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County Nurseries History

The History Of Warren County Nurseries
By Mr. James A. Dillon - County Historian

Killebrews Resources of Tennessee - 1874 - states Warren County had two marketable products prior to 1855 - hogs & brandy. The railroad changed this and orchard husbandry became prime income source. Apples, grapes, pears, and plums were grown. New varieties developed - two orchard regions - Mountain bench and barrens.

1874 - Pomona Nursery operating - specializing in fruit trees.

1880s - Mountain City Nursery operated by R. H. Tittsworth.

Coming of prohibition in 1920 doomed orchard industry. Lack of refrigeration made selling  fresh fruit impractical.

1904 - Johnathan H. H. Boyd moved to Irving College. Unique individual born in Roane County in 1861. Moved with family to Sequatchie County after Civil War. His father died when Johnathan was 10 years old. Only four months formal education. Avid student of nature. He became interested in native plants when cattle began dying after foraging in mountains. Wrote several farm journals about calycanthus, the poisoning agent (called sweet bush). The farm journal of Philadelphia was only publication that answered. A Mr. Emerson E. Sterns of Brooklyn, N. Y., became interested and wrote for a bushel of seed pods from Calycanthus for which he paid $5. This began Boyd's business of gathering and selling seeds. Sterns eventually visited and asked Boyd to provide the names and species of all the trees and plants indigenous to our area.

In 1880s Boyd moved from Dunlap to Cagle, and in 1904 to Irving College, all the while expanding his nursery. By 1960 there were 149 registered nurseries in Warren County.

Gardening has always claimed a vital part in the everyday activities of Warren Countians. By 1840 formal flower gardens existed throughout the county. The gardens of Judge A. J. Marchbanks, William "Buck" White, William Black, Phillip H. Marbury, J. S. Harrison and John Hopkins French excelled in variety, formality and beauty. The Civil War curtailed and impeded the gardening process, but, in spite of difficulty and hard times, gardening continued. In recent times the gardens of E. W. Munford, Dr. Thomas Black, Miss Tennie Elkins, Sedberry Hotel, and Mrs. Gillie (R. G.) Hutchins were much admired. Perennials were dominant in most gardens and there was considerable competition among the gardeners to acquire and display exotic plants from foreign lands. Our mild climate with plenty of rainfall year-round aided greatly in the successful growing of many unusual plants.

Our elevation (1,000 feet on the highland rim and 1,800 feet on the Cumberland Plateau) gives our county a great diversity in temperatures.