Saturday, April 8, 2017

Before the Seed Sellers - Ordering from English Factors

Ordering seeds & plants from English factors

Before the Revolution, many well-to-do colonial gardeners depended on England for much of their seed & plant materials, which the gentry often ordered through British agents in trade for tobacco or other goods, which they had produced & sent to England. One Marylander who ordered his seeds from his English factor was Charles Carroll, Barrister, (1723-1783) who married Margaret Tilghman in 1763.  He was 40, she was 21.  It was the 1st marriage for both.  He had studied law in England, returning to Maryland in 1755 to practice law in Maryland's capitol at Annapolis.  Three months after his arrival back in the colonies, Carroll's father died.  Carrol inherited 800 acres on the Patapsco River in what is now Baltimore.  He began constructing his home, Mount Clare, there in 1756.  While he was alive, the Carrolls used Mount Clare as a summer home, living in Annapolis most of the year.  But they planted Mount Clare for both food and pleasure.  The work was done by some of the 200 slaves they owned.  This is a portion of the order list Carroll sent to England in 1774.

1 Shillings worth of Clary (a spice used to flavor wine)
1 Oz best true Cantlilupe (cantaloupe)
1 Oz best black Galloway mellon (melon)
2 Oz Leopan Lettuce
1½ Oz double violet for Edging
½ Oz of the Painted Lady Gumsartisius
3 lbs best Lucern (alfalfa)
Some broad beans
4 Oz best Spinage (spinach)
1 Oz best Colliflowers (cauliflowers)
1 Oz Cress (plant used in salads)
2 Oz Salmon redish
2 Oz best fresh Early York Cabbage

Whether planting their lands for necessity or pleasure, early South Carolina gardeners also were initially bound to write back to their families or friends or factors in England for gardening manuals and for many of the specific plants and seeds they were familiar with from their mother country. 

Many South Carolina gardeners ordered their seeds directly from England. In the December 19, 1754, issue of the South Carolina Gazette, Captain Thomas Arnott noted that he brought a box of “Tulip, Narcissus, and other Flower Roots” from England “supposed to have been ordered by some person of this province” and that the “person that can properly claim them, may have them.”

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