Agriculture - Nursery at Lower Red Hook

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Nursery at Lower Red Hook

In 1802, Janet Livingston Montgomery purchased a 242-acre farm from a Dutch apple farmer, John Van Benthuysen.

Benthuysen had been farming the property for close to three decades, so the property already had good fruit trees standing and acreage cultivated for grain crops (see Site Map). Janet hired farmers to tend her farmland and livestock, using the farm's produce to support her own household and shipping the excess down the Hudson River to markets in New York City from the landing at Lower Red Hook (now called Barrytown), which probably resembled the view of Garrison’s landing about fifty miles south, seen here.

Most farms in the Hudson Valley during the colonial and federal periods participated in a market economy. In other words, farmers grew crops not just for their own subsistence but as commodities for the burgeoning market in New York, where agricultural products might be consumed by the growing urban population or shipped from New York's port to other far-off markets.

Janet's family had participated in large-scale farming in the Hudson Valley for more than a century. Before his untimely death, Janet's husband, the Revolutionary War hero Richard Montgomery, had hoped to pursue husbandry at their farm in Rhinebeck despite his urban, military background. But Janet had a more specific vision for the farm at Montgomery Place than simply selling excess grain and apples. Even while her house was still under construction, she was working out the details of a new nursery business that would supply fruit trees, berry bushes, vegetable seeds, and even some ornamental plants to other farmers in the Hudson Valley and to seed retailers.

Nursery advertisement from the Poughkeepsie Journal, March 5, 1810. The Dutchess County Historical Society.

Esopus Spitzenberg apple, from A View of the Cultivation of Fruit Trees, and the Management of Orchards and Cider, by William Coxe (1817). Special Collections, National Agricultural Library.

View at Garrison’s, from The Hudson River and the Hudson River Railroad (1851).

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