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. 10 no. 21 [A 319 & 318, two sheets of paper.]

Gardner House, Chicago.

Sept'r 18th 1873. Hon. G. W. Clinton,

Dear Sir


Mr. Atwater forwards to you, by today's express, some of the results of my wanderings in California. I have to beseech your levity for the unladylike manner in which they present themselves for your acceptance. Evidences of haste will be apparent to you in their arrangement. Please remember that we have but recently returned, and are subject to the constant, but pleasant interruptions of visits from old friends.


Relative to the specimens I have nothing to say, save that I did my best under the circumstances in which in which [sic] I was placed. Some were snatched from over hanging branches as we journeyed by stages, many snatched from the railroad track where we had barely time for jumping from the cars and directly scrambling back again; others were unavoidably broken from the stalk where the dry‑baked earth was so tenacious as not to receive the action of the trowel, others, gentlemen plucked for me, and so on. ‑


You can scarcely imagine the delight with which I appropriated the tiny ferns from cavities in the rocks at Nevada Falls, Yo Semite Valley. ‑ In my accustomed ignorance I was not aware that the Allosorus crisus [sp.?]of the old world was to be found with us, and was joyous over its finding as also the others. And now, for a moment allow me to digress. On my return home I found a pleasant letter from Dr. Mohr as I think I have written you, enclosing to me a rare plant, which I immediately acknowledged by letter, enclosing in return sp'ms of these delicate ferns from the Yo S. Valley. Dr. M. responds with three dozen rare ferns &c. and in his letter of yesterday says, "The elegant Cheilanthes seems in most of its points to answer to Grays description of Ch. lanuginosa Nutt. The Allosorus I have not been able to make out, and I will be much obliged if you will have the kindness to send me the name of this exquisite species after you get it determined. These ferns, all, with the graceful Pellaea densa are a most welcome contribution to my herbar &c." He adds, the sadness of the dreadful affliction which visited "our mutual excellent friend  Judge  Clinton  has moved me deeply. I can explain, now, his long silence". 


I was  equally  well pleased to find the Calycanthus occidentalis for I had not seen it growing save under cultivation.  The  orange  call'd  Poppy from  Alum  Springs I send in no other locality in California,  although it may be common. It is exceedingly fragile and beautiful.  I have many plants of  which  I have no duplicates ‑ some very interesting.  If not asking too great a favor at your leisure will you return to  me  the  duplicate  sp'ms contained  in  the box with the names appended?  There need be no haste ‑ I beg of you, Sir,  take abundant time for this effort ‑ especially as I have no home,  or suitable place in which to deposit my collections.  Yet I hope to have "one of these days".  In all cases  I  desire  you  to  retain  the largest,  most acceptable plant of the two ‑ I have purposely sent,  when I could do so, one more indifferent plant to be returned to me, having a more perfect one at home, as I have been often aggrieved


[second page]

on examining packages kindly sent me to find rare plants thoroughly disorganized in the transportation.


If you chance to find but one plant of a kind please retain that. I have not the opportunity for examining my collection attentively. Should I find others, differing from those sent, I will remit from time to time as I may have the chance to look them up. If you desire another and a larger bulb of the Soap plant I will with pleasure furnish one. I should like to tell you my experience in discovering the first one!


On taking up my pen this morning I sought to be concise inasmuch as my "remarks" in the box were so profuse.

Did you receive a "Catalogue of the Plants in the Vicinity of San Francisco~ wh. I forwarded to you?


Thanks for your kind note enclosed in Miss Wilson’s, which followed me to California. I regret to say that of Miss Wilson’s particular pets I found scarcely any. I enclosed in the box one bright sp'm from the Sequoia giganteus at the "Calaveras group of Big Trees" for her. I should like to have you visit the "Black Canon" at Skaggs Springs, and see the Gymnogrammes and Woodwardias! The latter grow to the height of eight feet. I only attempted to press one sp'm that of about four feet in height.


With kind regards to Miss Wilson to whom I hope to write as soon as I have a more settled feeling.


Believe me, Sir, with esteem and sympathy your friend,

Elizabeth E. Atwater Rec'd sometime in Sept. ans'd Oct. 4.


[On September 29, 1873, Charles Mohr of Mobile, Alabama wrote to George Clinton: "It is with feelings of deep regret and heartfelt sympathie with your great sorrow, that I pen these lines to you, after having heard through the kindness of Mrs. Atwater of the heavy affliction which has befallen you in the loss of your son; May He the dispenser of all our pleasures and sorrows give you comfort and strength to bear up under such a blow, that your vigor and health might be spared for many many years to come."


Miss Mary L. Wilson was an associate of George Clinton’s in the developing herbarium of the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences. Her special study was of the lichens, which must be the “special pets” alluded to].




Vol. 10 no. 30 [A 309]

[Printed stationery:] Gardner House,

Gardner & Gould, Proprietors.

Michigan Avenue & Jackson Street.

Chicago,  [no date] 187[3]

Judge Clinton

Dear Sir,


I have but one moment in which to say that the enclosed sp'm of the Malva tree I had supposed I forwarded to you with the other plants, the seeds of which I sent. I will, at some future time send you a more acceptable specimen, meanwhile retain this.

The pretty pink flowers enclosed have just come to me from Colorado, Douglas County.


With kind regards to Miss Wilson to whom I hope soon to write,

very respectfully

E. E. Atwater

Rec'd Oct. 5.




Vol. 10 no. 54 [A 281]

Gardner House, Chicago

Nov'r 8th, 1873 Hon. G. W. Clinton,

Dr. Sir,


Prior to the receipt of your last kind letter on Nov'r 3'd I had taken another look at my huge collection of California plants, and found some varieties which, on the first hasty examination I had not forwarded.


My husband has deposited a box of plants in the express office to day, bearing your address. Enclosed within it you will find some duplicates of those formerly sent ‑ and some, if I recollect perfectly, not included in the former package. The family of Lupines is so comprehensive and the distinguishing features of each, being only observable to a practiced eye like your own, that I may not, even now, have sent you all the varieties that I called (sic). Their names and [varieties?] are legion. I regret I could not have been more successful in preserving their colors. I wish you could look at my collection of which I feel quite proud. I have many exceedingly beautiful plants of which there are no duplicates. These of course, I would not trouble you to name; and now I have to regret that I have troubled you in this way at all. I well knew the difficulties you would have to contend with ‑ devoid of proper books for reference ‑ and yet, at the time the fact did not occur to me. You will pardon me for subjecting you to so much labor. Inasmuch as I am boarding, and cannot satisfactorily arrange my plants for permanencey, I am losing the desire to have even a portion named at present, and in my future collections, if I am spared to make any, I shall send specimens for you to retain, but none to be named for myself. The plants sent to day I desire you all to retain. I have kept duplicates of all, and have found duplicates of the Nutmeg tree, so that you will not presume to return that.


I hope these will give you some pleasure. The ferns are nothing rare, still I send them. I trust I have forwarded to you at least a few not inthe collection you have received from another source.

I enclose for your personal [sic] some little items copied from an interesting book of which I had a perusal in San F'r. You can return them at your leisure.


I beg you to retain all the plants which I forward to day, and all the others if you desire them.


My husband desire kindest regards to you. Our plans for the winter are not matured. We both desire to go back to California.

Very respectfully your friend


Elisabeth E. Atwater Rec'd Nov. 10.




Vol. 10 no. 68 [A 265]

Garden House, Chicago

Nov'r 14th [18]73 Hon. G. W. Clinton

Dr. Sir,


I have forwarded by to day's mail a sp'm of the beautiful plant found growing on the Sandy beach at Santa Cruz. I owe you an apology for troubling you so soon again. I supposed until within a day or two, that I had forwarded this plant as I fully intended to do in the last collection. The other plant found near Fort Point, San Francisco, have flowers, as I think I wrote you, of a brilliant orange color. These which I send to day were of a bright pink when packed. The enclosed tiny plant from Piscadero.


Again I beg of you to retain all the plants you desire. I shall not feel at all complimented should you fail of doing so ‑ and threaten not to call any more for you if these fail of pleasing you.


In exceeding haste,

Very respectfully yours,

Elizabeth E. Atwater. Rec'd Nov. 28, Dec. 12 ‑ Exp'd package ‑ & wrote to her.




Vol. 10 no. 77 [A 257]

Chicago, Dec'r 20th, 1873. Rec'd Dec. 22.

Hon. G. W. Clinton,

Dear Sir,


Your kind letter and the package of California plants I have the pleasure to acknowledge. The latter came safely, I feel assured, although I have not had it in my power, as yet, to examine them. When the holidays are gone, I hope to control the leisure that I cannot find at present. In pursuance of the examination if I discover that you have failed of retaining those plants wh. I particularly hoped you would care for, I shall take the liberty of returning them.


I feel assured that I unwittingly imposed a great task upon you, and I shall not do so again. The few plants sent you will, by no means compensate for all the perplexity they have occasioned you. A thousand thanks for all your kindness. I only hope there were some plants worthy your acceptance.


Pray do not chide me for returning the am't of express charge ‑ I could not permit the Society to pay it.


My husband has been on the invalid list, but is convalescing. He begs his continued regard for you to be expressed herein.


Believe mr, Sir, your obliged friend

Elisabeth E. Atwater.

Rec'd Dec. 22.