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:


April 1866

Vol. 3. No. 50 [M 179]


                            Warsaw, April 24th, 1866


My Dear Mentor,


Six weeks and I have not heard from you, I can wait no longer for I fear you are sick. I almost know it and I wish I had something nice to send you, but I have done nothing yet this spring, during all this time I have been helping nurse my sisters baby boy of near two years through an attack of pneumonia, and hardly know what it is to go to bed at night. But I have not lost courage in it all, for I thought he would live, and we now think he is out of danger. Everything is again covered with snow today, but the grass begins to peep up through it so it does not seem so wintery after all and the hyacinths look queer just putting their colored heads above the white. I rather like an April snow for it goes off so soon it gives me the feeling of jumping out of winter at a bound and every thing looks so fine after it. I visited Portage a week since but as it was merely a run away from the sick room for a few hours after having set up all night I was too lazy to do much but found several things, some mosses &c. Now I am so fearful you are sick and cannot enjoy a long letter that I dare not write but do send me some little word, if you are busy I will be satisfied with only a line to let me know and do not on any account let me tax you, with all your public business I am ashamed to think what a burthen this correspondence might be to you for I am able to be of so little use to you. And now my good kind Mentor I am never going to write this again but just trust you to do as you please and I shall be satisfied only let me know occasionally of your health and welfare and I know you will not doubt my friendship and if it would please you I will write to you just when I want to for I like so to talk to you, but I often think what can I say that he does not already know. It must be part of your mission to make people happy, and I know Mr. Peck, and I love you for he told me he did.


Ever your disciple


Rhoda Waterbury


Hon. G. W. Clinton


Recd Ap. 26


   For reference to Portage, see below.


Clinton is not sick, he is entertaining Lydia Shattuck! Poor Rhoda. The double entente’s abound. Rhoda has finally spoken of her love for George, behind the facade of Peck’s. Clinton is continuing to delay writing to her, the intermissions between his missives growing longer, although the expected letter was actually delayed in the mail (see next).







Vol. 3. No. 52 [M 177]


                            Warsaw, Apr. 26, 1866


My Dear Mentor,


Yesterday I sent you word and today comes yours via Schoharie. How strange that yours pass me and go down the State when I am so near you. I can only account for it by inferring they have a decided partiality for the N.Y.C.R.R.


Well now it is just as I feared you are sick. This has been a terrible spring here so much sickness. Our baby is so much better we have dressed him today, the whole family came together to see him take a step or two and he is now sitting bolstered up with pillows in his little crib again. These are wonderful events in the family history as you well know, for you are a father, but how do I know if when I am only Auntie? I hope you are out again though the weather is still unpleasant. I know I have it now, you need a little rest and change, and to get a little farther from Lake Erie winds will do you good, and we are only a little way from you yet I think do not feel them at all off in this direction, and we want to see you very much, can you not run down here? say on some Saturday and spend the Sabbath, my brother Prof. O. H. [Waterbury?] is Principal of Warsaw Acad. and has his Saturdays to devote entirely to his family. I know you will like him and my sister, though you will find things very different from what you would at my own home, yet this must not answer for that visit among the mountains so long dreamed of. Now just drop me word when to expect you, and if you would like we will go to Portage on Saturday you know you can run down here at almost any hour of the day when you are ready and we might have just a fine time at Portage, we are three stations from Portage on the Buffalo side, but such a day as this would not be very pleasant there and we must have a fine day to enjoy it thoroughly especially when you are not well. Now you see I have not the slightest idea but all this can be just as I desire it, and you must let me know at least a day before hand that I may have the happy anticipation and have everything just to my mind for I consider it a poor compliment to a friend to say you have made no preparation for his visit. Now please do not wait a minute if you are well and not too busy but just let me know that you approve my plan and will keep watch for the spare day. I see now how it is that you make us all so happy, your beautiful motto that was sung of the bees, I shall adopt it from this very hour, but I shall put it in English, and I am not sure after all but we do gather sweeter honey for ourselves by gathering for others and you see how nice a watchword it is for an old maid. If my sister’s family are all well it seems now I would be happy once more even in the loneliness of bereavement when I know that my treasures are only gathering ready for me when I go to them.


Please accept my sister’s compliments and she desires me to say to you, you have made yourself hers too, by that kind good letter and because of my love for you, and she hopes to have the pleasure of welcoming you to her home soon. I want to take up the study of the grasses thoroughly this season you know. I am not familiar with them they seem difficult to me and Mr. Peck wants me to help him in Entomology, but I fear I have no heart for it. It does not seem so pleasant to me to collect specimens though the study otherwise I find quite agreeable. I have a few new species of moss that I shall send to him soon though I think none of them are rare. 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. Now if possible let me know about what time you can come for my brother is obliged to spend one Saturday in Rochester soon and will decide when we hear from you for he feels as I do we shall be more than happy if we can have you one day to ramble with us. I do hope you are better again for I don’t want to miss your letters selfish you see as ever your disciple,


  Rhoda Waterbury


Hon. G. W. Clinton


Recd Ap. 28


There was a Warsaw Union School in Warsaw, Wyoming Co., incorporated by the State Regents on Jan. 11, 1855 (French 1860 p. 134).


In 1860 French described the State Cabinet as the State Geological and Agricultural Hall and “is the depository of the specimens collected during the geological survey, and also contains the cabinet of the State Agricultural Society” where Dr. Asa Fitch was in charge of the entomological collections, with a view to “understanding and inhibiting insects injurious to agriculture.” This is the institution James Hall was reforming in 1865. French said that in 1860 “The whole of these collections are open to the public on every weekday except holidays.” p. 27 ftnt. 4, but perhaps this policy had changed with Hall’s ascendancy.


Asa Fitch (1803-1879) was appointed by the new York State Legislature in 1845 as the State Entomologist, after having worked for the state to collect and name its insects since 1838. With the government’s imprimatur, he was thus the first professional entomologist in the State and also in the United States.


It is curious that Peck had an interest at this time in the study of insects, as Rhoda and other of Peck’s correspondents at this time indicate. Rhoda wrote:


“I want to take up the study of the grasses thoroughly this season you know. I am not familiar with them they seem difficult to me and Mr. Peck wants me to help him in Entomology, but I fear I have no heart for it. It does not seem so pleasant to me to collect specimens though the study otherwise I find quite agreeable.”


A. A. Adee wrote to Clinton on May 11, 1866: “In addition to botany I look forward with much pleasure to trouting excursions, horseback exercise, insect-hunting, etc. Insect-hunting I have caught from Mr. Peck ...  Mr. Peck continues to write to me semi-occasionally, although his letters now savor more of beetles than mosses. When I reach Lyndon I think the tide will turn the other way. I hope to be able to make the acquaintance of Mr. Peck and Dr. Woolworth and to explore the State Cabinet during my short stay in Albany. In fact I distort my route a little to enable me to do so.”


In Rhoda’s next letter below (May 7, 1866) Rhoda wrote: “ Mr. Peck has enlisted my little nephew (and I may say the whole family here) in collecting bugs, flies, beetles, &c. for specimens to assist in the completion of his new work on Entomology.”


Perhaps Dr. Fitch’s position was becoming tenuous in some way at this time when the New York State Cabinet and Museum was being overhauled by James Hall. The position of professional botanist, as Peck was to become with the New York State Legislature’s approval, was evolving. The role of scientist in the solution of public problems in agriculture, as Fitch played for decades, may have appealed to Peck, as well as following on Fitch’s heels as taxonomist among Fitch’s insects. Peck’s later interest in mycology, where he was to distinguish himself, may also have derived from his interest in the diseases of agriculture and the identification of new, safe, and naturally-growing sources of food for the people of the State.


The reference to the New York Central is as opposed to the line that ran through Warsaw, the Hornellsville Division of the Buffalo, New York and Erie Rail Road. The mail packets probably ran on one rail line.


Portage and all references to towns of features of this name are curiously absent from French’s geographical index. Portage is a township in Livingston Co.” in the s. w. corner of the co. Its surface is hilly, the highest point, near Portageville, being about 200 feet higher than the R. R. Genesee River forms the W. boundary of the town. Its banks are steep and rocky, 100 to 200 ft. high and in many places perpendicular.” p. 386 Portage Station, on the B. & N. Y. C. R. R., is on the line of Wyoming Co.” p. 386. The name of the township was “derived from the portage or carrying place around the falls of Genesee River. For description of Portage Falls and R. R. Bridge, see pp. 710." “Near Portageville the river descends from the plateau, in a series of three falls, to a depth of more than 300 ft. within a distance of 2 1/2 mi. The water has worn a deep and irregular ravine in the shelving rocks, and the nearly perpendicular banks at the foot of the lower falls are 380 ft. high. The deep gorge, with the rapids and falls, form one of the wildest and most picturesque scenes in Western New York.” p. 711 (see first footnote below in French).


See note Jan. 1866 letter above that Portage, on the railway station lists is probably French’s “Portage Station.”