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Clapp's Favorite Pear
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 Wood, in 1633, in his New England's Prospect, describes Dorchester as "the greatest town in New England, well wooded and watered; very good arable grounds and hay-ground; fair cornfields and pleasant gardens, with kitchen gardens, In this plantation is a great many cattle, as kine, goats, and swine. This plantation hath a reasonable harbor for ships, but here is no alewife river, which is a great inconvenience. The inhabitants of this town were the first that set upon the trade of fishing in the Bay, who received so much fruit of their labors that they encouraged others to the same undertakings."

Johnson seems to have been struck by the form of the town, and thus mentions it in his Wonder-Working Providence, published in 1654:

"The form of this town is almost like a serpent, turning her head to the northward, over against Tompson's [sic] Island and the Castle; her body and wings, being chiefly built on, are filled somewhat thick of houses, only that one of her wings is clipped, her tail being of such a large extent that she can hardly draw it after her. Her houses for dwellings are about one hundred and forty, orchards and gardens full of fruit-trees, plenty of corn-land, although much of it hath been long in tillage, yet hath it ordinarily good crops. The number of trees are near upon 1,500. Cows and other cattle of that kind about 450."

The description that Josselyn made in his second voyage to New England, from 1663 to 1671, confirms that of the other writers:

"Six miles beyond Braintree lieth Dorchester, a frontire town pleasantly seated, and of large extent into the main land, well watered with two small rivers, her body and wings filled somewhat thick with houses to the number of two hundred and more, beautified with fair orchards and gardens, having also plenty of corn-land and store of cattle counted the greatest town heretofore in New England, but now gives way to Boston. It hath a harbor to the north for ships."

In his journal, Some Cursory Remarks Made by James Birket in His Vogage to North America 1750-1751, Birket describes his stay with Henry Vassels in Boston. His entry for September 10, 1750, follows: Henry Vassels & Self went in his chace to Drochester to dine with Coleo Robt Oliver being 9 Miles. Returned in the evening; this is a very pleasant country town and stands about 4 miles from Boston, here the land seems to exceed any that I have seen in this country, & their orchards seem to be of the best fruit trees and are very large which enables them to make abundance of cyder ...

The following description is from Hayward's Gazetteer of 1839. "The soil of Dorchester is rocky, but very fertile and under a high state of cultivation. It is exceedingly productive, particularly of vegetables, fruits and flowers. Its surface is greatly variegated, presenting a continual succession of picturesque and delightful views of the country, city, and sea. Its hill-tops and valleys are decked with farm houses and tasteful villas, and nowhere can be found the union of town and country enjoyments more complete."

Many fruits that became popular in the 19th century came from Dorchester: The Downer cherry; the Andrews, Frederick Clapp, Harris, and Clapp's Favorite pears; the Dorchester blackberry; and the President Wilder strawberry.
Agriculturists include: Marshall Pinckney Wilder, 1798-1886, merchant; Samuel Downer, inventor of kerosene; William Clapp.

A reference to the quince orchard of the Humphreys estate appeared in a poem published by the Humphreys on the occasion of their leaving the old house in 1917 when the house was sold to be razed.

In Dorchester once fine fruit did grow
And the Humphreys quince orchard made a fine show.
One hundred and fifty bushels or more
Have been seen in the fall on the great barn floor.


Birket, James. Some Cursory Remarks Made by James Birket in His Voyage to North America, 1750-1751. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1916.

Hayward, John. New England Gazetteer; Containing Descriptions of All the States, Counties and Towns in New England ... Fifth edition. Boston, 1839.

Johnson, Edward. A History of New-England. From the English Planting in the Yeere 1628. Untill the Yeere 1652.. London, 1654. as cited in Johnson's Wonder-Working Providence, 1628-1651, Edtied by J. Franklin Jameson. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1910.

Josselyn, John. Account of Two Voyages to New-England. London, 1674. as cited in John Josselyn, Colonial Traveler. A Critical Edition of Two Voyages to New-England. Edited and introduced by Paul J. Lindholdt. Hanover: Universit Press of New England, 1988.

The Memorial History of Boston, 1630-1880, edited by Justin Winsor. Boston: Ticknor and Company, 1880. Vol. 1.

Wood, William. New England's Prospect. London, 1634. as cited in the edition: Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1977.

Agriculture in DorchesterClap Favorite Pear
Related Images: showing 8 of 10 (more results)
Here are some images from the Atheneum archive related to this topic. Click on any of these images to open a slideshow of all 10 images.
Belvidere HallGazebo at Belvidere HallWilliam Clapp HouseWilliam Clapp House
William Clapp HouseComposite Lemuel Clap House, William Clapp House, BarnSamuel Downer JrWilliam Clapp House
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Created: July 24, 2003   Modified: September 13, 2005