Correspondence of Elizabeth Atwater and G. W. Clinton
Edited by P. M. Eckel
Res Botanica
Missouri Botanical Garden
August 6, 2003
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The Correspondence of

Elizabeth Atwater (1812‑1878) and

George William Clinton (1807‑1885)


Edited by P. M. Eckel, P.O. Box 299, Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, Missouri, 63166‑0299; email:




Vol.5 no. 205 [B 20]

[Embossed "A"]

Clifton House, Chicago

Jan'y 6th, 1869 Hon. G. W. Clinton

Dear Sir,


Your favors of the [19th?] & 29th came duly to hand, with the "few lines" enclosed ‑ for Miss Stevens ‑ for which please accept my thanks. Miss M. Stevens, a Sister, will forward the note today. It appears that the father of the Misses Stevens was an early friend of your father [i.e. DeWitt Clinton]. His name Luther F. Stevens, (Judge Stevens) a lawyer of Seneca Falls, N.Y.


I will give you the address of Miss Stevens, so that should you desire to correspond directly with her you can do so, and perhaps may reap a rich reward for your Society in so doing.


Dr. ... P. Stevens

Care of Hon. John Dalla Costa

Ciudad Bolivar, Venezuela

Brasilian Steamer

... St. Thomas

South America


The letters are all addressed to her brother, as ....

You chide me for not furnishing the seed vessels of the Ranunculus as well as the flower! The plants which I send you, from time to time, are purely accidental ‑ that is, I avail myself of such as cross my path, in whatever state I find them, ‑ perhaps never visit the same locality twice.


I do not profess to botanise scientifically, but collect, in our parties of pleasure ‑ on travels ‑ wherever our steps may tend. In this way, if I chance to coll. anything that pleases you, I shall be most happy to forward it for your acceptance. I shall not hazard many more, however, for I am certain I can send you nothing but what is stale.

My husband joins me in Congratulations on behalf of the marriage of your daughter.


Dr. Lapham writes me that if really a native of Nantucket, the Erica‑cinerea, Linn. is a "decided acquisition." He says the specimen I sent him is "the second one found on this Continent ‑ the other being Calluna vulgaris, Linn. ‑ found in Nova Scotia and Mass."


I cannot say that another plant of the kind will ever be found on Nantucket Island, but I declare that I found there this beautiful variety growing most luxuriently.


Believe me Sir

very respectfully yours

Elizabeth E. Atwater Recd Jan. 7


[In Fernald's 1950 version of Gray's Manual of Botany, Calluna vulgaris (L.) Hull of "Peaty of damp sandy spots, always of small extent, very locally from Newfoundland to Michigan, south to Nova Soctia, New England, New Jersey and mountains of West Virginia" was "Originally introduced from Europe, now naturalized." Erica cinerea L., the Scotch Heather, has an interesting distribution: "Moors and open woods, local, Nantucket Island, Massachusetts." It is "Introduced from Europe."]




Vol.5 no. 216 [B 12]

Clifton House, Chicago

Feby 9th  1869 Hon. G. W. Clinton,

Dear Sir


Your favor of the 5th came yesterday to hand.

As you desire it, I will look up spms of the Dianthus Armeria L. and forward to Mr. Peck, ‑ although not having acknowledged the plant and accompanying note which I forwarded to his address last Autumn, I feel a delicacy in intruding myself again upon his attention.


I do not preserve many duplicates ‑ not having the facilities for keeping them ‑ but would do so, with pleasure, for any Society, where any specified plants were desired.


Greenport, L. I. is in our yearly programme. Any plants from that locality I will furnish the coming summer.


This week I am particularly occupied. Next week I will transmit the plants.


Believe me Sir

Very respectfully yours,

Elisabeth E. Atwater Hon. G. W. Clinton


Recd Feb. 11, wrote to Mr. Peck


[Dianthus Armeria, L. is the Deptford Pink of horticulture. In G. W. Clinton's botanical journal for 1878, there is an entry (1866 crossed out?) entitled 'Plants new to the State" (of New York). Mrs. Atwater's Dianthus Armeria from Greenport Long Island was included, then crossed out. Apparently other collections preexisted Mrs. Atwater's specimen."]




Vol.6 no. 22 [L 196]

Clifton House, Chicago

April 5th, 1869 Hon. G. w. Clinton,

Dear Sir,


Through the kindness of Dr. Lapham's niece I have the pleasure of sending the enclosed for your acceptance. A stereo‑view was presented me ‑ whereupon I solicited a duplicate for yourself, which I think you may value for its novelty, as also on account of your esteem for the person so truthfully represented.


Believe me, Sir, respectfully yours

Elisabeth E. Atwater

Recd Ap. 7




Vol.6 no. 39 [L 179]

Clifton House, April 29th, 1869 Hon. G. W. Clinton,

Dear Sir,


I take the liberty of enclosing to you two little plants ‑ Anemone patens (?). I wrote to a friend in Saint Paul desiring her to forward a box of them to me by Express, which request she kindly complied with. I had never seen this lovely little plant in its fresh state. Some of them I placed in earth with reference to obtaining the leaves ‑ they seem to be flourishing. The leaf enclosed was from a plant of last years growth.


A friend who accompanied her husband to Muskegan Mich. remembered me with the Epigaea repens; one or two plants I enclose ‑ not however, in the supposition that you are deficient in specimens.


I am rejoicing in the recent acquisition of a plant which I wrote to London for ‑ and have just received ‑ the tiny fern Ophiglossum lusitanicum. It scarcely measures an inch in length ‑ frond, roots & all. It came from the Isle of Guernsey ‑ and is, as you are aware, very rare. I regret I have not a duplicate in which you could share.


Your favor of the 16th is at hand. I regret to hear of your lameness ‑ and trust it is not of so permanent a character as to forbid your botanical excursions. I have been three months a prisoner. Kind friends supply me with lovely boquets ‑ stemless ‑ adjusted on broom corn! but these do not compensate for the confinement.


Is the Platycerium (Stag Horn Fern) grown in Conservatories in Buffalo? If not I will endeavor to procure a specimen for you.


Believe me Sir,

Respectfully yours

Elisabeth E. Atwater

Recd May 1 & ansd




Vol.6 no. 48 [L 170]

Clifton House, Chicago

May 12th, 1869 Hon. G. W. Clinton,

Dear Sir,


My first drive in three months was to one of our conservatories ‑ it occurred yesterday. I prevailed upon the florist to grant me another Platycerium which I forward to you, by mail, today. Thinking you might prefer to examine it in its fresh state, I send it without deention [?] for pressing.


I have not been unmindful of your delicate admonition "I know it will embrace both sterile and fertile fronds." Most gladly would I have confirmed your anticipations ‑ but were you conversant with the plant in its fresh state you could hardly have expected the sterile frond. It could not be removed without great detriment to the plant, which, with us, is exceedingly rare ‑ in fact ‑ this is the only plant to my knowledge in the city. I was specially favored with fronds, on account, I imagine, of having deposited with the florist a favorite [Noya?] a year ago ‑ which he still has charge of, at quite a remunerative price. If you have a plate representing the Platycerium you will appreciate more clearly than I can express to you, the unwillingness a florist might feel in depriving his plant of this adjunct ‑ a small portion of the sterile frond, in a decayed state, he added saying it might afford some interest.


My Anemones from Minnesota are growing luxuriently.


Kind friends have brought me, from the country, several varieties of Trilliums. I hope to be pronounced well enough to go in search for them next week.


Trusting this may find you in improved health, and with Mr. Atwater's friendly salutations,


Believe me, Sir,

Very respectfully yours

Elisabeth E. Atwater

Recd May 13, ansd 17th


[See the posted list of specimens at BUF (Clinton Herbarium, Buffalo Museum of Science) for data on the specimens corresponding with the content of these letters.]




Vol.6 no. 58 [L 158]

Clifton House, Chicago

May 29th, 1869 Hon. G. W. Clinton,

Dear Sir,


I take the liberty of sending you, by today's mail, a specimen of the Viola (striata?) plucked on a little Island in the Des Plaine's river at Lockport, Ill., about thirty five miles South west from Chicago. It is not mentioned as rare ‑ but I have never seen it at the west before. This was brought me by a Lockport friend, as I am not well enough, yet, to cull flowers myself.


I should like you to see a lovely "air plant" which has been on exhibition several days in our city ‑ from one of the Conservatories. The flowers growing in a cluster at the extremity of a long stem are of a delicate straw‑color, dotted with purple.


We hope you may find it expedient to carry your contemplated visit to Chicago into execution, and that we may be at home to welcome you.


Believe me Sir

Respectfully yours

Elisabeth E. Atwater


Recd June 14, ansd on [July?] 3


[Her friend is more likely from Lockport, Illinois, near the Des Plaines River just north of Joliet, rather than the Lockport on the Erie Canal in Niagara County, New York State.]




[The following is a note to Clinton from Elizabeth's husband, Samuel T. Atwaters:


Vol.6 no. 126 [L 87]

Chicago  Decr 29th 1869 Hon. G. W. Clinton

Dear Sir


My wife commands and I obey in this instance most cheerfully. She bids me thank you, which she cannot do with her own hand for your pleasant note of to day and reciprocates wishes for your health & happiness the coming new year. She encloses for your acceptance a rare little foreign plant, also a specimen of Yarrow which she found at Trenton Falls, N.Y. Aust. 27 past. She is suffering from a dangerous attack of congestion of the heart, confined to her bed for more than two weeks, otherwise would

address you herself


Truly Your Friend

Sam. T. Atwater

Recd Dec. 31]