This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V21", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
"I have your note requesting information in respect to the catalpa. I have been here since April, 1815, and have known the tree as common since that time, and trees were then grown. Dr. Henry Muhlenburg read a Catalogue of the Trees in Lancaster County before the Am. Phil. Society, 18th February, 1791, including the catalpa, but classed as not native to that county. They naturally would be brought here first, and John or William Bartram could not have failed to bring them from the Southern States before that time. There is one growing before my office window, Walnut above Seventh Street, in the northwest corner of Washington Square, now of the girth of eight feet, at the height of four feet, probably planted in the spring of 1816, as that square was planned for improvement by G. Bridport in 1815, and improved under the direction of George Vaux (Watson's Annals of Philadelphia, page 407). We have in the Fair-mount Park a larger catalpa, on the west side of the Schuylkill, above the lower Reading railroad bridge, now surrounded by a dense grove of its seedlings; and catalpas are in various other places in the Park. Dr. Darlington's Flora Cestrica, published in 1837, describes the catalpa as an introduced tree in Chester county, growing at the foot of the North Valley hill, and other places.
"We esteem your hardy catalpa as a valuable acquisition, and have planted five hundred of the trees in the Park, and many of its seeds".
So many have expressed an interest in Mr. Price's "Early History of the Catalpa," that we have been encouraged to inquire further into the history of some very large trees about Philadelphia. We have never felt any reason to doubt that the tree is to a certain extent indigenous; that is to say has wandered by natural means and not by the hand of man into Pennsylvania, and that it has been in the State for countless years. Originally no doubt it was a wanderer from Japan. It seems to love alluvial soils, and we have scarcely a right to expect to find it far away from river courses. At any rate whether it is actually indigenous to Pennsylvania or not, we can trace the history of some trees further back than Mr. Price places it. Dr. Lamborn - now in Europe, or we would get further particulars - some years ago told the writer of an old catalpa gate post, about (fifty years in the ground. That tree must have been a very old tree when cut down sixty years or more ago. Of living trees there is one on the old battle-field of Germantown not far from the •celebrated "Chew's House," which was at that celebrated battle of the Revolution an old tree. One of the family kindly measured it for us recently, and found it at sixteen inches from the ground thirteen feet in circumference.
This enormous tree was certainly not planted by any of the Chew family, and yet the property, purchased from Mr. Edward Pennington, has been in the possession of this family since 1763. Very old people now living know of this as being a very large tree as far back in childhood as they can recollect.
Another huge tree is on the Johnson property not far from the Chew estate. We are indebted to Mr. Norton Johnson for a recent measurement. He finds it fifteen feet six inches round, eighteen inches from the ground. The place where it grows was a piece of forest at the Battle of Germantown, in 1777, and Mr. Johnson has no reason for believeing it was not a part of this original forest. At any rate it was there when his father purchased the property in 1795, and it was a large tree beyond his own recollection, extending clearly beyond fifty years.