Janet Livingston Montgomery - Agricultural Entrepreneur

Janet Livingston Montgomery

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Agricultural Entrepreneur

With the idea of creating an inheritance for her heir William Jones, Janet secretly purchased land and a farmstead from John Van Benthuysen in 1802.

On May 22 of that year she bought Van Benthuysen’s 242-acre farm for $3,300 plus interest. Almost as soon as the land became hers, Janet began to grow fruit trees and other nursery stock on the property. In 1804, even before construction of her new house was complete, she entered into a partnership with James McWilliam to run a nursery that sold fruit trees, flowering shrubs, berry bushes, exotic plants, and garden seeds. Newspaper advertisements for their joint venture like the one pictured here did not mention Janet's name, perhaps out of a sense of decorum either for her gender or her elite status.

Of the various enterprises she could have established as a legacy for her nephew, Janet may have chosen the nursery business because of her own long-standing passion for plants. Throughout her life she collected rare flowers, shrubs, and trees. Friends and family in far-away places sent her such exotics as mango trees, jasmine, and orange trees. After all, as she wrote to her brother Edward in 1809, “If I have a pleasure, it is in cultivating my plants.”

Advertisement from Poughkeepsie Journal, November 12, 1812. Dutchess County Historical Society.

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