Transition from Agriculture to Leisure Gardening in Bloomington, Indiana circa 1860s

Agriculture. When hearing that word most people think of a farmer sitting on a tractor in a big field, or something along those lines. This is a reasonable image, but when thinking back to 19th century agriculture the scene was pretty different. Agriculture is defined as “the science, art, or practice of cultivating the soil, producing crops, and raising livestock and in varying degrees the preparation and marketing of the resulting products” according to Merriam-Webster. It has been extremely important to the development and subsistence of the United States of America, and still is today. In contrast, the definition of floriculture, or leisure gardening, as written in Loudon’s Encyclopedia of Gardening by John Claudius Louden in 1835 is, “… comprehending whatever relates to the culture and arrangement of plants, whether ligneous or herbaceous, grown chiefly on account of their flowers, or as objects of taste or curiosity.”. What this definition means in more simple terms is floriculture includes plants that are grown for their beauty, their usefulness, or just the way in which the flowers are planted in a way to landscape or beautify a location.

Professor Theophilus Wylie, cousin to Indiana University’s first president Andrew Wylie, and his family were involved in both agriculture and floriculture. They grew a fair amount of crops including corn, grapes, a vegetable garden (beans, turnips, cabbage, asparagus, etc.), various fruit trees (peach, apple, pear), strawberries, and pumpkins to name some mentioned in their family letters. There is no current definite information about what livestock the Wylie’s owned themselves, but it was common for people to have hogs, cattle, and chickens. Additionally, in a letter it is written that Redick Wylie, a member of the Andrew Wylie family, did own cattle and hogs in the Bloomington area in 1860.

Many Americans farmed in some way or another, whether to sustain themselves or to supplement their food supplies. The wealthier were usually able to farm more effectively because they could own more land and buy increasingly advanced and newly invented inventions that allowed farming to be more efficient. New inventions of the 19th century included mechanical reapers (1834) by Cyrus McCormick, as well as a new type of plow with a steel blade by John Deere. These inventions allowed farmers to move more quickly and use less human labor since these tools only required a horse or two and one person. Another technological advance that affected agriculture was the use of trains (first used in Bloomington in 1853); the increased use of trains allowed goods to be transported further and faster than ever before, so less people were required to farm. Since less people were required to farm, especially those who had money that could be spent on unessential goods, they needed another way to spend their time and money.

Interest in flowers and planned gardening on properties actually began as early as the late 1700s on the east coast of the country among wealthier classes. This was mainly due to the influence of England and royal gardens from European countries. Americans really began learning floriculture from horticultural magazines that were imported from England and reprinted and distributed throughout America by printers. The first horticultural magazine, The Seed Drill, was written by Jethro Tull in 1701 (Garofalo 2002). These magazines were quickly absorbed into the American scene in some form or another in all social classes (Leighton 1987). For example, the less wealthy would try to recreate the gardens of royalty using native plants from their area. This was the beginning of floriculture in the United States. Another way floriculture began was that cemeteries were considered public parks up until around the 1850s and flowers were used to beautify these spaces, which is still true even though they are no longer considered public parks.

The plants used in people’s gardens were not usually limited to the native plants in the area. Plants were brought back from trips to other places in the U.S. to even places outside of the country. An example of this, is in an 1812 publication Thomas Nutall wrote about a trip to the Arkansas Territory and how he brought back around 300 plants (Leighton 1987). Trading seeds with others is another way people got nonnative (and native) seeds. The Wylie Family did both things as mentioned in their family letters. It is noted that they traded seeds with many people and that Louisa Wylie would presumably bring back seeds from where she was travelling at the time. There are letters written to Louisa, such as a letter from October 1, 1874 from an Emma mentioning that she would be sending seeds to her and Louisa could have sent her some in return. Additionally, the field of botany was also advancing around this time, so it was possible to get plants that had be genetically modified to be prettier in gardens around the country (Leighton 1987). It is unknown whether or not the Wylie’s had these types of flowers though.

The transition to floriculture, or leisure gardening, was a shift that was seen all over the United States. Wealthier families, such as the Wylie’s, were able to gain access to more resources and variety than others but it was a transition felt by much of the social classes. A person’s circumstances, such as their location, budget, and personal preference, affected how they participated in the sensation of floriculture. Even those who were worse off were able to participate in some way if they had the inclination to whether that be by only have a few ornamental flowers or by mixing their agricultural crops with a complimenting plant. Agriculture was a way of life for many people in the past and still is today, but leisure gardening is a popular pastime for people of all social and economic classes.

Blog post written by: Maclaren Guthrie, Bicentennial intern


Garofalo, Michael P. “The History of Gardening”, The Spirit of Gardening, 1 Mar. 2002,

Herald, Elaine, and Jo Burgess. “Affectionately Yours, Volume I.” IUScholarWorks, Indiana University, 2011,

Herald, Elaine, and Jo Burgess. “Affectionately Yours, Volume II.” IUScholarWorks, Indiana University, 2011,

Leighton, Ann. American Gardens of the Nineteenth Century. University of Massachusetts Press, 1987.

The Theophilus Adam Wylie Family Correspondence, Wylie House Museum, Indiana University Libraries, Bloomington.


Barns & Outbuildings of Wylie House

The Wylie family homestead can be interpreted by examining the various barns and outbuildings situated on the property between 1835 and 1895, the time between the home’s construction and the death of Theophilus A. Wylie.

Sketch by Theophilus A Wylie of his barn, ca. 1883

Much of what is known about these outbuildings comes from a memory map drawn by Theophilus A. Wylie’s grandson, Theo Wylie (Theophilus A. Wylie III). Theo’s memory map depicts his grandfather’s property circa 1875, although many of these structures likely date back to Andrew and Margaret Wylie, who first inhabited Wylie House and worked the 25 acre farm 40 years earlier. These barns and outbuildings help one understand the scope of daily life at Wylie House in Bloomington, Indiana in the mid-19th century.

Family correspondence and journals kept by the Wylies relate details of construction, use, and occasionally, the tragic loss of their buildings to fire.


The Wylie Homestead

Indiana University’s first president, Andrew Wylie, owned approximately 25 acres of land on which his home, Wylie House, was built in 1835. The homestead’s western and eastern boundaries correspond to what are now Walnut and Henderson streets and the homestead’s northern and southern boundaries correspond to what are now Smith and Second streets.

Wylie homestead property boundaries in 1835

The Wylie family homestead was a working farm. Hired help was particularly difficult to find for the first Wylie family, so much of this work was done by the Wylies themselves and their occasional student boarders. After Andrew’s death in 1851, Margaret Wylie lived at Wylie House until her death in 1859.


TAW III’s Memory Map

Andrew Wylie’s second cousin, Theophilus A. Wylie, lived at Wylie house with his family from 1859 until his death in 1895. Theophilus’ family remained at Wylie House until 1913. Theophilus’ grandson, Theo, drew a memory map in 1954 of his grandfather’s property circa 1875.

memory map of Wylie homestead ca. 1875, TAW III, 1954

From TAW III’s sketch we know that Wylie House outbuildings included:

• an ice house
• a smoke house
• a double-pen barn
• a log chicken house
• a carriage house
• two walk-in cold frames
• a large two-story utility building located east of the kitchen door

We know from family correspondence that the chicken house was converted from an old corn crib on the property around 1862.

The original Wylie barn was a double-pen barn. A double-pen barn is one in which two single units are joined together at the top with room for passage underneath. This allowed a farmer to pull his wagon under the barn for easy loading of hay into the hay loft.

A corn crib was a log granary used to dry and store corn. Their slatted design allowed air to flow through the crib to dry the corn inside. Corn cribs were built to be raised off the ground so that rodents and other pests couldn’t get inside through the slats. They were often located near livestock, as corn was a popular feed.

It is likely that most of the outbuildings dated back to Andrew and Margaret Wylie’s occupancy between 1836 and 1859.

The 1859 inventory lists eight horses, one mule, five hogs, and more than a dozen cattle. Since we know there was a chicken house, they must have also kept chickens.

The numerous outbuildings underscore the vast amount of work that was required to maintain a working farm—butchering, smoking and salting meats, gathering wood for the winter months, preserving foods, and laundering clothes.


The Wylie Utility Building

It is believed that Theophilus A. Wylie took this photograph in approximately 1890 of the east side of the house. Shown here are the well and the utility building.

The utility building just off of the kitchen was constructed during Theophilus A. Wylie’s time at Wylie House. He used the second floor of the building as his personal workspace. The sketch below shows his carpenter bench, weather observation window, lathe, and resting quarters. The first floor of the building was used by the family and hired help for storing wood for their stoves and fireplaces and for laundering clothes and cooking.

This sketch of the utility building, shown in the photograph, was drawn by Theophilus’ grandson, Theo Wylie, in 1954.


The Loss of Theophilus’ Barn

This sketch, drawn by Theophilus A. Wylie in 1883, shows his barn as it stood on Saturday March 17th at 6pm and the same time the next day after the barn burned to the ground.

Before and after sketch of TAW’s barn after it burned down in March of 1883.

Below is the transcription from his diary where he tells the story.

transcription made from 3 April 1881-6 September 1885, Theophilus A. Wylie papers, Collection C202, Office of University Archives and Records Management, Indiana University, Bloomington.

There are also two newspaper articles from the Bloomington Progress Vol. 16 (49) in March of 1883 that recount the arson, as many buildings were set on fire by arsonists that spring. The larger article, “Bloomington’s Bad Blaze” on page 3 chronicles a fire that was the most destructive in Bloomington’s history at that time. Andrew Wylie’s son, Reddick Wylie, lost property in the fire. The second article, “Another Fire Last Saturday Night” provides details about the burning of Theophilus A. Wylie’s barn.


Before and After drawings of Wylie House Out Building Fire, undated, Theophilus A. Wylie papers, Collection C202, Office of University Archives and Records Management, Indiana University, Bloomington.

Before and After drawings of Wylie House Out Building Fire, March 1883, The Wylie, Boisen and Bradley Families Papers & Ephemera, Wylie House Museum, Indiana University Libraries, Bloomington

Wylie House, Yard with Out Buildings, undated, Theophilus A. Wylie papers, Collection C202, Office of University Archives and Records Management, Indiana University, Bloomington.

3 April 1881-6 September 1885, Theophilus A. Wylie papers, Collection C202, Office of University Archives and Records Management, Indiana University, Bloomington.

Wylie House Docent Manual, 2011 ed., Wylie House Museum, Indiana University Libraries, Bloomington.

Utility building photograph, 2005.003.1155, 1890-1898, Wylie House Museum, Indiana University Libraries, Bloomington.

TAW III’s memory map, 1954, Wylie House Museum, Indiana University Libraries, Bloomington.

Bloomington Progress, Vol. 16 (49), 21 March 1883.


Blog post written by: Sarah Rogers, graduate student

An Introduction to Floriculture at the Wylie House

Starting this fall, Indiana University’s Wylie House Museum and Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology began a joint bicentennial project that will be ongoing until 2020. The purpose is to discover more about IU Bloomington’s cultural heritage, protect local archaeological resources, contribute information to enrich the university’s mission, and to supplement the documentation and interpretation of campus history. The first stage of this joint project focuses on the Wylie House, which was built in 1835 and was the home of IU’s first president, Andrew Wylie, and his family. Research efforts are being made to expand more on what is currently known about the house gardens and 19th century floriculture as a whole and specifically relating to the Bloomington area.

“Wylie House”, around 1900, P0071638 – Image courtesy of Indiana University Archives

The resources currently being used to better understand Wylie House floriculture are the “Affectionately Yours”, a two volume compendium of Wylie Family letters, historic photographs from the Indiana University Archives Photo Collection, a sketch map drawn by Theophilus Wylie, Louisa Wylie’s essay on gardening, and various text sources outside of the Wylie House and IU Archives. These sources provide first-person documentation of the types of flowers and other plants that the Wylie family grew during their time living in the Wylie House. Smilax, fuchsias, geraniums, begonias, and roses are the flowers that are most often mentioned in the Wylie family letters. The letters also mention that the family often bought plants from a “Heinl” who gets imports from France, as well as trading for seeds with others from all over Indiana and from other states.

Another important aspect of this bicentennial project is uncovering more information about the garden “pits” that the Wylies had in their front yard. These “pits” were small shelter-like containers built into the ground to house plants during cold or bad weather so they didn’t wilt or die. There are a few photos of these Wylie House pits, as well as a drawing and mentions of them in the Wylie family letters.

Garden pit visible in right foreground in between house and stone wall. Cyanotype real picture postcard of Wylie House”, 1907 May, P0071637 – Image courtesy of Indiana University Archives

Today, the Wylie House Museum shares the life of the Wylies who lived there, mainly focusing on the second  Wylie family, Theophilius Wylie and his family. The Wylie House also has an heirloom seed-saving garden in which flowers, herbs, and vegetables that were grown in the Bloomington area prior 1875. In this way, the museum attempts to both accurately reflect the historic property as well as share these varieties and growing practices with the community. The exact varieties of all of the plants is a mystery we  hope to solve through this bicentennial project.



Herald, Elaine, and Jo Burgess. “Affectionately Yours, Volume I.” IUScholarWorks,

Indiana University, 2011,

Herald, Elaine, and Jo Burgess. “Affectionately Yours, Volume II.” IUScholarWorks,

Indiana University, 2011,

The Theophilus Adam Wylie Family Correspondence, Wylie House Museum, Indiana

University Libraries, Bloomington


This blog post by Bicentennial intern Maclaren Guthrie is featured on Indiana University’s Bicentennial website:

A photograph from the Wylie House collection is identified!

The Wylie House image collection contains numerous photographs of unidentified people, or people whose identifies are unconfirmed.

Recently, this image of a beautiful woman adorned in white was identified by her great-grandson, who was conducting genealogy research.

Pictured here is Madame Layyah Barakat of Syria.

According to Gary Wirstad, Madame Barakat’s great-grandson, she was born in Abieh, Lebanon (then Syria) in 1857 and died in 1940. He writes:

“As a young girl, she became acquainted with Christian missionaries from America.  After she married Elias Barakat (from Damascus) they, and their first child, my great aunt Emily, fled the violence in their land, coming to America to seek those sponsors who had provided for her education through the missionaries.

She settled in Philadelphia and became a lecturer on the Christian missionary movement; she was quite well known in those circles and published two or three books on her experiences. She eventually founded a Christian school for orphan girls in Lebanon.”

In conjunction with Women’s History Month, we celebrate Madame Barakat’s remarkable strength and resilience in overcoming adversity, living a meaningful and inspirational life, and making the place of her birth a better version of itself before her death.

Evidence of her legacy can be found in the books she wrote, newspaper articles written about her and of course, her family. Below is a resource of links that will take you to various newspaper articles that mention Madame Barakat. Also of interest is her Smithsonian Institution record, where her photograph is part of the Faris and Yamna Naff Arab American Collection, ca. 1880-1950.

Mr. Wirstad writes:

“In one of her books, ‘Lebanon: A Harvest of Love’, she goes into great detail on the hardship of securing passage to America, and their almost hopeless quest to find her sponsor, once in Philadelphia.

She would be considered remarkable by today’s standards, but to sail here unexpected, without funds, possessions, or English language skills, find her sponsor (Dr. Jessup of the Walnut St. Presbyterian church) knowing only his name, and to overcome these adversities to eventually see her sons graduate from Penn [University of Pennsylvania], seems incredible for anyone in the 1880s.”

We at Wylie House whole-heartedly agree.

Wylie House is unable to pinpoint the exact connection between Madame Barakat and the Wylie family, but we think it is likely through their shared connections to Philadelphia (where Theophilus Wylie was born) and their work within Christian communities, particularly the W.C.T.U. [Woman’s Christian Temperance Union]. We thank Gary Wirstad for confirming her identity and sharing the beautiful and inspiring story of Madame Layyah Barakat with us.


Newspaper Articles Mentioning Madame Barakat and her husband, Elias:

Friends of Temperance. The times. (Washington [D.C.]), 03 Dec. 1900. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>

W.C.T.U. Holds Its 32D Annual Session. Evening public ledger. (Philadelphia [Pa.]), 06 June 1916. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>

Madame Layyah Barakat Is Interesting Speaker. The Bristol Daily Courier. (Bristol [Pa.]), 11 May 1925. <>

Elias Barakat Speaks. Reading Times. (Reading [Pa.]), 14 February 1884. <>


Other Resources:

Indiana University’s Image Collections Online is the digital repository for numerous image collections. Explore here!


This post written by graduate student Sarah Rogers.