- A 2-5/8 inch high by 4-1/2 inch wide card, signed "Jarvis Van Buren / Clarksville Ga". Additionally penned by Van Buren at bottom left are his birth date and the place of his birth: "born 7th August 1800 in City of Schenectady, N.Y." The edges are darkened, else near fine.
The Georgia horticulturist, nurseryman & builder Jarvis Mudge Pieterse Van Buren (1800-1885) was born in Schenectady, N.Y. Residing in New York State at first, he was a country builder in Kinderhook, New York, but came to be known for his role in the assembly and operation of one of the first successful railroad locomotives which made its historic run from Schenectady to Albany, New York on August 9, 1831. In 1838, he was hired to manage the Stroop Iron Works in Clarkesville, Georgia working as a railroad engineer. As visitors were establishing permanent communities of Summer residents in and around Clarkesville, Jarvis Van Buren was at the forefront of this emerging building movement. His first job as an architect-contractor was building the Greek Revival style Grace Episcopal Church in Clarkesville, Georgia between 1839 and 1842. It remains mostly unalterred to this day. In 1848, he designed another Greek Revival style church, the Presbytarian Church of Clarkesville. Van Buren opened two sawmills to support his contracting and building business. One mill, the Sutton Home on the Soquee River was for building material. The other at the base of Minis Hill provided wood for cabinet work and fine interior & exterior details. Between 1847 and 1850 Van Buren built Woodlands, the Gothic Revival home of George Jones Kollock, which remains a superb example of the style today. He also designed the furniture for the homes he built and, at Woodlands, several pieces can still be found. These include the library's ornate Gothic style bookcase. In other rooms throughout the house, six wardrobes, two sitting chairs and a side table can still be found. Fascinated with horticulture, Van Buren wrote prolific contributions for Southern horticultural books and journals. He purchased 10 acres and a family of 5 slaves in 1840. There he planted fruit trees and founded Gloaming Nursery, one of the earliest in Georgia. Especially interested in apples, Van Buren is "credited with the early development of the commercial apple industry in northeast Georgia". One of his lasting contributions was in "assembling an extensive collection of Southern seedling apples. He systematically classified a list of thirty seedlings and made full-sized paintings of each apple with remarkable accuracy. This work helped establish a practical nomenclature of Southern apples by 1860." An 1855 advertisement in the Southern cultivator offers insight into the variety of fruit Van Buren grew: "The subscriber having added many additional varieties of Southern Seedling Fruit Trees to his former stock, comprising many varieties of Apples, one hundred of Pears, twenty of Cherries, twenty of Peaches, Nectarines, etc., and being re-assured of their superiority over those raised in Northern Nurseries...." Van Buren further assisted in the progress of the Southern fruit industry by establishing horticultural organizations and meetings. "In 1853, he was a key leader in the organization of the Horticultural Society of Georgia, which was later renamed the Pomological Society of Georgia." "Along with a myriad of information on Southern apples, Van Buren also wrote a variety of articles for the Southern Cultivator and The Soil of the South concerning pears, peaches, plums, figs, cherries, grapes, and cucumbers as well as insect prevention, planting techniques, pruning and fertilization. He also utilized his writings to promote horticultural events in the South." A true Renaissance man, Van Buren's "productivity over one lifetime is remarkable. His work as a disciple of Andrew Jackson Downing led him to be a prominent builder and furniture designer in Clarkesville, Georgia. His love of pomology made him a trailblazer in the creation of the commercial apple industry in the South in the 1840s. His writings and paintings remain as important legacies of horticultural pursuits in the South during the nineteenth century." [Paraphrased with quotations from Staci Catron-Sullivan's article "Jarvis Van Buren: A Brief History of Georgia Horticulturist, Writer, Nurseryman, and Builder", published in the Vol. XVI, No. 1 Fall 2000 issue of "Magnolia: Bulletin of the Southern Garden History Society"].