A Trip To South Carolina

“I would like to challenge you this year to keep your passion for Greater Greenville Master Gardeners alive!   Our mission is to teach and educate within our community. Together we can accomplish great things.”       –Anita Humphries

“Since ten years old, I had a great inclination to plants.  I knew all that I observed by sight, though not by the proper names having no person or books to instruct me.”            —John Bartram

John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Hortitoptia, Greater Greenville Master Gardeners, South Carolina

Leaving my home on the Schuylkill River is always the start of a horticultural adventure.

I am returning to the Carolinas on February 2, 2013.  I have been absent a very long time.   I will appear at “Hortitopia” sponsored by the Greater Greenville Master Gardeners Association of Greenville South Carolina.  My amanuensis, Kirk R. Brown will be presenting a secondary topic called, “Sustainability and the American Dream” during the afternoon of the same day.

John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Hortitopia Master Gardeners Greenville South Carolina

John Bartram speaks of his travels across the Eastern seaboard of the North American Colonies.

Previously I found it convenient to visit the Carolinas because my half-brother, William, held title to a plantation named Ashwood on the Wilmington-Fayetteville Road.  He was the younger son of my father, William, and his second wife Elizabeth.

Walking up the Bartram's Garden path, Kirk R. Brown John Bartram, Hortitopia

“Welcome home to Bartram’s Garden!” always greeted me as I walked up the path to the house.

The story is made more complicated by explaining that my father was murdered by Tuscarora Indians in a raid conducted on his farm near present-day Swansboro, North Carolina.  My step mother and her two children were taken prisoner during the raid and remained captives until their escape or release nearly a year later.

Prior to my father’s precipitous and calamitous move to the south, I had been parceled out to my paternal grandmother and grandfather (another John Bartram) while my younger brother, James, lived with my mother’s family, the Marshalls.

Hortitopia, John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown

Many quakers can claim a relationship to John Bartram. Meetings such as Hortitopia is an opportunity to expand the family tree.

I continue to carry with me the scars of my father’s tragic death.  Throughout all of my subsequent dealings with Native Americans, I continue to mistrust their offers of help.  I hesitate to believe their stories.  I avoid direct contact–always suspect that I would misunderstand their actions, or words, or directions.  I would sooner travel alone–especially if I am a familiar with the geography of the area.

Half-brother, William, returned to the Carolinas and became a successful landowner.  His plantation, Ashwood, was located along the Wilmington-Fayetteville Road in the Cape Fear area of North Carolina.  It was his position among the landed the gentry that gave me free access and rights of travel through all of my early years.  He was a delegate to the Governor’s council in New Bern.  It was through a bill of his own introduction that defined the town and township of Wilmington.  You have William to thank for giving his name to the community and environs.

Horitopia, Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Greater Greenville Master Gardeneres, South Carolina

Hortitopia is a congress of gardeners gathered together to discuss finer details of gardening.

I have been to both the Carolinas numerous times over the years. I was free to travel with William’s assistance in providing me letters of credit.  It was on one of the trips that started in Wilmington that took me south through the swamps and forest of Georgia where I discovered the copse of trees that history recognizes as the last found in the wild of Franklinia alatamaha.

John Bartram, William Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Franklinia alatamaha

John and William Bartram discovered the unique Franklinia during a collecting trip along the Alatamaha River in Georgia.

My son, William, accompanied me on many of his trips.  In later years, his travels in these colonies were noted more by the locals than by his own identification.  His mother and I rarely knew where he was.  He never wrote.  But today, there are numerous nature walks that bear the Bartram name because of trails he blazed.  We have a great family history in the south.

Stenton, James Logan, John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown

Yet another magnolia to investigate. This one is in the garden at Stenton, James Logan’s plantation house outside of Philadelphia in the modern community of Germantown.

I’m looking forward to my return.  It will be an exciting time!

4 responses

  1. You are well known in Alabama! We have the Bartram Canoe Trail in South Alabama and I have read of you for years because of my interest in gardening. Have you? or Would you? consider visiting our state…again, we know you have been here before!

    • The trail in Alabama tracks the travels of my son, William in a period of time running up to the Revolutionary War. I had many extended journeys through Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida. In my recent life and with my reincarnation, I have returned to Georgia, several times to Florida and both of the Carolinas, and Virginia. I would love to experience the botanical wonders of Alabama. Do you have an interest in sponsoring/hosting my trip and lectures? We should pursue that with a further discussion.

      • Sarah: I have visited and spoken at the National Arboretum, the Smithsonian, Greenspring Gardens, and Mt Vernon. As well as at the AHS Children and Youth Gardening Symposium that was all over the city. Another of my speakers of note, Frederick Law Olmsted just appeared before an alumni donors group at the American University. I come to DC all the time. I have a son in Arlington. What group do you represent and what is the event you are considering?

      • I represent an elementary school in NW DC, and by extension, the DC school garden association. We would be interested in bringing you to speak to the kids at our school and possibly working in a few other events if other schools or organizations are interested. Do you have information on pricing for your appearances?

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