This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V24", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Alan W. Corson was the eldest son of Joseph Corson and Hannah (Dickinson) Corson, and was born in Whitemarsh Township, half a mile from Friends' Meeting at Plymouth, and only one mile from his residence during the last seventy years. When Louis XIV. was persecuting the Huguenots and driving them from France, a few of these Protestants, under the leadership of Henri de la Jourette, fled in two small vessels bound for South Carolina. One of the vessels, says Weiss, in his "History of the French Protestant Refugees," was either cast away upon the shores of Staten Island, or made a harbor there in distress. One of the people thus landed was Cornelius Corson, the oldest ancestor of the present family in this country. There were also others of names well known in Montgomery and Bucks Counties - the Larse-leres, Kruzens, DuBois', Lefferts and others-some of the name are still living in Staten Island. In a chapter of "Local History" published in Staten Island only a few years ago, and headed "The Corson Family," it is stated that "this is one of the oldest and, at one time, amongst the most influential families on the island".
The above Cornelius Corson received a patent for one hundred and eighty acres of land in the island December 80th, 1680, in which it states that "he shall pay yearly, and every year, for his Royal Highness' use, as a quitt rent, two bushels of good winter wheat unto such officers as shall be empowered to receive the same at New York." In this patent the name is spelled Corsen, while in some other papers it was spelled Coursen, as it was in France. When the written name came to be read by English-speaking people, it would naturally be pronounced and spelled without the letter u. From Staten Island some of the family went, after the death of the first settler, to Hunterdon Co., N. J., to lands left them by him, and in 1726 a son, Benjamin Corson, of Staten Island, bought two hundred and fifty acres of land in Northampton Township, Bucks County, near to the present Addisville, and settled there ; it was continued as the residence of the family till about fifty years ago. This Benjamin, the great great-grandfather of Alan W., brought with him a son seven years of age, who, after a time, married Maria Sedam, and their son Benjamin Corson married Sarah Dungan, a descendant of the Rev. S. Thomas Dungan, a Baptist minister, who came to Providence, Rhode Island, to escape the persecutions which were being meted out to the Baptists in England, but who, finding much intolerance even in the home of Roger Williams, sought freedom in the land of Perm. He came in 1684 and established a meeting, the first of the kind in Pennsylvania, at Cold Spring, three miles above Bristol, in Bucks County, where he ministered for four years, dying in 1688, and being buried at that place.
Joseph Corson, the father of Alan, was the son of the above-named Benjamin and Sarah (Dungan) Corson, and was born in Bucks County. We have thus traced his lineage from the Huguenots of France and the Baptists of England, who for conscience' sake had left homes and kindred.
The Dickinsons were members of the Established Church until near the time of Wm. Penn, when some of them embraced the faith of Friends As early as 1659 three brothers came to Ann-Arundel County, Maryland, with Colonel Stone, who brought a large number of Episcopalians. In 1680, Wm. Dickinson, then a member of Friends came to Plymouth and settled on two hundred acres of land, now the estates of Morton and Joseph Albertson, adjoining Plymouth Friends' Meeting. This Wm. Dickinson was the great-grandfather of Hannah Dickinson, who married Joseph Corson, the father of Alan W. She was married from the old Plymouth homestead ; but as her husband was not a member of the Society of Friends, she was expelled in accordance with the then custom. Her husband and herself always afterwards attended the meeting and reared their children in accordance with their habits and principles. The Dickinson family has an unbroken record from the fifteenth century, time of Henry VII. A. W. Corson's own account of his life written in 1871:
"Was born 21st February, 1788, and remained in my father's family until the time of my marriage with Mary Eglent, and till June, 1812, except that I was with Samuel Livezey a few months as store-boy. I went to school a few months in the summer that I was six years old, and in the two succeeding summers, and a few months in the winters of the three succeeding years ending in the spring of 1800. Worked on the farm or in the store, as wanted, till about 1812. Married in 1811 ; rented the store of father in June and remained there till March, 1814, when 1 bought a house and forty-five acres of land in Whitemarsh, along the Plymouth line; farmed and kept store then till 1823. I commenced surveying, too, in 1816, and continued it, when wanted, nearly forty years; and also taught school in Plymouth Meeting sometimes, and a few winters - five or six - at home. Was much engaged in settling estates until 1844; continued the farm all this time and till 1848, when it was 'put out on shares,' I still residing in the house.
I had been at times raising fruit and ornamental trees and shrubs before I quit farming; but after that time gave more attention to it, doing little else to the present time, 1871. Conveyancing was also resorted to while I followed surveying".
The above is his own account of his business life until 1871. He was engaged in botany as early as the time when his daughter Hannah (now Mrs. James Ritchie) was at West Town school, 1828. There is an incident connected with his visit to her at that time which is interesting, as it led to a great change in the life of another man of local celebrity.
Alan had been to West Town Friends' School to see his daughter, and on returning called to see his first cousin, John Evans, of Delaware County, with whom, until that time, he had not had much acquaintance. Our mother and John's mother were sisters ; but as both died while their children were yet young, and as the families lived in different counties, but little intercourse was had. On the next morning, after a night spent at John's house, Alan rose early and walked along the creek gathering and ex-aming plants. It was a place abounding in wild plants. When John found him thus employed, he wanted to know what he was doing. Alan told him he was studying plants and explained to him the systems of Jussieu and of Linnaeus. There was at once a new field open to John Evans, who up to this time had been an ardent fox hunter, keeping a number of hounds, and riding a splendid horse over the hills and valleys of Delaware County in winter time, abreast of the best of the many who in that region at that time participated in the sport. His interest in the sport was gone; the kennel was broken up. With Darlington's Botany of Chester County in hand, he went over the hills and valleys of his native county again; but it was in search of plants, not of foxes.
And now the two cousins who had been so long almost strangers to each other, became intimate friends, whose daily companions were Jussieu, Linnaeus, Darlington and Eaton. It was a friendship and a companionship in which selfishness was unknown and which terminated only with life. Both busy men, engaged in industries for a livelihood, they still found time to traverse the counties of Montgomery, Chester and Delaware; the coal regions and the Alleghanies of Pennsylvania; the pine woods and sea shores of New Jersey; the Adirondacks of New York and the low-lands of Delaware and Maryland, to gather specimens of plants and minerals and shells, and in those walks they enjoyed the teachings, not only of the eminent botanists, conchologists and mineralogists with whose works they were familiar, but standing with Hugh Miller on "The Old Red Sandstone," they heard with him " The Testimonies of the Rocks," and saw with him "he Footprints of the Creator." It was thus that they were led step by step to that profound worship of the first great cause of creations so astonishing.