The first Jersey Cows in United
States of America
The Jamestown colony in Virginia got its first
English cattle in 1611. As the English, Dutch, and French settled the East
coast from Canada to Florida, they brought their cattle with them. Among
the first laws written by Lord Delaware, governor of the Virginia Colony,
were several protecting cows. Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620.
However, they did not bring cows until 1624. The lack of milk in the colony
probably added to the high death rate, especially among the children. Today,
in Boston, Mass., there is a large park called "The Commons." It was once
a community pasture where cows from throughout the settlement were brought
to graze. This "pasture" is kept to memorialize the cows that arrived in
1624-bringing new hope to the hungry colonists. We also have records of
the introduction into New Hampshire in 1632 of some large yellow cattle
from Denmark by Captain John Mason, and it is stated that 100 head of oxen
of this type were driven into Boston 1638, where they were sold for £25
In modern times the Jersey cow has become world famous, and a steady
and lucrative export trade has been built up, both in cows and bulls. Many
fine herds of Jerseys have been established in many countries, originally
with stock from islands farms. Although early reports of the exports of
cattle are few, we do know that in 1657 George Poingdestre and Peter
Effard were sending cows to America in small numbers.
[Merchants and shipowners and their vessels before 1800 [John Jean:Jersey
Sailing Ships, chapter 5. 1982]
George Poingdestre grew up at Swan Farm in the Island of Jersey and
then immigrated with his wife and children to Middle Plantation (Williamsburg),
It is believed that Swan Farm was built c.1490, on land
the Poingdestre family had lived on since the 13th Century.
George Poingdestre with his wife, Susanna, [and Peter Effard] arrived
in the Colony of Virginia in 1657. They first settled in Middle Plantation
(Williamsburg). George Poingdestre later built his plantation home, Criss
Cross (or Christ's Cross), which still stands located midway between Williamsburg
and Richmond in St. Peter's Parish.
Peter Effard was an Uncle to George. George's mother's brother. They
seemed to be in business
together when they first arrived to Virginia. Doris Ann Lucas tells
that "Peter Effard did give to two of George's children a cow apiece".
It is believed that they imported Jersey cows to America in the 1650-80"s.
An Alderney Cow 1815
"The early importations of Jersey cattle into this country are most
difficult to trace. The animals were then called Alderneys, and the same
name was given to Guernsey cattle, of which a goodly number were brought
over, and they seem to have been interbred somewhat indiscriminately.
The following is a copy of a paper kindly furnished by Col. Craig Biddle,
The earliest record of an Alderney cow in Pennsylvania, that I am aware
of, 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. Wurts. She has been fed in the usual way with
potatoes, 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.
To Roberts Vaux, Secretary of the Philadelphia Society for Promoting
[of portrait?] of William Wurts.
William Wurts [ b. circa 1786] with his brothers
Charles and Maurice, were businessmen of Philadelphia.
In a note on the same page, it is stated "that the cow above referred
to is now in the possession 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-coloured butter
Another mention of the same cow will be found in the fifth volume of
the same work, page 47, viz.:
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 gives 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 produce
8lbs 2oz of butter, and the week succeeding 10½ quarts, which gave
83/4 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 creamis 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 Brittany
cow from France, both of which breeds I have pure.
I remain respectfully
Richard Peters, Esq."
[Jersey Cattle. Edited by the Secretary [ 1. Volume of the American
Jersey Herd Book 1871]
According to E. Parmalee Prentice this Alderney "cow seems to
have come from Brixton, Surrey, England, where she was born in 1813 or
1814, her sire and dam being "two fullblooded Alderneys", though it is
not known from what Island they came."
E. Parlamee Prentice
Guernseys in America [American Dairy Cattle. 1941]
The first importation of Jerseys recorded in the American Jersey
Cattle Club Herd Register was made in 1850, in the ship Splendid, by a
little club of gentlemen in Hartford, Connecticut.
The suggestion was made by Daniel Buck, Jr. He was familiar with their
reputation as dairy cows for quantity, and especially for quality of butter,
and in putting this before his friends had no difficulty in getting the
order at once for an experimental herd. This was put into the care of John
A. Taintor, also of Hartford, who was then importing Merino sheep. It is
believed to have been the first attempt to breed pure Jerseys in America,
and Splendens 16 was the first bull purchased on the Island of Jersey for
importation into the United States.
John Adam Taitor began by the mid 1820s to do business
with cattle, he corresponded with famous American cattle breeders like
William Hare Powel. He visited 1828 Europe for the first time as most American
gentlemen was expected to do. Later on he travelled to Europe several times
to purchase farm animals [Merino sheep 1845, Jersey cattle 1850]. [See
James O. Robertson + Janet C. Robertson : All our yesterdays. Harper Collins,
John T. Norton, of Farmington, was one of the first to recognize their
merits. He was fortunate in having a friend in Mr. Stetson, of the Astor
House, New York, who appriciated and was willing to pay for such a superior
article any price which Mr. Norton thought he ought to charge for his butter.
Mr. Buck`s product found ready sale in Hartford, far above the
prices of what were then the best dairies. I believe that Mr. Buck`s was
the first and Mr. Norton`s the second herd established in this country.
Since that time the number has constantly increased, until there are herds
in nearly every town.
Linsley: Jersey Cattle in America. 1885
Earliest Recorded Dates of Jerseys in the Several States.
Delaware Prior to 1868
Maine Prior to 1868
Maryland Prior to 1868
New Hampshire Prior to 1868
New Jersey Prior to 1868
New Mexico 1887
New York Prior to 1868
North Carolina 1874
North Dakota 1888
Pennsylvania Prior to 1868
Rhode Island Prior to 1868
South Carolina 1874
South Dakota 1886
Vermont Prior to 1868
West Virginia 1873
The Jersey brought to America. [R.M. Gow: The Jersey. N.Y. 1938]