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:


October 1865


Vol. 1. No. 191 [I 16]


Schoharie, Oct. 9th, 1865


My Dear Kind Friend


I must write you this evening though I fear I have not time to tell you all and surely not space enough in one sheet, so prepare for a task for I must tell you all about what a nice time I have had and how nicely I cheated that cough. 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. If you are at all acquainted with that part of the State you know what a wild mountain region it is; we made short stage and we younger ones walked up all the long hill where we could prevail on them to let us for the purpose of gathering moss, chestnuts and the like. We followed the Schoharie up to its source, or as far as it runs in this county, they crossed the high mountains between that and the head waters of the Delaware and followed down the west branch to Andes, a little village among the mountains. I cannot begin to tell you how much I enjoyed and in the first twenty hours the cough had vanished entirely. I begin to think as the physicians tell me I have no disease of the lungs that fresh air and sunlight will not remove. The first morning we found ourselves in a fine snow storm at the head of the Delaware but it did not amount to any discomfort for we were nicely entertained and the sun soon made his appearance again. How I wish I could give you just the picture I now see of the Gap in the mountains through which we passed and the color of the mountain sides that almost met, and so very high, but when I say October you know the beauty of color, and such mosses! it will take me a whole week to put them up to send to Mr. Peck, and the brook trout we caught I see the bea[u]ties yet as their speckled sides glistened in the sun and the chestnuts. Oh dear! I am discouraged! 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. 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. Well Saturday evening found us home once more, and a whole hand full of letters on my table. I was so excited I had been in my room a long time before I thought I had not taken off my hat, for the letters must be looked into. And there I had done just as you told me and almost as soon as you write it, and those nice little plants for an invalid! I am going to tell you every time I am sick and you shall be my physician henceforth. Now I have got a great story to tell you about my new liverwort. I did sent it to you and said I thought it might be Metzgeria furcata, but I was not correct. Mr. Peck sent it to Mr. Austin and he wrote thus, “It is very different from anything I ever collected or heard of from this county [country?]. I incline to think it is not new, however. Try to get Miss W. to look after it and get me 100 specimens” only think of that and he offers as a reward a full suit of his species. Well today I have gathered the 100 specimens but it is the most difficult thing I ever tried to put up it adheres so closely to the loose dirt on the rocks that it looks only like a specimen of soil for the chemist, and you know I want to do the thing nicely for a new correspondent. Only think my kind friend what a source of pleasure you have opened for me in this correspondence. I cannot report now in regard to my new mosses as I have not half examined them. 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. Now I see I have written so small you cannot read And I have no space left but this to subscribe myself as ever


Your disciple


  Rhoda Waterbury


Recd. Oct. 12, ansd.


Rhoda has not identified this species, which probably ended up in Mr. Austin’s exsiccat.


This is a fine example of Rhoda’s powers of description when her morale is high. It is telling that Rhoda describes the beauty of the brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis), rather than their taste, perhaps cooked up in a chowder, which Clinton often wrote of in his professional excursions, such as to a resort in the Thousand Islands region of the St. Lawrence.


According to the official website of the New York State Library (April 2006): “The trout was adopted as the State fish in 1975. Found in hundreds of lakes and ponds in the Adirondack Mountains and scattered in cool, clear streams throughout the State, the native brook trout, called brookies or speckles, provide fine angling and the best of eating.” “A wild brook trout is a riot of color. Its flanks are speckled with red spots and blue halos, while yellow vermiculations squirm across its mossy green back. The belly of a brookie sports a stripe of orange, as if it had been dipped in a shallow pan of fire. In the hand the fish seems gaudy, a piscine peacock, but in the water it is nearly invisible against the sun-dappled stream bottom.” (The Fishing Zone. com, April 2006).


The American chestnut was and is a delicacy of high flavor and it is said the flesh of swine fed exclusively on this variant of nut was particularly delicious. As with the trout, Rhoda does not focus on the chestnut as food. The chestnuts she writes of are the fruits of the magnificent species of American tree that has been all but exterminated throughout its range due to a blight. In Gray’s Manual, ed 5 of 1867, he wrote (as Castanea vesca var. Americana Michx.), that the nuts of the American variant (as opposed to the var. vesca, which is the European Chestnut) are smaller and sweeter. The trees inhabit “Rocky or hilly woods, Maine to Michigan and Kentucky and southwards, especially along the Alleghanies.” (p. 455).


Both the American chestnut and the native brook trout are the focus of efforts at reestablishment.


Andes in Delaware Countylies on the S.E. border of the co., e. of the center. Its surface is a broken and hilly upland, intersected by the deep, narrow ravines of the E. branch of the Delaware and its branches. The hills are high, rocky, and irregular, and are bordered by steep declivities. ... [The township is] Named from the mountainous character of its surface. ... A considerable portion of the town is still covered with forests….” (French  1860p. 259 ). The township was established in 1819.


In a letter written to George Clinton, Leo Lesquereux wrote:


"Columbus, O.  Octb. 16th, 1865


My dear Sir,


... M. Austin writes me about that Riccia found by Miss Waterbury. M[r?]. Austin has now taken to the study of the Hepaticae and is more able than myself to decide about the value of a species of this Family ....


   .... Now I will stop. It is late, I am tired and I think the last will be postponed the examination of the balc. of your specimens, two packages till I find a few hours more of leisure.


Saying like the children 


Now I lay me down to sleep.


I wish you a good night, pleasant dreams and give you my most warm



    L. Lesquereux


Hon. G. W. Clinton


Buffalo, N.Y.


Recd Oct. 18th, Wrote to him 19th."


Note that Lesquereux’ childlike ending was communicated by Clinton to Rhoda (see letter Oct. 21st, 1865 below).


In a letter written to George Clinton, Charles Peck wrote:


"Albany Oct. 16th 1865


From Portage Oct. 10-12:


x31  Barbula mucronifolia Br. & Sch. I have never found this. Miss Waterbury sent me specimens from Schoharie. 

Charles H. Peck

Judge G. W. Clinton

Received Oct. 18"



Vol. 2. No. 7 [D 200]


Schoharie Oct. 16th, 1865


My Dear Kind Friend,


If you “don’t believe much in Mr. Austin” then I do not. You are my Mentor, do you feel it to be a weighty responsibility? I shall not send these ever so many specimens to Mr. A., at least until I hear from you and I shall send you as good a lot as I have. They do not look pretty at all dried. They turn black. I did not have room in my last to tell you how glad I am that you remember me when you have good things to give. That dinner speech came to hand in season as proof that I was not forgotten. And now I must tell you I think you are quite outdoing me in tiny things. I don’t believe a bit in your poor eyes. After the sketch of that Lilliput I can see him with my hand glass, and the little moss that came today, now I know you can see well sometimes and I begin to mistrust your eyes are younger than mine. 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. I am sure it has made an excellent choice of a physician for I feel well and happy again, and must tell you of my success in raising cotton. I have one plant near five feet high but there came a frost last week and I pulled it up root and branch hoping it would ripen the seed indoors. I do not know as I shall succeed but I did last year though the plant was small, only a foot. I must send you a specimen of my little fellow. Mr. Peck calls him Pleuridium alternifolium, Brid. but as I do not find it in Gray’s Manual I am not well acquainted with him yet. Do not think I could draw him but if I send him alive it will do as well. Of your list of additions I have not


Sphagnoecetis communis

Jungermannia curvifolia

Bryum Wahlenbergii

Hypnum nitens

Hypnum stellatum

Hypnum plumosum

Hypnum cylindrocarpum

Mnium spinulosum


In my next I hope to send you a long list of mine, but cannot wait now for Mr. Peck’s answer as I am in haste to send you this liverwort for I want to know his name. I am glad you do not tire of my question and importunity when you are so very busy. I hope it is a recreation for you instead of a task for I feel I am receiving instruction without returning fair compensation and it is a great pleasure to me if I do not burden you to be


Your disciple


  Rhoda Waterbury


Hon. G. W. Clinton


Recd. Oct. 19  & wrote her.


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 a 1857 edition of the manual without the bryology published a year later. The justification for this reprint without the bryology section was that that section made the Manual unwieldy. The study of these plants must also have been nearly impossible without the advantages of correspondents with authorities and special equipment and reference specimens.


Her cotton plant is a souvenir of the recent war, cotton and its raising being the primary reason for the southern states' prominence in the world. The plundering or looting of the cotton crops by northern financial predators, including Jim Fiske, famous for his involvement in the railroad wars, during and after the war, is part of the trophy mind-set of the victorious northern states.


The correspondence generally of this day has not been kind to the taxonomic credibility of Coe F. Austin, whose concepts, notwithstanding, have withstood the test of time better than some of his contemporaries. Also, as this was the time Clinton was laboring to garner bryophyte specimens to swell the herbarium of the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences and that of the New York State Museum (Cabinet), he would probably see Austin’s need for specimens to expand his upcoming exsiccat as competition.


The bog liverwort Sphagnoecetis communis, Nees is listed as Odontoschisma Sphagni (Dicks.) Dum. on pl. 713 of Gray’s 5th. & illustrated on Pl. 24. Its common name is the Bog-moss Flapwort and is in the liverwort family Cephaloziaceae.


Pleuridium is a genus of tiny mosses in the Ditrichaceae. Pleuridium subulatum (Hedw.) Rabh. (= Pleuridium alternifolium Lindb.) is one of the smallest types of bryophytes, found growing in the springtime or later if in the north or in upland situations or cooler ravines on bare soil in disturbed soil (old fields, pastures, grassy roadsides, lawns).


Vol. 2. No. 16 [D 191]


    Schoharie, Oct. 21st, 1865


My Dear Kind Friend,


Little did I think I should cause my Mentor so much trouble in so short a time. Why did you not keep the specimen? I have more than 100 besides and I can easily get as many more. I was very careless not to tell you so and put you to all that trouble, dear me! I fear you will find me too troublesome a correspondent and I shall lose you, yet I cannot but be pleased with the contents of your letter aside from your “peck of trouble” for I shall forward them immediately to Mr. A [Austin] and then too I like to believe that all you naturalists are perfect. It is a pleasant idea that I will indulge just so long as I can and I am real sorry I caused you any uneasiness by my carelessness. I get along very slowly with my new mosses for Mr. Peck has been very busy with sickness in the family and could not find the time to devote to my beauties, and then I am almost discouraged I make such blundering work, or rather I don’t study them as I ought before I send them to him. You would think me very childish if I told you all my trouble about it, so I shall not but assure you of what I am well aware myself that I ought to be very happy, and when I see you next summer I will tell you all about it. It has been snowing here today but I like it after all though I have not ventured to look for mosses and you are getting ahead of me entirely. I never did see such a student as you are, you have a list of new ones every week. I shall never amount to much I fear as a botanist. I have a little thing I found under water I want to send you. I should have sent it some weeks ago but have thought of nothing but the mosses, and I have found quite a bunch of Climacium dendroides and I want to send you two stems just  because they are so pretty I think they are larger, those I sent before.


Now of your late additions I have not


Lophocolea heterophylla


Encalypta streptocarpa


Hypnum Sullivantii


Hypnum acuminatum


How I wish I had something new to send you, let me see here is Hypnum piliferum is not in your list that is good, besides Mr. Peck says it is rare. It is Saturday evening and the quiet of the Sabbath has already fallen upon us here. I must close this and rest. How pleasant it is that you and Mr. Lesquereux both say “Now I lay me”, and you enjoy a pleasant lovely time, yet I know you are a very companionable soul and your hours of solitude yield rich harvests for your friends. I cannot tell you how very grateful your “God bless and keep you” is to me. I hope I shall not cause you so much extra labor again as last week. I will try to be very good.


Good bye!


Your disciple


    Rhoda Waterbury


Hon. G. W. Clinton


Recd. Oct. 25 & ansd.


Rhoda’s ending mimics the end of Leo Lesquereux’ letter to Clinton, above, of October 16th, 1865. The reference to “when I see you next summer” will become apparent in future letters.


It seems again that Clinton is not speaking very highly of Mr. Austin. It has been said that the many specimens in Austin’s Musci Appalachiani are from New York, and that Peck collected them for this purpose. It seems clear that some of them might also have come from Miss Waterbury. Their lack of citation may be due to the fact that some of the species were not as rare or interesting as Climacium dendroides.


See letter of March 23, 1866 below: “Oh I must tell you Mr. Austin wrote me in great haste for certain mosses and ferns that he wanted immediately to complete some sets he was putting up, and the letter had to come from my home so it was some time before he received answer and then I was away from my duplicates so I merely told him the situation of affairs.”


Hypnum sullivantiae (B.S.G.) Sull. et Lesq., Musci Boreali Am. 78. 1856 was known as Plagiothecium roseanum Schimp. in B.S.G., but is know known as P. cavifolium (Brid.) Iwatsuki. The feminine -ae ending may indicate the species was originally dedicated to Sullivant’s second wife, Eliza, who was also his partner and colleague in the study of mosses. Sayre indicated that Coe Finch Austin, who enjoyed a delightful and productive visit to Sullivant in 1868, used the epithet “sullivantiae” “to honor Caroline Eudora Sutton Sullivant, the third Mrs. Sullivant, whom he met on this visit.” The 1856 epithet perhaps referred to the second, bryological wife, but the Austin epithets used for new species after his 1868 visit may have been only ways of expressing his gratitude to a kind hostess.


Hypnum sulivantii  Spruce in Sull. in Gray’s Manual of Botany 1848 is now Bryhnia graminicolor (Brid.) Grout fide Grout.


Hypnum acuminatum (Hedw.) P. Beauv. was transferred by Austin to Brachythecium acuminatum (Hedw.) Austin, its current name.


Hypnum piliferum Schreb. ex Hedwig is now Cirriphyllum piliferum (Hedw.) Grout.




Vol. 2. No. 30 [D 173]


Schoharie  Oct. 28th, 1865


“My Dear Mentor”


I am feeling very happy, Mr. Peck has just sent me by express a beautiful little microscope. And now I must tell you part of my past trouble. I used during the summer the Academy microscope but at the opening of school I could have it no longer and appointed Mr. P. my agent to purchase one. It is “a pretty little instrument” as Mr. P. says and what comfort I shall take with it. I have just received a letter from Mr. Austin, my new Riccia he calls R. nigrella says it has never been discovered before in this country and writes a whole letter about the genus in general and sends R. lutescens & R. lamellosa. I sent him a few specimens of R. as I thought I would not impose a hundred upon him at once, before I knew what spirit he was of, but (softly between us) I wish he would write better. We have had a real snow storm. I began to fear my moss hunts had ended for six months but the snow has all disappeared but the beauty of walking is spoiled until the ground freezes I fear, but I shall not be [aged] up until deep snow spoils my fun. There I am so glad you feel just as I do about the life of the little mosses I too put them back and often wonder if they are not glad of it. 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.


I shall forget all about the plants if I go on in this way. I must hurry and send you Pottia truncata before you find it, and I am going to send you specimens of Atrichum that I have just found, you sent me the same species, but mine are so pretty I want you to see them. Ah! if you lived near enough to me I would pester you with everything I liked, you may think it fortunate you are at the other end of the state. I send you also a few more stems of Climacium dendroides, some of them would be beauties if they had not lost the stems in careless plucking. I have half a mind to stem them myself, they would look so much better.


You say you fear Orthotrichum cripsum & Orthotrichum speciosum will have to be struck out and as you have sent me specimens you supposed to be of those species please send me the corrections. O. anomalum, O. cupulatum I have not. Seligeria & Desmatodon have both arrived in good order and are still visible to [good eyes]. I have not. Bryum Duvalii, Bryum turbinatum. Fontinalis Lescurii, Homalothecium, Hypnum Alleghaniensis, Chiloscyphus polyanthus. Now with the new microscope look out for a list of new ones next week. I have been keeping my [Hypnums crossed out] Hypna until I could examine them myself. It is a great pleasure to find the name sometimes myself.


Again it is Saturday evening. I think I shall set a part Saturday evening for this special purpose, but that would be altogether too orderly for me. I like to do things when I feel like it, and then it is natural. Goodbye


Your disciple


Hon. G. W. Clinton


Recd. Nov. 1  Wrote Nov. 9.


For Riccia nigrella DC. determination, see Rhoda’s next letter.


Pottia truncata (Hedw.) Fuernr. ex BSG is, like Pleuridium mentioned and Phascum “out to the cornfield” below, a moss of fallow fields as of corn, wheat, clover or alfalfa, in pastures, poor lawns in calcareous soils. It takes a good eye to see these in winter and early spring before the other vegetation has sprung up, just before snowfall or at snowmelt. The fruits of this Pottia are produced in (late) fall, rather than spring. The Pottias are rare today, unlike Phascum and Pleuridium. These are types of mosses called “pygmy” mosses. "Pygmy" probably only refers to the fat, globose types, such as Phascum cuspidatum (see below). These species are considered to be spring ephemerals, disappearing during the dry summer months, or perhaps permanently.


Bryum duvalii Voit in Sturm is now Bryum weigelii Spreng. fide Andrews in Grout. Fontinalis lescurii Sull. in Sull. & Lesq. is now Fontinalis novae-angliae Sull. novae-angliae.


The issue of Rhoda’s microscope seems somewhat confused for on the July 6 letter she wrote “... I shall not give it up so I shall have a microscope, my hand glass, though the best of its kind, is not sufficient, and I must know more of these little things.” On July [no day but about 10 days later] she wrote “...I should be able to do nothing with them [the mosses], though my microscope has come, without his [Peck’s] aid.” It appears as though she might have already made arrangements to acquire one of her own independent of both Peck and her school.


Charles Peck wrote to Clinton on Nov. 24th [18]65:


 “The moss from the District of Columbia is correctly named. I have specimens of it from the banks of the Potomac, sent by my brother while in the army. It was among the last acts of his life. I believe, however, that Mr. Lesqx. has found it in our state. Dexter & Nellegar of this city generally keep microscopes. I recently purchased one for Miss Waterbury. They were then about out. I will inquire if they have a new lot in. I purchased mine there about three years ago, cost $14. It is a simple one, but answers all practical purposes for the investigation of mosses. There is no apparatus with it for measuring diameters, but it is a good working instrument. Miss W’s cost $12, but is not quite so powerful a magnifier. ...”


Charles H. Peck


Judge G. W. Clinton


Received Nov. 26


Sullivant’s Plate 6