The Kalamazoo Botanist
It was on this day that the botanist George Taylor died in 1891.
Taylor had immigrated from Scotland at the age of 53. He brought his family to the United States, and they settled in Kalamazoo, Michigan, in 1855. Taylor's brothers were already there, so it was an easy decision.
Once he got settled, George became known as "Celery" after he started growing celery commercially. Kalamazoo had what was called "muckland," which was "valueless for anything other than growing to celery." Once, when a botanist visited the area, he said that the land was black muckland of a peaty nature, which is best for celery.
In Kalamazoo, there is a little plaque dedicated to George Celery Taylor.
Thanks to Taylor, Kalamazoo became known as the Celery City or Celeryville
In 1880, the Detroit Free Press shared an article that talked about the celery beds that were growing. It said this:
"Driving north from Kalamazoo, through the country, one passes great 100-acre farms devoted to the sweet-scented celery, reminding one of that Methodist hymn:
'Sweet fields beyond stand dressed in living green.'
One would never forget a drive through the celery gardens in any direction from Kalamazoo; the long rows keeping their bright green till November, as crop follows crop; and the fields being unmarred by fences or anything except the cozy cottages of the thrifty Hollanders."
And there was a fun little article that was posted in The Herald Pressout of St Joseph Michigan in 1956. It talked about the early days of celery growing, and it had an adorable story about George Celery Taylor:
"In the fall of 1856, there was a big party that was going to be held at the Burdock House Hotel on December 19. It was going to be a big gathering with lots of people from all over and Mr. Taylor thought it would be a good opportunity to advertise celery. As the unknown vegetable, [Taylor] persuaded the owner of the hotel to put celery on his menu and the people were curious about it. They asked, "how do you eat this?" "Is it grown from seed?" It just grew in popularity from there."
In the 1870s, the celery growers would have children sell it on the street, which created a demand for celery. They also met all of the trains that came into town. They would give it to the conductors on the New York trains and asked them to take a bunch. The next thing you know, the market for celery was off to the races.