Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Early South Carolina - Philippe S Noisette (1772-1835) A Story of a Seedsman & Slavery

The Noisette Rose

Another gardener & seedsman active in Charleston was Philippe S. Noisette. Philippe was a member of a distinguished family of nursery owners who had been gardeners to French nobles. He first moved from Paris to Haiti, when he was a young man and fell in love with a dark-skinned Haitian woman whose name was Celestine. In 1794, because of the Haitian slave revolution, he & Celestine relocated to Charleston, where he was offered a position as Superintendent of the South Carolina Medical Society Botanical Gardens.

He was especially interested in the production of sugar cane & ran this ad in the November 14, 1814 edition of the Courier " P.S.NOISETTE begs leave to inform the Planters of south Carolina that he has successfully cultivated, for some pears past, in his garden at Romney Village, opposite Mr. Turpires farm, the Sugar Cane; and that he has at this moment canes form which Sugar may be extracted. In consequence of this great advantages likely to be drived to this state, from this valuable plant, he offers cuttings for sale, to such as which to increase their wealth, and that of their country, et the rate of Five Dollars for a hundred buds, or eyes. He has also in his garden, a great quantity of FRUIT TREES, grafted by himself of the best kinds from Europe; such as different kinds of Peaches, Nectarines, Apricots, Plumbs, Pears, Apples, Figs and Grapes; as well as many foreign, Ornamental Trees, Shrubs and Plants. Also for sale, a collection of garden SEEDS, FLOWER SEEDS & FLOWER."

Noisette is also remembered for taking cuttings from the "Pink Cluster" rose reportedly developed by his friend & fellow Charelston botanist, John Champneys. With his brother Louis Noisette, who had a nursery outside of Paris, the climbing roses known as Noisette roses were propagated & popularized, known for their clusters of small pink flowers that bloom from spring to fall. Intrigue followed Noisette's botanical accomplishments. An 1889 journal on botany reported, "The Noisette Rose is a daughter of America. She was born one day in the garden of a brave citizen of Charleston, South Carolina, Mr. John Champney. It was obtained by fertilizing a Musk Rose, Rosa Moschata, by pollen from the China or Bengal Rose. Botanists called the new creation Rosa Moschata hybrida, and Rosa champneyana indifferently. But after awhile the name was superseded by that of Rosa Noisettiana in this way: At Charleston there lived a gardener named Philip Noisette, who was of French origin. This man fertilized one of Champney's hybrids, Champney's Pink Cluster, and getting from it another variety sent it in 1814 to Louis Freres, of Paris. The Rose became rapidly famous, and the name of Noisette replaced the first name of Champney, for the new race... The flowers of the Noisette are highly fragrant; they are numerous, double, and charm by the variety and delicacy of their colors." John Champneys, who lived southwest of Charleston, was an import-export merchant, whose trade was so successful, that he had his own wharves on Johns Island.

Philip Noisette's personal life was as interesting as his professional accomplishments. Because of the miscegenation laws of South Carolina, Philippe was forced to declare his wife, Celestine, his slave. They had 6 children who also became his slaves. The 1830 Federal Census recorded him as a single white man owning eight slaves, who are believed to be his wife & at least 5 of his 6 children.

In 1821, Charleston, records show that Phillipe Stanislaus Noisette, "Botanist of Charleston," stated that "under peculiar circumstances" he became "the Father of Six children, begotten upon his faithful Slave named Celestine." For many years it had been his intention to free his family, but the "passage of the late Law upon this subject" prompted him to seek their freedom now by the passage of a legislative act.

Shortly before his death, in 1835, Philippe petitioned the state of South Carolina for the emancipation of his faithful wife, now his slave, Celestine & their 6 children. Philippe died without knowing the results of his petition. Philippe’s family was in fact later emancipated and allowed to secure their inheritance & remain in the state of South Carolina.

In 1859, the South Carolina House of Representatives was petitioned to let the "mulatto" children of Philip Stanislas Noisette remain in South Carolina, as free persons of color. By his will Noisette had directed that the children, born of his enslaved wife, Celeste, be removed to some other country, where they would be free. The children, however, were "attached to the laws of the County, and very unwilling to remove."

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