Correspondence of Rhoda Waterbury and G. W. Clinton
Edited by P. M. Eckel
Res Botanica
Missouri Botanical Garden
May 10, 2006
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Correspondence of

Rhoda Waterbury and G. W. Clinton

1865 - 1867


Edited by P. M. P.O. Box 299, Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, Missouri, 63166‑0299; and Research Associate, Buffalo Museum of Science, Buffalo, New York, 14204. Email:


Menu of Letters by Date





Rhoda Waterbury, ca. 1865-1867



NAME: Waterbury, Rhoda, Schoharie, New York; then Warsaw, New York.

  V1:   1:20,37,56,75,96,108,123,135,145,162,169,181,191

  V2:   2:7,16,30,46,58,116,117,138,158,168,186

  V3:  3: 9, 50, 52, 57, 81, 86, 105, 116, 123, 157.

  V4:   4:119,181


Schoharie, N.Y. [Clinton index Vol. 1]

Schoharie, N.Y. [Clinton index Vol. 2]

Warsaw, New York [Clinton index Vol. 3]

Gloversville, N.Y. [Clinton index Vol. 4]


Miss Waterbury's contribution to botanical history in the United States consists mainly in a specimen used in Coe Finch Austin's exsiccat (Austin, 1870): Musci Appalachiani, a handful of specimens in the Clinton Herbarium of the Buffalo Museum of Science in Buffalo, New York, and perhaps considerably more specimens at the New York State Museum in Albany, New York. As her letters reveal, she was also involved in the reorganization of the New York State Herbarium in 1865-1866 by contributing material to it. Her specimens assisted in the establishment of the professional career of Charles H. Peck, first State Botanist, in its bryological phase, and helped his patron, George W. Clinton, in promoting Peck. There also may be more of her specimens in Mr. Coe Finch Austin's exsiccat than he acknowledged in print. Her name will thus appear today, here and there, in the collections of the Buffalo Museum of Science, the Albany State Herbarium and the New York Botanical Garden.


But perhaps particularly Rhoda may shine in the extraordinary letters she wrote to George W. Clinton between 1865 and 1867 and which comprise a series of documents in the archives of the Buffalo Museum of Science. Of all the female character types known during the American Victorian period, Rhoda seems to be rather special. Clinton had exchanged letters and specimens with a variety of women along botanical themes as correspondents to the new Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences, founded officially in 1861 with the adoption of its constitution.. Her name will appear here and there in the collections of the Buffalo Museum of Science, the Albany State Herbarium and the New York Botanical Garden.


Among the contributors to Austin's 1870 exsiccat are G. W. Clinton, the Ohio bryologist and Swiss émigré Leo Lesquereux; T. P. James, a colleague of Leo Lesquereux'; John Macoun, the Canadian botanist; Charles H. Peck, soon to become a distinguished mycologist; Elihu Hall of Illinois, collector in the Rocky  Mountains; S. T. Olney, H. Gilman, T. C. Porter of Pennsylvania; the southern botanist H. W. Ravenel; Dr. E. C. Howe of Fort Edward; W. S. Sullivant, the first American bryologist with whom Leo Lesquereux collaborated in Columbus, Ohio; Charles Wright, collecting in New Mexico; Mr. Wolf of Fulton Co., Illinois; Lyall (British Columbia); B. D. Greene (Boston, Mass.), Oakes (New England); and John Paine Jr. of New York (no. 401).


 The label for number 286 reads: "Climacium dendroides (Dill.) Web. et Mohr, "Hab. ... near Schoharie, New York (Miss R. Waterbury) ...".

No specimen by Rhoda occurs in the Supplement issued 8 years later in 1878.


Rhoda's Family


Although I cannot claim to have experience in piecing together genealogies, or in substantiating genealogical relationships that are not explicit in presented data on genealogies, it is tempting to consider a website (copyright 2000) created by Gary Waterbury entitled "The Waterbury Family." Without actually knowing whether Rhoda and her Schoharie family were related to the people Mr.Waterbury lists in this website, many correspondences can be found. The originators of the clan in America were William and Alice Waterbury of Sudbury, England who sailed to America in 1630 on the Eagle or Arbella "with Puritans and John Winthrop," establishing themselves in Stamford, Connecticut. Mr. Waterbury's genealogical delineations highlight a family that is striking in the number of offspring per union (Rhoda is also a member of a large family). Their names are mostly derived from biblical reference (Deodate, Rachel, Benjamin, Josiah, Isaac, Enos, Samuel, Bethia, David, Hannah, Zachariah, Seth, Sarah, Ezra, but not, of course, Homer). This family also seems conspicuous for their ability to settle themselves in a variety of towns, rather than a central locus, some drifting westward into New York State towns at or around Albany, New York.


Waterbury indicated that an early branch of the Waterburys established itself during the 1700's at Ballston Spa, New York, part of the Saratoga mineral spring region (French, 1860  p. 590), the capital of Saratoga Co. near Saratoga Springs. The Spa was a fashionable watering place before the Civil War. Other generations would set off for the west to Kansas, Illinois, Ohio and Iowa among others. The branch traveling to California, resembles relatives that Rhoda mentions below (Sept. 29th, 1865): "I cannot wait another day before writing you though the house is full of company (a wedding party bound for California) ..."). Mr. Waterbury's group settled around Glendale, California -  one branch also moved to British Columbia. It is highly probable that our Rhoda is a member of this genealogical complex, although Mr. Waterbury's records are not definitive, nor is there any reference to a Schoharie branch, or one in Warsaw, New York. According to G. Waterbury, another branch in the mid 1800's settled in Andes, New York, and this is likely to be the relations to which Rhoda refers below.


G. Waterbury mentions a Homer Waterbury born in 1838 to the wife of James Waterbury of Andes, New York, and a Waterbury branch in Delaware County - perhaps both the same family (Rhoda wrote: "On Tuesday morning Oct. 3rd six of us started with a span and our own conveyance to visit the graves of our ancestors in Andes, Delaware County," Oct. 9th, 1865).


Andes, in Delaware County, is southwest of Schoharie. (March 23, 1866:) on the first of July "the whole family always goes east to spend the two months vacation at Grandpa's." If "east" is east of Schoharie, perhaps it is northeast up to Ballston Spa. Her letter of July 22, 1866 is written in Schoharie: "Yours via Warsaw reached me at my home a few days since we left as soon as possible after baby left us, and the remainder of the family are as usual spending the summer vacation here at Grandpa's." The letter makes it ambiguous whether "home" is in Schoharie, or that that is where grandpa's place is. It seems unambiguous from the letters that her parents, with whom she lived, lived in Schoharie itself. Perhaps "grandpa" is an affectionate term for her father (not her grandfather), from the point of view of his grandchildren from Warsaw, Rhoda's nieces and nephews. Rhoda wrote in fact that both grandparents [on the Waterbury, or Rhoda's fathers lineage] had died: "... all but the one day we spent at the old place and even then I could not feel sad as my father and aunt did. It does not seem sad to me that my grandparents passed on in ripe old age to a blissful immortality, but then I am a strange girl Ma says." (Oct. 9, 1865). A species of moss was collected back in Delaware County (town of Andes) where "It grew on the old deserted house of my Grandfather and I have kept it very choice" (November 1865).


The only Rhoda given on G. Waterbury's website is one of nine children, a daughter of Joseph Waterbury of Nassau who died in 1829 (Rhoda's father is still alive in 1860). One possibility is that the Waterburys of Andes moved to Schoharie after Homer (the youngest of the surviving Waterbury children) was born, and this extension and migration has escaped detection. The Rhoda just mentioned seems to have been too old to have been the Rhoda of the 1860's. Our Rhoda is also one of nine surviving children.


In Rhoda's letter of March 23, 1866 we learn that 12 children were born to her family, three died in infancy and nine survived. Of the four girls, the youngest died of consumption during the war during her 19th year. Rhoda and her sister Mate [sp?] were "old maids" at the time of writing, Mate [= Matilda?] being the eldest girl who "has the management of things at home." The children at the time of the letters are young adults, most of them married or marriageable. From a cursory glance at the letters one might imagine Rhoda's mother had died. Rhoda seldom mentions her. "If I were not sometimes cross when people will not be what I call true and just and patriotic; and sundry other defects I mourn in my disposition, I should be a happy old maid living as a child with my parents" (August 28, 1865). This statement seems to indicate that her mother survived and Rhoda was living with her and her father. Indeed, the mother's existence is confirmed: "It does not seem sad to me that my grandparents passed on in ripe old age to a blissful immortality, but then I am a strange girl Ma says."  (Oct. 9, 1865). Her father seems to be more important in her life than her mother, her brothers than her sisters.


Rhoda's father was a resident of Schoharie: "... it will not be difficult to find us as we are old residents (My father has been here near forty years) and the Schoharie stage will bring you within half a mile ..." (Jan. 5, 1866). In Schoharie "... our old stone house is warm throughout [as] if it is a farm house." (January 5, 1866).


The fourth sister (older than 19) had married and removed to Warsaw, New York, where "I was called here by telagram [sic] to the death bed of my pet and namesake, my sisters oldest child a lovely little creature of ten years" (January 1866). At the end of this letter, Clinton is told to reply " Direct Care C. H. Dawn," perhaps the sister's married name. The child  was "buried in the snow" in, it appears, the local cemetery. The same, or another little girl, is the subject of the letter of May 7, 1866. She is referred to by name as Allie (not Rhoda): "Before your last came my brother had made arrangements to take our dear Allies body from the cemetery here to Mt. Hope Rochester where they have a family lot." There appears to have been a child buried earlier (Feb. 13, 1866) "and this is the second little darling she has sleeping in Mt. Hope." With two children dead, on March 23, 1866, there were three children left. Sadly, a two-year-old boy, sick with pneumonia (April 24, 1866) died by July 2nd, 1866: "Our darling baby has flown, we placed his little body in Mt. Hope last Friday." Of five children born to her sister in Warsaw, when Rhoda departed east for Schoharie there were only two alive. But in April 7, 1867, Rhoda wrote "... [to] my sisters stricken household, a little boy to partly take the place of the three that have left," bringing the count back up to three.


From the enumeration of the Waterbury brothers in the letters, we find the Waterbury's to be a gifted, prominent and successful family in the communities where they resided.


Of the five living brothers, as mentioned in Rhoda's letter of May 7, 1866, there is one also in Warsaw, who "had made arrangements to take our dear Allies body from the cemetery here to Mt. Hope Rochester where they have a family lot" - it seems the Waterbury's may have a family lot at Mt. Hope, but possibly it was the family of the father of the stricken child, Rhoda's sister's husband, although this does not seem to be what Rhoda meant. Otherwise, "... my brother Prof. O. H. [Waterbury?] is Principal of Warsaw Acad. and has his Saturdays to devote entirely to his family (March 26, 1866).


"... my second brother is editor of the Sandusky Daily, Triweekly & Weekly Register, that is Charley, none of them are noted men but as true as steel I know, and christians." (January 5, 1866). The only Sandusky in the New York State Gazetteer written by French (1860) is a postal village in Freedom township in Cattaraugus County - a town with a population of 175 and perhaps not Charley's village, nor is his newspaper listed by French for Cattaraugus Co. Could Sandusky be in Ohio?


"You will not fear that I do not dress warm in my rambles. When I tell you my eldest brother is proprietor of the Rensselaerville Woolen Mills, the cloths from which you may have seen in the market and in which I dress from before this time until settled warm weather next spring." (Nov. 1865).


Homer is the youngest of seven sons (two apparently having died in infancy) and has been fortunate enough to return from the recent war." What fun we do have here when Homer is well. He is the seventh son and we call him Doc. at home for a pet name. ... But I must close this and write to my pet brother in the army, who has just lost his horse which was indeed a veteran, having served ever since the first call for volunteers" (Aug. 28th, 1865). (Nov. 11, 1865) ..." my brother in the army is to be home Thanksgiving. We have not seen him since the day he first turned his face south two years since, he had just left college and would go ...".


As to Rhoda herself, her birthday is May 12 (letter of May 7, 1866). She wrote frequently that she is an old maid. As to her age: "The coldest day of the season and but little snow: now does the picture of the "middle aged venerable very [grave?] lady" on skates rise before you? "(Jan. 5, 1866)."I am a Hydropathist, four years ago I spent five months under treatment at Clifton Water Cure trying to preserve what seemed to me then a valueless life, and the result has been I am a thorough Water-Cure-ite, quite a healthy old maid, and weigh 140 lbs, now are you not shocked? You see I want you to try water when you feel sick, or two thirds sick." (Sept. 16th, 1865). Clinton was born April 21, 1807, which would make him 59 years old in 1866.


In 1861, when she visited Clifton Springs, the Confederate States of America was founded with several southern states, following the secession of South Carolina the previous year. The election of Abraham Lincoln as the 16th president of the United States was the immediate cause of South Carolina's breakaway from the Union and in 1861 Lincoln was inaugurated. Lincoln was opposed to secession. On April 12, 1861, the Confederates took Fort Sumter, Charleston, and the Civil War began. Lincoln called for the militia to oppose the Confederacy and this is perhaps when Homer Waterbury volunteered in the Union, or Northern army.


Rhoda had been educated in the well known Troy Female Seminary, the principals of which were Mr. and Mrs. John H. Willard of Troy, N.Y. As discussed below (Jan. 19th, 1866). "The Troy Female Seminary, situated [in the City of Troy] on Second Street, between Congress and Ferry Sts., was the first established at Middlebury, Vt., in 1813, removed to Waterford in 1819, and to Troy in 1821. It was incorp. May 6, 1837, and received under the regents Jan. 30, 1838. It was gained a national reputation under the charge of Mrs. Emma Willard." Footnote no. 7: "More than 7000 pupils have been educated here, a large number of whom have become teachers." (French, 1860 p. 560).


Elizabeth E. Atwater, the diplomat's wife, also a correspondent of Clinton's had also attended this institution, as did Mary H. Clark (1813‑1875) of Ann Arbor, Michigan. When the correspondence opens, Rhoda is teaching at the Schoharie Academy. She appears to have lost this position during the following school year, which she spent tending her sister and her children in Warsaw, New York. In the fall of 1866 and in early 1867 when the correspondence comes to an end, she was teaching at the Gloversville Seminary.


Rhoda's Politics


When Rhoda resided at Clifton Springs, the political tension in the United States that had been rising for a decade had resulted in the breakup of the country as a union of state governments. Political figures at this time tended to have celebrity status, and George Clinton, son of a father, DeWitt, whose memory was still extolled throughout New York and other states, had this status when the War broke out. Newspapers, the major media source of information, had great appeal.


Schoharie was a town, as discussed below, whose residents had some political influence in Albany, and, or had families with political influence in the State Capitol. 


Rhoda, from a large family, had a close attachment to brothers with middleclass employment: editor of a newspaper, head of a manufacturing firm, head of an academy, and a Union soldier. She seems to have been deeply exposed to political and societal issues. On October 6, 1866, she wrote: "It is too bad you are so confined to business, and I am anxious to know what you think of the political field now, please tell me for I am uncertain, uneasy, and want direction, you know how very important it is that all women should be right in political affairs." 


She seems to have followed the women's movement in education (she being an educator herself and trained at one of the leading women's schools - the Troy Academy), and appears to have had exposure to intellectual, spiritual and religious movements, with which the State of New York State was so rich in the Nineteenth Century. She subscribed to and read periodic literature, such as her reference to "Our Young Folks," a journal, published by Messrs. Fields, Osgood & Co., edited by Howard M. Ticknor and Lucy Larcom (see letter of May 1866).


The only reference to the initiation of Rhoda's botanical relationship with Clinton in the archival material at hand is Clinton's note in his collecting diary that he had written to her regarding the State Herbarium in January of 1865 (diary entry of Jan. 12, 1865). It is difficult to identify what credentials Rhoda had to justify Clinton's correspondence and his consultation with her regarding the changes Clinton was about to apply to the State Herbarium. She knew little or no botany. In May Clinton sent her two hundred identified botanical specimens. She relatively quickly undertook the difficult task of the identification of mosses and liverworts. She had what appear to have been two microscopes bestowed upon her. Both Clinton and Charles Peck enthusiastically encouraged her efforts, and Coe Finch Austin would have had she been persistent enough in sending him material from the field.


From the content of Rhoda's letters, she and Clinton had never met face to face and, without photographs, neither knew what the other looked like. She knew how old he was, but he did not possess this knowledge of her. She did not know Charles Peck before her correspondence began with Clinton. When the letters began, Rhoda was a teacher at the Schoharie Academy, and not a teacher of botany.


One might guess that it is through her acquaintance-network and that of her family, particularly her brothers, that she was somehow attached to the reorganization of the State Herbarium. Indeed, initially she had great luck in finding an interesting species or two, and showing the quickness of her intellect in finding, processing and distributing a rare vascular plant of her vicinity: Polemonium caeruleum L. (= Polemonium vanbruntiae Britton).


Note should be taken, however, that in 1864, the year previous to the onset of the present correspondence, S. B. Woolworth, the Secretary of the Board of Regents, in the Seventeenth Annual Report of that body, issued a broad appeal to the naturalists of the State of New York to submit specimens to "perfect the State Collections of Natural History ...". The Regents "respectfully invite you to co-operate with the many men of science ... who have tendered their assistance."  "... the free and zealous co-operation of the naturalists of the State is absolutely necessary to the attainment of these objects." "The Regents will be glad to receive specimens of any or all the plants of your vicinity ...". "The naturalists of the State are encouraged to develop local catalogues of the species, particularly the botanical ones, pursuant to developing a "full catalogue of the Flora of New-York ...". Such specimens were to be submitted to the Secretary of the Regents for processing.


In the same Annual Report, G. W. Clinton published his "Preliminary list of the plants of Buffalo and its vicinity" (pp. 24-35).


Rhoda may simply have volunteered, perhaps writing to Woolworth who may have forwarded her letter on to Clinton in Buffalo. Someone, however, would have had to have given her access to the government document, the Regents' Report to the State Legislature. If a first letter from Rhoda was sent to Clinton, Clinton did not retain it. His collected correspondence did not begin until near the middle of 1865, at the cessation of the war. She and Clinton may have exchanged several letters after the 18th Annual Report had been distributed.


The irrepressible Rhoda immediately, however, designated herself Clinton's "disciple" and him her "mentor." The "as ever" at the end of the first preserved letter, seems to indicate a longer association. Her first letters seem to reveal an easy and attractive brilliance, the hallmark of a promising career.


Rhoda enjoyed associating intimately with men with political credentials. Clinton, one of the Regents of the State University, she held in the highest esteem. After attending a public meeting of the Regents, also attended by Governor Fenton, she had a private interview with him:  "did I not have a private interview with the Governor at his residence next morning and did he not say many very pleasant things." (August 10, 1866).


She acknowledges her fascination with such men: ""Now do not smile at my enthusiasm, you who look from above upon Governors and such like have a bird's eye view while to me who look from below they seem to hide all other light and I am eclipsed by them." (August 10, 1866). "I dare not tell you what an elevated position you hold in my thoughts. Oh these old maids! some of them have a grand ideal of what God created in his own image, I know" (Dec. 23rd, 1865). Her pragmatic view of such men, however, is not an idealized one.


The reader of Rhoda's letters rather quickly finds themselves drawn into a disconcerting stratum of intimacy Rhoda initiates between herself and her "mentor." It seems clear that this is actually a response to certain hints in Clinton's letters to her and the unsuspecting reader is then drawn into a side of botany that is surely contrary to most expectations.


Rhoda seems to have been almost relieved to acknowledge to Clinton, that she is, in the Victorian setting, indiscrete, and so, developed certain strong expectations of her correspondent. She began to intentionally display her indiscretions in contrast to the American Victorian codes of female conduct that she had learned at the Troy Academy, and does not hesitate to repudiate them. In her first letter to Clinton she mentions a political colleague of his: "I shall have during the summer the assistance of a friend - Mr. [John] Gebhard [Jr.] whom you may have met at Albany as he was one time connected with the State Cabinet ..." (May 27th, 1865). She then proceeded, with the end of the school term, to ramble alone on a hilltop bog with the head of the academy where she has just finished teaching, and he in his bare feet. It is with perfect aplomb that she takes the train to Albany to the Cabinet which Clinton was then at pains to reform and perfect, and display her "relationship" with Clinton to Charles Peck, the young man Clinton is grooming to become botanist to the State herbarium, to W. B. Woolworth, the Secretary to the Board of Regents, to James Hall, head of the Geological Survey, and to send suggestive letters to Clinton's botanical colleague, Coe Finch Austin. She also does not hesitate to display her "relationship" to Clinton to her immediate family (who exhibited a bit of distrust in her presumption) and perhaps even to Reuben E. Fenton, the then Governor of New York State.


Perhaps to demonstrate her fitness as a companion in politics, Rhoda's hints at impropriety are matched with a kind of coercive spitefulness. She is very aggressive about getting Clinton to take the train and stay at her family's house in both Schoharie and in Warsaw, New York, whence they, together, would "ramble" botanically in the local wilderness. A rather menacing quality is inserted from the beginning with her reference to John Gebhard Jr., who had left the Cabinet, to which he and his father, John Gebhard Sr., had contributed extensively, amid the abuse of James Hall. Hall may have made himself a rival to the father, a geologist, which may have extended to the (illegitimate) son. It was at this time that the culmination of years of an initiative by Hall to reform the various agencies that comprised the Geological Survey and the State Agricultural Society and the Biological Survey. The State Cabinet was a department of the Biological Survey and the herbarium was embedded in it.


John Gebhard Sr., born in 1800, and Jr. (his son) were both from Schoharie.


The object of the initiative spearheaded by Hall may have been to improve these institutions, but the internal evidence of the various letters written to Clinton, who was politically instrumental in effecting Hall's rise in 1866 to dominate all these departments under one (Hall's) head, indicates that Hall had personal axes to grind. His biographer, John M. Clarke, though a great admirer of Hall, does not hesitate to portray him as profoundly jealous of his own (Hall's) ascendancy as a kind of "Father of American Stratigraphy," both in America and in Europe.


Some of Rhoda's tutelage in the summer of 1865 may have included some political background, especially into the role and obligations of members of the Board of Regents (of which Clinton was one). Gebhard knew of Hall's plans to reorganize the agencies of natural history under Hall's control, perhaps also that Hall's assistant, Charles Peck, was being maneuvered to receive a funded position under Hall. An antagonism to the abrasive Hall may have had subsequently much to do with the vulnerability of Peck's salary year by year during his professional career, as the Legislature had to approve it annually.


Although Rhoda saw Clinton as the pinnacle of politicians in New York State, she, the intimate of governors, would not hesitate to employ her political knowledge if her own jealousy, which she also freely acknowledged, were aroused. Her abrupt willingness to refer to herself as a devotee, a disciple, of Clinton's (her "mentor") is an indication of her aggressiveness, as there is no indication that her contacts with Clinton extended beyond their letters. Clinton's presence or absence at political conventions he was obligated to attend was duly noted by a Rhoda who followed him there, only to miss meeting him.


At first one might think Rhoda may have been something of a tool of a political faction, but it appears more likely from her letters that she used this knowledge in a predatory fashion for her own purposes, rather than those of others. Governor Fenton is considered to have been the inventor of the Republican Party, whose first president was Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln was, even in death, head of a party that controlled the most powerful army and navy then known, a party stupefied by a long and painfully achieved victory. Clinton was a Peace Democrat and before the end of his life, would suffer a loss of the prestige and celebrity he had enjoyed for half a century. This would be due to the empowerment of a newly centralized American government dominated by Republicans, the Erie Canal eclipsed by the roaring development of the transcontinental railroads and the gilded age of economic recovery throughout the end of the century. Clinton's scientific efforts would increasingly become the object of ridicule by a rising professional class, in botany, led by Asa Gray of Cambridge.


Rhoda existed in emotional isolation


Although her letters suggest Rhoda was surrounded by people whom she loved with a devotion that is really beautiful, one cannot escape the feeling that she actually was isolated in spite of the abundance of people in her family circle. With so many siblings and their extended families, with her passions and lively intellect, it appears as though she were at the center of a broad social context. She appears to be very popular and well connected to the powerful, when in fact, the thrust of the letters imply that whatever social currency she possessed was fast diminishing. In fact these two years, 1865 and 1866, seem to have been one last desperate effort for her to capture a life she felt she was eminently destined, prepared and suited for.


In a rather obvious disregard for or failure to understand social realities, Rhoda characterized herself as scornful of the sort of woman society during the 1860's trained them to become - along the lines of the syllabus at the various women's academies she attended and at which she taught. Rhoda was no shrinking violet but an upright Walkurie that played in the wet mountain meadows with her hair blowing in the breeze, the moral, spiritual, intellectual and political companion of men who were leaders in their community.


Throughout her letters, Rhoda, the Schoharie oread, hints at impatience with the valetudinarian conventions of contemporary women (although Clinton may be as focused on his weaknesses as he likes). Such conventions include the fainting-couch confinement, a condition affected by high-tone women of the era, successfully so by Mrs. Asa Gray and with indifferent success by Mrs. Clinton, and so deeply despised by the later mystery writer, Agatha Christie. Clinton's correspondent Elizabeth Atwater expressed an elegant fragility, but in her case it seemed to stem from a genuine heart condition.


Rhoda, however, sought to embody the elixir of life as her boots filled with the water of soaked moss beds and pitcher-plants, a vitality she was eager to pour over the withered and despairing head of the variously infirm Judge Clinton, or so he seems to have led her to believe in his letters to her. Although Rhoda worried about the apparently sick and frail Judge, she had no such concern for sick women (wives): "I do hope this fine spring day is cheering to the "invalid wife", how I do pity those who cannot enjoy the open air, and ramble the fields as I do ...," (May 7th, 1866).


Although unwilling to entertain marriage guests in her family's home in Schoharie,, Rhoda would make her sorrowing and sick, married sister in Warsaw welcome the Judge when he was to come to her home for a day's ramble in Warsaw. The sister would prepare lunch and propriety for the foursome, her brother and Judge Comstock's young daughter and middle-aged Rhoda and 57 year old Clinton as they set out alone in the byways of rural Warsaw, for Rhoda was above all such marital servitude and constraint.


The Women's Rights Convention was convened in Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848. In her letters, Rhoda implied that women's rights, as far as education was concerned, were a bit overblown - what right did not a woman possess already? What freedoms could she not enjoy without putting constraints on a manly freedom! Rhoda, with her microscopes, her personal herbarium, her books and distinguished correspondents could be the botanical heroine of her age if she wanted. If she could but discipline herself - an idea she found not to her taste, as her final letter states. Her apparent lack of "ambition" appears to be a result of her loathing of entrapment, of confinement. Liberty is more than just a political word for Rhoda. She made references throughout her letters to the charming chaos of her mind, which she regards as "natural," impulsive, rather than chaotic.


Rebellious laughter shouts out in her letters in what might appear to be an excess of joy. On October 9, 1865 she wrote: "I cannot tell you half of it, but I was very happy and felt so well, and laughed so much, all but the one day we spent at the old place and even then I could not feel sad as my father and aunt did." Her mother thought her odd. On October 16, 1865: "Do you like to have a good loud laugh? Then what a pity you could not have been near when I came to that sketch in your last." December 23, 1865: "it is glorious fun when my brothers will go to draw up the sleigh and we girls have only to ride and laugh." On January 5, 1866 she wrote: "I am so glad you are full of fun in winter and I must try to modify my laugh before you get here for I am given to laugh loud. There I have foolishly told of it again."


But there is another, more depressing side to the laughter in her family. On Oct. 9th, 1865 she wrote:  "My brothers call my room my den and I don't wonder with all the plants & mosses in every corner but no one dares to disturb them, and they make all sorts of fun of me because I am so delighted with them." In November, 1865, she wrote: "I shall impose myself upon you in the shape of an epistle frequently, for you see it is quite a necessity with me, old maid that I am, I am gathering in a great stack of mosses, my friends say to keep Betty the goat that does the churning (for we are farmers, that is Pa and I) but I intend them for quite another purpose."


Again: "I put in a cotton plant not for its value but our folks make fun

of it and say it must be a new dwarf variety and Homer who has just come

from Virginia is quite inclined to agree with them, and I think myself it

will have to pass as a Schoharie variety. I had some plants four feet high

but they did not ripen." (December 23, 1865).


Rhoda had stirred up her family with her relationship with Clinton. On January 19, 1866, she wrote: "I kept an eye out for you all last week and as our folks were down to the depot several times with friends I gave them a strict charge every time to look for Judge Clinton, (much to their amusement) and they said they did." It appears to some extent that her family was rather uneasy with Rhoda's lack of social awareness - both her expectation that such a famous man, such as prominent judges, would stoop to her entreaties, and her certitude of its likelihood. It is likely that by this time, her family recognized an uncomfortable pattern in her behavior with prominent men and her penchant its display, by her display of their letters, by her requests they be prepared for "visits" and preparations for "rambles."


In Warsaw, her brother showed his skepticism toward her "relationship:" "There now I think I must stop my brother has caught a glimpse of this page and says "do you think the Judge will go through all that?" yes I am sure of it." April 26, 1866. And, of course, Clinton did go through it.


Even though, on September 29, 1865, she was requested to entertain a houseful of company, she actually disliked their presence and kept to her room: "I don't like to be caged up here in the house with company all the time and it is seldom I can find a company that like to ramble as I do and to tell the truth, it has made me sick to stay in doors so I kept my bed one day and soon can hardly breathe with a cold which I should have avoided could I have been in the open air."


Toward the end of her exchange with Clinton, however, the knowledge and enthusiasms she had developed during her correspondence with Clinton had made her even more estranged from her social equals: "The woods were just in their gayest colors last Saturday and the day was made expressly for us, yet the company were strange to me, only friends of a few weeks, and I did not dare talk of all these things as I would to you who know me so well, and part of the pleasure was lost. They think it so strange too that I gather mosses, and then I feel sensitive about it, because you know one does not like to be odd, so I say just as little about it as I can when I am just full of joy that I have discovered something." (Gloversville Seminary, Saturday evening Oct. 6th, 1866).


Earlier, on August 28, 1865, she wrote: " ... most of my rambles are entirely

alone with nature and I sometimes find myself actually talking to the little mosses hid away among our rocks. I sit down to rest anywhere and invariably discover something new just at hand."


Her mother's attitude, from whom Rhoda appears to be estranged as with other women, is indicated in the following note: "... all but the one day we spent at the old place and even then I could not feel sad as my father and aunt did. It does not seem sad to me that my grandparents passed on in ripe old age to a blissful immortality, but then I am a strange girl Ma says." (Oct. 9, 1865).


Rhoda was odd, strange and ridiculous. She was intelligent, rebellious and depressed. Her apparent ardency toward Clinton was generated by the ease with which she could communicate with a pen the outpourings of her heart and intellect that seemed impossible in the presence of actual people. She feared death, having been exposed to the death of her sister's children.


Rhoda was aware of the passage of her youth: January 5, 1866: "How I wish I was young and handsome and literary just for one week, not that I want to go over life again, I have got past those foolish times and am glad of it, but it is so natural to admire youth and beauty, and was ever a woman born that did not like to please? I am me & am afraid you will think I am young and be so shocked! I am half a mind to tell you my age and weight, but that would just prove what our folks say, that I cannot keep a secret and I must wait and see you."


Men held the keys from survival to social status. It is probable that Rhoda had exploited the shortage of men and dislocations of the war in her own way.

The time had arrived when she could not longer do so. Her only alternative was to be conventional - she would marry or she would teach. Her eldest sister could care for the old folks - one well known way for parents to create an old maid out of the eldest daughter. But in a strange fallout of female spinster "primogeniture" Rhoda became the superfluous one. Her situation indicated that she was one of a surplus population of women during a time of a war that consumed the male population like never before or since in American history.


Even near the end of her correspondence with Clinton, after her private audience with the governor, again she is off in the field looking over a coal seam with Professor D..., a man who once stood to make a lot of money: August 10, 1866: "I visited in company with Prof. D..., what they call the coal mine, about four miles from here, they have gone, or rather followed a vein of something that looks very much like coal, a hundred feet into the side of the mountain, but I suppose it is not coal, and the company has been given up though they once dreamed of immense revenues to be derived from it."


Rhoda's five month visit to Clifton Springs to recover her health reminds one, perhaps, of the watering ground and hotel world of Edith Wharton where desperate mothers brought their daughters to such places to marry them off as richly as possible. Such places attract the rich and powerful, and those that prey on such people. Again, one is minded of the intense hatred of the period, contributing to the riots in New York City during the war, due to rich men buying themselves and their sons out of service in the army for a few hundred dollars. In the Second World War, and possibly in all wars, those that fight despise and fear the men left behind who then graze among the lonely women.


One striking peculiarity of Rhoda's writings is her compulsive honesty. She acknowledges its compulsive character, that she cannot govern it and that she half-heartedly wishes she could. She seems incapable of certain kinds of duplicity. It is social suicide both to try to sell herself to Clinton as a hefty old maid and glad to be rid of her youth, her indiscriminate announcements to all and sundry about her present and pending relationship with the Judge, her rather sinister hints to Clinton about knowledge he would like to know and had to get from her lips, and her bragging to her family about her indiscretions. This in an age where discretion was given great prominence, and which was taught at the Troy Seminary. Her declarations seem to be part of a craving for an elusive liberty or retaliation for being the unwanted one, the unmarried one.


January 5, 1866: "How I wish I was young and handsome and literary just for one week, not that I want to go over life again, I have got past those foolish times and am glad of it, but it is so natural to admire youth and beauty, and was ever a woman born that did not like to please? I am me & am afraid you will think I am young and be so shocked! I am half a mind to tell you my age and weight, but that would just prove what our folks say, that I cannot keep a secret and I must wait and see you."  "...I don't know how I dare to write so to Judge Clinton. The truth is, if you are half as good as I think you are I shall just tell you every thing I ever knew, and then afterward I shall just think how foolish it was at my age, that is the way I lecture myself almost every day for my indiscretions."... "The coldest day of the season and but little snow: now does the picture of the "middle aged venerable very [grave?] lady" on skates rise before you?"


Rhoda's Images


In her letters, Rhoda Waterbury has the capacity to express joy and such sentiments. Her graphic descriptions of unspoiled habitats, especially those that support a diverse bryophyte population, are a delight, especially to those who can translate her Latin names into the visual image of the plants themselves. The physicality of her joy is apparent in her various raptures, and this joy she was more than willing to share with Clinton, who seems to have typically represented himself as old, overworked, sorrowful and harassed, but by other measures, did not possess these characteristics overmuch. Although Clinton was not to share this sense with Rhoda, there is no reason why the present reader cannot do so. The environments she visited were lavish in their beauty and described in their luscious effects. Her rapture is contagious.


"I have a very queer idea of God I don't know but you will call it materialism but I think not. It seems to me that the principle of beauty and every thing else that calls forth the feelings of pleasure and admiration in these things is a part, a spark, or at least a ray from Deity itself. There! that is not half the idea and I never can tell it. I do not think they are God but I think His spirit pervades them and when we feel it we wonder & admire. I think I catch glimpses of the beauty of the Eternal in the physical world and of the glory that surrounds Him in the sunlight that sometimes makes every part of my being rejoice. My father says my theology is not orthodox and I suppose he is right but I cannot help it. I don't think every body has the same idea of Deity, or can have. He manifests himself to me in the best way to suit the special organization he has given me & I must see Him as I do." (Oct. 28th, 1865).


This religious sentiment may reflect that of others with whom Clinton corresponded, such as the Reverend James Fowler of Richibucto, New Brunswick. Rhoda is decidedly happier in the field than in the house, or so she writes. Her sister in Warsaw noted Rhoda's unusual character, but Rhoda embellishes her sister's observations, noting the element of ecstasy in her character:

  "how I do pity those who cannot enjoy the open air, and ramble the fields as I do, my  sister says that is living to me, the sort of life I only endure because I must,      maybe it is so, mere existence is a pleasure to me when I can feel the fresh air all    about me. I sometimes fear that when freed from the body I shall not have that         definite consciousness of existence that I now have that it will be near a dream       state ...".


Rhoda fails to mention that her rambles in the wilds of Schoharie county are best enjoyed in the company of men of social status, without additional company, and it is with such men that she can best share her rapture, doing what is natural and spontaneous, free from the prying eyes of married sisters and housewives, mothers and brothers.


The conscious quality of the stunning loveliness of some of Rhoda's writing is only one of various styles of composition at Rhoda's command. Her particular kind might be characterized as "sentimental" as in the following passage (Saturday evening [May 1866]):

  "It is a beautiful moonlight evening and it is so quiet here in my brothers little library I feel just like writing sentimentally but it will never do I have passed the "transitional" state, and belong to the generation that is now on the stage of action doing the heavy work of the world."


The letter of Sept. 29th, 1865


In this letter occurs what might be the key to Rhoda's purpose, for once she leaves the realm of contributor to botany, and she starts a quest that may be difficult to understand in a pragmatic way.


If there is any suggestion of physical or sexual intent in any of Rhoda's letters, such innuendo is really only an expression of what really matters to Rhoda. In spite of an insistence on her jollity and high spirits and physical strength, it is really an emotional commonality with Clinton that she craves. As mentioned above, Rhoda existed in social, or perhaps in emotional isolation.


For all her protests of amiability, and her readiness to feel and express deep affection for her family, such warmth does not appear to have been returned to her, or returned in the way she needed. The Waterbury family has a house full of company, and Rhoda, as an old maid, possibly middle-aged (over 30? 40?) writes "very much depends upon me for the entertainment." She is one of two "old maids," the other old maid, the elder sister being responsible for running the household. It seems clear that Rhoda detests this obligation - and entertaining a wedding party in particular was perhaps obnoxious to her. Two letters from an important correspondent was sufficient excuse for her to abandon the responsibilities her family put to her and flee to her room.


One is put in mind of the social isolation of another very clever contemporary, Emily Dickenson, who similarly rejoiced in nature, the seasons, and felt deeply the intimacy that death had in households at this time, where family members were responsible for the care and tending of the sick, and the preparation of the bodies of relations for burial. Such exposure to death made life more intensely poignant.


"I hope you will not think me unsocial...," which Rhoda obviously is. Clinton's written dislike of his judicial responsibilities seems to tally well with Rhoda's aversion. But with Clinton, there is really no evidence that he took to the field before 1861. His botanizing was an extension of his delight in political power, which required a love of people.


"I hope you will not think me unsocial, far from it, but you don't know - yes I think you do know! how I love the open air the woods and the abandon of nature, and your letters always breathe fresh from the fields even when you are in that dull court that I so much detest, then too I am delighted to know you worship the God of Nature, another kindred tie between us."


It is most likely that Rhoda was asking for Clinton to be or become what she had called him in her letters all along: her "mentor." Were she to have a form of autism, then what she was craving would be what is now termed an advocate. Rhoda cannot speak for herself, so she requires a "neurotypically normal" person to assist her in her interactions, or to deal with the consequences of a disconnect between her mentality, which has a virility that makes her sympathetic with the kind of mind sanctioned in men. Her contempt for women might be based on a sense of their relative mediocrity - as in the image of her teaching painting to young people in the Gloversville Academy, and having to hide her interest in botany from their society.


It is Clinton's letters that emotionally rescue her from a house full of wedding guests. Rhoda states that her correspondence with Clinton is necessary to give legitimacy to her botanical pursuits amidst familial jests: "I shall impose myself upon you in the shape of an epistle frequently, for you see it is quite a necessity with me, old maid that I am, I am gathering in a great stack of mosses, my friends say

to keep Betty the goat that does the churning (for we are farmers, that is Pa and I) but I intend them for quite another purpose" (November 2865). Elsewhere in Clinton's correspondence he will refer to his botanical collections as so much "hay," an acknowledgement of the budding contempt for science and scholarship with the coming of the post Civil War business cycle, a social period in American history that has come down to us as the Gilded Age.


Being intellectually superior, but powerless, is dangerous in her social context. Rhoda's intelligence may have been of interest to men when she was young, but it had become intolerable to them in middle age, an idea that seems beyond Rhoda's

Ability to conceive . Rhoda may, in the end, have made a significant contribution to society with her botany had she not had a variety of conditions that put her at odds with the society she wished to benefit, were the reader to forget that botany was a convenient ruse to rehabilitate a diminished social status. Or her botanical career would have ended had she been successful in her unstated ends.




The township of Schoharie "lies in the N.E. part of [Schoharie County], its N.E. corner bordering on Schenectady Co. Its surface is a hilly upland, broken by the deep valleys of the streams. The declivities of the hills are generally gradual slopes, and their summits are 400 to 500 ft. above the valleys.... In the limestone region in this town are numerous caverns. The soil upon the hills is a clayey loam, and in the valleys a gravelly loam and alluvium." (French, 1860, Gazetteer of New York State p. 606). The Albany and Susquehanna Railroad ran along the northern line of Schoharie township, its grade 550 ft. above tide" (French p. 606 footnote 11). The railroad "is located along the valleys of Schoharie Creek and Cobles Kil, through Esperance, Schoharie, Cobleskill, and Richmondville." French pp. 600-601.


"Besides the [county] buildings [Schoharie was the county seat] it contains 3 churches, the Schoharie Academy, 2 newspaper offices, an arsenal, and a bank. Pop. 806" in 1860.  Even as late as 1949, when the Webster's Geographical Dictionary was copyrighted, Schoharie village had a population of only 941. The county resides only 35 miles from Albany, where Peck was working on mosses, hence the ease of communication between Rhoda and Peck. The county's "surface is an upland, broken by mountains in the s. and by hills in the center and n. A northerly branch of the Catskill Mts. lies along the s. border, the highest summits of which are 3,000 ft. above tide. From them irregular spurs extend northward, occupying the greater part of the co. ... in the center and s. the declivities are steep and in many places precipitous." French 1860 p. 600 1860.


Rhoda's ancestors appear to have derived from the Schoharie area and may have been of the urban middle class, as opposed to the agricultural families typifying the population of the county. However, when she teaches in a village devoted to manufactories, Gloversville, New York, she seems to find them unrefined.


Although Rhoda did not mention it, she should perhaps be pleased to have a job, as suggested by the following information: "Within the last ten years [i.e. 1850's], a mania for building large seminaries, far beyond the wants of the people, has spread through the [Schoharie] co. The speculation has proved a ruinous one, and the entire amount of capital invested in the enterprises has been sunk. ... Of 9 academies built in this co., 3 have been burned, 3 are "to let," and 3 are still open." French 1860 p. 602). The 1850's was a boom and bust economic decade. In the first half of the 1860's, during the Civil War, the economic institutions of the United States would undergo a radical transformation, particularly in the federalization of the banking "system." For the first time in its history, the United States would have a capitalized economy, rather than a creditor, and for the first time, not have to linger in debt until the shipment and sale of the fall harvest.


The Specimens


Although there are probably numerous specimens from Rhoda at the New York State Museum in Albany, since she sent moss specimens to Charles Peck, these were not examined. Slack (1987) mentioned that Rhoda had been sending moss specimens to Clinton to identify. “Clinton, however, sent these on to Peck who proclaimed half of them wrongly identified by Waterbury, not surprsing in the absence of microscope or manual...” (Slack 1987).


Specimens collected by Rhoda Waterbury now in the Buffalo Museum of Science taken from a partially indexed database of the Clinton Herbarium (BUF), Buffalo, New York include:


Uvularia perfoliata L.

USA New York Schoharie Co., Schoharie

Rhoda M. Waterbury [1860's?]

Herbarium number: 7309 

  See letters May 27, 1865; June 10, 1865 and June 2, 1867.


Polemonium vanbruntiae Britton

USA New York. Schoharie

Rhoda Waterbury (Ex Coll. G.W.C.) Unknown.

Herbarium number: 25153  

=Polemonium caeruleum L.

  See letters June 22, 1865, JULY 15, 1865; Dec. 23, 1865; Jan. 5, 1866; Jan. 19, 1866.


Eleocharis intermedia Schultes

USA New York, Schoharie Co., Schoharie.

ex coll. G. W. Clinton, Buffalo, N. Y.

Rhoda M. Waterbury

Herbarium number: 5000 

  See letter of September 6, 1865.


Grimaldia barbifrons Bischoff

USA New York Schoharie Co., Schoharie

Ex Coll. G. W. Clinton, Buffalo, New York.

Miss Rhoda Waterbury s.n. 1860's

Herbarium number: 41899


Grimaldia barbifrons Bischoff [= Grimaldia fragrans (Balb.) Corda = Mannia fragrans (Balb.) Frye et L. Clark, a liverwort (Hepaticae) once in the Marchantiaceae, recently placed in the Aytoniaceae. Occurs in Ontario, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, widely scattered in distribution in the Northern Hemisphere, mostly in sites that are seasonally dry.  Mentioned by Peck: On April 2, 1866, the 19th Annual Report of the Regents of the University of the State of New York, on the Condition of the State Cabinet of Natural History and the Historical and Antiquarian Collection Annexed Thereto, Senate document No. 89 of the State of New York was published. Charles Peck produced his "List of Mosses of the State of New-York"pp 42-70.


See letters citing both Grimaldia and Riccia, the latter an erroneous determination for Grimaldia (A specimen of Riccia collected by her is referred to Mr. C. F. Austin by Leo Lesquereux Vol.2:2 and is probably her Grimaldia barbifrons (= Mannia fragrans). Rhoda refers to this correspondence as the "Riccia affair," resolved by Coe Finch Austin: Sept. 29, 1865; Oct. 28, 1865; [Lesquereux letter Oct. 16, 1865]; Nov. 11, 1865; Nov. [23] 1865.


Fissidens exiguus Sullivant,

USA New York Schoharie Co., Schoharie

Clinton's handwriting, but not his label.

Rhoda Waterbury s.n. s.d.

Herbarium number: 75277  


On April 2, 1866, the 19th Annual Report of the Regents of the University of the State of New York, on the Condition of the State Cabinet of Natural History and the Historical and Antiquarian Collection Annexed Thereto, Senate document No. 89 of the State of New York was published. Charles Peck produced his "List of Mosses of the State of New-York" pp. 42-70 - Rhoda's specimen of F. exiguus is mentioned there. Letters referring to this specimen at BUF include Feb. 13, 1866. See letter from Charles Peck to Clinton of December 20, 1866 below.


A search of on-line specimens from the New York Botanical Garden show the following Waterbury specimens:


Bazzania trilobata (L.) Gray  Miss R. Waterbury with C. H. P. Comm. July 1865  United States of America. New York. Albany Co.     236227 (see July [no date] 1865 and related letters. This specimen was sent by Charles Horton Peck to Coe Finch Austin for determination).


Tortula mucronifolia Schwägr.  Miss R. Waterbury 06 Sep 1867 United States of America. New York. Schoharie Co. Schoharie.     364198  (see letter Aug. 28th, 1865) 


Tortula mucronifolia Schwägr.  Miss R. Waterbury  United States of America. New York. Schoharie Co. Schoharie.     364209   


Polemonium vanbruntiae Britton  Miss. R. Waterbury s.n. Jul 1887  United States of America. New York. Schoharie Co. Schoharie.     38054  (see letter July 15th, 1865) 


Mannia barbifrons Shimizu & S. Hatt.  Miss R. Waterbury 2a  United States of America. New York. Schoharie Co. Schoharie.     268673  (see letters related to the "Riccia affair" Sept. 29th, 1865 &c.) 


The bryophyte specimens most likely are derived from the herbarium of Coe Finch Austin, which in 1887 Columbia University bought from the University of Manchester in England. Columbia's herbarium is now curated by the New York Botanical Garden (Sayre 1987).


Note to the Sullivant plates


The book that Rhoda used to identify her mosses and liverworts, and her vascular plants was Gray's Manual of Botany. W. S. Sullivant, contrary to the treatment in TL2 under "Sullivant" (and not "Gray"), in fact issued his treatment of the mosses and liverworts of the Northern United States with the first 1848 edition of the Manual. In the treatment under "Sullivant" in TL2, Sullivant's crypoptogam flora was (mistakenly) thought to have been first issued in 1856.


Sullivant's treatment remained unillustrated until the Second Edition of the Manual, issued in September of 1856. The author of the TL2 treatment for Asa Gray seems to substantiate that the eight plates pertaining to the musci and hepaticae in the second edition were not only drawn by Sullivant (his original drawings now at the Farlow Herbarium), but Sullivant funded the copper plates as well:  "Sullivant, on his own motion, had the eight plates of Musci engraved in copper, at his own cost … and gave them to the work, after printing 250 copies for his separate booklet …"  Six plates of illustrations by Isaac Sprague in the second edition, including the ferns, were done "on stone" (TL2 p. 988).


The citation for Sullivant's contribution to the Second Edition of the manual (1856) is: Sullivant, W. S. 1856. The Musci and Hepaticae of the United States east of the   Mississippi River. In: A. Gray, Manual of Botany, ed. 2. Pp. 607-743.


Apparently there is an 1857 edition of the Second Edition of Gray's manual but without the bryological treatment, which would have, as the introduction to the manual states, made the book unwieldy for the ordinary user.


The eight copper-plate figures of musci and hepaticae that graced the 1856 edition of Gray's Manual  also accompanied a separate publication by Sullivant where only his moss and liverwort text is printed, and it is from this volume that the figures are reproduced with this treatment of Rhoda Waterbury's letters (see note on the drawings below).


Sullivant's separate publication is cited as:


Sullivant, W. S. 1856. The Musci and Hepaticae of the United States East of the Mississippi River. "contributed to the Second Edition of Gray's Manual of Botany."

It was published in New York by George P. Putnam & Co. who also owned the copyright. There is also a small sentence indicating "Cambridge: Metcalf and Company, Printers to the University." The introduction by Sullivant indicated that the introduction itself was penned in Columbus, Ohio, in July of 1856.


Apparently there is an 1857 edition of the second edition of Gray's manual but without the bryological treatment, which would have, as the introduction to the manual states, made the book unwieldy for the ordinary user. However,

Sullivant's text also appeared in revised editions of the Manual for 1858, 1859 and in Edition 4, 1863, and Ed. 4 of 1865, the year Rhoda's correspondence began. Sullivant's treatment was not reproduced "in other issues of Manual after 1865" (TL2, "Sullivant").


In the year before the Waterbury-Clinton correspondence began, Sullivant also published (Oct. 1864) the Icones muscorum, or "figures and descriptions of most of those mosses peculiar to Eastern North America which have not been heretofore figured, Cambridge, Mass." It is doubtful that Rhoda would have the means or sophistication to know of or acquire this book, nor did she have access to Sullivant's, or Sullivant and Lesquereux' exsiccatae.


All of Sullivant's eight plates published in the 1856 Putnam editions, which also appeared in the second edition of the second edition of the Manual are included here to give the reader some idea of the beauty and difficulty of knowing these plants as botany stood in 1865, and to allow the reader to share something of Rhoda's experience associating plants in the field with pictures of the genera with which they were associated, using the hand lens and microscope of the period.


It is a rare occasion when a distinguished taxonomist is also a superb illustrator of the subject of his profession. Fernald, in the Eighth Edition of Gray's Manual (1950) indicated that the plates to Gray's second edition of the Manual were drawn by Isaac Sprague. As discussed above, however, the plates for the musci and hepaticae were drawn by Sullivant.


Note should be made that there were numerous books on botany Rhoda could have used for her vascular plants. I am indebted to Norton Miller of the New York State Survey in Albany, N.Y., for writing me that Mrs. Almira H. Lincoln, once Vice Principal of the Troy Female Seminary where Rhoda studied, wrote "Familiar Lectures on Botany, practical, elementary, and physiological with an appendix containing descriptions of the plants of the United States and exotics," &c., a volume that was reissued several times, the Seventh Edition of which is dated 1838.




I thank John Grehan, Director of Science and Collections, Buffalo Museum of Science, Buffalo, New York, for his generous assistance in permitting me continued access to the Museum's collections from the time I came to Saint Louis from Buffalo, where I had been Research Associate in Botany.


The copy of Sullivan'ts treatment of mosses and hepatics is from the William Steere library, now in the bryological library of the Missouri Botanical Garden.


I thank Katherine Leacock, Research Librarian, now Curator of Collections, Buffalo Museum of Science, for her generous assistance in providing continued access to the Clinton correspondence in the archives of that institution.


Lorinda Leonardi, Charles Sheviak and Norton Miller provided key information regarding the New York State Herbarium and Rhoda Waterbury's collections there - a project that requires further investigation. There is no evidence that Charles Peck retained any of his correspondence with Rhoda. Norton Miller also pointed out discrepancies between sources that were inconsistent regarding the bibliographic relationship between Sullivant's treatment of North American musci and hepaticae and various editions of Gray's Manual of Botany.


I thank Bob Magill, Vice President for Research, Missouri Botanical Garden, Saint Louis, Missouri, for providing facilities for research and posting of Clinton correspondence transcripts.


Richard Zander, Research Associate, Missouri Botanical Garden, provided computer expertise in preparing the on-line text and images as well as editorial consultation. Richard, in Saint Louis, managed to take the hyacinth photos one morning in April on the way to work just before the sun came over the horizon and melted the snow.




Austin, Coe Finch. 1870. Musci Appalachiani: tickets of specimens of Mosses collected mostly in the eastern part of North America. Closter, New Jersey. pp. 1-92.


Clarke, John M. 1921. James Hall of Albany Geologist and Paleontologist 1811-1898. Albany, New York.


Clinton, G. W. 1862-1878. Botanical Journal. Unpublished journal at the Buffalo     Museum of Science library, Buffalo, New York.


Dugan, James. 1953. The Great Iron Ship. Harper & Brothers, New York.


French, J. H. 1860. Gazetteer of the State of New York. R. Pearsall Smith, Syracuse, N.Y.


Mitchell, Richard S. & Gordon C. Tucker. 1997. Revised Checklist of New

York State Plants. New York State Museum Bulletin 490.


Sayre, Geneva. 1987. Coe Finch Austin, Bryologist. Bryostephane Steereana. Memoirs of the New York Botanical Garden  45:19-27.


Slack, Nancy G. 1987. Charles Horton Peck, Bryologist, and the Legitimation of Botany in New York State. Memoirs of the New York Botanical Garden. November 45:28-45.