Carl Purpus, Plant Collector in Western America On the Trail, with Purpus, in California (Continued)  

Barbara Ertter  

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Letters: 6/2/1898  

It is a big difference between these mountains and that Big sheep Pasture called Sierra Nevada, here are no sheep at all, because they can not come them in and that is the reason I make such a fine collection.
Full Size Image Habitat of Ivesia kingii var. eremica (Cov.) B. Ertter. Full Size Image Charleston Peak, Spring Mountains, Nevada.  

Locations: Ash Meadows. Charleston Peak. Las Vegas. Virgin River. Diamond Valley. Mountain Meadows. Pine Valley Mountains. Saint George.  

Purpus left the Palmetto area and continued his journey to St. George. Enroute he collected in Ash Meadows, home of numerous endemic plants and the Devils Hole pupfish, and climbed nearby Charleston Peak, though he did not reach the summit. He passed through the tiny community of Las Vegas, at the time still largely the meadows for which it is named, and followed the Virgin River to St. George, where he stayed for only a short time because of the intense heat. In Utah he collected in Diamond Valley with its volcanic craters, the Pine Valley Mountains, and the notorious Mountain Meadows, where, to quote Purpus,

Other Articles: Nevada and Utah Desert (1898): 0370  

... several hundred pioneers from Missouri were massacred by a band of Mormons in union with the Indians some 30 to 40 years ago …
an unfortunate episode resulting from tensions between early settlers.

Other Articles: Nevada and Utah Desert (1898): 0620

Locations: Bridgeport. Sonora Pass. Excelsior Range. Panaca. Pioche. Sand Spring.  

On his return trip through Nevada, Purpus passed through Panaca, whose nearby buttes reminded him of the Dakota badlands, and the mining town of Pioche. By August he was back in the Palmetto range, where he collected seeds and late-season plants. He then proceeded north through Fish Lake Valley and camped at Sand Spring, "... a lovely clear spring . . . located in the sandy waste on the north[east]ern base of the White Mountains ..." From here he made one last expedition into the adjacent White Mountains before continuing north, across the Excelsior Range, through Bridgeport, to Sonora Pass. The route down the west side of Sonora Pass he described as:

Other Articles: Nevada and Utah Desert (1898): 0630  

... a neck-breaking path to the breath-takingly beautiful Deadman's Canyon, one of the wildest and most imposing landscapes I have ever seen. Above us rose a rock wall about a thousand feet high, and above it soared dark blue-black mountains with jagged or crested peaks. Down the cliffs plunged a rushing mountain stream, the source of the important Stanislaus River, along which our route led. To the left rose a gigantic granite wall, on which clambered a green thicket of Alnus viridescens, Populus tremuloides, Rubus species and so on. We camped here a spent a very cold night.

Other Articles: Nevada and Utah Desert (1898): 0680  

The cold was understandable, since it was already October. It took several days to reach the town of Sonora, and another 3 days to reach the valley, arriving at Porterville "... from whence I had set out on my journey in April. We had travelled approximately 2000 miles by wagon, without suffering a single mishap."

Locations: Mount Tamalpais.

Letters: 3/23/1899  

The following March, in 1899, Purpus visited Alice Eastwood and Dr. Behr at the California Academy of Science, joining them on a field trip to Mt. Tamalpais. It rained the whole time, and all were soaked to the skin. On the ferry boat he met Dr. Eisen, of whom he writes:
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 little Gustavo etc [23 May 1899].

Locations: La Sal Mountains. Thompson Springs.

Letters: 8/24/1899  

Purpus then collected some more in Potter Valley and surrounding areas. In May he took a train to Thompson Springs, "... a small green spot in the waterless waste ..." of eastern Utah. From here he made his way to the La Sal Mountains, his original destination the previous year, largely for the diverse conifers and winter-hardy cacti. The area had never been botanized before, perhaps in large part to the various dangers at that time. In a letter to Katharine Brandegee (24 August 1899) he writes:
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 . . . 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.

Letters: 9/10/1899  

And in the next letter (10 September 1899):
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!"

Other Articles: La Sal Mtns (1899) Journey: 0240  

Purpus collected in the La Sals all summer, being joined by Alfred Jaeger. In his published account of his expedition, he describes the end of their La Sal expedition in mid-October:
We were making excellent progress when there arose a terrible storm such as I had never before experienced in the mountains. It snowed five days and five nights straight, so horribly that I fully expected that we would get snowed in. We were camped at about 9000 feet elevation. When it was over, the snow lay three to four feet deep and restricted all activity in the area. Some of our cones lay around the cabin and were quickly brought to safety. The remainder were in other places where we had been collecting, including Picea pungens argentea and P. engelmanni glauca pendula. Jaeger shoveled the former out of the snow yesterday, and the latter the day before. The cones of Pseudotsuga douglasii glauca were left buried and abandoned under the snow, as nothing could be done. We had to drag the cones and our entire collection on our backs for two miles through three to four feet of snow. It was horrible! It is terribly cold here; in the middle of October the temperature was -16 deg. R. at 9000 feet.

Other Articles: La Sal Mtns (1899) Journey: 0250  

The editor of the journal in which this was published added the following plug for Purpus and his collections, which serves as a reminder to us that Purpus was dependent on his readers buying his seeds, cones, and other collections in order to make a living:
Our reader can tell from this that collecting in such a region is not to be taken lightly. By luck, Mr. Purpus saved great quantities of valuable seeds, but his profits were barely enough to cover his considerable travel expenses. Only a person with the tremendous enthusiasm and devotion of Purpus would be able to travel in these inhospitable regions, constantly risking health and life itself, to bring such beautiful botanical treasures back to his native country. For this, we will be indebted to Mr. Purpus for years to come.
We are obligated to remember this, and to express here the gratitude of the dendrologists to this conscientious man. Such a scrupulous collector, who brings us seeds from the harsh climes suitable to our needs, is not often found. No one should question that such valuable seeds come with a high pricetag. The connoisseur gladly pays the higher price, knowing well that the seeds are worth a thousand times more. Such items are not to be compared with a hodge-podge thrown together from all over the place, that, when planted for silviculture, do not characteristically turn out well, because they do not come with a guarentee of their suitability.
Not only should it be acknowledged that Mr. Purpus's pursuits are honest, but they should also be encouraged by our purchases of his valuable seeds. One may thereby be certain of the best horticultural results!

Letters: 10/8/1897  

Purpus refers to a guide or companion in many of his letters, although no mention is made of a companion in any of his published travelogues. In at least 1897 and 1898 he was accompanied by a person described in a letter to Katharine, discussing his plans for a cactus-collecting trip to Baja California funded by the Brandegees (8 October 1897):
The man Mr. Fred. Noller, who has been with me in the mountains this summer, wishes to help me colecting cacti not on this tour though. He is a faithful and active man and I am sure I will be able to collect twice as much assisted by him, so I expect You will not object.

Letters: 2/6/1898  

Noller did not accompany Purpus to Baja California the winter of 1897-98, though he was with Purpus the following summer. Although not mentioned by name, he is probably the person referred to by Purpus in a letter sent from Baja California (6 Feb 98)
Now about my man. I do not know what we are going to do with him. I wrote him some time ago to be ready for that trip in to the desert but if I start from Arizona I need nobody. Now Mr. Brandegee is acquainted with the forest officers in Washington and they need men to help protect the forest reserves. Couldn't or would not Mr. Brandegee be so kind and help him to get a place in perhaps the Tule R. forest reserve? as a kind of overseer or something of that kind? I can recomand the man very much and he is also intelligent, can read and write english, knows much about forests etc. because he worked in saw mills. He would not come to San Diego, because he likes it better in the mountains.

Letters: 5/1/1899  

In an undated later, by the contents probably written in spring of 1899, are the following lines, "... Except my tent I left that man my blankets and my whole camp outfit ..." and, "... I can not spare the money at present to go after my things as You know." Did Noller abscond with Purpus's field equipment, left in Daunt when Purpus moved to San Diego? There is no indication that Purpus was ever in the southern Sierra Nevada after 1898.

Literature Cited

  A list of all literature cited by this web site can be found in the Bibliography.
  Purpus, Carl Albert. 1890. Der Mount Hood [Oregon]. Ausland. 63(48, 49):947-951; 961-965. (Illinois)
  Purpus, Carl Albert. 1891b. Von Spence's Bridge in die Berge am Hat Creek in Britisch Columbia. Ausland. 64: 497-500; 504-506.
  Purpus, Carl Albert. 1892d. In den Bad Lands von Dakota. Ausland. 65: 765-767. (New Bremen, Ohio)
  Purpus, Carl Albert. 1893a. Am oberen Jakima-Fluss [Washington]. Ausland. 66: 779-781;795-796. (Delta, Colorado)
  Purpus, Carl Albert. 1896-97b. Das Rocky Mountain Pica (Lagomys schisticeps). Natur & Haus. 5: 350.
  Purpus, Carl Albert. 1896b. Bericht ber meine diesjhrige Sammeltour durch die sdstliche Sierra Nevada von California. Mitt. Deutsch. Dendrol. Ges. 5: 229-235.
  Purpus, Carl Albert. 1896c. Crotalus lucifer. Natur & Haus. 5: 361-363.
  Purpus, Carl Albert. 1896d. C. A. Purpus und seine Einfhrungen. Mller's Deutsche Grtn.-Zeitung. 11: 109-112.
  Purpus, Carl Albert. 1897a. Bericht ber meine Tour in die sdliche Sierra Nevada und die Argus und Madurango Ranges. Mitt. Deutsch. Dendrol. Ges. 6: 313-318.
  Purpus, Carl Albert. 1897d. Die Chapparalregion der sdwestlichen Sierra Nevada von Kalifornien. Mitt. Deutsch. Dendrol. Ges. 6: 79-83.
  Purpus, Carl Albert. 1898. Bericht des Herrn C. A. Purpus ber seine Tour in das Wstengebeit des sdlichen und mittleren Nevada, nrdlichen Arizona und westlichen Utah. Mitt. Deutsch. Dendrol. Ges. 7: 404-416. [Sonder-Abdruck pag. 66-78]
  Sousa, M. 1969. Las colecciones botanicas de C. A. Purpus en Mexico. Univ. Calif. Publ. Bot. 51: 1-36.
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Date and time this article was prepared: 6/7/2002 7:32:41 PM