Tuesday, August 23 2022 12:38

Celebrating Humphry Marshall

Written by Malcolm Johnstone
Photos by Susan Johnstone

Time for a tercentenary

Detail from Portrait of Humphry Marshall (1722–1801) by Adrian Martinez, 2016

Small-town charm takes center stage as the Village of Marshallton, named for Humphry Marshall (1722–1801), celebrates this popular historic gentleman’s 300th birthday on October 8, 2022. And rightly so.

Marshall was the esteemed botanist and scientist who, in the 1700s, played a major role in America’s transformation from frontier wilderness to productive landscapes. Marshall is known for his contributions to agriculture as well as astronomy and meteorology (he had an observatory in his home where he studied sunspots).

As a Quaker, Marshall did not actively participate in the American Revolution. Rather, he saw himself simply as an American working to encourage his fellow colonists to understand and capitalize on the country’s native plants and natural resources.

Today, Marshall is regarded as the Father of American Dendrology (the study of woody plants, trees and shrubs) and is best remembered as the author of Arbustum Americanum (1785), the first publication to catalog native plants written and published in America.

Marshallia, known as “Barbara’s buttons”

Yet Marshallton is not the only place that shares the name of Humphry Marshall. In 1848, Marshall Square Park in West Chester became the borough’s first public park and was established to provide “suitable walks that introduce various ornamental trees and shrubbery.” A point of distinction is that Marshall Square predates Central Park in New York City by nine years.

Another Humphry Marshall fact: Many botanists have one or more species of plant (called genus) named after them, and Marshall’s name is used to identify the genus Marshallia, which is commonly referred to as “Barbara’s buttons,” found in the southeastern United States.

Join in the celebrations of this local son’s tercentenary.

Events Celebrating Humphry Marshall’s 300th

Bradford Friends Meeting, Marshallton, PA, established 1726

September 14

Chester County History Center via Zoom
225 N. High St., West Chester
Joel Fry, longtime curator at Bartram’s Gardens, will present “Horticultural Cousins – Bartram and Marshall.” 7 p.m. via Zoom at MyCCHC.org.

September 28

Chester County History Center via Zoom
225 N. High St., West ChesterRon McColl, Special Collections Librarian at West Chester University, who oversees the Darlington Collection, will speak on “Dr William Darlington: Janus of American Botany.” Darlington wrote the “Memorial of Marshall” and kept the Herbarium with specimens from Marshall. 7 p.m. via Zoom at MyCCHC.org.

Martin’s Tavern

October 8

Humphry Marshall Day, Marshallton
Events are held on the grounds of Martin’s Tavern and the newly created Humphry Marshall Park. The daylong celebration and activities include outdoor community events such as prominent speakers, colonial reenactors, period music, open-hearth cooking and tastings, and colonial brews. Notable Chester County songster Charlie Zahm and friends are performing early American songs throughout the day. Kids will enjoy colonial games and crafts and a special native tree propagation program with saplings that are part of a tree-planting programs in West Bradford Township parks. 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Free.

October 9

Humphry Marshall 300th Birthday Celebration
Marshall Square Park, 405 N. Franklin St., West Chester.
Friends of Marshall Square Park will celebrate Humphry’s 300th birthday on the park grounds. 2 to 3 p.m.

October 14

Chester County History Center via Zoom
225 N. High St., West Chester.
Anthony Aeillo of Longwood Gardens will speak on “In the Shadow of Humphry Marshall – Chester County Horticultural Heritage in the 19th Century.” 7 p.m. via Zoom at MyCCHC.org.

For more 2022 events celebrating Humphry Marshall’s life and legacy, plus updates and details, see CultureChesCo.org/Humphry-Marshall.