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Lover's Lane, Princeton NJ 08542

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A Gift from the Past: Woods Wiser's Historic Tree Donation to Marquand Park

March 19, 2024, 5:10 p.m.

Recently, a friend of the park, Woods Wiser, offered us a donation of two unique trees, a persimmon, and a hickory. But these weren't just any trees; they were scions with a rich history linked to an early advocate for land conservation.

You might be wondering, what exactly is a scion? In the world of horticulture, a scion is a young shoot or twig that's grafted onto a rootstock, producing a new plant. In this case, the scions came from trees personally planted by John W. Hershey (1898-1967) in the 1940s. Hershey, a visionary ahead of his time, embarked on a mission to populate the landscape with productive trees, practicing an early form of "permaculture," a sustainable agricultural design system that mimics the natural ecosystems. He grew and sold varieties of walnut, hickory, hican (a cross of pecan and hickory), pecan, persimmon, mulberry, and oaks. His passion was convincing farmers to incorporate selected improved cultivars of trees for the diversified crops, income, farmer and animal health and environmental benefits they provide.

Bur oak acorn cap, hickory, hican nuts from Hershey's Trees

Hershey began this effort as an employee of the Tennessee Valley Authority, in response to the degradation of farmland caused by planting of monoculture crops. He surmised that the Dust Bowl effect could be countered with interspersing rows of trees between fields, and even better plant productive trees to feed livestock! Eventually it became his business - although how profitable it was is unclear. To find the varieties he put a bounty of about $200 out for folks to alert him if they knew of specimens that were especially prolific bearers of nuts and seeds.

John W. Hershey's 1927 Catalog

Recently I had a chance to see some of Hershey’s special trees in the flesh, as it were. The tour was led by Dale Hendricks, a nurseryman who has been instrumental in recognizing and preserving them in Downingtown, PA. Numerous trees are still growing where Hershey planted them in his testing plot and nursery. Unfortunately, some were cut down where a housing development was recently built, but there remain persimmons, hickories, honey locust, pecans, and oaks. The original grafts are visible at the base and further up the trunks where different varieties were grown on the same tree. We sampled honey locust pods, which were apparently fed to hogs who loved the sweet taste...hence the name honey locust! It was remarkable to see these trees planted by Hershey in the 1940s.

(In case you're wondering John W. Hershey is probably related to the chocolate family. According to Dale, there are many Hersheys in central Pennsylvania)

Visible graft on Hershey's tree planted decades ago.

Back at Marquand Park, Woods procured our saplings from Zach Elfers. Zach runs a specialized nursery that focuses on historic and native species, with a particular emphasis on edible plants like paw paws and nut trees. The persimmon and hickory found their new home near the icehouse, enhancing the landscape with a touch of botanical history.

The Granger Hickory planted near the ice house.

Many thanks to Woods, Zach Elfers, and Dale Hendricks for preserving the natural heritage that adds to our collection at Marquand Park. Each tree carries not only its own history but also becomes a part of the continuing story of Marquand Park.

A Valuable Discovery: Unveiling Eleanor Marquand's 1917 Vellum Map of Marquand Park

Feb. 23, 2024, 5:25 p.m.

What an amazing find when three years ago a few Foundation board members uncovered this 1917 vellum map. It was like finding a treasure amidst The Marquand Papers at Firestone library. It provides a snapshot of the early 20th-century landscape design and architecture.

Eleanor Marquand, living at Guernsey Hall, the Italianate mansion at Marquand Park, hand printed each tree on the map. Along with the map, are index cards she kept, detailing when certain trees bloomed, when it was planted, etc. Eleanor was a pioneering woman in the history of Art and Architecture. She is known for a paper she wrote on the flora and fauna featured in the Unicorn tapestry that now resides at the Cloisters in New York City. She was only the fourth woman to receive an honorary Masters of Arts from Princeton University in 1948.

During COVID, there was a delay in having the map digitized and photographed at Special Collections—-but with the help of Charles Doran, Library Collections Specialist, the map is now available to the public. Thank you to all who helped.

Another feature that was labeled was the ice house which we recently renovated, just beyond a low area was labeled: “Lily Pond.” The presence of an "ice house" on the map, which also functioned as a root cellar, raises questions about the family's practices, including the potential for ice harvesting from the nearby pond.

Through this map, we gain insight into Eleanor Marquand’s dedication to preserving botanical knowledge and her unique perspective on the intersection of nature and art.

2023 Newsletter

Nov. 26, 2023, 9:25 p.m.

Family Trees Part 2

Oct. 23, 2023, 12:24 a.m.

This post explores a continuation of owners of Marquand Park. This history was explored and presented as part of a joint tour held with Morven Museum earlier this year.

The Brown Family

After Judge Field died, ‘Woodlawn,’ as the property was called then, was sold to a distant relative by marriage, Susan Dod Brown. Here is the Stockton Family tree showing how they were related:

So Susan Dod Brown’s sister-in-law was the daughter of Judge Field’s cousin. Got that? It may seem like a distant connection, however the location near Morven and the family ties probably increased Mrs. Brown’s awareness of the property. She resided there from 1871-1887. When Mrs. Brown passed away in 1902 she left a bequest of $25,000 (worth over $800,000 in today’s dollars) to Lincoln University, the first Historically Black College to grant degrees. A gift of $150,000 (worth over five million today) went to Princeton University. Two dormitories and an endowed chair bear the Brown name from gifts she gave before she died. Her will was contested by her nephew and other family members - but with none other than Woodrow Wilson as her witness, the will withstood the challenge. Where did all this money come from? Mrs. Brown’s fortune stemmed from her husband’s ship building business. He predeceased her in 1852.

David Brown and Jacob Bell started in the industry as apprentices in the shipyard operated by Adam and Noah Brown, on the East River, at the foot of Houston Street.  Following the end of the War of 1812, they started their own yard on the Tombigbee River, in St. Stephens, the capital of the Alabama Territory, north of Mobile.  The site was physically constrained, however, so they moved their operation to Blakely, on the Tensaw River, just northeast of Mobile.  Then in 1821 they moved back to New York to take over the Adam & Noah Brown yard.  David Brown died in 1848 and the firm continued as Jacob Bell.

There appears to be no connection to vessels involved in the slave trade. Two large ships built for the Blue Sparrow Line, the Henry Clay and the Patrick Henry plied the Atlantic in the 1840’s bringing thousands of Irish immigrants to the United States during the Irish Potato Famine.

But perhaps the most infamous story surrounding Mrs. Brown’s tenure at Fieldwood was her son Albert Dod Brown’s “Breach of promise of marriage” to Alice Noice. Miss Noice was the daughter of the head gardener at Woodlawn, Edward Noice, an accomplished horticulturist originally employed by Judge Field. She apparently caught the eye of Albert Brown. Despite his existing marriage, in April 1873, he wooed her to Brazil where he promised her he could obtain a divorce and marry her instead. He financed this trip with $67,000 worth of bonds which he convinced his mother to sign over to him. The Brazilian divorce plan failed and the couple then left for England. Alice traveled by steamer from Liverpool to New York City on a rough winter voyage which left her sick and wasted. On his instructions, she awaited Albert at the Astor Hotel. She waited two weeks and he never appeared. He had absconded to St. Thomas with the the funds from the bonds. She returned to Princeton to find that her father had died while she was away. And Mrs Brown had evicted Mrs. Noice from the gardener’s cottage. Miss Noice took Albert to court and won a judgement of $1,600, the sum she had spent on her wardrobe, surely a huge investment for the family. She lost her larger suit asking for damages of $60,000 for breach of promise to marry. Because he was still legally married he was not held responsible and that case was dismissed. The bonds were returned to Mrs. Brown who claimed they were never really his. The case of “the Gardener’s Pretty Daughter” was covered widely in the press.

Despite her huge wealth, Susan Dod Brown’s life was full of personal challenges. She became a widow at the age of 40. Two of her children died within days of each other in 1858, aged 11 and 13. Another daughter predeceased her as did Albert who lived out his days under her roof, evidently unemployed. His listing in the 1880 census, besides divorced, is “at home.” Doubtless the scandal swirled around the household. After Albert died at age 44, Mrs. Brown sold the property to Allan Marquand, professor of Art History at Princeton. Mrs. Brown’s brothers, William and Albert both taught at Princeton before Prof. Marquand. Her largess would have been known to him. During his tenure she gave funds for the construction of two dormitories named for her brothers. The chain of title at Marquand Park reveals numerous links between the Stockton family and also the university.

Sources:

Daily Princetonian, Volume 27, Number 110, 31 October 1902

https://shipbuildinghistory.com/

The daily free press. [volume] (Trenton, N.J.), 05 Oct. 1876. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85025540/1876-10-05/ed-1/seq-3/

Constance M. Greiff, and Wanda S. Gunning. “Princeton’s Mythical Gardener.” The Princeton University Library Chronicle 74, no. 1 (2012): 9–33. https://doi.org/10.25290/prinunivlibrchro.74.1.0009.

Ancestry.com Susan Dod Brown in the New Jersey, U.S., Wills and Probate Records, 1739-1991

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