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:


September 1865


Vol. 1. No. 145 [I 67]


Schoharie  Sept. 6th, 1865


My dear friend,


A sad! sad! misfortune happened to your last letter. Could it possibly have been in your pocket when you took the drenching you spoke of? I was so disappointed I think the plant Sp[urgiola?] must have been [too] damp otherwise the whole must have fallen into water somehow, it was quite glued together and an unsightly mass of green, from the action of water the ink of the letter has spread but I have been able to read every word, I think, and I am so glad you are coming next summer. Now don’t think me foolish but I have got it all planned and to meet you at the depot myself and you know having never seen you I may make a mistake unless I have your photograph to become acquainted with; there do you call me a woman’s curiosity! you will say; but I do not think it is that alone. I have learned to like you very much for you must know it is not every one who sympathizes with me in my studies, and have I not a claim to the face of all my friends?


I spent the last week in Rensselaerville, Albany Co., and collected a great many mosses but very few other things. I have sent a package to Mr. Peck two days in succession and have still others. I want to become so familiar with the mosses this year that next summer I can determine them without so much study and take up the grasses & sedges thoroughly, you see how little I know. The plant Eleocharis has no rootstock “densely tufted from fibrous roots” I think and I send you as large a one as I have found, it grows among the stones in the bed of Foxes Creek as the stream is almost dried for two thirds its width at this season, unless we have a rainy summer, you know these mountain streams are tremendous torrents in spring and fall and this one carries off mills and houses often but in summer the plants grow among the large stones in its bed with perfect security. Can you spare me another specimen of the fresh water Spurge? I shall have another list of mosses to send you in my next as Mr. Peck is now in Albany and we do not need so much time to exchange letters. I send you a maple leaf that has just blown into my window if it does not change colors before it reaches you is it not beautiful? As to the Silene expect to find more of it some day. I send you a not very good specimen of Leskea polycarpa but the best I have. I have also Fegatella conica in fruit I think I have just sent it up to Mr. P. and will send you a specimen. I found it in Rensselaerville so abundant that had I first discovered it there I would have thought the remark “seldom found in fruit” quite inappropriate. It grows every where among the rocks at a beautiful fall we will visit next summer. I did not gather half the things that grow there I know. Oh what a nice time I shall have showing you over our mountains. But I must not anticipate but trust to Providence that each day will have its full measure of happiness, and that I shall soon hear from you again.


As ever your disciple


  Rhoda Waterbury


Hon. G. W. Clinton


Recd. Sept. 9



On September 1 of 1865, Clinton wrote in his diary: “Struck the road at 2*7’ P.M. about 3 miles from Salamanca [Cattaraugus Co. on the Allegheny River]. By the road fence, on the right hand side, a little way on, Rudbeckia triloba? (R. laciniata). It rained hard, from the time I gathered it, got soaking wet, got to Salamanca at 3*30’. Went up the hill side, did not light on the Cuscuta inflexa, but took some of the Gerardia, which, very likely, is G. integrifolia (!).”


There is a specimen of Eleocharis intermedia Schultes in the Clinton Herbarium (BUF) (see introduction above).  Fegatella conica  Corda = Marchantia conica L. = Conocephalum conicum (L.) Lindb., a liverwort (Hepatica).


Foxes Creek in Schoharie County is one of many tributaries of Schoharie Creek (which flows in a northeastern direction just east of the center of the county (French 1860 p. 600). Rhoda probably meant “Fox” Creek for in Rensselaerville, in Albany County there is a Fox creek that flows into the Catskill Creek. “The valleys of these streams are narrow, and are bordered by steep hill sides, and the streams are rapid, and subject to sudden and destructive freshets.” (French 1860 p. 165).


Rhoda’s reference to Foxes Creek puts one in mind of Emily Dickinson’s poem:



Have you got a brook in your little heart,

Where bashful flowers blow,

And blushing birds go down to drink,

And shadows tremble so?

And nobody knows, so still it flows,

That any brook is there;

And yet your little draught of life

Is daily drunken there.

Then look out for the little brook in March,

When the rivers overflow,

And the snows come hurrying from the hills,

And the bridges often go.

And later, in August it may be,

When the meadows parching lie,

Beware, lest this little brook of life

Some burning noon go dry!    --Emily Dickinson



Vol. 1. No. 162 [I 47]

Schoharie, Sept. 16th, 1865


My Dear Kind Friend,


I am sure you are overdoing “two thirds sick and very busy” ought never to go together. Do you know I always feel sorry for you when you are obliged to be in court. I think it must be terrible to be a Judge and listen all day to the unraveling of tangled things such as I always fancy they have in courts, and then so when you are so fond of the open air. I don’t wonder you are almost sick; and I feel ashamed of myself that I have expected a word from you every week with all your other labors, and this week two packets of plants and a real good letter! If I really thought it would rest you I would rattle on all the afternoon to you and tell you all about how glad I am that you don’t dislike old maids, and how very easy and agreeable for them to like you and what a nice ramble I had yesterday to the head of the purest mountain spring you ever saw coming out under rocks forty feet high and how I got a new moss, and two new ferns, and a liverwort, and a creek weed, all of which I know but little about, and how Mr. Peck sent me a new moss, new entirely to this country and how rich I am with what has come to me this week, and how sure I am that “man does not live by bread alone” and how glad I am that Dr. Lambert says “a rose is as practical as a cabbage” and how I think it is more so. How I would like to entertain you when you are tired and don’t want to think or sleep, my friends say I am capital at it as I never talk two minutes of the same thing and one need not attempt to think but deliver themselves up and be amused though I do assure you I observe very close connection in my own mind. But I must leave space to tell you about my plants. I have another rare moss that Mr. P. wanted all I could spare but I saved just a stem or so for you and I send it, Climacium dendroides, then I send the creek weed. I will not pretend to name it, and two ferns that seem like Allosorus atropurpureus & A. acrostichoides though I may mistake, they are new to me. The Fegatella Mr. P. decided as you did, his reached me just one mail first, he also sent specimens in fruit, so now I know Fegatella thoroughly, but I have another liverwort I found on the rocks yesterday, it adheres so closely to the light soil on the horizontal face of the rocks that I can not examine it well. I will send specimens if I can separate it. Don’t you think this little fern is a real beauty? As pretty as a moss, how it delights me to find such things, do you think, I would exchange them for gold? (the delight I mean of course). My friends say sometimes I am not practical in my pursuits, I know you do not think so, and when I tell you there has been but two weeks since Jan last in which I have not heard some recitations and for five months for eight hours a day most of the time, you will agree with me that I need the open air and other food than bread. But I am taking life very easy now only three recitations a week at present and the open air almost as much as I please and I do hope your court is finished for it is a pity to waste such beautiful days in a court room, and you know I am selfish. I don’t want you to be so busy that I cannot wish to hear from you without feeling guilty. Shall I tell you a secret? 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. Is it not astonishing that I should write such foolish things in a botanical letter instead of recommending herbs? I fear you will take me for a silly girl instead of a dignified old maid, after all.


Well just as you please only please don’t drop me entirely but let me still be


As ever your disciple


  Rhoda Waterbury


Hon. G. W. Clinton


Recd. Sept. 20 ansd 21st.

In number 286, Climacium dendroides (Dill.) Web. et Mohr, “Hab. ... near Schoharie, New York (Miss R. Waterbury) ...” (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.): see introduction.


Allosorus atropurpureus Kunze is a rock-fern, growing on soil in vugs and ledges, enjoying limey substrata, now called Pellaea atrourpurea (L.) Link, the Purple Cliff-brake. Allosorus achrostichoides Sprengel is probably the Christmas Fern, Polystichum achrostichoides (Michx.) Schott.


Clinton’s laments about being in court may come back to haunt him later, for he probably also did not fulfill all his duties as Regent either, which was a threat to his continued place in that capacity. He probably avoided any Albany meeting which he knew Rhoda might attend.


The township of Schoharie lies in a limestone region and possesses numerous caverns (p. 606) - the lime perhaps forming a substrate favorable for rare and unusual bryophytes and other interesting vegetation. 


Clifton Springs in west-central New York, southeast of Rochester and fairly close to Buffalo, has mineral springs and a sanatorium there. It is in Ontario County, “incorporated in 1859, a station on the N.Y.C.R.R., is situated in the E. part of the town [of Manchester]. Pop. 340. At this place are the celebrated Clifton Mineral Springs and an extensive water cure establishment. ... A hotel was erected in 1806, as a dispensary; and the water cure was established in 1850, by a company organized for that purpose, with a capital of $45,000. It was accommodations for 150 patients and is largely patronized. The water of the spring was analyzed in 1852, by Dr. Chilton, of N.Y., with the following result in grains to 1 quart:-


Sulphate of lime           17.30 grs.

Sulphate of magnesia        4.12 grs.

Sulphate of soda             1.94 grs.

Carbonate of lime           2.42 grs.

Carbonate of magnesia        3.28 grs.

Chloride of sodium          2.32 grs.

Chloride of magnesia         1.02 grs.

Organic matter              trace



Hydrosulphuric and carbonic acids are also found in small quantities,” (French1860).


Hydropathy, or hydrotherapy was a form of treating disease by the application of hot and cold water. In the 1950’s it had come into fashion, again, but the regimen was originated in the 1820’s by Vincent Priessnitz based on a theory of disease such that pathological disorders were caused by “an accumulation of morbific matter, which must be eliminated from the system by cold water applications and the observance of a strict regimen.” Cold water baths constituting sponge-baths, wet-sheet packing, sitz, foot and arm baths, douching, steam-bathing, the dripping sheet, the plunge, the dry-blanket packing “and other appliances of the hydropathic system.” The Clifton baths probably was a hydropathic establishment and offered invalids special, simple diets, bathing exercise and pleasant concourse with individuals of a certain class. Perhaps Clinton’s therapy might have included “Warm full baths at a temperature of 90° - 98° F., for a period of from 5 to 20 minutes are very useful as sedatives to the nervous system, particularly so in insomnia and nervousness from overwork, especially when taken at night. The best effect is obtained if they are taken at the time of retiring and are followed by a brief application of cold water, either in the shape of a half-bath, or a douche,” and so on.


Further information may be obtained from Cohen, “Physiologic Therapeutics Hydrotherapy” (1902; Baruch, “The Principles of Hydrotherapy” (1900); Kellogg, “Hydrotherapy” (1902). Vol. 14 pp. 587-588, The Encyclopedia Americana, 1953, Americana Corporation, New York.


One might notice by now a change of tone in the letters from botanical to personal. Rhoda has much in common with the old judge, she dislikes her work (teaching) as much as he does (attending court), both duties and obstacles to leisure and fun. She is old (a maid), like him (in his fifties). She is a maiden, but he is not (married with children). He is a prodigious walker in the open air, as she happens to be. Rhoda is an entertainer (see letter Sept. 29 below), whose household duties are to amuse. She is very clever at natural history, especially those aspects of interest to the Honorable Clinton. The fact that she “knows” Mr. Peck indicates the potential for jealous rivalry, but also exposure, and one is reminded of her earlier references to knowledge of John Gebhard, Jr. and other hints at indiscretion.


Her references to her own selfishness with respect to Clinton seem to indicate that he is beginning to ‘belong’ to her.


The feminine outpouring of concern for Clinton’s health expressed also in this letter is mirrored in the parallel correspondence Clinton was maintaining concurrently with a young woman who taught school in western Massachusetts at South Hadley, perhaps the well-known Mount Holyoke College for women. This was Lydia W. Shattuck, who, in a letter to Clinton on September 15 of this year, expressed general sentiments similar to Rhoda’s to a letter from Clinton that must have been doleful indeed regarding his infirmities. It would be instructive to compare the correspondence of Ms. Shattuck with that of Ms. Waterbury, neither of whom knew the other was writing to the Judge - although this was not entirely true for later in November, Lydia Shattuck would write:


"S. Hadley Nov. [1865]


Fri. morn.


Dear Judge Clinton,


I am quite anxious to know what the dangerous Dr. Engelmann has been doing to the Junci. Perhaps I ought to be ashamed of it but I have to confess that our hint is the only knowledge I have of his labors (or criticisms) on our Rushes. May I know more of Miss Waterbury? I infer that she has become quite a proficient in general botanical knowledge and, as you said in your second letter, I feel a good deal of interest in ladies who take pleasure in scientific pursuits...”.



Vol. 1. No. 169 [I 40]


Schoharie  Sept. 21st, 1865


My Friend,


Yours of the 18th reached me yesterday with the list of mosses. I should feel quite discouraged did I not keep in mind your remark that if you would not have collected so many. I have 78 in all while but 50 of them have I collected myself but then I have another packet to send up today to Mr. Peck and I always try to call them by some name and sometimes succeed in getting the correct one. Well I do not feel very badly, that I cannot equal my revered tutor, and now I shall just tell you what you have that I have not but do not imagine I have the cool impertinence to ask for all these. Whatever you can without too much trouble spare. The Hypnums are my special study at present in which Mr. P. is assisting me, the genus is so large and difficult. I can not do much with it at present and Mr. P. has just sent me some landmarks, that I shall not get entirely lost. You have a very large list of them. I have 19 only.


I send the list I have not


Gymnostomum curvirostrum        Anomodon apiculatus


Dicranum interruptum            Anomodon obtusifolius


Campylopus viridis              Anomodon attenuatus


Fissidens adiantoides           Climacium Americanum


Fissidens grandifrons           Hypnum abietinum


Desmatodon arenaceus            Hypnum Blandowii


Barbula tortuosa                Hypnum triquetrum


Orthotrichum speciosum          Hypnum splendens


Orthotrichum Hutchinsiae        Hypnum cordifolium


Drummondia clavellata           Hypnum filicinum


Funaria var. calvescens         Hypnum curvifolium


Bartramia Muhlenburgi           Hypnum rivulare


Bryum intermedium               Hypnum polymorphum


Mnium punctatum                 Hypnum hispidulum


Mnium serratum                  Hypnum subtile


Mnium cuspidatum                Hypnum adnatum


Aulacomnium palustre            Hypnum radicale


Aulacomnium heterostichum       Hypnum riparium var.


Atrichum undulatum              Hypnum Muhlenbeckii


Leskea rostrate                   Thelia asprella


Only 40 that I have not; now for my list of new ones since I last

wrote. I will not put in those you have.


Dicranum scoparium          Hypnum tamariscinum


Leptodon trichomitrium          Didymodon rubellus, quite rare


Gymnostomum rupestre            Dicranum heteromallum


I shall send you one or two as I think a letter looks much better with a few just to fill it out, and then one feels so happy to get a letter full, I do. You had not received mine of the 18th when you wrote, my little ferns in it. I have another I want to send if there is room enough in this.

Do you know I fear you have forgotten the photograph? it may be a breach of politeness for me to remind you of it, but my desire to obtain it must be my excuse. I really wonder if you do prize your mosses as much as I do, what beautiful Hypnums you sent, and Mr. Peck sent me Hypnum Crista-Castrensis, it is so exceedingly beautiful I feast on it daily, it is my pride now. But I will not impose another long letter of nonsense upon you this week, one will do, so I bring this to a close before it becomes unreasonably lengthy,


As ever your disciple


Rhoda Waterbury


Hon. G. W. Clinton


Recd. Sept. 24.


The mosses inclosed were Dicranum heteromallum, Gymnostomum rupestre. The fern Polypodium vulgare.


There is no record of a specimen of Polypodium vulgare from Schoharie Co. in the Clinton Herbarium - nor the other specimens and these may be in the State Herbarium in Albany.


The genus Hypnum was packed with Hedwigian species that have hence been distributed into a variety of genera, based on technical characters such as the costa, but especially the structure of the fruit: the seta, capsule, peristome:


Hypnum abietinum L. ex Hedw. = Abietinella abietina (Hedw.) Fleisch.

Hypnum adnatum Hedw. = Homomallium adnatum (Hedw.) Broth.

Hypnum blandowii Web. et Mohr = Helodium blandowii (Web. et Mohr) Warnst.

Hypnum cordifolium Harv. in Hook. = Calliergon cordifolium (Hedw.) Kindb.

Hypnum curvifolium Hedw. is the current name for this plant.

Hypnum filicinum Hedw. = Cratoneuron filicinum (Hedw.) Spruce

Hypnum hispidulum Bridel = Campylium hispidulum (Bridel) Mitten

Hypnum Muhlenbeckii Bruch et Schimper ex James = Isopterygium striatellum (Brid.) Loesk.

Hypnum polymorphum Hedw. = Isopterygium praelongum (Hedw.) Warnst. var. stokesii   (Turn.) Podp., or Hypnum polymorphum Hedw. ex Hook. et Tayl. = Campylium chrysophyllum (Brid.) J.    Lange - it is probably the latter species that is meant in this list.

Hypnum radicale P. -Beauv. = Campylium radicale (P.-Beauv.) Grout

Hypnum riparium Hedw. var. = Amblystegium riparium (Hedw.) BSG, a variable species  which has several varieties in synonymy.

Hypnum splendens Hedw. = Hylocomium splendens (Hedw.) BSG

Hypnum subtile = Amblystegiella subtilis (Hedw.) Loesk. = Platydictya subtile (Hedw.)   Crum

Hypnum triquetrum Hedw. = Rhytidiadelphus triquetrus (Hedw.) Warnst.

Hypnum crista-castrensis Hedw. is a spectacularly beautiful, conspicuous, shiny moss,  now called Ptilium crista-castrensis (Hedw.) De Not., the Knight’s Plume-moss. It  grows in coniferous forests on humus or logs dense with mosses and liverworts.

Gymnostomum rupestre Schleich. ex Schwaegr. is Gymnostomum aeruginosum Sm., a moss of calcareous regions.



Vol. 1. No. 181 [I 26]


Schoharie   Sept. 29th, 1865


My Dear Friend,


I cannot wait another day before writing you though the house is full of company (a wedding party bound for California) and very much depends upon me for the entertainment, but two of your very welcome letters have reached me since I last wrote and I fear I shall miss them if I do not write, though to tell the truth I answered them immediately on their arrival but as I did not commit it to writing it has only benefited myself. I think you are not at all well by your early morning letter, and very busy as usual by the last hasty short one. I do not like that at all. I want you to have plenty of time and spirits to listen to my rambling epistles and answer them just as the spirit dictates - that I think is real fun. 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. 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. But I must tell you about the mosses and things.    You sent me Isoetes lacustris but the one you spoke of in your last is not that species I infer. Did I not send you a new liverwort? Mr. Peck says it is not described in our manual. He thinks it is a Riccia and has sent it to Mr. Austin.


I must send you something in this even at the risk of sending something you already have. I send Dicranum scoparium though it seems to me there is but little difference between it and the var. pallidum. A copy of your ... additions those I have not


Leskea nervosa          Hypnum aduncum

Orthotrichum crispulum  Hypnum gracile

Orthotrichum canadense  Hypnum minutulum

Conomitrium Julianum    Leucodon brachypus

Pylaisia velutina




And I have no list of new ones to send in return, this will never do it hurts me terribly and the weather is grand for the fields too. If I could be out all day ... I should be entirely over this tormenting cold and cough.


Now I shall surely have to stop for I have yet a few moments to send to Mr. Peck some more of the new Riccia and a little bit of a fellow that I hope is Seligeria after all but I found it on the ground it is very minute. Let me urge you to take life easier at your age and please don’t get sick for I cannot spare you long enough. You see I am yet your


devoted disciple


Rhoda Waterbury


Hon. G. W. Clinton


Recd. Oct. 1  ansd 7th



Rhoda’s specimen of Riccia appears to be Grimaldia barbifrons (= Mannia fragrans).


Orthotrichum crispulum (Bruch) Hornsch. ex B. S. G. is Ulota crispula Bruch; O. canadense Bruch et Schimper is O. anomalum Hedwig fide Grout. Hypnum minutulum Hedw. is Thuidium minutulum (Hedw.) B. S. G. cf. Par.; two species of Hypnum originally shared the same epithet (gracile) in North America: Hypnum gracile (Hedw.) L. ex With. is Pterogonium gracile (Hedw.) Sm. and H. gracile Bruch et Schimp. in Hook. = Haplocladium microphyllum (Hedws.) Brotherus; Pylaisia velutina B.S.G. is P. intricata (Hedw.) B. S. G.; Hypnum aduncum Hedwig is Drepanocladus aduncus (Hedw.) Warnst.


For notes on the Waterburys of California, see introductory notes.


According to Clinton’s collecting diary for September 1865, he had been collecting Isoetes specimens from the south side of Grand Island, but especially at Strawberry Island in the channel of the Niagara River. 



Sullivant’s Plate 5