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:


June 1865


Vol. 1. 37. I  190

Schoharie June 10th [18]65

Mr. Clinton,


Yours of June 2nd is before me. I am sure it is quite fortunate for you that I am not in your vicinity this summer as a letter even once a week is not half so annoying as the actual presence of an inquisitive individual.


On the receipt of yours I took a tramp with the hope of finding a tardy blossom of Uvularia perfoliata but without success, though I have several spec. in fruit, and one or two already in press in blossom though not as good as I desired. I shall preserve them for you. The past two weeks I have spent almost entirely on the Mosses with what success I shall leave you to judge for I intend to trouble you with the list and as they  can be so readily sent by mail I wish to forward to you a specimen of each that you may compare them with those you may already have, as I do not feel quite positive in regard to all of them, and my glass is not of sufficient power to determine the more minute parts of some of them, and I think it is impossible to study them with the naked eyes. I send you what I take to be three different varieties of Polytrichum though I may not be correct, one from its extreme length of stem may be var. strictum, of one the capsule is horizontal and seems fo... four sided. I called it commune, the other formosum. These are so large I think you will have no difficulty in examining them and I am quite anxious to know if I have blundered on them.


The Hepaticae I mentioned is Mastigobryum deflexum I think without doubt, though it is not in fruit. I will send some of it. I hope the Polytrichum will not lose its caps [= calyptrae] before it reaches you. I have had great trouble to keep them on since I brought them in doors. I find the mosses as fascinating as a new problem and quite as difficult which adds to the charm and when I have really mastered one I have the elevated sensation as after having solved a problem in Algebra. Among the plants you sent me are three varieties of Osmunda. A fourth I already had. I found it in a swamp just north of Lewiston Academy several years ago and never named it until now. As it differs from those you sent I have given it the remaining name, var. spectabilis. As you spoke of botanizing in that vicinity I thought perhaps you lacked that and might obtain it.

Hoping to hear from you again soon


I remain as before


your disciple


Rhoda Waterbury


Hon. G. W. Clinton


There is no specimen of fern collected by Rhoda at BUF.


(Liverworts in Marchantiaceae) Mastigobryum deflexum (Mart.) Ångstr = Bazzania tricrenata (Wahlenb.) Lindb.; Mastigobryum trilobatum (L.) Nees = Bazzania trilobata (L.) Gray.


There is a specimen in the Clinton Herbarium (BUF) of Uvularia perfoliata L. “USA New York Schoharie Co., Schoharie. Rhoda M. Waterbury [1860’s] Herbarium number: 7309.


From Albany, June 15th 1865, Peck wrote Clinton: “My Dear Sir, Yours of the 14th inst. was received this morning. I return “No. 10 June 10th”; also the Bartramia mentioned but regret that through my carelessness in leaving it exposed the roaches got at it and devoured all the capsules. I send a specimen to supply its place so far as possible. The specimens from Miss Rhoda Waterbury are Dicranum undulatum Brid., Bryum roseum Schreb. and Hypnum delicatulum L. Of the remainder of her specimens mentioned none are new to me except Mastigobryum deflexum. This I have never met with, although Mastigobryum trilobatum is very common here. If you will send it, I will look at it and return it.”


On July 31st 1865, Charles Peck wrote to Clinton: “I think I have some new things from the Catskills but have not yet examined all my specimens. I send Mastigobryum deflexum for which Miss. Waterbury mistook M. trilobum.”


A Lewiston High School Academy existed in Lewiston, Niagara Co. but was extinct by April of 1828 (French, 1860 Gazeteer of New York State). Perhaps the reference was to an institution in nearby Lewis County. But see the letter of July 15 below - this academy was perhaps one of those built on speculation in Schoharie County and which quickly disappeared.


The three “varieties” of Osmunda, by which Rhoda probably meant “kinds,” were O. cinnamomea L., the Cinnamon-fern, O. claytoniana L., Interrupted Fern, and O. regalis L., Royal Fern. Osmunda spectabilis Willd. has been joined with O. regalis: O. regalis var. spectabilis (Willd.) A. Gray.


In this letter Rhoda hints at the possibility of her visiting Clinton in Buffalo, a foretaste of her dropping in to the Cabinet in Albany mentioned in later letters.



Vol. 1. 56. I 169


Schoharie June 22d 1865


Mr. Clinton


Yours of the 19th has just reached me and I hasten to reply as you express fears that we have missed Polemonium coeruleum for this season. I hope you are not correct this time. When P. reptans was in blossom I examined Dr. Howe’s description of coeruleum with special reference to the time of blossoming and found it to be July & August, and as my time was completely occupied until the first of July, I have made arrangements to visit Charlotteville about the 12th, so if he is correct I shall yet be in season. Many thanks for the new plant, and now I must give myself the pleasure of sending to you some of my minute friends and let me say I think Mr. Peck will find I am correct in regard to Mastigobrym deflexum as the dorsal margin is arched and it grew upon a rock exactly, very much to my surprise.  Your suggestion in regard to the assistance of Mr. Peck pleases me very much, if he will have the kindness & leisure to do so. I have two other specimens of Hepaticae that I shall send you, the smaller one if placed in water for a few moments and examined with not a very powerful glass will show a profusion of flowers or fruit, I hardly know which to call them, the other had several of the bald capsules when I found it but I think they have all cast off in pressing, as I cannot find them. I feel a special affection for my wee wee moss and I think I have named it correctly, and the one I have named Rhabdoweisia is a beauty under the glass. I have also collected Rhus toxicodendron, Galium asprellum, & G. var.  tinctorium, Diervilla trifida.


I shall anxiously await your next.


Your disciple


Rhoda Waterbury


G. W. Clinton


Recd. June 24 & ansd.


In this letter it appears that Rhoda had sent her material to Clinton first for identification and he passed them forward to Peck. She is referring to Clinton’s suggestion that Rhoda write directly to Peck regarding her specimens.


The Rhabdoweisia was identified by Peck later as Bartramia Oederi (see letter of July 6th, 1865).


Polemoniumm coeruleum Gray, not L. = Polemonium van-bruntiae Britt. In Gray’s Manual, 5th Ed., Polemonium caeruleum L. [sic] grows in “Swamps, about the sources of the Susquehanna, New York: East of Charlottesville, Schoharie Co., Dr. E. C. Howe. ... Head of Little Lakes, Warren, Herkimer Co., G. W. Clinton ... July (p. 371). Gray indicates it was a European species, but “Wild far northwestward.” 1867 (1868). In Fernald’s 1950 edition of Gray’s Manual (ed. 8), P. caeruleum L. is “Spread from cult. to roadsides and waste places, e. Can. and N.E. to Minn. and doubtless elsewhere. “The name is presently considered to be Polemonium coeruleum Gray, not L. = P. van-bruntiae Britt. This latter is fully native, of “Wooded swamps, bottoms, sphagnous bogs and mossy glades, Vt. and N.Y. to Md. and W. Va., often at high alts.” There were only two species reported by Gray in his 5th edition and he appears to have erred about P. caeruleum L. being the European plant. In the Revised Checklist of New York State Plants by Richard Mitchell and Gordon Tucker (1997. New York State Museum Bulletin no. 490) there are only two species represented in New York, and the European plant is not one of them. Polemonium vanbruntiae Britt. is considered rare in the state and appears to be endemic at high altitudes in the area defined by Fernald.


Placing mosses and liverworts in water, better hot water, permits them to exhibit one of their nicest habits, that of swelling up and appearing just as new and fresh as if just picked from the hillside. They are seldom attacked by insects in the herbarium, as vascular plants are prone to be, and so are easily and cleanly maintained in a collection. They are easy to study in the sense that they are revived in shape with the application of water. Their capsules, however, may be attacked by insects or fungi, but more often only in the field.


Charlotteville was a postal village in the township of Summit, Schoharie Co., which has a surface composed of “a broken and hilly upland. The central ridge forms a portion of the watershed between Susquehanna and Mohawk Rivers, the highest summits being 2,000 to 2,300 ft. above tide.” (French p. 607). Charlotteville lay upon the Charlotte River. It had grist and sawmills and one of the largest seminary and collegiate institutes in the state. This river is a branch of the Susquehanna and has its source “in a marsh called the Vlaie.” (French p. 600).]


Elliot Calvin Howe (1828-1899), by his correspondence, was a good friend of Charles Peck. Howe also corresponded with George Clinton, who appears to have introduced him to Peck (see portion of letter below). Howe lived for a time in Fort Edward in Washington County, New York, and taught there at “The Washington Co. Seminary and Female Collegiate Institute, one of the largest academic institutions in the State, [which] is located at this village.” French p. 682. Clinton would also suggest that Howe communicate his moss specimens to Peck:

Howe wrote:


                            Fort Edward, N.Y., Dec. 30, 1865

Hon. G. W. Clinton:

            Dear Sir inasmuch as I am greatly indebted to you for a rare pleasure during the past few months, I take this occasion to make my acknowledgements, and thank you for referring me to Mr. Peck as a guide in determining mosses. I had already succeeded in making out the simpler species, as in Dicranum, Polytrichum, Atrichum, Thelia, and in Leucobryum and partly in Bryum, Mnium and Leskea, and perhaps in others; but Hypnum I found to be a puzzler, and in this genus especially has Mr. Peck afforded great assistance.”


On June 26, 1865 Charles Peck wrote to Clinton:

“If Miss Waterbury has Seligeria tristicha and Leucobryum minus from this state they will constitute two additional species for N.Y. Rhabdoweisia angulata I suppose to be intended for R. denticulata. The others in her list are very common.


Should you find 16 & 17 in fruit I would like to examine it again. I think I must write to Miss. W. and see if she can assist us in unfolding the muscological resources of the Empire State.


Yours truly


Charles H. Peck


Judge G. W. Clinton


Received June 28, 1865



Leucobryum vulgare var. minus Hampe, and L. minus of Sullivant and Lesquereux’ Musci Boreali Americani ed. 1 is today Leucobryum albidum (Brid.) Lindb. Seligeria tristicha is Seligeria tristichoides Kindb. The former grows on the ground, especially associated with old rotted tree boles, the latter on calcareous rock, cliffs and boulders. The Seligeria is rare. Both, as the next letter indicates, were misidentified.


Sullivant’s Plate 2