Gardeners and Hucksters


Although it is true that the northern extension of Georgetown was dominated by a number of master butchers, not all of the land in this neighborhood was given over to the production of meat. Instead, on various small parcels of land––such as a newly-arrived immigrant––or a recently-manumitted slave––might be able to afford––produce was grown for the markets of Georgetown and Washington City.

Those who followed this trade were known as gardeners, and their fields were called market gardens or truck gardens. Garden vegetables were also called garden truck and garden sauce––the latter sometimes rendered as sass and sarse. Garden sauce was divided into short sauce––radishes, potatoes, turnips, onions, and pumpkins––and long sauce––beets, carrots, and parsnips.  (Augusta M. Weaver, Charles Weaver of White Haven, Historical Society of Washington, p.8; Dictionary of American Regional English)

Peter Colter, a German immigrant who was among the earliest residents of what is now Glover Park (1809), was a gardener (1830 Directory of Georgetown).  (See Peter Colter and Daniel Scheele.)

Murray Barker, “Free Colored”––and also one of the earliest residents of Glover Park––was a gardener (1850 census). However, the directory of Georgetown lists him as “huckster” (356 High Street, 1858). Evidently, if a gardener took his own produce to market, or sold it from his wagon, he was also a huckster. (DC Indentures of Apprenticeship No. 538, Vol. II, p.91, May 17, 1814. See Murray Barker and His Descendants.)


A huckster in Aiken, South Carolina, circa 1905. (Shorpy)


Some hucksters didn’t garden; instead they bought a gardener’s produce early in the morning, and then resold it during the day, either at the market, or in the street. (The unflattering connotation the word “huckster” now carries may be no more than a reflection of the cumulative resentment of generations of buyers who wanted early morning prices without having to get up for them.) The Georgetown Courier used the word huckster––without prejudice––to mean a vendor of fish, oysters, poultry, game, fruit, vegetables, butter, eggs, cheese, and salted meat, and the term seems to have embraced anyone in the market who did not cut meat. “Four butchers and thirty hucksters have taken out licenses and rented stalls and stands in the [Georgetown] Corporation Market.” In Georgetown a huckster who sold from a wagon or a shop had to be licensed, and had to rent a bench, stall or stand in the market (Georgetown Ordinances, January 24, 1863). “The price in the market is always, by some grapevine, uniform, with perfect discipline. The exception is with colored people, who buy vegetables for sale, and they always ask more than anyone else.“ (Georgetown Courier, June 16, 1866; December 7 and 28, 1867)

The Courier’s implication may be that most hucksters were black, but, if so, there were also numerous exceptions. Thomas Sherwood, white, living at 421 High Street––Wisconsin Avenue near Calvert street––was a huckster (1850 census, 1858 directory), as was his son, Henry, living on Back Street, near High (1860 census, 1872 Directory). In 1866 the family operated the Sherwood Produce Stand outside the Butcher’s Market of Georgetown.

James and Mary Britt, Irish immigrants, lived in a house that stood at about 39th Street just north of W Street, on a part of Alliance sold by Thomas and Henry Weaver in 1854. In 1855 James Britt was assessed for 33 acres, two wagons, two horses, and a cow. At the time of his death Britt also appears to have owned a tavern in Tenleytown. “Sale of a farm near Georgetown, and of a tavern on Rockville turnpike; farm––33 acres, belonging to James Britt, deceased, adjoins the farms of Lewis Kengla and Henry Kengla. On the same day we will sell 2 acre lots of which Mary Britt died seized and possessed, on the road leading to Hamilton Loughborough’s farm, now occupied by Benjamin Riley; formerly part of H.W. Blount’s farm.––Hugh Caperton, Fred. W. Jones, trustees. Thos. Dowling, agent.” (National Intelligencer, May 6, 1865)

Britt’s heirs sold 13 acres to Henry Kengla in 1866 (RMH17 (1866) ff.114-116), and divided the remainder between two sons. One of them, Robert Britt, is listed in 1860-1880 censuses as a gardener. He still retained 10 acres late as 1881, and died in 1885.

The 1850 census lists Conrad Schorge and his wife Anna, natives of Hesse-Darmstadt, residing in the northwest ward of Georgetown, as a tanner. (An 1852 deed recites this man’s surprising number of aliases––Schoerge, Schorga, Schorger, Screoiger, Sherrige––that led from what probably was Schörge to its present-day spelling, Sherier: DC Liber JAS38 f.384/320)

When Schorge/Sherier sold his property opposite south and west of Holy Rood Cemetery to another immigrant (and moved to what is now 5066 MacArthur Boulevard), the 1860 census listed the seller as a farmer, and the buyer, Dietrich Heider, as a gardener. (The house at 5066 MacArthur is thought to have been built circa 1820; if so it may have been built by someone other than Sherier.  Kim Prothro Williams, Lost Farms and Estates of Washington, D.C., 2018, p.152)

Dieterich Hyder, huckster, had a produce stand in Centre Market (1858 Directory). In 1865 the Diedrich Huyter was assessed for a two-story frame house, with a large barn and stable. In 1867 Heider and his wife Charlotte––now of Prince George’s County––sold out to a recently arrived third immigrant, William Voigt. (DC Liber RMH16 (1865-6) ff. 138-140: ECE3 (1867) f.258/225)

William Henry Voigt (1841-1909) appears in the 1870 census as a gardener, and sold produce in the Georgetown market. He appears as “Folke, William, gardener, Fayette bet Madison and Back” in Boyd’s Directory of Georgetown, 1874. William Voigt, born in Hannover, and wife Sophie, born in Prussia, appear in the 1880 census. Between 1888 and 1890 William Voigt put the property on the market, and moved to Tenleytown. (Helm, Tenleytown, D.C., p.274)

As a young man Andrew Lukei (1839-1918), the son of German immigrants, had been a Georgetown blacksmith, but the 1880 census shows him living north of Voigt on Back Street, and gives his profession as gardener.

Traugott Rosenbusch (1820-1911), born in Saxony, was listed as a gardener in the 1860 census. In 1865 he was assessed for a frame tenement and stables at what is now the NE corner of Calvert Street and Wisconsin Avenue.






 Carlton Fletcher

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