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:


March 1866

Vol. 3. No. 9 [M 220]


                            Warsaw, March 23, 1866


My Dear Mentor,


Yours of the 16th & 17th reached me today by way of S. which will account for the delay in answer. I had begun to wonder what had become of my guide. I missed the kind good letters so much. And you think I am not true? how unjust. Can Mr. Coe F. Austin or any other man, take the place of my own dear friend? Be assured you have the coziest nook in my heart as I could never think aloud to you as I do, and I wish I had the power to help you over those anxieties and griefs you speak of. I wonder if that is not part of my mission? it is what I am trying to do for my sister. The whole family has been sick. Three children left and over two of them I have watched night and day while the mother herself has been unable to set up part of the time. Last week I was up four nights in succession with but little rest between, but they are all better now and I am getting quite rested again, I did feel as if my sun had forever set, but I don’t think so now. I did expect to return home in a few weeks but I fear I must remain until the close of their summer or spring term the first of July when the whole family always goes east to spend the two months vacation at Grandpa’s, my sister will not let me go unless I use violence and having no family cares of my own I cannot resist her entreaties. You did not tell me have you been to Albany to arrange the Herbarium. How I did hope I could get away and run in upon you by surprise while you was [sic] engaged there, but all my winter plans, where are they! sleeping with my pet? shall I not, may I not say risen with her? I believe I once told you of my brothers and concluded to wait until some other time to tell you of my sisters, how strangely you have become acquainted with one of them, and I must tell you of the others


I feel just like it now. Mate and I are the old maids though she is not near so old as I am but she knows more and has the management of things at home, and our youngest sister, the baby of the family left us the first year of the war, was sick two years of consumption, died at nineteen, my first great sorrow. It seems as if we have all grown old since, very old. Well that is all of us, only nine lived to grow up, three were ... of the Gods’ and died in infancy. You know every body considers their own family rather remarkable and I claim kindred to this ra... and am glad I am so old I would not go back for anything, I am rather in haste to see what is beyond ... writes, the papers you send are on the way but they did not keep up with the letter. These things do me a world of good and make me a great deal better, to think that you remember me in these things is very pleasant, and I feel I cannot in any way deserve it, but I have part of the school girl feeling left and do like your approbation very much, selfish you see. 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. I cannot remember a “charming” thing in it. You see I do not like you to think I flirt but when my brothers tease me they say if I protest my innocence so strongly it is rather a proof of guilt, what will the Judge think! Now please address me at Warsaw, and if I do prevail on my sister to let me go & will drop you a line just as I start, I cannot afford to lose the letters so long I suppose it will be impossible to discover anything new so near you but I shall continue my search while I am here. I have sent several mosses to Mr. Peck and have others. If we are all well I shall ramble some but I feel this is an unhealthy locality. Write me soon.


As ever your disciple


            Rhoda Waterbury


Please don’t think of being old and passing away, you know this is only the beginning of existence, and I feel quite sure we shall live as long as it will be pleasant for us here and then merely pass to another and better state. There must be great things in store for us. I know, for I am sometimes delighted with the beauties of earth and “what must it be to be there.” R. W.


  Hon. G. W. C.


Recd March 25. Wrote Ap. 21.


Rhoda’s tone here is rather jarring, mourning on the one hand, flirting on the other:

  “You did not tell me have you been to Albany to arrange the Herbarium. How I did hope  I could get away and run in upon you by surprise while you was [sic] engaged there,  but all my winter plans, where are they! sleeping with my pet? shall I not, may I not   say risen with her?”


Clinton, in a macabre style, also seems to flirt with her and moan of his old age and infirmity and impending death, which usually commands an enthusiastic denial from the younger woman, and an invitation for her to write a florid testimonial to her esteem for him.


Rhoda’s alleged protestations that her sister insisted on her remaining in Warsaw to take care of her sister in her travail seems convenient for Rhoda to remain in a closer physical proximity to the city of Buffalo, Clinton’s home. Her intending to “surprise” him at the State Herbarium suggests, in the context of this letter, that her flight to Warsaw and the death of her niece was also a pretext for Rhoda more successfully effectuating the meeting she craved with the old man.


James Hall’s letter to Clinton above (January 25, 1866) mentions Rhoda’s visit to the State Cabinet. In the context of these recent letters by Rhoda, Hall’s reference to “Mrs. Clinton” might have provided a hint of chastisement to his colleague.


If Rhoda’s specimens to Austin were for his Musci Appalachiani, she would have to wait until 1871 for the set to come out (Sayre 1987).



Vol. 3(43) Peck


From Albany, March 30th [18]/66, Peck wrote:


 “I hope you will come to Albany soon. Miss Waterbury anxiously inquires if I have received a specimen of Polemonium caeruleum sent by her in the packet for the state. I am obliged to tell her “No”. “I cannot get it till Judge Clinton comes to Albany.”


Very truly yours


Charles H. Peck


Judge G. W. Clinton


Received March 31”


As already mentioned, Clinton's botanical journal for 1866 gave no indication he had left Western New York as of this letter. At this extremely important moment in the politics of the New York State Herbarium, Rhoda and Clinton seem to have been playing hide and seek, much to the anxiety of others: John Paine, Jr., Charles Peck, James Hall and S. B. Woolworth, to mention only his correspondents.


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. In it he cited specimens collected in the State by Leo Lesquereux, George W. Clinton, Coe Finch Austin, A. A. Adee, Thomas Potts James, E. C. Howe, J. A. Paine, E. G. Pickett and Rhoda Waterbury. Rhoda refers to her notice in her letter of Apr. 7th, 1867 below.


Rhoda’s specimens were: Fissidens exiguus Sulliv.: “Wet rocks along streams; Schoharie, Miss R. Waterbury. July”; Barbula mucronifolia Schwaegr. [=Tortula mucronifolia Schwaegr.] “Roots of an elm subject to inundation, Schoharie, Miss R. Waterbury. ... June”; Bartramia oederi Swartz. [= Plagiopus oederiana (Brid.) Limpr.] “Rocks on hills and mountains. Helderberg and Adirondack mountains ... Schoharie, Miss R. Waterbury. ... June”; Timmia megapolitana Hedw. “Ground in shaded ravines. ... Schoharie, Miss R. Waterbury. May.”; Anomodon viticulosus L. “Rocks. ... Schoharie, Miss R. Waterbury”; Climacium dendroides L. “Moist ground and rotten wood in fields and in woods ... Wet bank, Rensselaerville, Miss R. Waterbury. Rare. Sept., Oct.; Hypnum brevirostre (Brid.) Ehrh. [ = Hylocomium brevirostre (Brid.) Fleisch.] “”Rocks and base of trees in mountains. Middletown, Miss R. Waterbury. ... November-April.”  


Of the hepatics Peck mentions: Grimaldia barbifrons Raddi “Exposed rocky soil, Schoharie, Miss R. Waterbury. April, May.”


Grimaldia barbifrons Raddi = Mannia fragrans (Balb.) Frye et L. Clarke, a liverwort (Hepatica): see introduction above.