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History of Early American Landscape Design

Moses Marshall

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Moses Marshall (November 30, 1758-October 1, 1813), a physician and botanist in Chester county, Pennsylvania, assisted his uncle, Humphry Marshall, with the collection of indigenous plants and seeds for exchange with European correspondents, with the preparation of Arbustum Americanum, and with the cultivation of his uncle's botanic garden.

History

Moses Marshall, son of James Marshall (the younger brother of Humphry) was born in West Bradford, Chester County. He received a tolerable education, both English and classical, and studied Medicine with Doctor Nicholas Way, in Wilmington, Delaware, from 1776 till 1779. He had an extraordinary opportunity of being initiated into Surgery, in attending the soldiers who were wounded in the battle of Brandywine, September 11th, 1777. After practising Medicine a short time, he seems to have become an inmate in the family of his uncle Humphry, devoting his time and services, exclusively, as an aid to his uncle, in the business of collecting and shipping plants and seeds to Europe. He made several long exploring journeys, in that pursuit, through the wilds of the West and Southwest. He was a good practical botanist, well acquainted with most of our indigenous plants, and rendered valuable assistance to his uncle, in preparing the Arbustum Americanum. On the 6th of April, 1796, Governor Mifflin appointed him a Justice of the Peace; in which office he did excellent service, as a peace-maker, in the community around him. In all his acts he was a remarkably cautious, upright, conscientious man. The editor had the happiness to know him well, and passed many pleasant, instructive hours with him, investigating the plants in the Marshallton Botanic Garden. Dr. Marshall discontinued the business of sending plants and seeds to Europe, soon after his uncle's death, and the garden, in consequence, has ever since been almost wholly neglected. Dr. M. died on the 1st of October, 1813, aged fifty-four years and ten months. Darlington 1849: 545-46

--Author

Texts

"I had it in contemplation to mention to thee for thy approbation, or sentiments thereon, a proposal that I had made, last winter, to my cousin, WM. BARTRAM, and nephew, Dr. MOSES MARSHALL, of taking a tour, mostly through the western parts of our United States, in order to make observations, &c, upon the Natural productions of those regions; with a variety of which, hitherto unnoticed, or but imperfectly described, we have reason to believe they abound; which, on consideration, they at that time seemed willing to undertake, and I conceive would be so still, provided they should meet with proper encouragement and support for such a journey; which they judge would be attended with considerable expense, for the transportation of their collections, &c, and for their subsistence during a period of fifteen or eighteen months, or more, which would at least be necessary for the completion of the numerous observations, and objects they would have to make remarks on, and collect. Should such proposals be properly encouraged, I apprehend they would engage to set out early in the spring, and throughout their journey make diligent search and strict observation upon everything within the province of a naturalist; but more especially upon Botany, for the exercise of which there appears, in such a journey, a most extensive field; for, from accounts of our western territories, they are said to abound with varieties of strange trees, shrubs, and plants, no doubt applicable to many valuable purposes in arts or manufactures, and to be replete with various species of earths, stones, salts, inflammable minerals, and metals (the many uses of obtaining a knowledge of which is sufficiently obvious); remarks, experiments, &c, upon every of which they propose making; as also to make collections, and preserve specimens, of everything that may enrich useful science, or amuse the curious naturalist; to the conducement of which, they would willingly receive and observe any reasonable instructions that might facilitate their discoveries, or direct their researches.

"I have taken the freedom to mention these proposals to thee knowing that thou was always ready and willing to promote any useful knowledge and science, for the use of mankind ; and if, on consideration of the premises, thou should approve thereof, thou may communicate them to the members of the Philosophical Society, or any other set of gentlemen, that would be willing or likely to encourage such an undertaking. Perhaps Congress, or some of the members, might promote their going out with the surveyors, when they lay out the several new states.

"I have ordered my nephew, the Doctor, to present thee with one of my Catalogues of the Forest Trees of our Thirteen United States; which I hope thou'll accept of, for thy perusal."


  • Marshall, Moses, May 7, 1788, letter from Bradford, Chester county, to John Coakley Lettsom (Darlington 1849: 545-48)[1]
"In a corner of the box, are a few small plants, which I believe are yet undescribed, viz., a species of Sedum; a species of Portulaca, the root perennial, the stem short, thickly set with cylindrical succulent leaves standing somewhat erect ; from the centre shoots forth a very slender, naked, reddish stem, four or five times the length of the leaves, branching at top, and supporting reddish flowers, which expand about noon, and continue open about three hours. Also a species of Veronica, and a small Evergreen from the mountains, the characters of which I have attempted drawing though from the dissection of but a single flower: ...[Linnaean description follows]

"To this plant, should it prove to be a new genus, I had some time since designed the appellation of Lettsomia, with this provision, that it might not be unpleasing to thee, and that, in the interim, I should not be able to discover a plant more exalted, conspicuous, and worthy.

"I have, indeed, had a design highly favourable to discoveries in view,— a journey to the Mississippi, westward ; but have not yet been at leisure to prosecute it. I have, therefore, at present, but this humble offering to make.

"The autumn will be more favourable for sending of plants, &c, at which time we shall endeavour to find something to furnish thy garden, or cabinet. In the mean time, I should wish thee to send [[Carl Linneaus|LINNAEUS'S Genera and Supplementum Plantarum, the latest and best edition. Also, a surgeon's pouch, or case of pocket instruments.....

"Residing with, and writing by direction of, my uncle, HUMPHRY MARSHALL."


  • Parke, Thomas, October 19, 1796, letter from Philadelphia to Marshall and Moses Marshall
I have received a letter from ROBERT BARCLAY, which contains the following paragraph: —

"'Pray desire H. and M. Marshall to send me a box of plants for my friend T. KITT, of Norwich, who is well versed in plants, and will be pleased with a nice collection, mixed as usual with herbaceous; remembering to add several Kalmias, Azaleas, &c., and everything new or curious.'"


  • Anonymous, May 10, 1828, history of Humphry Marshall's botanic garden, ("Chester County Cabinet of Natural Science", 1828: 302-03[2]
"In the year 1774, the late Humphrey [sic] Marshall established his Botanic Garden, at Marshallton: he applied himself very diligently to the improvement of the place, and to the collection of plants, especially such as were indigenous to the United States. The Garden soon obtained a reputation; and for many years before the death of Mr. Marshall, it had become an object of curiosity to men of science: Mr. Frederick Pursh informs us, that it was the first place of a Botanical character visited by him, after his arrival in America. After the decease of Mr. Humphrey Marshall, in the year 1801, we believe that no improvements were made in the garden, and since the death of Doctor Moses Marshall, in 1813, the Botany of the place seems to have been entirely neglected. But it still exhibits many interesting relics, as pine and fir trees— the willow leaved and English oaks, the Kentucky nickar tree, the buckeye, and several species of magnolia. The trees we have mentioned, with various interesting shrubs and herbaceous plants, which survive the general ruin, are memorials of the interest which was formerly taken in the garden by its venerable founder....

"The science of plants was his favourite study, and before he established his botanic garden, at Marshallton, he had cultivated one on a smaller scale, on the plantation now occupied by Joshua Marshall. In 1785, he published the Arbustum Americanum, or catalogue of American Forest Trees and Shrubs, in which he was assisted by his nephew, the late Doctor Moses Marshall, who was a botanist of considerable merit, and, at the request of his uncle, had travelled through many of the States, in search of American plants."


"[William] BALDWIN had become intimate with the late Dr. MOSES MARSHALL,— nephew and heir of HUMPHRY MARSHALL, the well-known author of the Arbustum Americanum, and founder of the Botanic Garden at Marshallton. This gentleman was a respectable Botanist, and had materially assisted his uncle, — both in the establishment of his Garden, and in the prepartion of his work on American Forest Trees and Shrubs. In the society of Dr. MARSHALL, BALDWIN had his taste for the studyo f the vegetable creation first awakened; and the means of gratifying it were amply afforded by the rich collection of indigenous plants, then growing in the Marshallton Botanic Garden. This circumstance undoubtedly gave a decided bias to his future pursuits; and illustrates well the happy ifluence of such institutions, and opportunities, in developing the latent powers and aptitudes of ingenuous Youth."


"For several years prior to the establishment of the Marshallton Garden, Humphry had been much engaged in collecting native plants and seeds, and shipping them to Europe; but after that event, being aided by his nephew, Dr. Moses Marshall, he greatly extended his operations, and directed his attention with enhanced zeal and energy to the business of exploring, and making known abroad, the vegetable treasures of these United States. The present generation of botanists have but an imperfect idea of the services rendered to the science, by the skill and laborious industry of those faithful pioneers ; but the letters here given, will show that they contributed largely to the knowledge of American plants.

"After practising Medicine a short time, he [Moses Marshall] seems to have become an inmate in the family of his uncle HUMPHRY, devoting his time and services, exclusively, as an aid to his uncle, in the business of collecting and shipping plants and seeds to Europe. He made several long exploring journeys, in that pursuit, through the wilds of the West and Southwest. He was a good practical botanist, well acquainted with most of our indigenous plants, and rendered valuable assistance to his uncle, in preparing the Arbustum Americanum.... The editor had the happiness to know him well, and passed many pleasant, instructive hours with him, investigating the plants in the Marshallton Botanic Garden. Dr. MARSHALL discontinued the business of sending plants and seeds to Europe, soon after his uncle's death, and the garden, in consequence, has ever since been almost wholly neglected."

Images


References

Buffington-Marshall Papers, Chester County Historical Society

Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Darlington
  2. "Chester County Cabinet of Natural Science," The Register of Pennsylvania, 1 (May 10, 1828), view on Zotero.
  3. Darlington, 1843
  4. Darlington, 1849

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