Beyond the Gate: Harvest


Picture of Carriage House in 1911. Courtesy of Cliveden of the National Trust.

 

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. 

Silhouette of Benjamin Chew, Sr.

Portrait of Benjamin Chew, Jr. From the collection of Cliveden of the National Trust.

Portrait of Anne Sophia Penn Chew, Cliveden’s third owner. Photograph courtesy of Cliveden of the National Trust.

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. 


Bibliography

“Gentleman Farmer.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2018.

Richards, Nancy E.. Cliveden: The Chew Mansion in Germantown. Philadelphia, 1993.