Essex Institute. 1n.

Bulletin of the Essex Institute (Volume 27-28) online

. (page 6 of 21)
Online LibraryEssex Institute. 1nBulletin of the Essex Institute (Volume 27-28) → online text (page 6 of 21)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


and strong also. Strawberries, gooseberries, raspberries,
&c., with plums, black and red, being almost as good as
a damson, abundance of roses, white, red and damask,
single, but very sweet indeed." Another writer from
Plymouth speaks of "the bay which is about four miles
over from land to land, compassed about to the very sea
with oaks, pines, juniper, sassafras and other sweet wood.
The crust of the earth a spit's depth (the depth of a
spade), excellent black earth, all wooded with oaks, pines,
sassafras, juniper, birch, holly, vines, some ash, walnut."

Following in chronological order, we find that the next
record is the account of "A Voyage into New England,
begun in 1623 and ended in 1624, performed by Christo-
pher Levet. . . . The first place I set my foot
upon in New England was the Isle of Shoals, being



76 BULLETIN OF THE ESSEX INSTITUTE.

islands in the sea about two leagues from the main.
Upon these islands, I neither could see one good timber
tree, nor so much good ground as to make a garden."'
From here he journeyed and settled at York, where he
says : " I have obtained a place of habitation in New
England where I have built a house and fortified it in a
reasonable good fashion, strong enough against such
enemies as are these savage people. And to say some-
thing of the country," and here is a bit of sarcasm, " I
will not do therein as some have done to my knowledge,
speak more than is true : I will not tell you that you may
smell the cornfields before you see the land, neither must
men think corn doth grow naturally (or on trees) nor
will the deer come when they are called, or stand still and
look upon a man until he shoot him, not knowing a man
from a beast ; nor the fish leap into the kettle nor on the
dry land, neither are they so plentiful that you may dip
them up in baskets, nor take cod in nets to make a voy-
age, which is no truer than that the fowls will present
themselves to you with spits through them. But certain-
ly there is fowl, deer and fish enough for taking if men
be diligent ; there be also vines, plum trees, strawberries,
gooseberries and rasps, walnuts, chestnuts and small nuts,
of each great plenty ; there is also great store of parsley

1 Celia Thaxter seems to have demonstrated that this was an error. She made
a very famous garden there. Perhaps the soil of it vras carried to the island
from the main land.

The early records are tilled with orders for tlie protection and disposal of tho
timber growing on these shore islands. They do not indicate the nature of the
wood, but it seems to have been valued for ship-building. The " Miseries " were
" Moulton's Miseries," and got the name from Robert Moulton, the chief ship-
wright here in 1629. Probably when Governor Endecott asked for and obtained
a grant of Catta Island (now Lowell Island) in 1G55, he was moved by a consider-
ation of the value of its growing timber. When the larger islands became Ijare
and denuded of shade, as we see them, has not been stated, but Catta Island
was a wooded island in 1735, and was strijjped of its trees by the British sloop-
of-war Merlin, while enforcing the Boston Port Bill on the night of January 6-7,
1776, probably to secure a l)etter view into Salem and l\Iarl)lehead harliors.
—Editor.



TriK FLORA OF COLONEAL DAYn. 77

and divers other wholesome herbs, both for profit and
pleasure, with great store of sassafras, sarsaparilla and
anise seeds. Thus have I related unto you what I have
seen and do know may be had in these parts of New Eng-
land where I have been, yet Wiis I never at Massachu-
setts, which is counted the paradise of New England, nor
at Cape Ann, but I fear there hath been too fair a gloss
set on Cape Ann."

In 1629, Rev. Francis Higginson came to Salem in the
ship Talbot, and from the relation of his vo3'age a few
passages can be quoted, showing how deeply he was im-
pressed by the appearance of the country.

"June 24. This day we had all a clear and comfortable
sight of America and of Cape Sable that was over against
us seven or eight leagues northward. Here we saw
yellow gilliflowers on ihe sea." These were probably the
Alexanders seen by Gosnold on Elizabeth island, TJtas-
pium aureum.

"Friday, 26th. A foggy morning, but after clear and
wind calm. The sea was abundantly stored with rock-
weed and yellow flowers like gilliflowers. By noon we
were within three leagues of Cape Ann, and as we sailed
along the coasts we saw every hill and dale and every
island full of gay woods and high trees. The nearer we
came to the shore the more flowers in abundance, some-
limes scattered abroad, sometimes joined in sheets nine
or ten yards long, which we supposed to be brought from
the low meadows by the tide. Now what with fine woods
and green trees by land and yellow flowers painting the
sea, made us all desirous to see our new paradise of New
England, where we saw such forerunning signals of fer-
tility afar off.

"Saturday, 27th. We hud a westerly wind which
brought us between five and six o'clock to a fine and

KSSKX INST. Bl I.I.KIIN VOF,. XXVII 9*



78 BULLETIN OF THE ESSEX INSTITUTE.

sweet harbor, seven miles from the head-point of Cape
Ann. There was an island (Ten pound island) whither
four of our men with a boat went and brought back again
ripe strawberries and gooseberries and sweet, single
roses."

" The sweet briar and gooseberries are still found on the
island and before it was cleared up, strawberries were
found there," says Dr. Charles Pickering.

"Monday, 29th. We passed the curious and difficult
entrance into the large and spacious harbor of Naimkecke,
and as we passed along, it was wonderful to behold so
many islands replenished with thick wood and high trees
and many fair, green pastures." After passing the winter
of 1629-30 at Salem, Mr. Higginson writes: "The fer-
tility of the soil is to be admired at, as appeareth in the
abundance of grass that groweth everywhere, both very
thick, very long and very high, in divers places. But it
groweth very wildly with a great stalk and a broad and
ranker blade, because it had never been eaten with cattle,
nor mowed with a scythe, and seldom trampled on by
foot.

" Our Governor hath store of green pease growing in his
garden, as good as ever I eat in England. This country
aboundeth naturally with store of roots of great variety
and good to eat. Our turnips, parsnips and carrots are
here both bigger and sweeter than is ordinarily to be
found in England. Here are also store of pumpions,
cowcumbers, and other things of that nature which I
know not ; also divers excellent pot-herbs, growing among
the grasse, as strawberrie leaves in all places of the
country and plenty of strawberries in their time, and
penny royal, winter savory, sorrell, brooklinie ( Veronica
Americana), liverwort, carvell and water cresses. Also
leeks and onions are ordinary and divers physical herbs.



THE FLORA»OF COLONIAL DAYS. 79

Here are also abundance of other sweet herbs delightful
to the smell, whose names we know not, and plenty of
single damask roses, very sweet, and two kinds of herbs
that bear two kinds of flowers, very sweet, which they
say are as good to make cordage or cloth as any hemp or
flax we have. Excellent vines are here up and down in
the woods. Our Governor hath already planted a vine-
yard, with great hope of increase. Also mulberries,
plums, raspberries, currants, chestnuts, filberts, walnuts,
small nuts, hurtleberries and haws of white thorn near as
good as our cherries in England ; they grow in plenty
here. For wood, there is no better in the world, I think,
here being four sorts of oak, differing both in the leaf,
timber and color, all excellent good. There is also good
ash, elm, willow, birch, beech, sassafras, juniper, cypress,
cedar, spruce, pines and fir that will yield abundance of
turpentine, pitch, tar, masts, and other materials for
building both of ships and houses. Also here are sumach
trees that are good for dyeing and tanning of leather ;
likewise such trees yield a precious gum called white
benjamin that they say is excellent for perfumes. Also
here be divers roots and berries wherewith the Indians
dye excellent holding colors that no rain or washing can
alter." The carvell of which Mr. Higginson speaks is
chervil or sweet cicely {Osmorrhiza longistylis), and was
found by Dr. Charles Pickering in a rocky, precipitous
place at " Paradise," North Salem, possibly the spot where
it was seen by INIr. Higginson. The mulberry, flowering
raspberry (Huhiis odoratus) , still flourishes in "The Great
Pastures."

Ill this same year, 1629, William Wood arrived in New
England, but he lived principally in the Plymouth colony.
He writes of the trees : " An ash difierent from the ash
of England, being brittle and good for little, ever trera-



80 BULLETIN OF THE ESSEX INSTITUTE.

bling asps, the red oake, the white oake, and a third kind,
the blacke. The diar's shumach, the cedar tree, not very
high and its wood more desired for ornament tlian sub-
stance, being of color red and wliite, smelling as sweet as
juniper — the white cedar, the mournefull cypres tree, "
as distinguished from the cedar with red wood, the
American elm, which he calls the " broad spread elme
whose concave harbours waspes. " In planted gardens and
in woods, "sweet marjoram, sorell, perennial yarrow,
hempe and flaxe, some planted by the English, with rapes,
besides turnips, parsnips, carrots, radishes, muskmillions,
cucumbers, onyons, also good crops of rye, oates and
barley." He mentions the rattlesnake root (JVabalus
alba) as the "root called snake-weed " an antidote to the
bite of the rattlesnake of which Mr. Higginson says, " to
bite on within a quarter of an houre by the partie stinged,"
— the snake weed was always carried about by Governor
Winthrop in summer time. Wood also speaks of the
"treackle berries" and he says, " There is likewise straw-
berries in abundance, very large ones, some being two
inches about. One may gather half a bushel in a fore-
noon. Vines afford great store of grapes, which are very
big both for the grape and cluster: sweet and good.
There is likewise a smaller kind of grape which groweth
on the islands (that is of Massachusetts Bay) which is
sooner ripe and more delectable, so there is no known
reason why as good wine may not be made in these parts
as well as Bordeaux in France, being under the same
degree." The choke cherry, " red cherries which grow
f)n clusters like grapes, are much smaller than our Eng-
lish cherry and so furie the mouth, that the tongue will
cleave to the roof." Roger Williams wrote of the straw-
berry. "This berry is the wonder of all the fruits grow-
ing naturally in these parts. It is of itself excellent, so



THE FLORA OF COLONIAL DAYS. 81

that one of the chiefest doctors of England was wont to
say, 'God conld have made, bnt God never did make a
better berry.' In some parts where natives have planted,
I have man}^ times seen as many as would fill a good ship
within a few miles compass." In September, 1629,
Master Graves sent a letter to Enghmd in which he wrote
at length of the fertility of the soil. " The grass and
weeds," he said, "grow np to a man's face in the lowlands
and by fresh rivers al)nndance of grass and large meadows,
without any tree or shrub to hinder the scythe. " He
speaks of the grapes, — "some I have seen four inches
about. "

William Bradford, Governor of Plymouth Colony, wrote
" A Descriptive and Historical Account of New Eng-
land " in verse, which has much of interest in this con-
nection —

"Almost ten years we lived here alone —
In other places there were few or none ;
For Salem was the next of any fame
That began to augment New England's name.
But after, multitudes began to flow
More than well knew themselves where to bestow.
Boston then began her roots to spread,
And quickly soon she grew to be the head
Not only of the Massachus«tts Bay
But all trade and commerce fell in her way.
And truly it was admirable to know
How greatly all things here began to grow,

' Governor Winthrop arrived at Salem in June of the next year, 1630, and this
is the entry in his Journal : — " jiassed through the naiTOw strait between Baker's
Isle and Little Isle, and came to an anchor a little within the islands. After Mr.
Peirce came aboard us and returned to fetch Mr. Endecott, who came to us about
two of the clock and witli him Mr. Skelton and Capt. Levett. We that were of
the assistants and some other gentlemen with some of the women and our Cap-
tain returned with them to Nahurakeck wliere we supped with a good venison
pasty and good beer, and at niglit we returned to our ship. But some of the
women stayed behind. In the meantime most of our people went on shore upon
the land of Cape Ann which lay very near us and gathered store of fine straw-
berries." Wild strawberries still al)ound on the upland along West's Beach.
—Editor.



bZ BULLETIN OF THE ESSEX INSTITUTE.

New plantations were in each place begun
And with inhabitants were filled soon.
All sorts of grain which our own land doth yield
Was hither brought and sown in every field,
As wheat and rye, barley, oats, beans and pease
Here all thrive and they profit for their raise.
All sorts of roots and herbs in gardens grow,
Parsnips, carrots, turnips or what you'll sow.
Onions, melons, cucumbers, radishes,
Skirets, beets, coleworts and fair cabbages.
Here grow fine flowers, many, and 'mongst those
The fair, white lily and sweet fragrant rose.
Many good wholesome berries here you'll find
Fit for man's use almost of every kind.
Pears, apples, cherries, plumbs, quinces and peach
Are now no dainties, you may have of each,
Nuts and grapes of several sorts are here
If you wiU take the pains them to seek for."

It appears somewhat singular and only proves that the
colonists knew nothing of the severity of the climate,
that they should have thought seriously of planting vine-
yards in this region. Vine planters are mentioned in a
list that the company were to provide to send to New
England.^ In 1634, the yearly rent of Governor's
Island in Boston Harbor was a hogshead of wine. That
island had been granted to Governor Winthrop on condition
that he should plant a vineyard or orchard there. Thomas
Leckford spent four years in the country and wrote an
article, "Plaine dealing or Newes from New England."
He speaks of the land, cattle and grain and mentions one
fact which other writers omitted that " the Pease have no
wormes at all." July, 1638, there arrived at Boston,
John Josselyn, son of Sir Thomas Josselyn of Kent,
and brother of Henry Josselyn, Esq., of Black Point, in

3 Vine planters were to be sent over Feb. l()-28. According to Crartock's letter
to Endecott, April 1629, they were to have been Frenchmen but such could not be
I'ounil.— Mass. Colony Records, vol. I, p. 24 and p. 390; Suffolk Deeds, Liber I,
Folio VI.— Editor.



THE FLORA OF COLONIAL DAYS. 83

Scarborough, Maine. After staying a short time at Bos-
ton, he went to his brother's home in Maine, where he
remained until October of the following year. In 1663,
he again visited the country and stayed eight years.
The results of his travels, observations, etc., are recorded
in two volumes, one entitled "New England's Rarities
discovered in birds, beasts, fishes, serpents, and plants
of that Country, " and published at London in 1672 ; the
other, " An Account of two voyages to New England."
The former book was issued, with full and valuable anno-
tations, l)y Prof. Edward Tuckerman in 1865, and from
this we quote largely. He says, " Josselyn was, it ap-
pears, a man of polite reading." His curiosity in picking
up " excellent medicines, " points to an acquaintance with
physic, of his practising which there occur several in-
stances. Nor is he by any means uninterested in pre-
scriptions for the kitchen as, for instance, when he gives
an elal)orate recipe for cooking eels and also one for a
compound liquor " that exceeds passada, the nectar of"
the country, " which is made, he tells us, of "Syder,
Maligo Raisons, Milk, and Syrup of Clove Gilliflowers. "
But his curiosity in Natural History and especially Bot-
any is his chief merit and this now gives almost all the
value that is left to his l)0()ks. William Wood, the
author of '' New England's Prospects, " was a better
observer generally than Josselyn, but the latter makes
up for his shortcomings by the particularity of his bo-
tanical information. But we will return to the "Rarities,"
and see what record Mr. Josselyn has lett of the plants
of the country. He has divided them into five groups,
viz :

1. Such Plants as are common with us in England.

2. Such Plants as are Proper to the country.



84 BULLETIN OF THE ESSEX INSTITUTE.

3. Such Plants as are Proper to the country and have
no name.

4. Such Plants as have sprung up since the English
planted and kept cattle in New England.

5. Such Garden Herbs amongst us as do thrive there
and such as do not.

In the first group some of the most familiar are the
following: Cat's-tail, Wild Sorrel, Blew Flower dc
luce, Yellow bastard Daffadil, it flowereth in May, the
green leaves are spotted with black spots. Water-cresses,
Red Lillies, One Blade {Smilacina hifolia) Lilly C(m-
vallie with the yellow flowers. Small water archer (arrow
head ), Autumn Bell Flower (Closed Gentian). Glass-
wort grows abundantly in salt marshes. Upright Peni-
royal, Catmint, Water Lily with yellow flowers, the
Indians eat the roots, the Moose Deer feed upon them, at
which time the Indians kill them, when their heads are
underwater. Dragons {Arum) — they come up in Juiu^.
Violets of three kinds, Solomon's Seal, Doves Foot, and
Herb Robert, Yarrow, with the white flower, Columl)iiies
of a flesh color, growing upon rocks. Ferns and Biakcs,
Dew Grass {Drosera), Lime Tree, both kinds, Maple,
Elm, Fuss Balls, very large. Noble Liverwort, Blond
Root, Black-Berry, Dew Berry, Rasp Berry, Hawthorn^
Toadflax, there is Oak of three kinds, Juniper, very
dwarfish and shrubby, growing for the most part by the
seaside. Willow, Spurge Laurel, called the Poyson Beir\ ,
it kills the English cattle if they chance to feed upon it,
especially calves. Gaul or noble mirtle {Myrica gale).
Alder, Hazel, Walnut, Chestnuts, very sweet in taste, and
may l>e, as they usually are, eaten raw; the Indians sell
them to the English for twelve pence the bushel. Wild
Purcelane, it is eaten as a pot-herb and esteemed by some



THE TLORA OF COLONIAL DAYS. 85

as little inferior to asparagus. Woodwax, wherewith
they dye many pretty colors.

Note. — There is a tradition that it was introduced here by Gov.
Endecott, which may have been some forty years before Josselyn
finished his herborizing — enough to account for its naturalization
then. It was long confined to Salem. Dr. Cutler says "pastures
between New Mills and Salem." Woad seed is set down in a memo-
randum of the Governor and Company of Massachusetts Bay before
February, 1628, to be sent to New England. Gov. Endecott is also
responsible for importing another plant to his Danvers home, for we
find in Hanson's History of Danvers this note, after referring to Gov.
Endecott's land; " If tradition be correct, he introduced for medici-
nal purposes, as well as by way of ornament to his garden, the White-
weed, or Chrysanthennim Jeiicanthp.mum of the botanist, which has
since become so detrimental to the hayflelds of our farmers in some
parts of the State."

"Of such Plants as are proper to the country. Indian
Wheat, of which there are three sorts, yellow, red and
blew. Mountain Lillies, bearing many yellow flowers.
Hollow-leaved Lavendar is a plant that grows in salt
marshes, overgrown with moss, with one straight stalk
about the bigness of an Oatstraw, better than a cubit
high ; upon the top standeth one fantastical Flower, the
Leaves grow close from the root in shape like a Tankard,
hollow, tough and always full of Water, the Root is made
up of many small strings, growing only in the Moss and
not in the Earth, the whole Plant comes to its perfection
in August, and then it has Leaves, Stalks and Flowers,
as red as blood, excepting the Flower, which hath some
yellow admixt. I wonder where the knowledge of this
Plant hath slept all this while, i. e., above Forty Years.
Tree Primrose, Maiden Hair, ordinarily half a yard in
height, Pirola of two kinds, Indian Beans, Squashes, but
more truly Squonter-squashes, a kind of Mellon or rather
Gourd, Pompiones and Water Mellons, too, they have in
good store. New England Daysie or Primrose, flowers in

ESSEX INST. BULLETIN, VOL. XXVII 10



86 BULLETIN OF THE ESSEX INSTITUTE.

May and grows amongst moss upon hilly grounds or rocks
that are shady. Wild Damask Roses, single, but very
large and sweet. Sweet Fern, Sarsaparilla, Bill Berries,
two kinds, Black and sky colored, which is more frequent.
Sumach, our English cattle devour it most abominably.
The cherry trees yield great store of cherries which grow
in clusters like grapes. They be much smaller than our
English cherry; nothing near so good, if they be not
fully ripe ; English ordering may bring them to an Eng-
lish cherry, but they are as wild as the Indians. Board
Pine (JP. strohus) is a very large tree. Pitch Pine, its wood
cloven in two little slices something thin, the only candles
used by the New England natives, and Higginson found
them adopted by the first colonists." The Board Pine, the
loftiest tree of New England, was seen in 1605 by Capt.
George Weymouth on the Kennebec, and hence the name
Weymouth Pine given in England to the imported deals.
Wood refers to these Pines, the White Pines, when he
speaks "of these stately, high-growue trees, ten miles
together, close by the river side." "The Larch Tree,
which is the only Tree of all the Pines that sheds his
Leaves before Winter, the others remaining Green all the
Year. Hemlock Tree, the bark of this serves to dye
Tawny. Cran-Berry, or Bear-Berry, because Bears use
much to feed upon them, is a small trayling Plant that
grows in Salt marshes that are overgrown with moss.
The Indians and English use them much, boy ling them
with Sugar for Sauce to eat with their meat. Pirola,
or Wintergreen, that kind which grows with us in Eng-
land, is common in New England, but there is another
plant which I judge to be a kind of Pirola and proper to
this country, a very beautiful Plant. The Ground of the
Leaf is a Sap Green, embroydered (as it were) with
many pale yellow Ribs, the whole Plant in shape is like



THE FLORA OF COLONIAL DAYS. 87

Sempervivum, but far less, being not above a handful
hi<?h, with one sleniler stalk adorned with small, pale,
yellow Flowers, like the other Pirola. It groweth not
everywhere, but in some certain, small spots, overgrown
with m(iss, close by swamps and shady, they are green
both Summer and Winter." Another plant is ilUistrated
and described in the followinii; lanocuasre : "This Plant
the Humming Bird feedeth upon, it groweth likewise in
wet grounds, and is not at its full growth till July, and
then it is two cul)its high and better, the leaves are thin
and of a pale green colour, some of them as big as a
Nettle leaf, it spreads into many Branches, knotty at the
setting on and of a purple colour, and garnished on the
top with many hollow, dangling Flowers of a bright,
yellow colour, speckled with a deeper yellow as it were
shadowed ; the Stalkes are as hollow as a Kix, and so
are the Roots, which are transparent, very tender and
full of a yellowish juice." The list of plants in the
fourth group is short and we will mention only a few ;
they are the plants which hiive sprung up since the Eng-
lish planted and kept cattle. " Couch Grass, Shepherd's
Purse, Dandelion, Mallowes, Plantain, which the Indians
call English Man's Foot, as though produced by their
treading. Knot Grass, Chick weed. I have done now
with such plants as grow wild in the country. I shall
now in the Fifth place give you to understand what Eng-
lish herbs we have growing in our Gardens that prosper
there as well as in their proper soil, and of such as will
not grow there at all. Cabbage grows there exceeding
well. Lettice, Parsley, Burnet, Tansie, Sage, Carrots,
Parsnips of a prodigious size," other Vegetables and
grains. "Spearmint. Rew will hardly grow. Southern
Wood is no Plant for the country, nor Rosemary, nor
Bayes, Lavendar Cotton, but Lavendar is not for the cli-



88 BULLETIN or THE ESSEX INSTITUTE.

mate. Gilly Flower will continue two years. Fennel
must be taken up and kept in a warm cellar all winter.


1 2 3 4 6 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21

Online LibraryEssex Institute. 1nBulletin of the Essex Institute (Volume 27-28) → online text (page 6 of 21)