October in a wet or moist spot, and whilst the Moon was in its increase, which Jones says he was directed to attend to (but this must be whimsical) and at the rate of about 5 bushls. to the Acre. When it is laid on grass land or Meadow he advises harrowing, previously, to the laying it thereon in order to raise the mould for incorporation.

From hence we visited Mr. Powells own farm after which I went (by appointment) to the Hills & dined with Mr. & Mrs. Morris. Returned to the City abt. dark.

William Bartram (1739–1823) operated a botanical garden with his brother John, Jr. (1743–1812), on the west bank of the Schuylkill three miles from Philadelphia. The establishment was still called John Bartram & Sons although it had passed into the hands of the sons upon the death of its founder, John Bartram (1699–1777). William’s reputation as a traveler-naturalist was enhanced by the publication in 1791 of his Travels through North and South Carolina. GW was a subscriber to the book but declined a request that it be dedicated to him. On 2 Oct. 1789 GW sent word to Clement Biddle, his agent in Philadelphia, that he wanted the Bartrams’ list of plants plus a note about the care of each kind (PHi: Washington-Biddle correspondence). In Mar. 1792 he obtained plants of 106 varieties, the surviving list bearing the heading “Catalogue of Trees, Shrubs & Plants, of Jno. Bartram” (DLC:GW). These plants were sent to George Augustine Washington, GW’s manager at Mount Vernon, and a second shipment was sent down in November to replace the plants that had not flourished. While it is assumed that GW purchased the plants, it is quite possible that they were a gift from Bartram. mr. powells own farm: Samuel Powel owned land across the Schuylkill River southwest of Philadelphia.

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