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RICHARDSON, CHARLES BRUCE

RICHARDSON, CHARLES BRUCE (1808–1886). Charles Bruce Richardson, pioneer horticulturist, was born in Fredericksburg, Spottsylvania County, Virginia, on December 2, 1808. In 1827 he moved to Louisiana and established a 569-acre plantation on Bayou Macon in Carroll Parish, thirty miles from Vicksburg. While traveling through Kentucky on a trip to visit his parents in Virginia, he met Sarah Elizabeth Bosworth, whom he married in 1830; the couple had four sons. Early in 1863, during the battle of Vicksburg, Confederate troops flooded Richardson's plantation in an effort to slow the advance of Ulysses S. Grant's army. Upon receiving news that Union soldiers were approaching, Richardson burned 300 bales of cotton and other crops and fled to Texas with his family and slaves. They reached Marshall in July 1863. The town was crowded with refugees, and Richardson decided to move farther west. On November 9 he purchased a 230-acre farm near Henderson.

Although he evidently had no formal horticultural education, Richardson turned his land into a model farm on which he experimented with an enormous variety of crops, including cotton, tobacco, sweet potatoes, watermelons, indigo, sugarcane, asparagus, pears, apples, peaches, and many others. He also planted many rare and unusual species: chufa (to build up the thin soil), lespedeza, Diekel wheat, and Australian prairie grass. He observed the results carefully, meticulously noting in his diary such information as growth rates and yields. He was also interested in other natural sciences, and over the years he assembled a large library of books on horticulture, meteorology, botany, geology, anatomy, and physiology, some of which he had brought with him from Louisiana.

During the 1870s and 1880s Richardson published a number of papers on his work, including articles in Texas Farm & Ranch and the Annual Reports of the United States Commissioner of Agriculture. He also collaborated with George Vasey on his "Grasses of the South," which appeared in the Bulletin of the United States Department of Agriculture. Richardson participated in the Patrons of Husbandry. He was first master of the Rusk County chapter of the Grange and represented the county at the 1874 state meeting in Waco. He died on his farm on February 10, 1886. An obituary in the Henderson Times asserted that he "had no superior" in the sciences of agriculture and horticulture "and very few equals."

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Garland Roscoe Farmer, The Realm of Rusk County (Henderson, Texas: Henderson Times, 1951). S. W. Geiser, Horticulture and Horticulturists in Early Texas (Dallas: University Press, 1945). Henderson Times, February 10, 1886. Irvin M. May, Jr., "Charles Bruce Richardson-An Example of Diversified Farming of the 1865–1886 Period," East Texas Historical Journal 10 (Spring 1972). Charles Richardson Papers, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

Christopher Long

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Christopher Long, "RICHARDSON, CHARLES BRUCE," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fri32), accessed April 24, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on September 29, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.