Thanks to documents in the Chew Family Papers, Cliveden has learned about the different types of crops grown here and how the land was used.
Benjamin Chew Sr. (1722-1810), Cliveden’s first owner, had wheat fields and kept a few cows and chickens on the property. His son, Benjamin Chew, Jr. (1758-1844), was very interested in farming and was considered to be a gentleman farmer–a man who farms for pleasure, not for profit. While he was Cliveden’s owner, Benjamin Jr. did the following:
- Grew hay and hired local Germantown laborers to harvest his hay fields
- Purchased apple and pear trees from William Coxe, a nurseryman from Burlington, New Jersey
- Hired two local gardeners to oversee planting and harvesting. The first gardener was a man named James Petit (or Pettit) who worked for the Chews until 1814. He was replaced by Henry Nickum.
- Grew wheat, rye, turnips and potatoes as fodder for his chickens, cows, and pigs
- Purchased seedlings for vegetable gardens, and
- Experimented with red clover and other plants for soil enrichment
Benjamin’s daughter and Cliveden’s third owner, Anne Sophia Penn Chew (1805-1892), continued working on Cliveden’s agriculture:
- She hired two local gardeners in 1858: John Palmer and Barry Higgins. Mr. Palmer worked during the planting and harvesting seasons (vegetables), while Mr. Higgins was responsible for the gardening (probably small plants).
- That same year, Anne purchased corn, peas, and carrot seeds, tomato plants, cabbage plants, rhubarb root, and other plants to create a vegetable garden.
- In the 1870s, she shared the cost of grounds maintenance with her nephew Samuel Chew III (1832-1887). Samuel provided the funds to hire the gardeners and day workers who were responsible for the animals, planting, and harvesting while Anne made sure that fences and boardwalks were maintained.
- Jams and jellies were used to preserve fruit. Cliveden had apple, peach, and pear trees, currants and raspberry plants.
- Anne also had the staff plant decorative flower beds on Cliveden’s lawn, which was a landscape trend in the 1880s.
We don’t have a lot of information about planting and harvesting at Cliveden in the 20th century. The above picture was taken in 1911 and features a cow in front of the Carriage House. Although we’re not sure if the cow was kept to produce dairy products, the picture gives a brief glimpse of what Cliveden may have looked like as a working farm.
Richards, Nancy E.. Cliveden: The Chew Mansion in Germantown. Philadelphia, 1993.