Dorchester Atheneum
Monday, June 26, 2017
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Agriculture in Dorchester
 The Memorial History of Boston has a chapter: The Horticulture of Boston and Vicinity, in vol. 4 Click here to see the pdf version of this chapter


[The following is from Orcutt, William Dana. Good Old Dorchester. A Narrative History of the Town, 1630-1893. Cambridge, 1893. p. 49-51.]

Good Old Dorchester has long been famous for the interest it has taken in horticulture. For the first twenty years of the existence of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society Dorchester and Roxbury furnished all its presidents and treasurers. The first settlers of the town brought with them a love of horticulture, and early laid out gardens and orchards. Several of the older present residents of Dorchester have boasted the possession of pear-trees which have formed a direct link between the past and to-day. A glance at the estates of the present century which have become more or less famous brings to our attention those of the Hon. Marshall P. Wilder, the Rev. Thaddeus Mason Harris, William, Thaddeus, Frederick, and Lemuel Clapp, Ebenezer T. Andrews (the partner of Isaiah Thomas), Samuel Downer, Cheever Newhall, Zebedee Cook, Elijah Vose, William Oliver, John Richardson, and William R. Austin. Many of the choice fruits which are now in cultivation have gone forth from Dorchester, many of them bearing the names of Dorchester horticulturalists, - namely, the Downer cherry; the Andrews, Frederick Clapp, Harris, Clapp's Favorite, and other seedling pears; the Dorchester blackberry, the President Wilder strawberry, and the Diana grape, which was raised just over the Dorchester line, in Milton, by Mrs. Diana Crehore. This grape became prominent in 1843, being the first seedling American grape at the exhibitions of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society which was deemed worthy of notice. The Clapp's Favorite pear, mentioned above, was greatly desired by the Massachusetts Agricultural Club, who wished to name it after the Hon. Marshall P. Wilder, and to disseminate it for general cultivation. They offered Mr. Clapp one thousand dollars for the control of it, hut the offer was declined.

Dorchester's greatest debt of gratitude for its prominence in the horticultural world is due to the Hon. Marshall P. Wilder. His estate, on which his experimental grounds were laid out, was formerly owned by Governor Increase Sumner. At his death, in 1799, the estate passed into the hands of his son, General William H. Sumner, who was one of the founders of the Horticultural Society, and from whom it finally passed into Mr. Wilder's possession. On these experimental grounds there were produced, during the last fifty years of Mr. Wilder's life, under his personal supervision, more than twelve hundred varieties of fruits; and from thence there were exhibited, on one occasion, four hundred and four distinct varieties of the pear. Here the Camellias Wilderi, and the Mrs. Abby Wilder were. originated by the art of hybridization, the latter of which received a special prize of fifty dollars. The Mrs. Julia Wilder, the Jennie Wilder, and other camellias were also raised in great perfection; while from Mr. Wilder's estate went to the Boston Public Garden, on its foundation in 1839, the entire collection of green-house and garden plants.

The Rev. Dr. Harris was a great lover of fine fruit, and said on one occasion to Mr. Wilder: "Your exhibition of pears is grand; but there is one variety that I miss, - the Bon Chretian (the Good Christian). I shall bring some forth from my garden to-morrow."

Zebedee Cook, who served as the second president of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, some sixty years ago, had a large garden opposite the Andrews estate, on the east side of the then turnpike road, where he grew, with great success, several kinds of foreign grapes, apricots, peaches, and pears. Among the grapes there was a white variety named Horatio, after Mr. Horatio Sprague, consul at Gibraltar, from whom Mr. Cook received it. This grape is now popularly known among famous varieties as the Nice grape.

Cheever Newhall was the first treasurer of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, and a distinguished cultivator. On his estates he had extensive orchards which embraced a large number of varieties, especially of the pear, which he cultivated with great success up to the time of his death, in 1880. Mr. Newhall's place was once the residence of Thomas Motley, father of the historian, John Lothrop Motley, and of his brother, Thomas Motley, the president of the Massachusetts Society for Promoting Agriculture, who were here born. A coincidence in regard to John Lothrop Motley is that he was born, as here stated, in Dorchester, Massachusetts, and died in Dorchester, England.

Elijah Vose, the third president of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, was the possessor of a fine orchard, in which he grew several fruits to great perfection. His greatest success was in producing the Duchesse d' Angouleme pear.

William Oliver, vice-president of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, grew pears and other fruits which attracted attention for their excellence. His estate became afterwards the residence of Ex-Governor Henry J. Gardner.

An old garden in Dorchester which deserves attention is that which is supposed to have been laid out first by Governor Oliver in colonial times. It is connected with the house in which Edward Everett was born, and is better known to the people of later Dorchester from the number of choice fruits and flowers which have been produced there from seed by the diligence and skill of John Richardson.

William R. Austin, at one time treasurer of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, had a pear orchard which became celebrated for the size and beauty of its fruits, produced by pruning the trees into the shape of a wine- glass.


Related Images: showing 8 of 13 (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 13 images.
Club House - Pearl StreetAshmont HorticultureGazebo at Belvidere Hall10 Pearl Street
10 Pearl StreetFrederick Clapp PearPicking Clap Favorite Pears 8-20-2009Clap's Favorite Pear
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Created: March 3, 2007   Modified: June 11, 2009