Marshall Pinckney Wilder

The Massachusetts Merchant

December 16, 1886
Today is the anniversary of the death of the Massachusetts merchant, amateur horticulturist, and politician Marshall Pinckney Wilder.

When Marshall started out in life, his father gave him three options: attend college, start a farm, or work in the family store. Marshall elected to farm.

But like Michael in the Godfather, Marshall was unexpectedly pulled into the family business after his uncle died. As luck would have it, Marshall was a natural businessman who helped take the family wholesale business to even more successful heights.

With his financial success, Marshall bought an old Dorchester, Massachusetts farm for $5,500. Marshall called the property Hawthorn Grove. Shortly after moving in, Marshall's young wife, Eliza, died. With four small children to raise, Marshall quickly married again.

After his personal affairs were squared away, Marshall began designing ten acres of gardens on the property, supported by several large greenhouses.

Marshall devoted all of his spare time to horticulture, and he loved to dabble in plant breeding.

Historical records indicate that Marshall developed a double California Poppy.

Marshall's favorite pursuits were Pears and Camellias. Marshall successfully cultivated two European Pears - the Bartlett and the Anjou. In Pears alone, Marshall experimented with over 900 varieties.

Marshall's Camellia collection made him quite famous in certain botanical circles. In all, Marshall Wilder created over 300 Camellia varieties. Marshall's top award-winning Camellias were all named after the women in his life: Mrs. Abby Wilder (named for his second wife), Mrs. Julia Wilder (named for his third wife and Abby's sister), as well as Jenny Wilder (named for his granddaughter).

In 1839, a greenhouse fire destroyed all but two of Marshall's beloved Camellias. Still, Marshall bounced back quickly the following year thanks to his success in the wholesale business.

When Marshall wasn't gardening at Hawthorne Grove, he was active in horticulture organizations in and around Boston.

In addition to serving as the third president of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, Marshall was the founder and first president of the American Pomological Society. And on Google, it says,

"The American Pomological Society was founded by Marshall Pinckney Wilder in 1848, to foster the growing of fruit and the development of new varieties, and is the oldest fruit organization in North America."


When the great Landscape Architect Andrew Jackson Downing died suddenly in 1852, Marshall Wilder gave his eulogy before the Pomological Congress in Philadelphia.

Since 1873, the Pomological Society has awarded the "Wilder Medal" to pomologists who demonstrate outstanding service to horticulture in the broad area of pomology.

During his lifetime, Marshall became quite famous for his horticultural activities. After his death, Marshall's private plant collection was used to create the Boston Public Garden.

And here's a fun fact about Marshall Pinckney Wilder: His nephew shared his name and became a well-known American author and speaker.  

Marshall's nephew had dwarfism and often said, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade."

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Marshall Pinckney Wilder
Marshall Pinckney Wilder
Marshall Pinckney Wilder's nephew shared his name.
Marshall Pinckney Wilder's nephew shared his name.

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