“So grew the botanic garden”

With spring well under way, flowers blooming profusely, and my thesis on native plants almost completed, the history of the botanic gardens at Mount Holyoke College is a topic well-suited for the time. Though landscaping presumably would have occurred throughout the history of the College, the botanic gardens began with the work of Professor Lydia Shattuck.  Mrs. Asa Kinney, a retired professor at Mount Holyoke whose letters and essays the Library has in its archives, was interested in the gardens and she provides the following account.

“The botanical garden, later known as the Clara Leigh Dwight Garden, was started by Miss Lydia Shattuck, who taught botany and was head of the Botany Department from 1851 to 1889” and who started the garden for academic purposes. She “wished to bring the wild plants nearer her classes so they could watch their behavior when at work,” and the garden grew out of her dedication. According to Mrs. Kinney, “This early garden was made up of a number of formal beds of various shapes and sizes and covered an area about thirty by one hundred feet. Here Miss Shattuck assembled a large number of native plants, mostly herbaceous perennials, but there were a few small growing, woody specimens such as spicebush, barberry, striped maple, Rhododendron, shad bush, and sassafras. Some of these plants set out by Miss Shattuck are still growing where she planted them over sixty years ago.” Mrs. Kinney was especially impressed with the sassafras, white hellebore, white trillium, and yellow ladyslipper Miss Shattuck had planted and which still flourished at the time of Mrs. Kinney’s retirement in 1939.

Besides these well-known native plants, the early garden provided some new specimens, including a plant that “resembled the False Miterwork, Tiarella cordifolia, but differed from it in many ways.” Because Mrs. Kinney “found no such plant listed in the botany,” she “sent a specimen to the New York Botanical Garden where they had a man working on the family Saxifragaceae to which this plant belonged.” Fascinatingly, he did not find a record of such a plant, and “he recorded it, as a new species of Tiarella, calling it Tiarella hybrida and it was described under that name in the Bulletin of the New York Botanical Garden.” After researching this plant briefly online, it appears that the species did not continue, and this is not unexpected. Shortly after discussing the new species, Mrs. Kinney writes, “I was not able to propagate the plant either by seed or division and no new plants appeared around the parent plant. In a few years it died and I have never seen another plant like it.” A short-lived discovery, sadly.

Over the years, the garden expanded, and Mount Holyoke wished to find a patron to provide funding for the increase. One potential candidate was a Mr. John Dwight, “a retired New York businessman who…owned Mount Holyoke and spent his summers at the Mountain House, on top of the mountain” (emphasis mine). He became a regular visitor over the summers, and often came with his “second wife Clara Leigh, who was much interested in botany and enjoyed visiting the garden and studying the various plants found there.” According to Mrs. Kinney, “They came in a coach drawn by a span of beautiful black horses and driven by a liveried coachman.” Because “Miss Hooker thought that so long as the garden had no name, it might please Mr. Dwight and make him feel that he had a personal interest in the garden,” the College named it the Clara Leigh Dwight Garden. In the summer of 1899, the gardeners arranged the plants in one bed to spell out “Dwight.” “This seemed to please Mr. Dwight very much and when ever he had guests he always brought them to see the Dwight Garden bed,” so the bed continued as long as he lived. When the College proposed that he fund the greenhouses desired, Miss Hooker went to New York, and upon her return, she said, “I went to New York to get a ten thousand dollar greenhouse and came back with a hundred thousand dollar Art Building.” Dwight Hall remained the art building until 1971 and still stands today.

Consequently, the greenhouses needed a different patron, or rather, patrons. “The present range of greenhouses was the result of the generosity of a number of people, the largest gift was ten thousand dollars from Mr. and Mrs. James Talcott of the New York for which the houses were named, Mr. Talcott choosing the name Talcott Arboretum.” Thanks to this generous gift, the Greenhouses were constructed over, according to Mrs. Kinney, a five-year-period. However, “When the houses were ready for use, it seemed like an almost impossible task to get plants enough to fill them, as we only had fifty dollars for the purchase of plants.” The purchase of four large exotics drained that fund, but “Soon other plants began to arrive” including “a large palm tree from Dr. Read of Holyoke, a large date palm from Mr. Kellogg of Granby, a wagonload of plants from Prof. White of the State College green house in Amherst, a wagon load from Mr. Canning of the Smith College green houses, a large shipment from Mr. Cameron of the green houses at the Harvard botanical garden, a number of boxes from Mr. Nash of the New York Botanical Garden.” I conclude Mrs. Kinney’s account of the botanical gardens with “The friends of the College had solved the plant problem.”

The Census: Moving Forward After Mailing It Back

A tagline for the Census this year is “We Can’t Move Forward Until You Mail It Back.” To celebrate this, I have decided to provide a little perspective, by way of the Census of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts 1905, of the ways we have already moved forward.

Thus, in 1905:

  • A total of 940 people responded as “Heads of Family” in South Hadley—785 men (84%) and 155 women (16%). In relation to these “Heads of Family,” 722 women labeled themselves as “wives,” but a category for “husbands” did not exist. 6 women were “matrons,” and presumably due to the College, 572 women were “students.” Interestingly, 4 women responded as being in “other relationships,” not including grandmothers, in-laws, daughters, granddaughters, guests, aunts, nieces, inmates, servants, or assistants. Also of interest, only one person listed themselves as a stepfather to the head of the family, and only 7 people were stepchildren.
  • Of the South Hadley citizens “Native Born” (3,806), 2,689 were from Massachusetts (71%), with the second largest category being from New York (8%). Of the citizens “Foreign Born,” (1,248), 352 were Canadian French (28%), 250 were Irish (20%), and 194 were from Germany (15%).
  • 4 South Hadley residents registered as “colored” and 3 as “Chinese.” The only other categories were white, Japanese, and Indian.
  • Occupations in ‘Trade and Transportation’ included: 9) draymen, hackman, teamsters, etc., 10) hostlers, and 11) hucksters and peddlers. For those as unfamiliar with some of these terms as I am, draymen drove wagons without sides (and may still be used by brewery companies for parades), and husksters are “retailers of small articles, esp. a peddler of fruits and vegetables; hawker” (Dictionary.com).
  • A section was provided for “Defective Social and Physical Condition” which included “paupers” and “feeble-minded.” Paupers were defined as “all persons from disease, accident, intemperance, misfortune, and any other cause have become dependant upon public charity” and “feeble-minded” was assumed to be obvious, since it was not defined.
  • Massachusetts held the fifth place in the production of silk and silk goods, following after New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, and Connecticut.
  • The average salary for South Hadley was $1,517.00, which was higher than Northampton ($1,051.64), Amherst ($968.06), and Springfield ($1,261.94).
  • 34.59% of the Agricultural Products & Property in South Hadley comprised of “Dairy products,” followed by “Hay, straw and fodder” (19.48%) and “Vegetables” (12.30%).
  • Inland fisheries in South Hadley generated a $235 value—from bass, eels, perch, pickerel, pout (horned), and trout (the greatest at $150).

To find out more about statistics and data of Massachusetts in 1905, as always, please consult our archives. All the information above can be found in four volumes of the Census: I) Populations and Social Statistics, II) Occupations and Defective Conditions, III) Manufacture and Trade, and IV) Agriculture, the Fisheries, Commerce.

An Artist and an Architect

William H. Gaylord

As the artist of paintings above and below, Katherine Gilbert Abbot was born in 1867, in Zanesville, Ohio (home to the only Y-shaped bridge in the United States). Through her mother, Maria Louisa Gilbert, Abbot could trace her lineage back to the American Revolution; in fact, her sister, Miss Maria Elizabeth Abbot, was a 1906 member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (Coltrane, 1921: 28). Both were great-great-granddaughters of Colonel Henry Campion, who transported cattle to the American Continental Army and prevented General George Washington and his army from starving at Valley Forge (Taglianetti, 1976).

Abbot studied both at the Art Students League in New York and in Paris (Haverstock et al, 2000: 3). According to the catalogue from the Paris Exposition of 1900, her teachers at the Art Students League were H. Siddons Mowbray, a noted muralist, and William Merritt Chase, an American Impressionist whose pupils later included Georgia O’Keefe (Paris 1900: 194). Through cross-referencing, it is possible to approximate her time at the Art Students League. Because Chase taught at the Art Students League from 1878 to 1896 and again from 1907 to 1911, and Abbot was taught by him prior to the 1900 Exposition, she must have studied between the ages of 11 (presumably too young) and 29. However, she did an exhibition at the Paris Salon in 1894, which suggests that she arrived in Paris prior to that, so at the latest, she was 27 when she left New York (Petteys, 1985).

Once in Paris, she worked under Léon Merson, Henry Jules Jean Geoffrey, and Paul Louis Delance. In the catalogues of Paris Salon exhibitions prior to 1900, she had two entries. For the first, the previously mentioned 1894 exhibition, she displayed a “Portrait de M.L….” and she lived in Chez Mlle Fixes, rue Le Verrier, 13 (Fink, 1990: 315). In a year’s time, she changed her address, moving to rue de Chevreuse, and she was enrolled in the Salons of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts. She had two paintings for this exhibition—“Portrait de Mlle Y…” and “Anxiété”—and the latter was also her entry for the 1900 Paris Exposition, for which she was awarded a bronze medal (Fink, 1990: 315; Paris 1900: 194). It is uncertain when she moved back to the States, but in 1901, she exhibited at the Pan-American Expo in Buffalo, New York, earning an honorable mention (Petteys, 1985).

It is equally difficult to determine when and where Katherine Abbot met Allen H. Cox, the architect for the Gaylord Memorial Library. Construction for the Library began around 1902, and as the already brief literature on Abbot disappears entirely after 1901, it is likely that the two met around this time. However, as they both studied in Paris, they may have been aware of each other prior to that. Abbot would have been around 34 years old, an old maid for that time. It is certain that she and Cox were seeing each other while they worked on the portraits of the Gaylords and the library architecture, respectively. The two were wed in 1904, the same year the library was completed and William and Betsy Gaylord passed away, and the couple was living in Boston by at least 1905 (Haverstock et al, 2000: 3).

Abbot’s husband, Allen H. Cox, was born in 1873, here in South Hadley, and attended Holyoke schools (Clancy, 1979). Sometime prior to his marriage, Cox formed an architectural firm with William E. Putnam, Jr. Though they attended different schools—Cox at MIT, Putnam at Harvard (Class of 1896)—they may have met at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris where they both studied (Clancy, 1979; Association of Class Secretaries). In 1902, Putnam returned to the States to win, with Cox, the competition to redesign the Boston Athenaeum (Association of Class Secretaries, 1902: 321-322). Plans for this new building must have fallen through, since I find no credit attached to Putnam and Cox for the Boston Athenaeum. The only further reference to any planning at the time is an article from the New York Times in 1901.

Based in Boston, Putnam and Cox did not lack for clients, and their particular specialty appears to have been libraries. In addition to Gaylord Memorial Library, commissions over the years included:

– 1897: South Hadley Main Library

– 1910: 2 houses on Garfield Street in Watertown, MA

– 1915-1922: a series of fraternity houses at Amherst College, Amherst, MA

– 1926: Lord Jeffrey Inn, Amherst, MA

– 1926-28: Jones Library, Amherst, MA

– 1930: Kirstein Business Branch, Boston, MA

Through Putnam, the firm had close ties to Harvard. Fellow graduate, Nathaniel Saltonstall (Class of 1928), joined as a partner until 1945 (Cape Cod Modern House Trust). A presumable descendent of a prominent New England family, one of whose members resigned from the court of the Salem Witch Trials, Saltonstall helped to found the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in Boston (Cape Cod Modern House Trust). Another graduate, Alanson Hall Sturgis (Class 1914), also started his career at Putnam and Cox (Harvard College Class, 1921: 256). Both Saltonstall and Sturgis served in World War II; Saltonstall as a lieutenant in the Army Air Corp, Camouflage Division, and Sturgis primarily as an Ensign in the Naval Reserve Flying Corps (Cape Cod Modern House Trust; Harvard College Class, 1921: 256).
After the death of Cox in 1944 (age 71), Saltonstall left Putnam & Cox. Abbot had passed away fifteen years prior, back 1929, at the age of 62. Currently her bronze medal painting, “Anxiété” is “unlocated,” and despite various efforts, I was unable to find any other of her paintings (Paris 1900: 194). Her fame is limited to terse entries in dictionaries, but considering her education, the company she enjoyed, her exhibitions, and of course, her two paintings that are still displayed in the Library veranda, Katherine Abbot would have been considered–is still considered–a successful painter.

Betsey S. Gaylord

A Note on Love

While researching “This Week in Time” and perusing Deacon Edward Chapin’s diary, I stumbled across this note, about two weeks too late for Valentine’s Day, but far too interesting to resist:

“(A Note) – August 18, 1749

Dr. Watt’s Receipt to Expel Love:

Take 28 (pounds) of other folks’ bought experience and 2 1/2 pounds sweet contentment and 1 pound 12 ounces of due consideration and bruise them together in a mortar of mortification. You spread ’em (them) on a leaf of patience & apply to the soft places of the head, then take a spoonful & 1/2 of Resolution each morning & learning not to keep much bad company by a right use and improvement of these things, it will well cure or wholly carry off that fatal heart killing Disease called Love Sickness.”

My jaw dropped. Every week, I scramble to find at least one diary entry that is not primarily concerned with the weather or natural phenomenon. Granted, the weather back in the mid-1700s is fascinating, especially in comparison to the weather today, and it strongly influenced the lives of farmers and frontiersman, but one can only read so much about snow and blackbirds. On those occasions when Chapin branches out, his descriptions are terse, a la “21 Jeudy [1754] – Was married William to Martha Chapin” and “This evening was drowned in Agawam, John King of Springfield. On Monday last Robbins, the butcher of Boston, Hanged himself (Memento Mori).” Based on these entries, I assumed that Deacon Edward Chapin was unromantic, at least in today’s sense of the word, either due to inclination or situation, or both.

Consequently, the above entry was thrilling. Chapin cared about love? And cared enough to jot down a note in his diary? I immediately checked his biography, as provided by Reverend Asa W. Mellinger at the beginning of the book. Mellinger proved as terse as Chapin, describing the Deacon as “active in town affairs” and supportive of the American Revolution (1976: II). He did not mention a marriage. The genealogy of South Hadley families provided a little more information—Deacon Edward Chapin was born February 16, 1724, married Eunice Colton of Longmeadow on July 6th, 1752, and died Janaury 6, 1800. The two had eight children and, interestingly, had a penchant for classical names, naming a daughter Lucretia and a son Lucius. All of this was fascinating, but not the information I wanted—how did a “farmer and frontiersman” really feel about love in the 1740s and 1750s?

I returned to the diary. Prior to the entry on how to expel love, Chapin writes, “11 Lundy – This day, Brother Aaron and his consort arrived at Chickapee.” Perhaps he includes the Dr. Watt’s receipt because he is jealous of his brother’s marriage and wishes to get married himself. Then again, perhaps that is too melodramatic. Five months later, he states, “I rue the last years. Alas, me thinks I am much inclined to be bitter more & so is the thought.” Could that be a sign of disappointed love affair? Maybe the girl proved unsuitable or unwilling. Two years later, in July 1751, he could still be thinking on it, based on the following: “Mr. John Hitchcock expired, aged 82 or 3, Having lived with His Concert 59 years and about 9 months. O! Strange! And now through Grace as willing to part as ever to be together for the declared (?)”. But is he expressing astonishment over the fact that the marriage lasted so long, or that the two parties lived so long? Sadly, it was probably the former, since three months later, he says the same thing—“O! Strange!!”—about have five people over for breakfast and five over for dinner.

In May 1752, the diary mentions that, “28 Jeudy – I fear that urged the affair — to be accomplished”—which could possibly refer to his marriage. The June 17th trip to Longmeadow would have certainly been in preparation for the upcoming nuptials. Unfortunately, Chapin’s entry on his wedding day is sober:

“6 Lundy [1752] This day I hear of Worthington had a letter last Saturday from Jonathon Dwight of Boston, informing that Brother Aaron died of the Small Pox, May 17, on Ramsforth Island or Randford Island. Having (as before noted) had confirmation of the heavy tidings of my dear Brother’s death, the scheme of accomplishing the wedding is altered…Our Nuptials Celebrated late this evening.

Blessed be my good God for all His goodness Who has not forgot to be Gracious but knows to fill the place which the removal of great mercies has left empty; with greater. May His Dealings be Sanctified.”

Even with my attempts to find references to a hidden love, I cannot help concluding that the empty place refers to the loss of his brother, rather than an earlier love. I thus end this post with a sense of frustration. Any extrapolations from the diary are, at best, tenuously supported, and at worst, a figment of my imagination. In a generation familiar with Facebook, where photos of couples and relationship statuses make personal matters readily available, Deacon Edward Chapin serves a reminder that discovering intimate details in the past is far more complicated.

Fun on the Ferry

Continuing the series of articles on the Connecticut River, for those individuals without boats—and hence no way to take the canal—the main means of crossing the river was by ferry. According to an article in a 1935 edition of the Holyoke Daily Transcript and Telegram, traveling by this method was time-consuming and frequently inconvenient. Travelers and livestock alike went on the ferry, and sometimes “a frisky horse or cow…would satisfy its curiosity by falling into the water. The ferry would then be halted, regardless of the impatience of the busy traveler, while the ferryman rescued the surprised animal.” Tales of inadvertent swims were not restricted to animals either. In 1935, “old-timers” were still laughing when they told “of some proud young dandy falling overboard and shak[ing] their heads and sigh[ing], ‘Those were the days!’ when questioned about their experiences in crossing the Connecticut.” In addition to clumsy passengers, ferrymen also needed to avoid logs (which were floated down river), and the current was a persistent threat.

According to the article, the first ferry on the Connecticut River began running between Northampton and Hockanum in 1658, over a hundred years before the inclined plane canal was constructed in South Hadley. Numerous ferries sprang up afterward, and one of these, run by a “Job Alvord from South Hadley” apparently “reaped profits from tremendous business” until canal arrived. Nonetheless, as mentioned in the previous paragraph, those without boats maintained the demand for a ferry service. In fact, Smith’s Ferry, which ran from South Hadley to Northampton (the equivalent of the PVTA back then), did not establish its dominance until well past the lifespan of the canal.

Smith’s Ferry, which is featured in both the photo above and the photo below, was a well-off business venture. Transporting the necessary supplies for Mount Holyoke, relied on the ferry, “so the ferryman could count on considerable profit.” Indeed, Mary Lyon herself “crossed the ferry many times and the students made frequent trips across on Mountain Day or other holidays.” The rates were “13 cents for a single horse and carriage, 25 cents for a double team, 25 cents for coal team, five cents for a foot passenger and three cents a head for cattle.”

As with the canal, ferries were replaced by another form of transportation, namely the construction of the South Hadley Falls Bridge. The article thus concludes on a sad and nostalgic note: “Undoubtedly such advancements are more efficient and sure but they lack the picturesque and friendly quality of earlier transportation methods…Little trace remains of [those ferrymen], yet they will live in histories of the Connecticut Valley as part of these early, colorful days in which Western Massachusetts had its beginnings.”