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Another Landmark of Capital Passes .4 Razing of Old Building of Department of Agriculture Removes Structure Which Has Stood on Mall Since 1868 —Henry L. Ellsworth Idas Factor in Establishment of Department —Isaac Newton 's Service As First Commissioner. 'V.HBp William Saunders, uho developed the Washington navel orange. BY JOHN CLAGETT PROCTOR. . NOTHER public landmark has re / yW cently been razed, in accordance with / /_# the Federal plan for improving its ' / 1 housing conditions in the Capital City, and upon this occasion the wrecker has invaded the Mall and removed the old red brick building of the Department of Agriculture which has stood between Twelfth and Thirteenth streets for a long while. Many are still living, no doubt, who will recall when this building was erected back in 1868, but in order to do so they must reveal the fact that they are somewhere around three score and ten years of age. However, this old building has held its age well, and, if desirable, could have rendered good service for at least a hundred years more. That it obscured to an extent the beautiful marble building close by, just completed for that department, there is no question, and naturally there was nothing else to do but to remove it. yet it does seem that it might have been removed to some other site, or rebuilt elsewhere if necessary, for, after all, it is the first separate home the Department of Agri culture ever had, and in sentiment no other building can ever take its place. It might be interesting to note that the Department of Agriculture obtained its real first start during the time that Henry L. Ellsworth was commissioner of patents, back in 1836. and undoubtedly to him, more than to any one else, is due the credit for its later formation into a separate branch of the Gov ernment and for its ultimately becoming a department with a cabinet officer at its head. /COMMISSIONER ELLSWORTH was from Connecticut, his term of office as Com missioner of Patents extending from 1836 to 1845, under Presidents Jackson, Van Buren, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler and James K. Polk. He had distinguished ancestry. When he took office the Patent Office had just been reorganized, having been made a separate bureau of the Government on July 4, 1836, and by the same law the office of Com missioner of Patents was created. At this time the Patent Office was housed in the old Blod gett Hotel Building, on E street between Seventh and Eighth streets, where later was erected the Post Office Department Building, subse- M-''' ' lif\ id mmu-’tKt 'mMi 2§ ySM %**** Jh’nry 1.. Ellsworth, whose early in ten st in agriculture finally resulted in the establishment of the Department of Agriculture. , THE SUNDAY STAtt, WASHINGTON, D. C., SEPTEMBER 14, 1930. quently used as the General Land Office. On December 15 of this year »1836) the Blodgett Building was destroyed by fire and all the patent models were lost in the flames. The Patent Office sought quarters in the City Hall, now the Court House, on Louisiana avenue, and there it remained uhtil 1840, when it was moved into the present building at Ninth and P streets northwest, which it has continued to occupy since that date. Speaking of Mr. Ellsworth's activities in en couraging and l'urtheiing agricultural pursuits, James M. Swank, chief clerk of the Department of Agriculture for some years, in 1872 said: “Mr. Ellsworth was Commissioner of Patents from 1836 to 1845, and one of the first sub jects which engaged his attention after assum ing the duties of the office was the impulse which had been given at that day to improve ments in the implements of agriculture, and the aid which agriculture might derive from the establishment of a regular system for the selection and distribution of grain and seeds of the choicest varieties for agricultural purposes. “During the administration of John Quincy Adams, the consuls of the United States were instructed to forward to the State Department rare plants and seeds for distribution, and a botanical garden was established in Washing ton. Little was done in the collection and dis tribution of seeds thus authorized, but to the association of this enterprise with the Patent Office in the State Department Mr. Ellsworth was doubtless indebted for the hint of a more comprehensive system of seed distribution. “In 1836 and 1837, the first two years of his incumbency, the commissioner, without legal authorization, received and distributed many seeds and plants which had been gratuitously transmitted to him. In his first annual report, dated January 1, 1838, he called the attention of Congress to the subject, and strongly recom mended that provision be made for the estab lishment at the National Capital of a deposi tory of new and valuable varieties of seeds and plants for distribution to ‘every part of the United States. He further recommended that this depository be made a part of the Patent Office. “No immediate action was taken by Congress upon the recommendations., but this neglect did not discourage the Commissioner from con tinuing his self-imposed task of distributing, under the frank of friendly members of Con gress, improved varieties of wheat, com, etc., the beneficial effects of which distribution were fully shown in testimonials from all parts of the country. «QN the 21st of January, 1839, Isaac Fletcher of Vermont, chairman of the Commit tee on Patents of the House of Representatives, addressed a letter to Commissioner Ellsworth, requesting the communication of information relative to the collection and distribution of seeds and plants; also, relative to the prac ticability of obtaining agricultural statistics. To this letter of inquiry the commissioner re sponded on the following day, reciting the ac tion already taken by him to further the cause of agriculture, and assigning many reasons why his previous recommendations should be adopt ed. In this communication, the commissioner suggested that ‘arrangements could be made for the exhibition of different kinds of grain, exotic and indigenous, in the new Patent Office.’ “In the closing hours of the Twenty-fifth Congress (act of 3d March, 1839), the com missioner was gratified by the passage of an appropriation of SI,OOO, to be taken from the Patent Office fund, for the purpose of collect ing and distributing seeds, prosecuting agricul tural investigations and procuring agricultural statistics. Thus originated the agricultural division of the Patent Office. “In his annual report of the following year, dated January 1, 1840, Commissioner Ells worth stated that the diplomatic corps of the United States had been solicited to aid in pro curing valuable seeds, and that the officers of the Navy had been requested to convey to the Patent Office such seeds as might be offered. As the sixth census was then about to be taken, agricultural statistics w< re deferred until its completion. In the next report (January 1, 1841) it was stated thst 30,000 packages of seeds had been distributed during the preced ing year, and that the agricultural statistics, based upon the returns of the census, were being compiled. ‘The importance of an annual report of the state of the crops in different sections, as a preventire against monopoly, and a good criterion to calculate the state of exchange,’ was commended to the considera tion of Congress, and from this suggestion were evolved hi time the annual agricultural reports. “On the 30th of April, 1845, Mr. Ellsworth resigned the office of Commissioner of Patents. The facts in his official career have been given in some detail, because he was really the founder of that branch of the Government now em braced in the Department of Agriculture, and as such entitled to honorable mention in these pages, and because the first successful steps in the work of securing Government recognition of agriculture deserve to be recorded. The patience, enthusiasm and industry of Mr. Ells, worth in this work entitle his name to th*» grateful remembrance of American farmers." A BIOGRAPHICAL sketch of Mr. Ellsworth tells us: “Henry L. Ellsworth was born at Windsor, Conn., in the year 1790. He was the twin brother of William W. Ellsworth, cliief justice of Connecticut, now deceased. His father was Oliver Ellsworth, third Chief Justice of the United States, and his mother was Abigail Wolcott, a relative of Oliver Wolcott, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. “Mr. Ellsworth was a graduate of Yale Col lege, in the class of 1810; was a classmate of P;of. Morse, and perhaps did more than any other single man, when commissioner of patents, to secure the appropriation from Con gress to test the practicability of the telegraph, in which he firmly believed. He studied law at Litchfield, Conn., Law School. “His father was both a farmer and a lawyer, in the days when the men of mark, lived in the country and upon farms, and he himself was in the same way a farmer, living first at Windsor, Conn., and carrying on the home farm at the same time that he commenced the practice of law at Hartford. He, however, soon removed to Hartford and preferred to engage in politics and various pursuits rather than adhere to his profession. “He was, by President Jackson, appointed commissioner to the Indian tribes of the then Par West and afterward commissioner of the Patent Office. When commissioner to the In dians, on one of his trips toward the Rocky Mountains, Mr. Ellsworth was accompanied by Washington Irving. As commissioner of patents he was invited to take a seat in the cabinet. “Mr. Ellsworth was one of the earliest to foretell the value of prairie lands and invested in these when others laughed at his folly, de claring that they were so far from timber as to be forever uninhabitable. He also interested capitalists and public men from all sections of the country in the same class of investments and in some counties in the West almost the entire lands they embraced were entered by him for himself and the parties he represented. “On leaving the Patent Office in 1845, he re moved to La Fayette, Ind., to take charge per sonally of his large landed interests. He had already Improved wide sections, though still residing in Washington, and now, though resid ing in the town, he commenced other extensive improvements. He was always experimenting and striving after new results and probably used the first mowing machine ever introduced upon the prairies. “Mr. Ellsworth was thrice married. His first wife was Miss Nancy Goodrich, daughter of Elizur Goodrich, treasurer of Yale College. He was married a second time to Miss Marietta Bartlett of Guilford, Conn., and the last time to Miss Catherine Smith of Durham, Conn., who survived him. He died at Pair Haven, Conn., December 27, 1858, having removed from Indiana only a few months before his death, and was buried at New Haven. Conn.” 'T'HE law establishing the Department of Ag riculture as an independent branch of the Government was signed on May 15, 1862, bj President Lincoln, who appointed as the fhst commissioner Isaac Newton, the then chief of the section of agriculture in the Pat ent Office, who took office on July 1, 1862. Commissioner Newton was an enthusiastic, wide-awake executive and made good use of' the propagating garden at Sixth street and Missouri avenue as well as the 40 acres lying between Twelfth and Fourteenth streets and B street north and B street south, all of which he conducted as an experimental farm when the southern part was not being used during the Civil War by the War Department as a cattle yard for Army supplies. The present handsome marble building stands upon a part of this early experimental farm. One of the first acts of Commissioner New ton when he took office in 1862 was to appoint William Saunders to be superintendent of this propagating garden, which proved to be a most fortunate thing for the Government. It may well be said that Commissioner New ton died in the line of duty, for such was almost the case. Indeed, his death was due to a sunstroke which occurred in July, 1866, when he was visiting the experimental farm. According to Charles H. Greathouse, “A large number of varieties of wheat—Tappahannock, Mediterranean and others now in general use— was being tried. The grain had been cut and was lying on the ground when a thundershower suddenly appeared. Commissioner Newton was in his room at the Patent Ossie. He hastened over to the farm, a mile away, to instruct the workmen how to save the wheat free from any injury. The sun was hot and he was wearing a high silk hat. In moving hurriedly about the grounds he became overheated. His son took him to the little office on the farm and summoned medical assistance. Restoratives were applied and he partially recovered, but was never well again. He died from the effects of the injury on June 19, 1867,” IN looking over the files of The Star for a reference to Mr. Newton’s death, the writer came across this item in the issue of June 20, 1867: "Death of Isaac Newton. —A meeting of the clerks of the Agricultural Bureau was held in.the commissioner's room at 10 o’clock this morning. Mr. J. W. Stokes, acting commis sioner, was called to the chair. Mr. C. H. Polwell acted as secretary. Messrs. Grosh, Dodge and Saunders were appointed a com mittee to draft and present resolutions of con dolence. Mr. Grosh, in a few eulogistic re marks, read the resolution drawn up by the committee, expressing the sympathy felt by \ %. Gen. Horace Capron. Commissioner of Agriculture when the old department *building teas first occupied in 1868. the members of the bureau for their late su perintendent and declaring their intention to attend his funeral in a body. The resolutions were unanimously adopted. A committee of five was appointed to convey a copy of the above resolutions to the family of the deceased, a committee of twenty to accompany the re mains of the deceased to Philadelphia and a committee of three to complete the arrange ments for the funeral, upon the part of the clerks of the bureau.” In the same issue The Star editorially said: ‘Death of Hon. Isaac Newton.—The Hon. Isaac Newton, commissioner of the Depart ment of Agriculture, died in this city, at the residence of his son, at 6 o’clock last evening. Mr. Newton has been sick for some time of chronic disease of the bladder. He was bom in Burlington County, N. J., on the 31st of March, 1800. He was engaged in agricultural pursuits all his life, and at the time of his death was the owner of a fine farm in Delaware County, Pa. In August, 1861, Mr. Newton was appointed chief clerk in the Bureau of Agriculture, then under the protec tion of the Patent Office. In 1862 he was ap pointed by President Lincoln to the position of commissioner of agriculture, which he held at the time of his death. His remains will be conveyed to Pennsylvania for interment and will be taken from the residence of his son, Isaac Newton, jr., South Washington, to the Baltimore Depot at 2 p.m. tomorrow.” Os interest, no doubt, to the reader are some of the early employees of this department as disclosed by the city directories. The one for 1863, mentions Isaac Newton as Commissioner; R. C. McCormick, chief clerk; Royston Betts, statistical clerk, and C. M. Witherell, M. D., chemist. A more complete list is given in the directory for 1864, which includes: Commissioner, Isaac Newton; chief clerk, James S. Grinnell, and disbursing clerk, Royston Betts. Clerks —Lewis Bollman, T. jGlover, J. R. Dodge, A. B. Grosh, L. L. Tilden, George Hel mick, R. A. McLain, William Fletcher, C. H. Folwell, W. E. Gardiner, Joseph Kilian, William A. Malone, N. McCrea, Joseph C. Wiswell, W. T. Thompson, O. A. Stafford, W. C. Choate, A. C. Wiley, James H. Knapp, F. G. Murray, F. O. Freeman; botanist, W. F. Saunders. Seed room—F North between Sixth and Sev enth West—E. H. Wood, superintendent; A. J. Longley, J. F. C. Brownell, E. Tinkin, jr.; W. ®j .JH fa-- - Isaac Neu'ton , /irst Commissioner of Agriculture.