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The Early Years

1855-1887

Horticulture played an important part in the early life of the Farmers High School founded in 1855 in Centre County, Pennsylvania. William C. Waring, who was chosen by the Board of Trustees in 1856 to direct the building operations, was already a well-known horticulturist. For many years he operated a nursery near Oak Hall, and he had taught for some years in several schools in Centre County. He had published a book, The Fruit Growers Handbook, and was a contributor on horticultural topics to the New York Tribune and to agricultural journals.

At the time that he was superintendent of the building operations, Mr. Waring planted three acres of nursery on the present campus and planned to help maintain the finances of the Farmers High School by the sale of nursery stock. The sales from these stocks during 1859 and 1860 amounted to $2,205.80, and the value of the material then on hand was estimated to be about $4,000.

At the time that he was superintendent of the building operations, Mr. Waring planted three acres of nursery on the present campus and planned to help maintain the finances of the Farmers High School by the sale of nursery stock. The sales from these stocks during 1859 and 1860 amounted to $2,205.80, and the value of the material then on hand was estimated to be about $4,000.

When the Farmers High School was opened in 1859, Mr. Waring had the title of General Superintendent and Professor of Horticulture; and he was the chief administrative officer of the school, as President Pugh did not arrive until 1860. He was saddened during his term of office by the death of a child and the increasing illness of his wife, and seems not to have been happy in his relations with some of the other members of the faculty. He served as Professor of Horticulture in 1860, but resigned at the close of the year. He was listed as Superintendent of Nursery in the catalogues of 1862 and 1863 but it is doubtful whether he did much work here, as he moved to Tyrone shortly after the death of his wife in 1861.

During his term in office, he established a vineyard of five hundred grapevines, a planting of small fruits, and an orchard of fourteen acres, twelve of them in apples, and the rest in berries, plums, and peaches. The apple orchard was planted where the group of Liberal Arts Buildings and some of the men's dormitories are now standing, and many of the old trees remained until the building program of the 1930's.

After Professor Waring had left, Professor J. S. Whitman was appointed Professor of Botany, Zoology, Horticulture, and Gardening, his title in 1864 becoming Professor of Botany, Physiology, and Horticulture. He remained until 1866. The subject of Practical Agriculture and Horticulture was given during the second year of the student's work, and Practical Agriculture and Pomology during the third year. Gardening was taught in the fourth year.

For several years after Professor Whitman left, nobody was listed as Professor of Horticulture. By that time the institution had become the Agricultural College of Pennsylvania, and in 1874 it became the Pennsylvania State College. In 1867 three curricula were listed, of which Agriculture was one. Through the 1870's the College became largely a classical school. A curriculum in Agriculture was offered, but very few students enrolled in it, sometimes only one or two in a year. A Scientific Course was also offered.

Until 1875 the students were required to do some work on the College Farms, and some work in horticulture was evidently included. The orchard was then in bearing, and the students made depredations on the vineyard, which was then near the President's residence. At one time, in order to control matters better, certain rows in the vineyard were reserved for each class, and the grapes were picked and eaten on a set date.

In the early 1870's lectures in Horticulture were in the curriculum and given during one term of the Sophomore year to students in Agriculture. The name of the teacher was not given in the College Catalogues. However, the subject was taught by Professor William A. Buckhout who was appointed professor of Botany and other sciences in 1871. At one time or another he was a Professor of Geology and Zoology; and from 1879, of Botany and Horticulture, retaining the title in Horticulture until 1908.

Throughout the 1870's and 1880's Horticulture was associated with Botany rather than with Agriculture and was under the direction of the Professor of Botany. The subject was required for all students in scientific and technical courses, though not in the classical courses. As very few students elected the course in Agriculture, it can be realized that Horticulture was taught to much of the student body, most of whom were not primarily interested in the subject. It was considered to be a basic scientific study. It was variously taught in the freshman and then in the sophomore year, and sometimes in the fall session and sometimes in the spring, and often in both sessions. The work was largely in propagation but included some work in the vineyards and flower gardens, in harvesting the crops, in pruning, and in the flower gardens. Lady students took work in the vineyards and in the flower gardens. Advanced lectures were given in the junior year to students enrolled in the curriculum in Agriculture; but as very few students were then enrolled in this curriculum, very little higher instruction was thus given.

Some experimental work in Horticulture was also performed during this period by Professor Buckhout. He was primarily a botanist, but he did some work in potatoes and in the culture of forest trees. Forestry was treated then as a branch of Horticulture. Collections of ornamental plants were also accumulated and tests made on varieties of fruit trees.