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New England Botanic Garden at Tower Hill: Plantsmen

Digitized resources, archival and special collections, exhibitions, and other items of interest.

The Plantsmen exhibit was on view in the Alice Milton Gallery at NEBG from January 10-24th, 2015. Thirteen oil portraits were selected from our​ collection of 29 paintings of Worcester County Horticultural Society founders and early leaders. In addition to the portraits, the exhibit included favorite plants, books and other photographs of the individuals profiled. Descendants of the 'Plantsmen' were invited to our opening and we were delighted so many were able to attend.

Alexander H. Bullock, 1816-1882

Alexander H. Bullock, 1816-1882
WCHS President 1860-1863​​
  • Born in Royalston to Rufus and Sarah (Davis) Bullock
  • Sixth President of the Worcester County Horticultural Society
  • Law degree from Harvard but never practiced
  • Married Elvira Hazzard of Enfield, Connecticut; they had 3 children
  • Became involved in politics and edited a Whig weekly newspaper, the National Aegis
  • In quick succession was Mayor of Worcester, a Member of the General Court, and finally, Governor of Massachusetts from 1866-1869
  • Considered a great orator and much in demand for giving speeches.  Many of his speeches were published after his death including "Discourse on Early Worcester Taverns" which proclaimed, "The drama of the Revolution...was begun in town meetings, but I am sure the battles...had a first rehearsal in the public taverns"
  • An early supporter of a women's right to self determination and her career outside the home
  • His daughter, Fanny Bullock Workman (1859-1925), lived his beliefs as a world traveler, mountain climber, and one of the first female members of the Royal Geographical Society in London
"Alexander Bullock was a voice of moderation raised in a time of trouble. He was a man of solid worth, the type of person who provided the backbone of the prosperous and growing city of Worcester...He has left behind him the memory of great trusts worthily discharged, of opportunities for usefulness well improved, of a private life honorable, beautiful and without a stain." 
-Edward W. Lincoln, WCHS Transactions, 1882

Isaac Davis, 1799-1882

Isaac Davis, 1799-1882
WCHS President 1844-1848
  • Born in Northborough to Phinehas and Martha (Eager) Davis
  • Married Mary H. Estabrook; they had 10 children
  • He studied law in Rhode Island and came to practice in Worcester in 1825; he soon became one of the city's leading lawyers
  • Active in politics as a Member of the General Court in both the House and Senate, as a 3-time Mayor, and Alderman
  • Second President of the WCHS; stayed active as member, trustee and exhibitor throughout his life
  • A frequent exhibitor of livestock at the Worcester Co. Agricultural Society and a delegate to the State Agricultural Convention in 1851
  • He rejected his family's Unitarianism and became a Baptist.  His austere outlook was evident years later when, according to family lore, he chided his daughter for exhibiting the "Grecian Bend" in public.  The Grecian Bend was an exaggerated way of emphasizing one's hips and considered to be very flirtatious in its day
  • Particularly interested in the cultivation of fruit, in 1850 he and his wife took an extended trip to Bermuda. While there he ordered and had 6 fruit trees and 2 flowering shrubs shipped to Worcester
"Those who can recall his fact his entire front lawn: studded as it were with immense plants of rare selection and careful culture...from which he could draw at will to ornament and magnify our Exhibitions."
-Edward W. Lincoln, WCHS Transactions, 1883

Francis H. Dewey, 1821-1887

Francis H. Dewey, 1821-1887
WCHS President 1867-1871; 1881-1887
  • Born in Williamstown to Charles Augustus and Frances Aurelia (Henshaw) Dewey
  • Graduated from Williams College and continued a long family association with the school as Trustee
  • He had an early and abiding interested in Horticulture.  Many Letters from College exhort his parents to "water my plants once a week" or "when it comes cold to bend my mulberries down and sprinkle some dirt over them." One letter includes detailed description of the gardens at Williams
  • Married twice, first to Fannie Amelia Clarke and later to Sarah Bates Tufts; they had 7 children
  • Active in the WCHS as member, frequent exhibitor, and twice president
  • He loved children and flowers; "for years he had long rows of fuchsias as tall as one's head on his piazza"
  • Practiced law, was Member of the General Court and Justice of the Superior Court; also involved in politics.  As State Senator introduced legislation in 1856 that made December 25th, February 22, and July 4th, legal holidays in Massachusetts. "It is no accident that Christmas got legalized in the 1850s at a point when Massachusetts was the most industrialized state in the country.  The more industrialized a state was, the more you needed legislation to take at least a day off."
"Judge Dewey was among the most faithful from the first and he brought to the Society a very considerable acquaintance with botany and a genuine love and knowledge of flowers and fruits, a knowledge which he had not acquired by inspection alone, but from practical experience."
-Edward W. Lincoln, WCHS Transactoins, 1888

John Milton Earle, 1794-1974

John Milton Earle, 1794-1874
WCHS President 1848-1851
  • Born in Leicester to Pliny and Patience Earle
  • Married Sarah Hussey, a leader in the anti-slavery and women's rights movements; they had 4 children
  • Came to Worcester in 1818 to work with his brother-in-law in a "store of gerenal Merchandise"
  • One of the original WCHS founders; a lifetime member; president and long-time trustee
  • Horticulture was his "recreation and delight." For years he was one of the largest contributors to the WCHS exhibitions and throughout the 1850's competed with Daniel Waldo Lincoln over the number pears exhibited
  • Held several local and statewide positions: Member of the General Court as a representative and senator, Postmaster, Worcester Alderman and Commissioner of Indian Affairs.  His collection of documentation on Massachusetts Indian Tribes is still consulted regularly by historians
  • In 1823 purchased the Massachusetts Spy - which did much "to make Worcester County the stronghold of conscientious and determined political opposition to slavery."  Regularly published reviews of the WCHS exhibitions in the papers
  • Strong interest in genealogy, tracing his own family back to Queen Elizabeth I in England
"...a man of kind feeling, refined taste, independent judgment, and cultivated intellect ever ready with the generous aid of the zealous and unpaid labor of his body and mind to promote good learning, pure morals, personal freedom and all institutions and movements that he considered adapted to make men wiser, better, and happier."
-Edward W. Lincoln, WCHS Transactions, 1874

John Green, 1784-1865

John Green, 1784-1865
WCHS President 1840-1844
  • Born in Worcester, to John and Nancy (Barber) Green
  • Married Dolly Curtis in 1823; they didn't have children
  • Practiced medicine and judged to be the best in a line of 4 family doctors (3 named John Green) in Worcester spanning 135 years
  • Renowned for his "almost intuitive perception of disease...his judgment and memory were almost never at fault." He was familiar figure making his rounds in his gig (carriage) in all sorts of weather.  His ledgers showed that many patients had "fluctuating balances" indicating he accepted partial payment and continued to treat them
  • A founder and the first president of the WCHS
  • A noted bibliophile, Dr. Green could often be seen in bookshops both in Worcester and Boston.  He amassed a collection of over 12,000 volumes that became the genesis of the Worcester Public Library in 1859
  • Horticulture was his "special joy." He had a home on Harvard Street named after his College.  It was the first brick house in Worcester.  
"...the interest that he ever manifested in the prosperity of this corporation, since his own accession to the office with which he has for years been honored; and to his frequent inquiries after its welfare, in minute particulars that might easily be supposed to have escaped the failing memory of one whose years far exceeded the limits of the Psalmist, and whose active participation in the direction of our affairs terminated almost a quarter century ago."
-Edward W. Lincoln, WCHS Transactions, 1865

Obadiah B. Hadwen, 1824-1907

Obadiah B. Hadwen, 1824-1907
WCHS President 1875-1876; 1895-1907
  • Born in Providence, Rhode Island to Charles and Amey Sherman (Brownell) Hadwen
  • Married Harriet Page of Westminster, Vermont and they had 3 children
  • A leading Worcester County horticulturist who was involved in the WCHS and the Worcester Agricultural Society from the earliest days; held many offices in both institutions
  • Known as a continuous and prolific produce exhibitor
  • "His principal delight was practical and scientific agriculture and horticulture..."
  • Also active as Parks Commissioner beginning in 1867
  • Donated 50 acres of land to what are now Hadwen Park and Hadwen Arboretum
  • He died at his home at the corner of May and Lovell Streets in 1907
"His home was adorned with trees of his own planting and which were of a varied nature. Trees which were declared to be impossible of growth in this climate he planted and with care transformed them into hardy growths which added much to the beauty of his home.  Many of these specimens are from foreign countries and have been visited by men from all over the United States, who were suprised at and admired the ability of the owner...At his home his best talents have been expended, and the grounds surrounding the house have been the delight of horticulturists who have visited the place from all over the country.  His home was given the name of Magnolia several years ago, owing to there being fifteen varieties of that tree about the grounds."
-The Worcester Magazine, Vol. 10, 1907

Emory Washburn, 1800-1877

Emory Washburn, 1800-1877
WCHS Trustee
  • Born in Leicester to Joseph and Ruth (Davis) Washburn
  • He married Marianne Cornelia Giles; they had 4 children
  • Became a lawyer and partnered a very successful law firm with John Davis
  • Entered politics in 1826 as State Representative, then Aide to Gov. Lincoln; State Senator; Governor from 1854-55
  • Exhibited "very superior" Seckel pears
  • Bussey Professor of Law at Harvard for 20 years where he enjoyed "the confidence and affection of students"
  • Wrote a published Historical Sketches of the Town of Leicester, Mass. during the first Century from its Settlement, along with several legal texts
  • Helped establish the Worcester County Free Institute of Industrial Science 1856-1876 and active in many cultural and academic societies
"...did so much to awaken and foster a love for botanical research among the pupils of our public schools.  Sharing in his early morning rambles, when, armed with baskets or plant-case, sallied forth to ransack Newton Swamp or Salisbury Grove, he was as eager as the youngest boy to detect the Orchids or Cardinal Flower in the mass of weeds beneath which it had been hidden.  A close and observant student of nature, he had early learned to interpret her language, and to master the abstruse lore which serves as a veil to her hidden mysteries."
-Edward W. Lincoln, WCHS Transactions, 1874


Learn more about Emory Washburn here:

Daniel Waldo Lincoln, 1813-1880

Daniel Waldo Lincoln, 1813-1880
WCHS President 1857-1860
  • Born in Worcester to a prominent political and horticultural family; his father was Levi Lincoln II, his mother Penelope (Sever) Winslow; he had 7 siblings
  • He married Frances Fiske Merrick and they had 4 children
  • Among his many pursuits, he practiced law, was a Representative in the Massachusetts General Court, Mayor of Worcester, and President of the Boston & Albany Railroad
  • He became the fifth president of the WCHS and was one of the greatest horticulturists of his day
  • The quantity and quality of fruit and flowers he offered at the WCHS Exhibitions was legendary; in 1857 he brought 105 varieties of pears and throughout the 1850's had an ongoing competition with John Milton Earle
  • He managed an extensive nursery with a large heated greenhouse in which he grew plants like the Victoria Regia Lily.  His "Field and Garden Notes" record daily weather and garden events from 1853-1879.  June 15, 1857 - "Last 10 days weather cool, woolen clothing comfortable, vegetation slow, squashes just up"
  • He died from an unfortunate accident while attending a rowing regatta in New London, CT.  He was thrown from atop an open platform train car when it lurched forward
"Hearing of that gorgeous novelty from the Amazon -- the Victoria Regia, -- he visited Philadelphia and, obtaining a young plant, with some seeds also, was fortunate in developing it to its ultimate perfection."
-Edward W. Lincoln, WCHS Transactions, 1880

Levi Lincoln II, 1782-1868

Levi Lincoln II, 1782-1868
WCHS Founder
  • Born in Worcester, to Levi and Martha (Waldo) Lincoln; his mother was the eldest daughter of Daniel Waldo, Sr.
  • Married Penelope Winslow Sever and they had 9 children
  • A founding WCHS member who remained active throughout his life
  • Involved with Daniel Webster in founding the National Republican (later Whig) Party in Massachusetts
  • Lawyer and politician; held numerous state and national offices leading up to Governor from 1825-34
  • His brother, Enoch Lincoln, was Governor of Maine
  • As Mayor of Worcester in 1848, hosted distant cousin Abraham Lincoln during the Whig Convention
  • Donated land that would eventually become Elm Park thanks to the efforts of his son, Edward Winslow Lincoln, the Parks Commissioner
  • He died at his home on Elm Street; the Lincoln home was later moved to Old Sturbridge Village
"He seldom failed to inquire what was displayed upon our tables. He never evinced indifference to the growth and welfare of the Society....He was one of your original [is] needless to remind you of his ever active interest in the culture and development of new varieties of flowers and fruit...[He was] a steady friend and benefactor. That society is indeed rich that can drop such names from its roll of living associates without experiencing a sense of almost hopeless desolation." 
-Edward W. Lincoln, WCHS Transactions, 1868

William T. Merrifield, 1807-1895

William T. Merrifield, 1807-1895
WCHS President 1876-1879
  • Born in Worcester, to Alpheus and Mary (Trowbridge) Merrifield
  • Learned carpentry from his father at 15 and went on to become an industrial builder
  • He had four children with his first wife Margaret Brigham and two children with his second wife Maria Caroline Brigham
  • His first large contract was for $300,000 to build the steam-powered Lancaster Mills in Clinton
  • Family stories recount that he received the contract after impressiong the company by traveling from Worcester to Clinton by horse during a snowstorm
  • Many of Worcester's well-known 19th century industries began in Merrifield buildings
  • In 1846 he bought 30 acres and built a large house designed by Elbridge Boyden (Mechanics Hall); known as 'Highland Place' it included a barn, multiple greenhouses, extensive gardens and an orchard
  • His daughter Harriette recalls spending much time in the greenhouse with her father where he liked to smoke cigars -- and tell family stories
  • Among many distinguished descendants, Merrifield's grandson, Will, became a well-known entomologist and his granddaughter, Esther Forbes, an award-winning author of books such as Johnny Tremain
" of those choice spirits who...were not selfishly satisfied to gather from their own orchards, or to consider the lilies in enclosed field or open meadow; but elected to lay broad and deep the foundations of a Society whereby to advance the science and encourage and promote the practice of horticulture in and throughout the County of Worcester." 
-Edward W. Lincoln, WCHS Transactions, 1896

Frederick William Paine, 1788-1869

Frederick William Paine, 1788-1869
WCHS Treasurer 1842-1869
  • Parents were William and Lois (Orne) Paine
  • Married Ann Cushing Sturgis of Boston in 1822, daughter of the Honorable Russell Sturgis and Elizabeth Perkins; they had six children
  • The Paines were a prominent Worcester family, sharing direct lineage with well-known descendants including Alice Hathaway Lee (first wife of Theodore Roosevelt), Archibald Cox (Special prosecutor during the Watergate scandal), and Leverett Saltonstall (former Governor of Massachusetts), to name a few
  • A founding member oft he WCHS, an original incorporator and longtime treasurer
  • Attended Harvard College; traveled and lived all over the world
  • Known as quiet, thoughtful man, he loved reading and had one of the largest private libraries in Massachusetts
  • Paine's garden on Lincoln Street "was renowned for its wealth of trees and flowers, making the south slope of Paine Hill a bright expanse of bloom"
  • Civic minded, he held many public offices including: Member of the General Court; Chairman of the Board of Selectman; Rural Cemetery Board member
"Generous, tender and unselfish...a horticulturist for the sheer love of the pursuit...a constant and regular contributor to our exhibitions...a faithful and punctual trustee...that presence, manly in its reserve, exacting respect even where it was not commanded; that genial and unaffected companionship, will be a lifelong memory...none knew him but to love him; none named him but to praise."
-Edward W. Lincoln, WCHS Transactions, 1869

Stephen Salisbury III, 1835-1905

Stephen Salisbury III, 1835-1905
WCHS President 1879-1881
  • The third Stephen Salisbury was born in Worcester to Stephen and Rebekah Scott (Dean) Salisbury; he was an only child and never married
  • The Salisburys' were one of Worcester's most prominent and wealthiest families
  • An early letter about him from his grandmother to his father noted, "He is at work...making a garden. He says he wants to be a farmer"
  • Like his Grandfather and Father before him he considered himself a 'gentleman farmer'
  • He graduated from Harvard and continued his studies in Berlin and Paris before getting a law degree, also from Harvard
  • He traveled widely and given his varied interests, collected art, artifacts and plants from many remote places around the world; he was particularly interested in the flora of the Yucatan
  • He was an active WCHS member and frequent exhibitor of flowers, vegetables and fruit from his extensive gardens, orchards and greenhouses
  • According to his gardener, "Mr. Salisbury's custom was to visit his greenhouse first thing after breakfast..."
  • He actively supported many cultural, scholarly and civic institutions during his lifetime, and after his death left the vast Salisbury fortune almost entirely to cultural and academic institutions in Worcester
"In spite of his large fortune he lived simply, and was ever the modest courtly gentleman, who deferred to the opinions of others, and treated his associates with the kindest attention. The difficult role assigned to him he played well, and the beneficence that he bestowed on Worcester was always given without ostentation."
-Forty Immortals of Worcester & Its County, 1920

Daniel Waldo, 1763-1845

Daniel Waldo, 1763-1845
WCHS Founder
  • Son of Daniel and Rebecca (Salisbury) Waldo. Rebecca was the sister of Stephen Salisbury I
  • He never married and lived with his 3 maiden sisters
  • Worked in a hardware store that was established in 1782 by his father. It was the first brick building in Worcester, where Elwood Adams, the oldest hardware store in the country, is now located
  • His diary took the form of an accounts book wherein he noted every expenditure from 1815-1841.  He had the recipient, including his sisters, sign the book and noted the reason for the outlay
  • One of the earliest WCHS members; his gift of $3,000 allowed the Society to develop; he gave generously to other institutions as well
  • He owned Granite Row (Waldo Block), the center of the dry good trade, and lived in a large house where Mechanics Hall now stands
  • He owned extensive gardens and a greenhouse on Linden Street
  • The Worcester Spy (December 1826) relates: "several bales of cotton have been raised the past season in the garden of Daniel Waldo...the wool of which is perfectly ripe and of good sample."
  • He owned of Worcester's first carriages; Gov. Lincoln and Mrs. Salisbury had the only others
  • In 1837 purchased and donated land for Worcester's Rural Cemetery
"But few of you know, possibly, that he took a deep interest in the formation of the Society, recommending it when others hesitated, and affording a hearty cooperation in aid of the first timid steps."
-Edward W. Lincoln, WCHS Transactions, 1876
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