Garden story

1942
History of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden

Winter 1941/1942

Snow Trilliums
Snow Trilliums, which bloomed early in 1942, prior to the Garden opening. Photo from a Kodachrome taken by Martha Crone on April 19, 1952. Photo courtesy Martha Crone Collection, MHS.

1942 would be a year of variable weather and restricted optimism due to the entrance of the United States into WWII. Rationing would begin, budgets would be restricted, but life in the Garden would go on, providing a restful atmosphere to those seeking it.

January had some warm days. When Curator Martha Crone and husband Bill stopped to check on the Garden and walk around some, it was 46 degrees. There was no snow on the ground in January. Monday, February 9th was the first day of “war time” beginning at 2AM, This was year-round daylight savings time, and it lasted until Sept. 30, 1945.

Martha received notice on March 26 from the Civil Service that her pay would be raised to $110 per month. On the 31st she and Bill took the kerosene stove out to the office at the Garden and for the 1st time in many years were able to drive right to the top of the hill near the south entrance. The snow was gone and the ice was off the city lakes. (1)

Spring 1942

Showy Orchis
The Showy Orchis (Orchis spectabilis) of the type brought in by Gertrude Cram. Photo ©Thomas G. Barnes, USDA-NRCS Plants Database.

As April 1 was a Wednesday, a day the Garden was always closed for Martha’s day off, April 2 became opening day. She noted that a few Snow Trilliums were in bloom. (2) The weather was warm, flocks of birds, the mildest Winter in at least 25 years. Bill helped her down to the office with a pail of water to scrub the place up, which she did, scrubbing the floors and cleaning up the front room of the office. She noted crowds of people came through, along with a Miss James who stopped in to visit. Husband Bill took the storm windows off the car [older cars in those days did not have roll-up windows, the Crone’s car was a 1937 Plymouth purchased in 1941.] (1)

On April 3, Good Friday, Ben Johnson and a Mr. Hill, both from the Park Board, brought out the Garden’s assortment of books, the typewriter and kerosene for the stove. The weather was still fine, so the stove was not used much. Miss Aler can in for the first time this season. (3) But it was April, so on the 5th cold temps returned along with a 2-day sleet storm. Everything was coated with ice, the office was cold all day and it was hard to heat the place, but everything looked beautiful with the ice coating.

Gertrude Cram called in on the 10th. It was still 20 degrees on the 11th and then heat. Martha burned leaves, visited with Mrs. Cram and Miss Aler with the Hepaticas and Bloodroots in full bloom. She noted in her log (2) on the 15th:

“Heat of today and yesterday extreme. Bloodroots all suddenly came into bloom, also Dutchman’s Breeches and everything else advancing very quickly.”

Tribune Ad
The top section of the May 24th Tribune story on the Garden described below. Click on image for larger version.

On the 17th Mr. McDonald from the Park Board was in with 2 men to clean out brush. Martha worked with the men all day and “got much cleaned up” (1). Theodore Wirth [retired Parks Superintendent] and his driver also visited. On the 23rd it was 81 degrees. Martha found the remains of several fires south of the Garden. Her first 1/2 month check for $55 arrived with Mr. McDonald. Then Mr. Dahlberg arrived with a reporter for an article on the Garden that was to appear in the Sunday paper.

Then at the end of the month, on the 28th, an event occurred which would be strange to us today. A Mr. Milton Thompson was in the Garden and “collected” a male Cooper’s Hawk, but couldn’t get the female. On the 30th there was a thunderstorm, very quiet in the Garden and Mr. Whitney Eastman left a card saying “they had collected the female hawk and found 2 eggs in the nest, thereby establishing an early record for the State.” (1) This is the second note about Mr. Eastman who would later become a director of the Friends; Martha had noted a visit from him in 1942.

Very little planting occurred in April - some Pasque Flowers on the 19th and some ferns on the 23rd. (2) April was one of the warmest Aprils ever.

On May 4 the Crones registered for their rationed sugar allowance - 1/2 pound per person per week. Mrs. Cram brings in three Showy Orchis for the Garden (Orchis spectabilis) and on the 13th they take her along on a Wednesday visit to their cabin at Cedar Creek.

three-leaved solomon's seal
Three-leaved Solomon’s Seal (Maianthemum trifolium) of the type Martha Crone brought to the Garden. Photo ©Stephen L. Solheim, Wisconsin Flora.

Robert Dassett Jr. was in on the 16th. He was a young teacher who loved the Garden and birding, later joining the Friends in 1960, becoming a board member in 1970 and President in 1971. The next day he was back with Whitney Eastman to join in the great birding. (1) Birding was the best in May. Martha wrote on the 19th: (2)

“A red letter day. This was record breaking birding. She listed 44 species of birds that day including 19 different warblers.”

On the 20th Miss Aler records 86 species including 22 warblers, all eating canker worms which were terrible that year, eating all the leaves off the trees. (1) Another future Friends member, board member and officer, shows up on the 23rd - Mrs Clarence Tolg (Edda). She would be on the Friends Board from 1953 through 1968. With her was a Miss Cross and one wonders if this was Marion Cross who joined the Friends Board in 1961, staying through 1968. (1)

On Sunday the 24th, the Sunday Minneapolis Tribune runs an almost full page illustrated story about visiting the Garden. It is all in drawings with little vignettes about different aspects of the Garden. Martha noted in her log there were thousands of visitors through due to article. In her diary she wrote:

“Millions through, had difficulty to close.”

Only the upper section of the page is shown in the photo above. The spread had some interesting comments:
“This has been an early spring and many of the flowers of spring are past their prime”
“20 acres” [it was actually about 8]
“One of the few civilized touches in the park is this stone setting for one of the four springs” [actually only one spring was in the Garden and that was not reachable. The others with the stone surround were outside the Garden fence.]

The well dressed young lady is reading from the Butler Memorial Tablet and reading “she died while at work here and her ashes are scattered about the Gardens.” The part about the ashes is partially correct, they were scattered only around the Garden office. The part about dying while at work is a perpetuation of an old myth. She actually was stricken in the Garden but died at her lodging in the presence of a doctor. [Full story here]

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Blue-Gray Gantcatcher Photo ©John Crawley.

The following Wednesday at Cedar Creek she walks to another island and gets a clump of 14 Lady’s-slippers (apparently the yellow) and plants then near her cabin. Can’t do that today.

May 29 - 30th had terrible rain storms. In her log:

“Paths washed out and water seeping out of hillside flooding the paths. Several trees down. Glenwood lake has overflowed its banks completely submerging 6th Ave. No., car in center with only the top showing. Picnic grounds flowed over to tennis court and Glenwood Ave. almost under water. A record breaking high water.”

Bassett Creek was roaring and she had water in her basement.(1) On June 1st Drs. Kilgore, Roberts and Breckenridge are in from the University. Roberts brought in his class, usually for the birding. She mentions on the 4th (1) the someone was in that day to take pictures of the Three-leaved Solomon’s Seal (Maianthemum trifolium) that she says she brought to the Garden from Cedar Creek Bog. This is the first time this plant is mentioned in the Garden logs and she does not reference it again until her 1955 log.

Another big birding event of May and June was the sighting once again of the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher nesting near Birch Pond - between the Garden parking log the pond. Miss Aler found the nest in a White Oak. After the first brood in May, they made another nest. She records the events in both her log and diary. This was a rare bird in Minnesota and had last been seen near the same spot in 1939. Martha would make no further mention of it till 1955 when it was seen once again.

Summer 1942

Edith Schussler
Edith Schussler, 2nd from left, former pupil of Eloise Butler.

The Summer of 1942 was one of the quietest periods of Martha Crone’s tenure as Curator. There were no festive activities at the Garden, plantings were few and far between. Most of her log is devoted to bird sightings and which plants are in bloom. In her diary she notes some activities not mentioned in the log. A Mrs. Davidson visits a few times in June. Could this be Marie Davidson who was on the Friends of the Wild Flower Board in 1974? She held various positions for a few years - Secretary, treasurer and newsletter editor until ill health forced her to step down in the summer of 1975??

Dr. O. F. and Mrs. Schussler (Edith) came in on July 10, the first time since 1938. Edith was a pupil of Eloise Butler and well known to Martha. [She is pictured in this 1931 photo of Eloise Butler’s birthday party.] July was the 3rd year of the Aqua Follies at Glenwood Lake [now Wirth Lake]. By July Martha’s monthly wage is up another $10 to $120. Edda Tolg is back in visiting, boys are fishing for goldfish in Birch Pond and Police officers are frequently around checking on a group of men that were hanging around the Park. By September they had moved on. On August 22 Martha records the first wave of warblers migrating through southward, just 3 months after the vast northward migration of May.

Autumn 1942

Office in fall
The Garden office nestled among the fall leaves. Photo from a Kodachrome taken by Martha Crone on Oct. 15, 1950, photo courtesy Martha Crone Collection, MHS.

The big event of the Fall in Minnesota is the State Fair, but in 1942, it was the first in wartime and Martha noted that many exhibits were missing, there were no samples, and no machinery on Machinery Hill at all. [factories all converted to war production, not domestic equipment].

Very little planting was done in the Fall, in fact Martha reports putting in only 400 plants were brought in but she did plant thousand of seedlings she raised from seed (4) - an occupation she was very good at as she usually logs planting numerous seeds each year.

The entire year was wet, with an early onset of Spring, but with a very early Autumn.

September 26th: “Everything covered with several inches of snow followed by frosts” (2)
Sept 28th: “bitter cold with everything frozen.”(1)
Then on October 13 she writes “Weather like summer, all windows open and wearing no wraps.” “The season is ending as beautifully as it started in April. No extreme heat has been experienced this summer. The highest temperature was 95 reached only once. Rain has been most abundant." (2)

On October 15, the books were packed for return to storage and the Garden closed. December 1st was the first day of gas rationing or the war. This eliminated many future trips by the Crones to their cabin at Cedar Creek and for botanizing in general. There was no outdoor lighting or decorating for Christmas in 1942 (1).


(1) Martha Crone’s Diary - 1942

(2) Garden Log - 1942

(3) Miss Lulu May Aler. She was one of the first visitors when the Garden opened in April and Martha would often note in her diary that “Miss Aler in” and sometimes for lunch together. Friends member J. S. Futcher reports that he knew Miss Aler and she maintained a large bird feeding station at the back side of the Garden, outside the gate, so she would visit several time a week. By the early 1950’s she had become too old to do the work and Mr. Futcher found some neighbor boys who would do it as they were in the Minneapolis Bird Club, which eventually became the Audubon Society of Minneapolis, which then took over the task. The feeding table is not maintained today.

(4) Annual Report to the Board of Park Commissioners dated Jan. 20, 1943, to Superintendent C A Bossen.

Photo top of page: The top section of a story about the Garden on May 24, 1942

Previous Year ----------- Subsequent Year

Links to related pages:
- Abbreviated Life of Eloise Butler
- Martha Crone - 2nd Garden Curator
- Ken Avery - 3rd Curator and Gardener
- Cary George - 4th Gardener
- Our Native Plant Reserve - Short document on the origins of the Garden.
- Eloise Butler's writings, a selection of essays written by Eloise Butler on the early Garden years.
- Geography of the Garden- an illustrated tour

References:

Martha Crone's Annual Report to the Board of Park Commissioners dated Jan. 20, 1943.

Martha Crone's Diary - 1942

Martha Crone's Garden Log and her 1951 Census of plants in the Garden.

Various papers and correspondence of Eloise Butler and Martha Crone in the collection of the Minnesota Historical Society.

Historical Climatology of Minneapolis-St. Paul Area by Charles Fisk.

Friends Home Page

©2017 Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc. All photos are the property of The Friends unless otherwise credited. Photos credited to others are used with permission for educational purposes, for which The Friends thank them and the organization providing the photos. Text and research by Gary Bebeau. "http://www.friendsofthewildflowergarden.org" - 011717