Morris Arboretum

Morris Arboretum

Collections: Private Estate - 1887-1932
John T. Morris and Lydia T. Morris Estate Papers

When the Arboretum was a private estate known as Compton, John Morris and Lydia Morris lived with their cook, maid, waitress and driver in Philadelphia on Pine Street. In the spring, the household would visit Compton and then move there for the late spring, commuting into the city for business or charity board meetings.

A team of gardeners and seasonal workers kept the Compton estate operational from March till Lydia's annual Christmas party in December. In season extra help was enlisted to keep the garden at its peak. Flowers were raised in the five greenhouses, fruits and vegetables in the lower gardens. Butter, eggs, chickens and meat were also produced site. In 1924 Compton was winterized and Lydia began to empty the house on Pine Street.

Biographical Sketches of John Morris and Lydia Morris

The ode is an excerpt from the Kellner Diaries. Aboard S.S. Lahn, in November 1889 Miss Kellner, a nurse and companion writes that Miss Morris received a poem in blank verse from fellow passenger Rev. Dr. Aberigh Mackay, a Scotsman. " And pleasant memories will gather around this poem, as in after years the occasion and all incidents will be recalled". 2012.7.2

Floor Plans of Compton Mansion and Coach House

The first fllor plans of the major buildings were captured by the engineernig firm of Pugh and Hubbard which prepared an Atlas of Compton in 1909.

Updated in 1914 this Atlas of Compton detailed the layout of every building, every plant and rock in each garden feature. Click HERE to go to Arboretum Maps and explore.

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Employees and Worker Diaries at Compton - Information Lookup

People of Compton. The gardens, buildings and farm fields flourished with the many hands that cared for it. Find your ancestor or a neighbor then search the year of the transcribed work diaries below for details.

  • Find the name of an employee at Compton or all employees between the years of 1894 and 1932


  • Payroll records were kept by the head gardemers. These volumes provide a rich insight into the seasonal gardening tasks, horticultural and agricultural practices, and the seasonal and full-time grounds staff. These diaries were transcribed by Archives & History volunteers: Susan Marshall, Elizabeth Gavula, and others.

    John Tonkin's family donated the eleven diaries that he kept as Head Gardener

    Click to open a diary, then search for key words or names using CTL + F.

    Expenses at Compton - Information Lookup

    Invoices in the 1920's - A sampling of invoices over a decade at Compton are here, revealing clues to garden and horticulture vendors and life on a Chestnut Hill estate during the 1920's. The full set of invoices can be found in the Archives 2011.10.

    1919 A - D E - N O - Z
    1923 A - B C - E F - H O - S T - Z
    1924 A - B C - D E - K L - M O - Q R - S T - Z
    1925 A - B C - D E - K L - M O - Q R - S T - V W - Y
    1926 A - B C - E F - L M N - Q R - S T - Z
    1927 A - B C - F G - K L - M N - Q R S - T U - Z
    1928 B - C D - I H - L M - P Q - Z

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    Recipe Book 1883 - Lydia Morris

    Lydia Morris' Recipe Book 2012.2.1 included recipes from 1883-1930, Several are transcribed below.

    John Morris Catalog of Articles, an Inventory of Ownership

    John Morris Memberships

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    Patrick Finerghty, 1894-1898, Frank Gould, 1898-1919 and John Tonkin, 1920-1932. Frank Gould likely trained at Kew Gardens in England and boarded other Kew graduates in his home, helping them land head gardener positions at nearby estates. John Tonkin brought his wife Margaret in 1914. They raised a daughter in the Gardener's Cottage on the grounds after he was promoted to head gardener. In the twenties, Lydia enjoyed her conversations with Tonkin on the work ahead in the garden. He would drive her and her two dogs on their morning rounds in the garden.

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