Kimmel Center and Chef Staib’s Taste of History

Kimmel Center and Chef Staib’s Taste of History

“My tastes are simple: I am easily satisfied by the best.”  Winston Churchill

“There cannot be good living where there is not good drinking.”   Ben Franklin

Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Chef Walter Staib, A Taste of History, Kimmel Center, Philadelphia PA

It was an historic gathering. The cause was to celebrate a major anniversary of Mr. Thomas Jefferson. But the truth of the group’s selection was a celebration of food stuffs from the 18th Century.

Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Chef Walter Staib, A Taste of History, Kimmel Center, Philadelphia PA

Thomas Jefferson was in the spotlight. It was, after all, his birthday we were there to celebrate!

Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Chef Walter Staib, A Taste of History, Kimmel Center, Philadelphia PA

At the post-performance reception, Chef Walter Staib had a moment to share his confidence with John Bartram.

Chef Walter Staib is the host of the contemporary version of the City Tavern. He has brought notoriety to the unique foods, preparations, and services of hospitality from the days of my major travels.

Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Chef Walter Staib, A Taste of History, Kimmel Center, Philadelphia PA

The Kimmel Center is only blocks away from The City Tavern where all of this history would have occurred.

Mr. George Washington was accompanied by his most gracious wife, Martha. The two were certainly the centerpiece of the evening’s story line. They formed the stolid center around which the ceremonial gavotte was danced.

Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Chef Walter Staib, A Taste of History, Kimmel Center, Philadelphia PA

The rehearsal for the opening night was centered on General Washington. For him, there was no separate character or change of costume. Perfection.

Mr. John Adams and the educated Abigail were the highly erudite personalities in the room. I felt humbled by the thoughts articulated in their dialogue. While their loving considerations were well noted, John’s presence was overshadowed by Abigail, to whom I must give the present of “Outstanding Female Contributor” to the evening’s thoughts.

Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Chef Walter Staib, A Taste of History, Kimmel Center, Philadelphia PA

The First Ladies enjoyed moments of conversation.

She was joined in feminine felicitude by Dolley Madison and Betsy Ross. They joined in civil conversation during the evening by trading on popular stories of their meetings and musings. They held the stage brilliantly.

Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Chef Walter Staib, A Taste of History, Kimmel Center, Philadelphia PA

The First Ladies treated Betsy Ross like an equal. This is an egalitarian democracy!

Thomas Jefferson reviewed his history of the creation and publication of his grand Declaration. The true politics of the situation were overlooked in the gentlemanly good humor of the night. It would have been inappropriate to discuss those disagreements from the other side of the Atlantic.

Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Chef Walter Staib, A Taste of History, Kimmel Center, Philadelphia PA

Always contentious, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson played at gentlemanly combat.

For me, however, the supreme appearance of the evening was made by my close friend and most influential mentor, Benjamin Franklin. After all these years, it was so good to see that time doesn’t dim the glow of old friendships and the fireworks from halcyon days.

Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Chef Walter Staib, A Taste of History, Kimmel Center, Philadelphia PA

Ben Franklin. Simply said. Well done!


He was up to his old standards of political gamesmanship, delivery of humorous bon mots, and attitude of all-powerful elder statesman. Truly, he has aged like old and extra fine brandy.

Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Chef Walter Staib, A Taste of History, Kimmel Center, Philadelphia PA

Ben Franklin–as always!–was the life of the post-production party.

How remarkable to live to an age where this gathering can take on such round tones and happy hazing. It was spectacular to end the evening with a rousing rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Chef Walter Staib, A Taste of History, Kimmel Center, Philadelphia PA

The women rehearse. How different we all are sans costumes.

The rocket’s red glare could have been the reflection from the many theatrical lighting devices clustered around this revolutionary pantheon. Amazing!

Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Chef Walter Staib, A Taste of History, Kimmel Center, Philadelphia PA

John Bartram is ready for the spotlight!

Saint Peter’s Festival!

Saint Peter’s Festival!

“And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubilee unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family.”  Leviticus 25:10

“I am a real Christian – that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus Christ.”  Thomas Jefferson 

St Peters Episcopal Church in the Great Valley, Kirk R. Brown, Sara E. Brown, John Bartram, Ann Mendenhall Bartram, St Peters Festival

The cemetery has burials from the Revolutionary War.

Saint Peter’s Church in the Valley held its first service on September 4, 1761. I remember the date especially. It was formed from a group that moved away from their mother church in Society Hill. There was an elegant ring to the connections.

St Peters Episcopal Church in the Great Valley, Kirk R. Brown, Sara E. Brown, John Bartram, Ann Mendenhall Bartram, St Peters Festival

This is one of the reasons that John Bartram was disowned from his Quaker meeting.

It had been four years since the Darby Meeting had disowned me so I was always conscious of new congregations starting up. This one was noteworthy because of its magnificent edifice designed by local Philadelphia architect William Strickland.

St Peters Episcopal Church in the Great Valley, Kirk R. Brown, Sara E. Brown, John Bartram, Ann Mendenhall Bartram, St Peters Festival

A handsome couple. John and Ann Mendenhall Bartram.

George and Martha Washington were often to be found in the pew box belonging to Mayor Samuel Powel. The tower and steeple, although later additions, housed a monumental bell cast by the Whitechapel Foundry-also known for their casting of what has become known as the Liberty Bell.

St Peters Episcopal Church in the Great Valley, Kirk R. Brown, Sara E. Brown, John Bartram, Ann Mendenhall Bartram, St Peters Festival

Dancers in the gavotte. It was a merry band.

The organ case dates from 1764 and has been restored to magnificent condition by a continuing strong ministry of music. That is quite a lot for a former Quaker to recognize or understand in a Sunday worship service.

St Peters Episcopal Church in the Great Valley, Kirk R. Brown, Sara E. Brown, John Bartram, Ann Mendenhall Bartram, St Peters Festival

Ann is among friends of the dance.

But the day that I came recently to Saint Peter’s Episcopal Church in the Valley, it was a festival. In my day, it was almost always called The Church of England. Or C. of E. for short. All things change. But in this case, those changing things wanted to relive a bit of their collected past.

St Peters Episcopal Church in the Great Valley, Kirk R. Brown, Sara E. Brown, John Bartram, Ann Mendenhall Bartram, St Peters Festival

The venue location.

They invited John and his lovely wife Ann Mendenhall Bartram to participate in the celebration. It’s always a holiday when John and Ann get to travel together! And they had dancers and a Faire on the lawn.

St Peters Episcopal Church in the Great Valley, Kirk R. Brown, Sara E. Brown, John Bartram, Ann Mendenhall Bartram, St Peters Festival

Traditional tatting.

They had vendors of woven tapes, and plants, and musical instruments and fine costumes.

St Peters Episcopal Church in the Great Valley, Kirk R. Brown, Sara E. Brown, John Bartram, Ann Mendenhall Bartram, St Peters Festival

An 18th Century cooking demonstration.

And food! Lest we forget the food.

St Peters Episcopal Church in the Great Valley, Kirk R. Brown, Sara E. Brown, John Bartram, Ann Mendenhall Bartram, St Peters Festival

Entertainment from the 18th Century.

The day was rapid-fire from the beginning. We took a tour of the fenced graveyard. It contains the remains of Revolutionary war dead from both sides. Wars were fought over this land! And special mention should be made that it is also the burial site of Charles Wilson Peale, the son of a very good friend. As well as the burial of Commodore Stephen Decatur-hero of the Battle of Tripoli.

St Peters Episcopal Church in the Great Valley, Kirk R. Brown, Sara E. Brown, John Bartram, Ann Mendenhall Bartram, St Peters Festival

A true Sheep’s Meadow in the cemetery. The original lawn mowers.

It was a day well spent in the country with marvelous fellowship in places of my recollection. How could a life be made fuller than with a collection of days such as these? Ah, the refreshing goodness of a country life!

Going to The Hamptons and Old Westbury

Going to The Hamptons and Old Westbury

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”   F. Scott Fitzgerald,  The Great Gatsby

“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”    F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Westhampton Beach Garden Club, Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Old Westbury Gardens, Montauk Daisies, The Hamptons

These Montauk Daisies are given their name because of their location: Montauk Point, Long Island, New York.

I was told that I needed to travel to “The Hamptons.” It was a journey of many miles and required travel over several large water courses. The Hamptons are on the Long Island of New York State.

Westhampton Beach Garden Club, Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Old Westbury Gardens, Montauk Daisies, The Hamptons

The 18th Century means of transport to and around Long Island New York.

Its nature is one of sand dunes, pines, and junipers. In the fall it’s spotted with large colonies of Montauk Daisies. It is a summer retreat for wealthy city dwellers. They look to the cooling ocean breezes and the proximity to salt water to remind them of comfort and ease against the stress of Manhattan.

Westhampton Beach Garden Club, Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Old Westbury Gardens, Montauk Daisies, The Hamptons

Old Westbury Gardens. The mansion.

There are many mansions. One that we visited was called Old Westbury. It was grander in scope and dimension than any of the finest residences in Philadelphia.

Westhampton Beach Garden Club, Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Old Westbury Gardens, Montauk Daisies, The Hamptons

The dining room was crafted in the Georgian style. It was a room to entertain Kings.

The dining room alone would encompass my entire house of Kingsessing.

Westhampton Beach Garden Club, Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Old Westbury Gardens, Montauk Daisies, The Hamptons

Old Westbury Gardens garden folly feature.

Westhampton Beach Garden Club, Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Old Westbury Gardens, Montauk Daisies, The Hamptons

Old Westbury Gardens. The mixed flower borders. A perfect English pleasure garden.

But the turn in the gardens was worth the ransom of a King. They were magnificent. The borders were developed and planted along the English model. The grand sweep of lawns would have graced any Duke or Baron’s estate designed by Lancelot Capability Brown.

Westhampton Beach Garden Club, Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Old Westbury Gardens, Montauk Daisies, The Hamptons

The Great Beech on the West Terrace of Old Westbury Gardens. It was transplanted to this location as a mature tree.

On the West Porch of the mansion there is an ancient Beech (Fagus sylvatica) This large specimen was transplanted into its position many years ago while it was already a gigantic caliper tree. The effort is greatly appreciated because its situation is perfectly scaled to the garden room at that end of the house.

Westhampton Beach Garden Club, Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Old Westbury Gardens, Montauk Daisies, The Hamptons

The Westhampton Beach Garden Club gathered in the club house of Westhampton Country Club. It was a well-lit room.

I was invited to speak at the garden club of Westhampton Beach. We met in the mansion-house of a sequestered golf course. The room was crowded but lit through large expanses of clerestory windows.

Westhampton Beach Garden Club, Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Old Westbury Gardens, Montauk Daisies, The Hamptons

High tea after the presentation before the Westhampton Beach Garden Club meeting in the Westhampton Country Club.

High cream tea was served in the dining room. Ann and I were treated well with all of the trimmings associated with leisure and royal breeding. I felt like I had been transported to London in the time of my great correspondent, Peter Collinson.

Westhampton Beach Garden Club, Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Old Westbury Gardens, Montauk Daisies, The Hamptons

Ah the lifestyle entices. The beach calls. Calm overtakes the senses.

At the end of the day, it was pleasant to think that we could relax in Old Westbury’s gazebo as the sun sank in the west. West Hampton.

Westhampton Beach Garden Club, Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Old Westbury Gardens, Montauk Daisies, The Hamptons

Old Westbury Gardens gazebo at sundown.

Michigan Herb Associates in Congress

Michigan Herb Associates in Congress

“Travel brings power and love back into your life.”  Rumi

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page,”  Augustine of Hippo

Michigan Herb Associates, John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Sambucus canadensis, Lansing MI

John Bartram appears at the annual Michigan Herb Associates celebratory banquet. He appears to be as Ben Franklin’s printing displays best: Black and white and red all over…

This was another wondrous opportunity to meet a dazzling array of botanists and herbalists. Last year’s Herb of the Year was Sambucus spp. It was a grand celebration around the merit of not only that species but on all of the herbal and pharmacological benefits of plants in general.

Michigan Herb Associates, John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Sambucus canadensis, Lansing MI

Elderberry was the theme of the symposium. That’s Sambucus Canadensis in the Linnaean nomenclatural system with the native found in the wilds of North America

I presented three separate lectures on varied topics related to my interests, history and knowledge of botanicals.

Michigan Herb Associates, John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Sambucus canadensis, Lansing MI

A reflection of the warmth in the room!

Michigan Herb Associates, John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Sambucus canadensis, Lansing MI

The banquet was a sell-out! Notice that the centerpieces had John in a bottle. How perfectly captured I felt!

I appeared as a guest at the annual banquet. The centerpieces on the table had copies of my only known printed likeness pushed inside a bottle. Like a stranded seafarer, I was cast away on all of the tables waiting to be picked up and discovered.

Michigan Herb Associates, John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Sambucus canadensis, Lansing MI

Members and vendors interact. It’s a natural occurrence.

One of the special lectures was on my contributions to the Appendix to the Medicina Britannica of 1751.

Michigan Herb Associates, John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Sambucus canadensis, Lansing MI

John Bartram displays his knowledge of the natural medical pharmacopeia.


Coming out of that document is my description of the well-known American Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis):

“It makes a fine Salve for healing Wounds and Ulcers or to remove Pain and Swelling. It may be used as a purgative or an emetic. This will promote labor in childbirth and has curative powers over pains in the head and congestion in the Kidneys and Lungs.”

Michigan Herb Associates, John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Sambucus canadensis, Lansing MI

Vendors at the trade show represented a beautiful array of crafty botanicals and natural plants.

The rest of the outing to the campus of Michigan State University included a visit to the remarkable Children’s Garden.

Michigan Herb Associates, John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Sambucus canadensis, Lansing MI

It’s a small world of discovery in the Children’s Garden at Michigan State University.

Michigan Herb Associates, John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Sambucus canadensis, Lansing MI

The beauty of the Children’s Garden at Michigan State University is in the colorful details of arbors, houses, and paving. Even with winter’s snow on the ground the garden presents a friendly, welcoming face to young people.

Even though it was under snow, I could see the very happy bones of the place. It would have entranced my children when they were of that age.

Michigan Herb Associates, John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Sambucus canadensis, Lansing MI

Colorful sunburst paving opens the experience at the Michigan State University Children’s Garden.

Even in my advanced years, the color of the architecture and the quality of the paving achieved a harmony of natural connection that could not fail to amuse the younger set.

Michigan Herb Associates, John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Sambucus canadensis, Lansing MI

The Michigan State University Clarence E. Lewis Landscape Arboretum has an imposing entrance to the grounds.

While just across the way, there was the entrance to the Clarence E. Lewis Landscape Arboretum. What a surprising trip it was. I experienced gardens, within gardening, within friendly meetings. All around successful.

Bartram’s Boxes at the Philadelphia Flower Show

John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Sara Brown, Ann Mendenhall Bartram, PHS, Philadelphia Flower Show

John and Ann Bartram in their recreated garden at the Philadelphia Flower Show

“My head runs all upon the works of God in nature. It is through that telescope I see God in his glory.”   John Bartram, December 3, 1762

“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, Ann Mendenhall Bartram, Sara E. Brown, Philadelphia Flower Show, Williamson Technical School

The history of Bartram in his garden was explained by the display constructed by Williamson Technical School at the Philadelphia Flower Show.

It was a glorious day to return to Philadelphia. Members of the senior class of Williamson Technical School unveiled their exhibition on the cultivation, harvesting, packing, and transport of plants and seeds for my Bartram’s Boxes. This major tribute to my seminal work on the distribution of native plant species through the horticultural world was on display at the Philadelphia Flower Show.

John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Ann Mendenhall Bartram, Sara E. Brown, Philadelphia Flower Show, Williamson Technical School

John Bartram fronting the Williamson Technical School booth on the historic Bartram’s Boxes.

I greatly enjoyed sitting in the front of the display. Some would say that it is the height of recognition to have a booth at the world famous Philadelphia Flower Show dedicated to one’s life’s work. So noted! The show’s sponsor, The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, is an organization founded in 1827 at a meeting “of gentleman farmers, botanists and other plant enthusiasts” that included members of my family. From that simple beginning such a tremendous show has grown.

John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Ann Mendenhall Bartram, Sara E. Brown, Philadelphia Flower Show, Williamson Technical School

The display of seeds introduced by Bartram in his overseas shipments of botanical boxes was encyclopedic.

On exhibit were bags of all of my most favored plant species: Quercus rubra (Red Oak,) Acer rubrum (Red Maple,) Magnolia grandiflora and all of the magnificent understory shrubs. The assortment was greater than any I’d seen collected since days of my youth!

John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Ann Mendenhall Bartram, Sara E. Brown, Philadelphia Flower Show, Williamson Technical School

All of the samples were displayed in historically authentic context. The boxes would actually have looked like this.

The team of students from Williamson was a collection of scholars, botanists, artists and carpenters that reminded me of me at the same age. They were enthusiastic in their conversation. They were engaged with the topic. They were well turned out.

John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Ann Mendenhall Bartram, Sara E. Brown, Philadelphia Flower Show, Williamson Technical School

There were substantial awards given to the Williamson Technical School Booth on their demonstration of the Bartram’s Boxes.

As a result of their study and their industry, the display was awarded many prestigious prizes. I was very glad for them that their effort received its due recognition. How amazing after all of these years to be confronted with the very image of my house and garden and work rooms and packing stations.

History can and does repeat itself!

John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Ann Mendenhall Bartram, Sara E. Brown, Philadelphia Flower Show, Williamson Technical School

The major awards for this display on Bartram’s Boxes reflected the student’s dedication and passion to the subject. John Bartram would have been very, very proud!

Red Bank, Ann Whitall and a Flower Show

“Grilling, broiling, barbecuing – whatever you want to call it – is an art, not just a matter of building a pyre and throwing on a piece of meat as a sacrifice to the gods of the stomach.”    James Beard

 “If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.”   att. The Buddha

Ann and I traveled across the Delaware river today.  We came to a large home surrounded by artists painting in Plein Air (the signs said) and a day of Flowers being judged for the quality of their Show.  The most outstanding experience of the day, however, was our complete submersion into sights, sounds, tastes and SMELLS of the 18th Century.  We were in the midst of an age recreated.

Red Bank Battlefield Ann Whitall John Bartram Kirk R. Brown

Plein Air artists reminded me of my son William’s early attempts at painting.

Upon entering the house, the singular smell of a cooking fire in the kitchen hearth consumed all other senses.  It tracked into the corners of my eyes and tickled up to the height of my sinuses.  We were led into the cooking room.  Friends were busy chopping, tending fire, and generally preparing for the upcoming feast.  Ann and I felt at home–as we actually were.

Red Bank Battlefield Ann Whitall John Bartram Kirk R. Brown

John Bartram in the kitchen of the Whitall Mansion

A Quaker family built the house in 1748 as the plantation home for their 400 acres.  I recall them:  James and Ann Whitall.  They had a large family in that grand home on the river.

Red Bank Battlefield Ann Whitall John Bartram Kirk R. Brown

The Whitall Mansion at Red Bank.

Ann was a strong and opinionated member of the Woodbury Meeting.  She possessed a fearsome devotion to our Saviour.  Few in her family could stand unreproached in its glare.  During the Battle of Fort Mercer, she was so convinced of her authority that she continued spinning wool in her parlor.  It was a direct connection between an errant cannonball and the gable end of her house that interrupted her work only long enough for Ann to retire to the basement where she continued.

Red Bank Battlefield Ann Whitall John Bartram Kirk R. Brown

Ann Whitall and John Bartram.

I connect with the woman and her healing nature.  She gave sustenance and aid to the wounded on both sides.  She also gave religious lectures to the Hessians for making war on men at peace.  The hospital she opened in her dining room as surgery for the fallen was successful in saving more lives than the norm.  She used her knowledge of herbal remedies and demanded Quaker cleanliness for the dozens housed on the makeshift beds lying on the upper floors.

Red Bank Battlefield Ann Whitall John Bartram Kirk R. Brown

The Whitall Surgery

The day we visited this unique and resurrected household, the servants were recreated volunteers.  The household staff were ready with histories of the battle, home and 18th Century.  Life and small details were well rendered.

Red Bank Battlefield Ann Whitall John Bartram Kirk R. Brown

The Flower Show was organized and run by Ann Whitall Gardeners.  The titular owner had come full circle back to her physic garden.  The exhibits were colorful and engagingly staged throughout the house.  Noteworthy was the display of framed, pressed flowers–historic in context and continuity.  They were remains of the days when different people with different lives entered the door, looked out the windows and cooked at the hearth.

Red Bank Battlefield Ann Whitall John Bartram Kirk R. Brown

And we all gathered in the kitchen.  The smoke stung the eye but the warmth from the fire was lightened with humor and heart.  Pasties were made for dinner.  Cornish pasties.  As if there was a physical presence of the family’s heritage from West Country England.  The work-men taking a break from the mines, holding the ends of the crusts with dirty fingers.  Our day was not as trying.  Rain came hard and fast.  The crowd dispersed. 

Red Bank Battlefield Ann Whitall John Bartram Kirk R. Brown

Floral exhibits on the family room table.

We left after a time with a memory of a good day and the smell of cooking smoke on our cloths and in our nose.  It will hang with the clothes put back in the closet until the next time.  Another event to be shared with yet more new friends across two hundred plus years of Quaker continuity. 

Red Bank Battlefield Ann Whitall John Bartram Kirk R. Brown

The flowers displayed at Red Bank for John Bartram’s visit.

Red Bank Battlefield Ann Whitall John Bartram Kirk R. Brown

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!