The first Alderney Breeders in United States of America

By Hans Nørgaard

The first Alderney Breeders in United States of America
The cattle of the island of Jersey have been received by Americans and English buyers with the greatest favor, although those of Guernsey are recognised as of parallel excellence. A few specimens of the Channel Islands stock arrived in this country as early as 1815. They appear to have been imported merely as novelties and even up to a much later date there seems to have been no attempt to maintain the breed here for useful purposes.
It is not clear from which of the islands they came; they were called Alderneys and possessed the rich creaming qualities claimed for the breed, and mention of this characteristic was made in local agricultural reports. While these reports indicated them superior in butter production to the native cattle, they disclosed no such remarkable yields as have since frequently been obtained from Jersey cows.
A few Americans who had become interested in dairy cattle commenced about 1840 to import Jerseys on a limited scale for the purpose of establishing thoroughbred herds, and in consequence their characteristics began to be somewhat known in various parts of New England and the Middle States, where they were still almost invariably called Alderneys. They were not generally liked by the superficial observer, and were condemmed without trial by the mass of practical dairymen because they gave less milk than the native cattle, and were held to have neither the size nor conformation to fatten to advantage when past usefulness in the dairy. Still, from their earliest history in America, the few people who induced to become practically familiar with their dairy qualities merely discarded them in favor of other cattle. Their peculiar colors and shadings rendered it easy to distinguish traces of the blood when crossed upon native stock and in time the least observant farmer seldom failed to notice that his richest milk came from the cow with the Alderney cross. So it began to be conceded that these grades made superior dairy cattle long before the prejudices of most dairymen would allow them to admit that the thorough breds could be of any practical value in working dairies. They were declared to be only rich men`s playthings, and until late years failed to gain general recognition upon a more creditable footing.
But if the progress made by the Jersey was slow, it was nevertheless sure. When she once formed a friend or converted an opponent, she hold him "for good and all." Between the years 1850 and 1865 larger numbers were received through the importations of Thomas Motley, of Boston, Massachusetts; John A. Taintor, of Hartford, Connecticut; John T. Norton, Farmington, Connecticut; R.L. Colt, Paterson, New Jersey; R.L. Maitland, New York; William B. Dinsmore, Staatsburg, New York, and a few others. Great care and excellent judgment were exercised in the selection of the cattle for these importations, and much of the present popularity of the breed in America is directly due to the skill of the practical gentlemen who conducted this enterprise.
Jersey Cattle in America. [Harper`s new monthly Magazine, 1885.] 
imageUII.jpgWilliam Wurts BIRTH: 6 MAY 1788, Flanders,,New Jersey DEATH: 25 DEC 1858 (- photograph [of portrait?] of William Wurts, labeled "father of Isabella Graham Wurts". Morris Wistar Wood Collection, Haverford College) 
William Wurts, with his brothers Charles and Maurice, were businessmen of Philadelphia. The Wurts brothers, Maurice, William, John and Charles, were pioneers in the mining, introduction and marketing of anthracite coal, and originators of the plans and projects out of which inevitably grew the Delaware and Hudson Canal and Railroad Companies of which they were founders, and caused to be built in England, and delivered to HONESDALE, Pa., the "Stourbridge Lion," the first steam locomotive to be operated in the Western Hemisphere, its trial trip taking place 8 August 1829.

"The Alderney Cow imported by M & W Wurts in the Year of 1815 mentioned in the 4th Vol. of our Memories. [Memoirs of Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture]
This Cow is a full bred Alderney, as will appear from the following Certificate:
I hereby certify that the Cow shipped by Maurice Wurts ..........., has been raised by me from two full blooded Alderneys which I imported and that the Bull shipped by them in the same vessel was imported from Alderney by Mr Allmet of this place.
Brixton, Surrey 7th October 1815
(Signed) Richard Platt"
[Extract of letter written 1819 by Reuben Haines till Richard Peters, President of Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture (University of Pennsylvania,
Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture Records )] 
imageTN9.jpgRichard Maris 19 Dec 1772 - 5 Feb 1817 [Photograph from "Maris family in the United States. A record of the descendants of George and Alice Maris. 1683-1885. Compiled for the family by George L. and Annie M. Maris. 1885"] 
Richard Maris 19 Dec 1772 - 5 Feb 1817 ."The only biographical information I have on this Richard is that he was a merchant in Philadelphia and acquired a considerable estate." Email dated 30 May 2000 from Raymond L. Maris
"Willis P. Hazard writing of the early introduction of Guernseys to America in his book "Jersey, Guernsey, and Alderney Cow," published in 1872, refers to information given him by Colonel Craig Biddle of Philadelphia as follows.
The earliest record of an Alderney cow in Pennsylvania, that I am aware will be found in Vol IV, page 155 of the Memoirs of the Philadelphia Society for Promotion of Agriculture. It is as follows:
"I have upon my farm on the Delaware a cow of the Alderney breed, imported a short time since by Mr. Wurs. She has been fed in the usual way with potatos, and during the last week the milk from her was kept separate, and yielded eight pounds of butter. The cow is a small animal, and is supported with less food than our ordinary stock.
By communicating this fact to the Society, it will oblige, etc.
Jan, 11, 1817 Richard Morris
P.S. The Cow is three years old.

In a note on the same page, it is stated that the cow above referred to is now in the possesion of another member of the Agricultural Society; and after a fair trial made with her during last summer (1817), the superior richness of her milk, when compared with that of other cows, has been fully tested. She gave 9½ pounds of extremely rich, highly-colored butter per week."
The Guernsey cattle - Introduction to America. William H. Caldwell: The Guernsey. 1941.

image7VE.jpgReuben Haines 1786-1831 
The Haines were the leading brewers of beer in Philadelphia in the late 1700's - George Washington was a regular customer. Reuben Haines (1786-1831) had much in common with his colleague from the American Philosophical Society, Thomas Jefferson. Like Jefferson, he was fascinated by the rich possibilities the new nation offered, from its natural resources to is inventive spirit. When he retired from business at the age of 23, Reuben declared his intent to devote himself to "the pursuit of knowledge and the society of genuine friends." With energy, he conducted experiments in scientific agriculture; led school reforms; and helped found the Academy of Natural Sciences, the Franklin Institute and the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society.
"Another mention of the same cow will be found in the fifth volume of the same work, page 47, viz: [Memoirs of Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture]
Germantown, Oct. 20, 1818.
With this you will receive a pound of butter made from the Alderney cow imported in 1815 by Maurice and William Wurts, and now in my possession. She calved on the 13th of last month, and is now in fine condition, running on excellent pasture of orchard grass and white clover, and given on an average about 14 quarts of milk per day. From this quantity, during the week ending the 7th instant, we obtained 10 quarts of cream which produced 8 lbs 2 oz of butter, and the week succeeding 10½ quarts, which gave 83/4 lbs of the quality of the sample sent. You will perceive it is of so rich a yellow that it might be suspected that some foreign coloring matter had been added to it; but you may rely on it this is not the case. I may add that one of the good properties of this valuable breed of cattle is the ease with which the cream is churned, requiring but a few minutes to convert it into butter. When a proper opportunity occurs, I shall endeavour to ascertain the quantity and quality of butter to be obtained per week from the Kerry cow, imported this summer from Ireland, and the Brrittany cow from France, both of which breeds I have pure.
I remain, respectfully
Reuben Haines."
The Guernsey cattle - Introduction to America. William H. Caldwell: The Guernsey. 1941.

image7DV.jpgTimothy Pickering (b.July 17, 1745, Salem, Mass - d. Jan. 29, 1829, Salem, Mass) 
Timothy Pickering (1745-1829). American Revolutionary officer and Federalist politician who served (1795-1800) with distinction in the first two U.S. Cabinets. After retirement from public life in 1817, he centered his interest on agricultural improvement and deservedly earned an important place in the history of New England agriculture before he died in 1829 rounding out a career as soldier, administrator and politician.
"I received last Saturday, from Judge Peters the 5th Vol. of the Memoirs of the Philadelphia Society of Agriculture, in which I find a letter of yours stating the produce in butter of your Alderney Cow in 1818. I also saw your letter of a later date, in the Memoirs of the Pennsylvania Society, giving a similar favourable Statement.
All these evidence have satisfied me, that for Essex, and all other parts of our country where butter dairies are most wanted, the Alderney breed is the most eligible. Essex is not a county for breeding cattle for sale; and I trust that our farmers will generally confine themselves to raising stock only for the dairy. It is now supplied with working oxen, chiefly from other parts."
[Extract of letter from Timothy Pickering till Reuben Haines dated Oct 4th, 1826 THE ROBERT B. HAINES, III COLLECTION, Haverford College]

image6G3.jpgNicholas Biddle, born January 08, 1786 in Philadelphia, PA; died February 27, 1844 in "Andalusia" PA; 
As Director of the Second Bank of the United States Nicholas Biddle (1786-1844), by
1830 had become one of the most powerful and prominent men in the country. He strongly beliefed in pastoral ideals and how we must be good shepherds of the land. As early as
1822 Nicholas Biddle chastised his fellow landholders about the way in which the land was being exploited. "Our farms ... though small, are generally too large for our capitals; that is, we work badly too much ground, instead of cultivating well a little." In 1840 at an agricultural fair, he stated his position on agriculture, "The instinct of agriculture is for peace-for the empire of reason, not of violence — of votes, not of bayonets."
Nicholas Biddle devoted himself to his agricultural pursuits. His stables contained some of the country's finest race horses. He imported the first herd of Guernsey cattle and tried unsuccessfully to introduce the silk industry by planting acres of mulberry trees.More successful were his ventures with grapes.
In 1840 Nicholas Biddle had received a letter from New York offering to sell him three Alderney cows, all of them in calf, which had just arrived in port. Biddle immediately sent R. Dillon Drake to make the purchase and to bring the animals back. They turned out to be remarkably fine. Subsequently, this purchase was to entitle Andalusia to Certificate Number One in the American Guernsey Cattle Club. Proud of his new acquisition, Biddle exhibited them at the Agricultural Fair at Rising Sun Village. The cows were dark in coulor. With the herd thriving, the stock crossed by later importations and maintained in its purity, calves from Andalusia were much sought by Bucks county farmers and led to the creation of other Guernsey herds In June 1893, Andalusia's barn burned with the loss of many animals which had been extricated from it only to break loose and plunge back into the flaming structure. Judge Biddle promptly built a new barn. This barn burned in September 1920. Once again, the barn was rebuilt and farming continued at Adalusia, but in 1951 the Guernsey herd was disposed of."
Email from Mark Biddle dated 3 May 1999


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