Carl Purpus, Plant Collector in Western America Letters of Carl A. Purpus -- 1899

Transcribed by Barbara Ertter

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Locations: Fairfax. Potter Valley. San Francisco. San Hedrin.

Articles that refer to this letter:

  • On the Trail, with Purpus, in California: 0540

Carl A. Purpus to Katharine Brandegee, 3/23/1899

[s.n., 2 pp.: 23 March 1899]

Potter Valley Mendocino Co.

23/III 99

Dear Mrs. Brandegee!

I have arrived here on monday evening and All have been very glad to see me. Nettie is delighted with the watch of course. My cousin was sick, but is getting better every day, she is out of bed now, she was delighted with the Cacti, but I am sorry to say, that she has none of those Colorado Cactus left. I came on in San Francisco on Saturday morning and went to the Academy after breakfast to see Miss Eastwood and Dr. Behr. The Doctor has not been there by that time, but Miss Eastwood has. I have seen him in the afternoon. Miss Eastwood invited me to a trip in to the hills near Fairfax on sunday. Although it was raining and afterwards pouring down, they kept on climbing up the hills-- there have been 12 men in the crowd and one lady Miss Eastwood-- Every one of us got wet to the skin. I got the worst of it, because I had no dry clothing to change. I left my trunk at the office of the transfer company. I hated it very much, but did not like to return. I thought I might take cold, but did not. It is raining here since thuesday evening, I say raining it is pouring down. I wish it would quit so I could go out in to the hills to collect. There are a good many plants in bloom now. I intend to make a trip to San Hedrin to get Arbutus Purpusi. I have seen the man, who has a resort there, he will get the Arbutus for me, if I do not find it in flower. I was very fortunate to met Prof. Futterer of Carlsruhe (Germany) who just came from an exploring tour through Central Asia Tibet and the Gobi. He came to see Dr. Behr and there I have met him. He may come over to this county and take a trip with me through the desert region. He is a Geologist, but also collects flowers. I intend to send You Penst. azureus, which grows here and also another Pentstemon with beautyful red flowers, I forgot the name of it, as soon, as the rain is over I also send that beautyful Delphinium with blue flowers. All in living plants of course.

I expect You have send the Cacti now. I have read in the paper, that they have snowstorms and very cold in Germany, but by the time the Cacti get there it is over. Please send my brother the list of Cacti I have left of the table, as soon, as possible. You do not need to make a copy of it. I forgot all about it. I soon as I hear from Baron v. St. Paul and he sends me the money I will send You as much as I can spare for the trip to Lower California. Dr. Behr dit not change much, since I have seen him last. On the ferry boat I met Dr. Eisen Miss Eastwood introduced me to him. That man made a very unfavorable impression on me, so I paid not much attention to him He looked at me a kind of suspicious, perhaps he has heard of me already and that I know something about his escapades in Baja California, about little Gustavo etc. It is a pity, that I forgot to tell Dr. Behr about it.

My best regards to Mr. Brandegee, Ora the Foote family and Mr. Barrows.

Sincerely Yours C. A. Purpus

care of L. P. Grover Potter Valley


Locations: Potter Valley. San Hedrin.  

Carl A. Purpus to Katharine Brandegee, 4/9/1899

[s.n.: 9 April 1899]

Potter Valley 9th. April 99.

Dear Mrs. Brandegee!

I received Your letter and my brothers yesterday. I have answered Your first letter in which You have send me the list etc. the next day I have got it and I am sure You will have it by this time. Baron v. St. Paul has not send the contract yet. It takes him quite a long time to do so. If I had ready money and had not ordered those two joung men from Germany I would not go to Br. Columbia, but to Colorado to collect Cacti, which we need badly. I have read about Mr. Anthonys shipwreck in the Examiner. I think it is simply dreadful. I expect he won't go to sea anymore. My brother writes, that the Garden very likely will buy the whole Cactus collection I have send. I hope it will not, because it would leave out Haage, whom I would not like to see affronted. I wrote it to my brother and told him to let Hauge have Cactus for cash, as much, as he can spare. They are going to build an entire house for Cacti this summer, because the Grand Duke is very much interested in Cacti as I told You. I have not send the living plants yet, but asked in my forgoing letter, if I shall do so or not. I would also send Pentst. Purpusii, which I intend to collect on San Hedrin pretty soon. I have to send You the plants C.O.D. because I can't spare no money. Everything is beautyful green here, the hills are covered with flowers. Yesterday I collected a small Mimulus with red flowers and two varieties of the same. I forgot the name of it. As soon as Baron v. St. Paul send money, I will send, as much as I can spare for the Lower Calif. trip. I wish my sets were sold, but expect they are not ready yet. I asked You for a Guava for my cousin, she will let you have E. glaucus and M. Purpusii. Nettie is collecting plants for You. I have not heard about my man yet and I am afraid I will lose my camping outfit.

Sincerely Yours

C. A. Purpus.


Articles that refer to this letter:

  • On the Trail, with Purpus, in California: 0640

Carl A. Purpus to Katharine Brandegee, 5/1/1899

[s.n.; 2 pp.: no date, between 9 April & 10 May 1899]

[The following two pages in similar ink and paper to those from Potter Valley in spring 1899]

The magazin Natur u. Haus and the new Garden Journal in Berlin had asked him to tell me to send him any amount of cones of Pinus tuberculat. P. Jeffreyi, P. Sabiniana, Pinus Coulteri etc. which he will sell for me in Berlin. Those cones are highly desirable and very much used for decoration in Berlin at present. I can get P. tuberculat and Sabinian. here and comence collecting today. Do You know somebody down there, who could collect cones of P. Coulteri, P. Parrayana etc? If not I will comunicate with M. C. Purdy.

I have the rheumatism in my left shoulder, so I guess it is a good thing not going north at all.

I have been on San Hedrin last week to get Arbut. Purpusii. There is also an Arctostaphyl. Purpusii near here, which I am going to collect this week. I hope You will be able to sell at least 4-5 sets the rest goes to Europe.

Except my tent I left with that man my blankets and my whole camp outfit.

I send You herewith Zeisolds letter translated. You see what he says I think he is right. Haage has all the Cacti I offered him in his list as my brother wrote me. He let him have all he wants, if he pays cash of course.

Please write me immediately what Cacti You have collected in the desert and if You wish to sell them, and also about the cones. I also like to know, if somebody around there can get fir seeds, Pine seeds etc. Please write me also what Mr. Connel has send, so I can offer them too.

I wished sombody could go to Lower California to collect Cacti.

Mr. Brandegee wrote me, that Orcutt has send up 3 tons of Cacti from Calmalli. I am very much alarmed about it, and I am going to do all in my power to crowd the scoundrel out of Germany. He must have got the money from somebody in advance, perhaps from that man Murdock from Florida, who asked for Cacti last winter.

Sincerely Yours

C. A. Purpus.

I can not spare the money at present to go after my things as You know.

Cones with the branches, such in clusters are most desirable, please remember this. C. Purdy furnished me cones once before.

[second sheet]

please let me know, if You can keep them in a shady place in the garden till fall. I would send them to You with Your plants. I expect to make about 150$ or more out of them, so it pays all my expenses. I also collected roots of that beautyful blue Delphinium, which I send also to Germany. Please give me the name of that Delphinium.

Did You never see my butcher knife somewhere in the Herbarium?

As soon, as I have money enough I go to Colorado.

Can't You get a prizelist of Orcutts for me? I wish to collect bulbs of Calochortus, Brodiaea etc. and offer them to Dammann and Zeissold. What is the name of that beautyful Erythron. (cream colored flowers) which grows here so abundant. Is it not E. grandifl. or gigant.? There is a new Fritillaria growing on San Hedrin, Mt. Hull and Snow Mt. which I am going to collect next week flowers dark chocolade and sometime yellow, leafs glaucous. It is not F. biflora of course.

Zeissolds letter.

I am in receipt of Your favor and thank You very much for Your offer and prize list, but I am very sorry to say, that I am unable to give You an ordre just now, because I have ordered a great many of those species You have offered me already--from that scoundrel Orcutt I expect--and because You did not write me, which species You can furnish right away or You will collect next summer. I had asked You long ago for offers, but read in a paper, that You will sell everything to Spth in Berlin -- I do not know, who has put this in the paper I am ready any time to communicate with You, but please do not offer me plants which You can not furnish. I have made orders for plants to firms in America, but could not have them furnished after waiting 1 1/2 years and than with great trouble. I do not wish to get into the same fix again.

I expect that man is right don't You think so to?

verte! [at end of first page]


Locations: Julian. Potter Valley. San Hedrin. Basin. Frisco. Wah Wah Springs.  

Carl A. Purpus to Katharine Brandegee, 5/10/1899

[s.n.: 10 May 1899]

Potter Valley 10/5 99

Dear Mrs. Brandegee!

I have just received Your letter of the 8/5. Please send a copy of Frhlichs bill to my brother, because he collects the money. Please write me soon, if You think Alf. Stockton would collect the cones of Pinus Coulteri, because it is very important. Ornamental cones are used just now in Berlin very much for decorative purposes and we are able to make lots of money out of them. They could be collected abound Julian in large quantities. He may collect 1000 and more, pack them in San Diego and send them away in August. Of course he has to waitfor his money until we have it and this will be when the Cactus are sold. I wrote to Mr. Jger long ago and I guess has the letter now. It was foolish for him to send a telegram. I do not telegraph at all, because it cost money and is of no use. Do not send the sets away, but if it is not to much trouble and You can spare the money send them when ready , to my brother. I send the ferns, as soon, as I have Pentst. Purpusii, which I will collect on San Hedrin next week to send to You. I hope You have seen Orcutt. Please write me, what the scoundrel has brought up from Lower Calif. We are going out collecting cones again tomorrow. I also will see Purdy about cones of Pinus Jeffreyi, P. Sabiniana etc.

My man has not got back yet, as I wrote You. Mr Ayer? cashier of Tulare bank, who wrote me lately thinks, it was nothing wrong with him. Mr. Grover has a son in Wah-Wah Springs near Frisco Western Utah. It is a very good chance to go there for me to collect Cacti. His name is Owen Grover.

Sincerely Yours C. A. Purpus

Many thanks for sending the paper.


Carl A. Purpus to Katharine Brandegee, 7/3/1899

[no. 21: 3 July 1899]

Basin P.O. Grand Co.

Utah. 3/7 99

Dear Mrs. Brandegee!

I received Yous letters and all the others yesterday and thank You very much for sending them. I also thank You for sending me the money for that set, perhaps Miss Eastwood will take the other set and You will sent also the money for it, I do not need it just now but later on when I commence to ship things.

I have to write You a very bad news. My brother writes, that the Cacti had not arrived in Germany and are undoubtedly all lost. I am worrying myself to dead about it, that that wonderful collection on which I have spent so much money and labor is lost by the carelessness and illadvisment of that infamous S.P.R. because instead of going to New Orleans, that they told You to sent them to Galveston and I am sure they are still there going to ruin. You have no idea how bad I feel about it. Something has to be done to find out what has become of the Cacti. Haage got all the Cacti I have sent in early spring, had them in St. Petersburg and made a fortune out of them. He got them from Orcutt, no doubt. The Cacti of Mrs. Nickels are in Darmstadt now, they have been on the way and those of Mr. Main

I also found a Juniperus with blauish gray leaves

[end of sheet 21]


Carl A. Purpus to Katharine Brandegee, 7/15/1899

[22: no date]

is a joung specimen it resembles almost a joung specimen of M. deserti Var. Arizonica. I can sent You no joints of those larger Opuntias, because I had nothing to pack them. I am high up in the Mountains at about 9-1000 feet and a good ways from the Basin on the other side of the Mountains a very hard climb to get there. By the kindness of Mr. Rbt. Thomson in Moab I could occupy his cabin and I am very comfortably located. I am so glad, if Mr. Brandegee goes to Lower California to get Cacti for me. Although I had bad luck I will try it again. In return I will do all I can for Your Herbarium to help You building it up. That Echinocereus phoenic. goes in to the belt of Populus tremuloides at 7500 feet, also does that long spined Opuntia, of which I wrote You. The flowers of it are yellow or orange. I have not seen a red flowered O. polyacantha. All Opuntias in these Mountains have yellow flowers. Quinns Caon Range is in Nevada near Reveille Valley, You will find it on the map of the dead Valley Expedition. Please sent all letters to Basin P.O. not to Moab. If You have those cones collected, so they have to be packed carefully and send to Hensel, Bruckmann New York.

Do not pay the freight. Please send me the Adress of Hensel, Bruckmann I forgot the Number of their office.

My best regards to Mr. Brandegee and Ora.

Yours sincerely

C. A. Purpus

I could sent You one joint of one O. and half a joint of the other.

Please do not have other cones collected but Pinus Coulteri


Locations: Basin. Moab.

Articles that refer to this letter:

  • On the Trail, with Purpus, in California: 0550

Carl A. Purpus to Katharine Brandegee, 8/24/1899

[s.n., 2 pp.: 24 August 1899]

Basin Grand Co. Utah

24/8 99

Dear Mrs. Brandegee!

I have just received Your letter of the 15/8. You have misunderstood me all together about that money matter. I thought it fair enough if I told You to give Mr. Brandegee the 32$ you were going to sent me and also the 32$ I thought You would receive from Miss Eastwood that would be 64$ or just what Mr. Brandegee resp. Mr. Anthony has to have from the money my brother has sent in a check lately and which You have forwardet to me. I also have told You that my brother has to sent 220 Marks more--I guess it was that much--of which one part belongs also to Mr. Anthony resp. to Mr. Brandegee. Instead of putting it to my credit. I had paid everything we owed him, Mr. Brandegee, out of the cactus money I am going to have pretty soon I expect, but if You wish to have it arranged otherwise I do not care. I do not have that check here anymore, because I can't keep neither money nor checks in my camp on account of the outlaws, which are at large around here. We are not far from robbers roost--only about 50 miles--a rendez-vous place for all the bandits in Utah and Colorado etc--otherwise I had sent the check back right away so I think Mr. Brandegee has to wait until I am going to have an other check, and this will be very soon. I am also very anxious to see Mr. Brandegee having all the money back he has advanced, but I can't sent it until those who owe me are going to pay. I expect Frhlich will pay soon. I am very thankful to Mr. Brandegee, if he will have sent up Cacti from Lower Calif. for me and I wished very much to be able to pay him 200$ right away. If I get money enough, we are going to Mexico this winter and I thank You very much for making out Cactus localities on a map for me. I also thank You very much for the names of those Opuntias, but to be sure about it I will sent an other boxful of Opuntias with numbers, My brother has a great many orders for hardy cacti next spring. It would be very bad, if I had to send the cacti to Germany this fall, because the stand the climate better if planted in spring, as my brother writes, so I hope to get a place to plant them though the winter in San Diego. Please let me know, what You think about it. If I do not go to Mexico, but I think I will go we come to San Diego this winter. I expect Mr. Brandegee or You are kind enough to help me find a place where I can stay. I would like it better out in the country. Mr. Jger does not care much about finding a position in San Diego, because he is not here to make money, but to study.

Mr. Main's Cacti have not arrived yet, my brother is very mad, because he thinks I had ordered from that woman Ech. cylindraceus, which I did not, she had no business to sent me Cacti, which I dit not order at all, so she has to wait for the 10$ for awhile yet.

We collected a good many seeds of Yucca macrocarpa? which are very valuable, because collected at 7000 feet and higher. I also get 200-400D of seeds of Picea Engelmanni and others so I am doing very well this summer. Of that beautyful Erigeron I get 20D of seeds, which will bring me hundreds of dollars. I soon send You a collection of plants, of which I would like to have the names soon. I hope I do not trouble You to much.

Very sincerely Yours C. A. Purpus.

Excuse my bad writing paper! but we are in the wilderness You know.

I am very sorry, that my brother has got my letter in which I wrote him to sent Anthonys money direct to Mr. Brandegee to late

It will be of interest to You to know, that Mr. Maxwell the hotelkeeper of Moab is the father in law of Thom. McCarthy one of the worst outlaws in Utah. That Moab is a wonderful place I tell You.

  Full Size Image Book Cliffs, Utah.

Locations: Basin. Moab. Mountain Meadows. Thompsons.

Articles that refer to this letter:

  • On the Trail, with Purpus, in California: 0560

Carl A. Purpus to Katherine Brandegee, 9/10/1899

[23: 10 September 1899]

Basin 10/9 99

Dear Mrs. Brandegee!

I have just received a letter from my brother He writes, that he is sending money in a very short time. he is just waiting for a larger amount to be paid to me and than he sends it with Mr. Brandegee's resp Anthony's My brother is so very busy, that he is not able to attend to matters, as he ought to, so You must excuse. If Mr. Brandegee is not going to Lower California very soon, so I have to go, because I have to fill out large orders for Cacti from there for Frhlich, Haage & Schmidt etc. not F. A. Haage, not to speak of hardy Cacti, which I have to collect in thousands of specimens. If I am able to supply the German market the scoundrel Orcutt is entirely played out there. He has sent very bad specimens again, as You already have wrote me. My brother, who has been in all the big cities in Germany lately, was also in Erfurt and has seen the cacti Orcutt has sent there, he writes, that he never has seen poorer specimens and dried out entirely. Please be so very kind and sent me a list of Cacti, which can be collected in the lower part of the peninsula, as my brother wants it badly. I also have big orders for seeds from Benary in Erfurt, so I expect to make not 1000$ but 2000$ this summer. The hardy Cacti I have to sent to San Diego, because nobody will plant Cacti in winter. My brother paid also a visit to the Hof-marschal Baron v. St. Paul-Illaire and stayed with him several days. That trip to Br. Columbia is not given up yet and I may go next summer if I like to, but it pays me better to go to Mexico, and collect Cacti. We are very busy in collecting seeds now. The flora is almost over now.

Please do not neglect to sent me that list very soon. We are going from here in a wagon with a miner friend through the southern part of this state and also Colorado to Arizona, New Mexico to get Cacti.

Hoping to hear soon from You

I am very sincerely Yours

C. A. Purpus.

Please write me the name of that Opuntia I have sent You from Thompsons with E. Whipplei spinosior in the box.

While the hotel keeper of one of the two hotels in Moab is the brother in law of the worst bandit in Utah, the other one Mrs. Darrow is the daughter of John D. Lee that murderer in the Mountain meadow masacre. It is a wonderful place, that Moab!


Locations: Basin. Dolores. Grand Junction. Grand Mesa. Basin. Thompson Springs.

Articles that refer to this letter:

  • On the Trail, with Purpus, in California: 0050

Carl A. Purpus to Katherine Brandegee, 10/1/1899

[20: 1 October 1899]

Basin Grand Co. Utah.

1/X 99

Dear Mrs. Brandegee!

We are going to leave here soon and as soon, as I get to Thompson Springs or Grand Junction I will sent 50$ for Mr. Brandegee. My brother writes in a recent letter, that money comes in very slow. Frhlich has not paid his bill yet but promised to pay soon. other wise I had sent Mr. Brandegee more money 100$ or 200$. I will not collect any Cacti in Colorado because I can't spare the money to do so. Every dollar I am able to spare has to go to Mr. Brandegee. Mr Jger who stays at Grand Junction part of the winter will collect all the Cacti around there and the Grand Mesa. I leave my Cacti I am collecting here at Grand Junction and bring only those for Your Garden. Mr. Jger is going to sent them from there to Germany, he also takes care of them until ready to be shipped. I make a short trip to the Dolores to see some Uranium mines there and collect Cacti. I am going to have a big order for Anhalonium Lewisii (tons I expect) for E. Merck and Comp. They are making a virulent poison out of them as You know. Do You know where they grow or can You find it out? Please direct Your next letter to the Basin Grand Co. but after that to Thompson Springs Utah care of Ballard brothers. I have to go to the Colorado desert to get Ech. cylindrac. and Mamill. tetrancistra which are in great demand perhaps Mr. Alf. Stockton will take me there. I am coming back sometime next month I expect and like to have a place where I can stay, before I get to San Diego, because I do not wish to stay at the hotel, because I do not like it, and because it is to expensive perhaps Mr. Barrows is kind enough to help finding a place for me. Please sent me the names of those plants I have sent You, as soon as possible, because my brother will sell the seeds and must have the names.

Very sincerely Yours

C. A. Purpus.

Please say nothing about those Anhalonium because Mercks keep it a secret. I need E. Emoryi rectispinus but don't know how to get it. I sent You about a half dozen little trees of Populus tremuloides.

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Date and time this article was prepared: 6/7/2002 7:33:39 PM