This letter was written by Charles Stewart of Johnstown, Montgomery County [later Fulton County] New York. He was most likely the son of Robert Stewart and Jane Wilson who emigrated to Montgomery County from Perthshire, Scotland, in the 1780s.
Stewart wrote the letter to George William Featherstonhaugh (1780-1866), the son of George and Dorothy (Simpson) Featherstonhaugh of London, England. Featherstonhaugh came to the United States in 1806 where he met and married Sarah Duane of Schenectady, New York, in 1808. He became a farmer and organized the first New York Board of Agriculture. His desire to see harvested crops reach eastern markets more rapidly resulted in his ardent support for the building of steam railroads in New York State.
We learn from the letter that Stewart is attempting to cultivate rutabagas in upstate New York but has learned through experience that the crop is particularly vulnerable to insects. It would take years of genetic engineering and the development of insecticides to make the crop profitable.
Addressed to George W. Featherstonhaugh, Esq., Duanesburgh, Schenectady County [New York]
Johnstown [New York]
13th April 1820
Geo. W. Featherstonhaugh, Esq.
I take the liberty of writing you on the subject of Ruta Baga — a root which I am extremely anxious to cultivate, but from the experience of last year am convinced that the right method is not pursued in this county. I know of no person in this county that can give correct information and was recommended to you for the same.
I sowed my turnips last year from the 25th June to the 10th July, everyday ground Black Loam well manured and put in drills four feet apart. The bugs and flies cut them off and harvested only forty bushels where I ought to have harvested six hundred.
Have the goodness to write me the time they ought to be sowed, whether sowing or transplanting is the best method, and any further information necesary.
I am, sir, your most obedient servant, — Charles Stewart
N. B. Direct to me at Johnstown, Montgomery County