previous next

A Medford garden and the gardener's notes.

by Eliza M. Gill.
NOT a war garden of 1918, but one in peace times ninety years ago and more. This garden was on the estate, on the banks of the Mystic, owned by Timothy Bigelow. Martin Burridge was the gardener, in the employ of the Bigelow family many years.

The writer has at hand two note-books measuring three and three-quarters inches by six and one-quarter inches, with limp covers of marbled paper, one marked ‘Garden Book, 1827,’ kept by this old-time gardener. With these in lieu of ‘Open Sesame,’ the gate will swing back and give the readers of the Register a glimpse of this old garden, let them see the fruits that were grown, the crops harvested. These books were neatly kept; the writing is plain, sometimes done with ink, again with pencil. They show Mr. Burridge as being careful, systematic, thorough, and interested in his work.

The entries of the garden book extend successively through the years to 1838, being necessarily few each year, but confined to such basic facts and information as would enable him to intelligently care for the greenhouse and garden in his charge. He noted the first and latest frosts, the temperature, time when seeds were sown and crops harvested, thus being able to compare the seasons, particularly those of sowing and harvesting, one year with another.

The following entries stand as they are in the original, for in these days of phonetic and simplified spelling there is no need of apology, and to make any change would take from the charm these pages written so many years [p. 70] ago disclose to us, and surely one can but agree with the famous Southern statesman who declared a man was a fool who couldn't spell a word more than one way.

We shall find these fruits growing either under glass or in open culture—strawberries, peaches, lemons, oranges, nectarines, pears, quinces. The blossoming of the quinces was regularly noted each year without fail. The vegetables from his garden supplied Mr. Bigelow's table; his house was called ‘the seat of hospitality,’ and he himself was termed a hospitable neighbor.

January th 18 1827 at 7 o'clock A. M. Glass was doun six degrees below zero.

Next morning the same

March 26 Saw the first swallow

March 27 Apricot & peach in blossom

April 11 Wall trees in full Blossom

April 12 planted the first Corn & potatoes & Summer Squashes

April 17 Took up the boards in the front yard & White washed the trees

May th 10 Planted the first Corn & Potatoes

May 15 Soed the Beets, Carrots, Parsnips & Onions. 15 Planted my Corn & potatoes

May 17 Quince tree in blossom 17 Peas in Blossom

June th 4 pickd the first Strawburrys

July the 1 had the first new potatoes

August the 4 Picked the first peach

August 23 Cactus Triangularius Blossom

October the 16 Got the plants into the Green House

October 17 had the first frost.

December 17 1827 Pickd. 18. Lemons witch weighed 18 lbs. 2 oz. Large weighed, 22. oz. Measured 17 inches one way 13, the other.

1828 Jan. th 16. pickd the first Jappan Rose

Jan. 22 Glass down to Zero at Sunrise

March th 9, Soed the first Peas & Reddishes

March the 17 Nobless Peach in Blossom

April th 1 Soed the Peas in the upper garden

April the 1 Soed the Seeds in the Hotbead

April th 7 The Multifloer Rose in Blossom

April the 20 the Cluster Rose in full blossom

May th 13 first pashion flower in blossom

May th 16 Sot out the annual Flower plants [p. 71]

June the 8 had the first pees

June the 8 had the first strawberries

June the 16 Got the plants out of the Green House

June th 30 Cut my Grass at the fountain house

August. 15 had the first Earley Ann Peach

October the 17 Sot out for Washington

January th 31, 1829 Japan Rose in blossom

April th 27 planted the Dwarf Imperial Pea

May th 22 first Passion flower in blossom

October, 22, Soed the field of Rye Soed one bushel of rye one peck of Red top & 1/2 a peck of herds grass.

March th 26, 1830 highest tide that ever knoun

1831 March 28 Wall Peach in blosson

April 15 Grafted Some Cherry Stocks

December th 7 Picked Rose in blossom out a doors

October 27 1831 the Carpenters Finished the shingled of the buildings &c 1832

August 20 Soed turnips in the field

Sept 14 1832 first frost Glass 32

August th 4 1834 Soed the buckwheat

Sept 29 1834 had the first frost in the Garden very heavy

May 21st 1836 Quince tree in Blossom

June 27 Planted Some Sweet Corn

May 31 1837 Quince tree in Blossom

List of Crisanithum for 1838

No I White

No II Yallow

No III Buff

These two are from the second book—

November 28, 1826 Mr. Bigelow Sot Sail for Giberalter

Nov. 5 1831 began to take care of Mrs. Grays horses in the morning.

In this book were kept private accounts, money received for his labor, generally paid by Andrew Bigelow, and the sum paid for household expenses. One sees what he paid for Andrew's hat, Henry's shoes, that he paid Miss Wier for school for Eliza, $3.67; for a testament, 50 cents; for pew rent to Mr. Floyd, the sexton, and who appears to have followed many callings, $2.00; for a pair of mittens, 63 cents; a bible man, 87 cents. The prices of staple goods are a surprise to us who know [p. 72] at this time the high cost of living: tea, 58 cents per lb.; loam, 50 cents a load; molasses, 37 cents per gallon; cider, $2.00 a barrell; apples, $1.67 and $1.25; corn, 55 cents per bushel; butter, 15 and 16 cents; chips, $I.25 per load; goose, 33 cents; shoes, $1.25; hats, $1.00 and $2.00; shad, 53 cents; pork, 8 and 10 cents; broom, 28 cents.

One learns who some of the townspeople were and the occupations they engaged in: Mr. Gleason sold hats, shoes; Mr. Cutter sold meat; Mr. Lock sold meat; Mr. Emerson sold meat; Mr. Symmes did iron work; Mr. Barker did papering; Mr. Stow did painting, glazing; Mr. Clough did hooping; Mr. Floyd carted chips and sold pigs; Captain Burridge sold hay, for which he received $13.00, to Mr. F. Bigelow, for whom he often bought cider; he sold plants, Mrs. Gray, Miss Train and Mrs. P. Swan being among his customers.

How it did fret the soul of Margaret Tufts, who married Samuel Swan, that she was always called Mrs. Peggy Swan when her sisters-in-law were punctiliously called by their husbands' names. Mrs. Peggy had the name, however, of being a very handsome woman.

The gardener is said to have lived in a house on the Bigelow grounds. His expense account shows payments for rent quarterly, $12.50 and $10.00 respectively, to Captain Ward and Mr. Bucknam. He may, sometime, have lived in the Fountain house, for he owned the east half, and two and one-half acres of land on the Salem road extending to Fulton street that he cultivated as a farm. His second note-book frequently notes the planting of his own land and the pasturing of his cows. This opens up to us the rural aspect of Medford. Many residents enjoyed the luxury of keeping a cow. Mr. Burridge attended to the pasturing of Mr. Bigelow's, Mr. Stetson's (the minister), and Mr. Train's cows, having them sometimes in the Hall pasture, again in the Roach pasture, and on his own land. Captain Adams' man often worked for the gardener, who supplied him with [p. 73] dinners and lunches, for which the captain was duly charged.

Mr. Burridge joined the Massachusetts Horticultural Society on December 17, 1831, and he exhibited for his employer many fine fruits and vegetables, as the records of the society attest.

Sept. 19-21, 1838. ‘From Mrs. T. Bigelow of Medford. Apples— Monstrous Pippin, and beautiful specimens of Red apples from France. Peaches—Some fine specimens. Grapes—Fine Chasselas, and Black Hamburgh, Shaddocks, very large, from her greenhouse, (a variety of Citrus or Orange tree).’

Sept. 28, 1838 (?) ‘Seven years Pumpkin, from Mrs. Timothy Bigelow, Medford. (The above, the growth of last year, and shown at the annual exhibition of 1837.) Weight 46 lbs. in perfect condition, and it is said will remain sound for seven years.’

Shaddocks were named for the sea captain who introduced them into this country and were formerly rare. Today they are the grape-fruit so commonly used at our tables.

This fact throws some light on the entry made December 17, 1827, for the size of the lemon seemed to be enormous, a tale worthy of Baron Munchausen. The citrus genus includes the orange, lemon, lime, and grapefruit.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)
hide People (automatically extracted)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: