Eloise Butler collage

1933 History
of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden

Winter 1932/33

1933 was to be year of momentous change for the Wild Flower Garden. Its' founder would pass away and be replaced by someone she knew - Martha Crone. Martha recalled that she had spent about 15 years helping out in the Garden. She and her husband William, a dentist, lived at 3723 Lyndale Ave. North in Minneapolis. Together, they were avid explorers of plant habitat and especially mushroom habitat.

E F Pabody PhotoMartha was secretary of the Minnesota Mycological Society from 1926 to 1943. Considering the need for large numbers of plants for the developing Wildflower Garden, the Crones were able to provide good assistance to Eloise Butler in finding sources for wild plants and for rescuing plants from areas where the native habitat was soon to be overrun with development.

The winter of 1932/33 was all weather and politics. A warmer than average January was followed by a deep cold snap in February. Eloise spent the winter on the East Coast with relatives, as she had since 1911. She would return to a cold late March but with most snow gone.

Eloise Butler's last letter to Martha Crone.

Eloise wrote to Martha and Bill Crone on Jan. 11 from Malden, thanking them for the Christmas gift they sent. (pdf copy) She discussed some of her other gifts, the weather and her health. There in no indication she is feeling ill or has any other issues. Eloise has also been in contact with a Mrs. Pearl Frazer in regards the position of curator at the Garden. She encloses a copy of a letter from Mrs. Frazer and asks Martha to keep it until she returns when they can discuss the Garden and maybe show the letter the Theodore Wirth. It turned out that Mrs. Frazer was not actually interested in a curators position but something else. (3)

Eloise wrote “I want also to thank you especially, Mrs. Crone, for what you wrote about the continuance of the wild garden. There’s too much of truth in what you say, but I will soon be able to talk with you about the matter in detail. In this time of depression nothing can be done except to hang on by the skin of one’s teeth. And what, if there hain’t no skin?”

We do not have a copy of Martha's letter to Eloise that Eloise refers to but it evidently concerned the dire straits of Park Board budgets in the Great Depression and what effect that would have on the garden. This is probably the last correspondence between the two and there is no indication in Martha Crone's diary that she ever saw Eloise prior to Eloise's death on April 10. She only notes in her diary on April 11 that she heard from Clara Leavitt about Eloise.

This would be FDR’s first term as president and the beginning of the New Deal.

Martha Crone wrote in her diary: (1)

Mar 2, Thurs “looking forward to Inauguration of Pres. with great hope, everyone excited, expecting him to perform miracles.” weather still lovely.

Mar 4, Sat. “Inauguration of Franklin Roosevelt. Radio going all day. Took in parade. Pres in bullet proof case after threatened assassination. All banks in U.S. closed, great excitement.”

A local photographer, Mr. E. F. Pabody, was in the Garden area on March 25th and took these three winter scenes, following a snowfall of 2+ inches. Mr. Pabody had his studio at 1920 Colfax Ave. So., Minneapolis, and frequented the Garden.

Photo titles:
Photo above: "Looking across the little pool near lower gate"
1st photo below: "Path through the tamaracks"
2nd photo below: "Looks like spring in the air."

E F Pabody Photo E F Pabody Photo

Spring 1933

Eloise Butler made several entries in her Garden Log in early April. On the 1st she noted: “The ground is nearly free from snow and ice. March being cold, the season is later than it was last year. Aments of aspen in evidence, and aments of alder and hazel elongating.” April 8 was her last entry where she noted planting 6 roots of Lysimachia terrestris that had been heeled in during the winter. (2)

On the rainy morning of April 10, 1933 she attempted to reach the Garden from her lodgings at the J. W. Babcock's house (located just east of the Garden at 227 Xerxes Ave. No.). She apparently suffered a heart attack and made her way back to Babcocks (possibly with some help). A doctor was summoned but nothing could be done and she soon passed away on the couch in the entryway of the house at 2:15 PM. Her funeral was on April 12th, 12:45 PM at the Lakewood Chapel. On May 5th, her ashes were scattered in the Garden (around the little office) as had been her wish. The details of her death, including the long-held mis-belief that she died in the Garden, are covered in our short history of her life. The Minneapolis Journal printed a front page notice of her passing. (PDF)

Martha Crone
Martha Crone shown here in the Garden in 1951.

The Garden was closed until April 20th. During that time the Park Board had to find a person to attend to the Garden. Martha Crone, although highly recommended, had not originally been a shoo-in for the job as Eloise had corresponded with someone else about the job, but that person was looking for somewhat different work (3)(and see notes in Winter section). With Eloise now gone, Martha Crone met with Parks Superintendent Theodore Wirth at his office on April 13. (1). On the 18th Theodore Wirth wrote to the Board of Park Commissioners that he had appointed Martha temporary curator during the balance of the season or such other time thereof as seems advisable and satisfactory, from date to Oct. 1, 1933 at a salary of $60 per month. [The position would remain temporary until 1940.] On the 19th her husband Bill received a call from Wirth for Martha to be at the Garden the next day, where she met with Wirth, Wirth’s assistant C. A. Bossen, Mr. Babcock (Eloise's Landlord who would see that possessions belong to Eloise were sent back to Malden) and Mr. Erickson from the Park Board Staff. She opened the office and she and Miss Merkert, Wirth’s secretary, began taking inventory. (1) There is a copy of that inventory in the records of the Martha Crone Collection at the Minnesota Historical Society.

Dr. Thomas Roberts
University Professor Dr. Thomas S. Roberts (1931 photo). Roberts and other professors frequently brought their classes to the Garden for on-site study.

On April 21, a Saturday, Martha was in the Garden in the morning, and went home at noon. During these first days of her tenure the Garden was not open for a set time as she arranged her affairs so that she could be there as required - every day, except Wednesday, till 5PM - April 1 through Sept. 30. (1)

On the 23rd Martha noted that there was a steady stream of visitors all day (all the newspapers had reported the death of Eloise Butler) and that there were many fires near the Garden and at 6PM there was a fire on the west boundary of the Garden and Martha fought 1-1/2 hours to put it out. Dr. Thomas S. Roberts had visited that same day and again on the 30th. (1)

On the 29th someone brought in the knarl of a red elm. It was “planned to saw it through the center making two tables for the Garden in memory of Miss Butler.”

Back on April 19, Theodore Wirth had sent a letter to the Park Commissioners notifying them of the death of Eloise Butler, a little about her history, and set May 5, Arbor Day, as the date for a remembrance ceremony at the Garden. On the 28th he followed up with a memorandum detailing the events of May 5th. (memorandum). On May 3rd various Park Commissioners were at the Garden (perhaps the first time for many). That same day Martha sent her letter of acceptance of the position to Wirth. Workmen were in on the 4th, bringing a Pin Oak and a small Honey Locust. (1)

On May 5th a tire was stolen from the Crone’s car and Martha arrived a bit stressed. She received her first paycheck ($22) that day. Superintendent Wirth was in the Garden all morning, and at 4PM the Board of Park Commissioners and about 100 friends of Eloise Butler gathered at the Garden for the remembrance ceremony. (1)

planting pin oak

Above: Finalizing the planting the Pin Oak: (l to r) Alfred F. Pillsbury, President of the Park Board; Theodore Wirth, Superintendent of Parks; Francis A. Gross, Vice President of the Board.

Park Board President A. F. Pillsbury opened the ceremony with these words:

“We have gathered here today to do honor to one who was the moving spirit in the establishment and care of this unique and interesting garden. Being a great lover of nature, an especially of wild flowers and plant life, it was her desire that one part of our park system should be left in its natural condition and devoted to the wild flowers and birds of our state. Under her loving care for many years, this garden has become famous and given pleasure to many. In the presence of friends and to her memory we have planted this rare tree, and in accordance with her wishes we now, with respect and admiration, distribute the ashes of Miss Eloise Butler over the ground she loved so well.”

President Pillsbury was then given by Martha Crone, the container holding the ashes of Miss Butler and he then began to spread the ashes first around the base of the tree and then in the area on all sides of the little office building. Some of the ash was wafted farther by the breeze. The audience looked on in silence. The only sound was that of Mr. Pillsbury moving through the growths.

Theodore Wirth
Minneapolis Parks Superintendent Theodore Wirth

Martha Crone and Theodore Wirth spoke last. Martha Crone read Eloise Butler's last report to the Park Board. General Superintendent Wirth in a few brief remarks called attention to the fact that the pin oak had long been a favorite of Miss Butler’s and for this reason had been chosen as the tree to be dedicated in her services. He suggested that a year from today this same group of friends gather to place a bronze tablet on a boulder near the tree to perpetuate the dedication, and those friends then made preparation to raise the funds necessary for this purpose.

In the days following the ceremony Martha took care of Garden duties, planting the seeds and plants that had accumulated from Eloise Butlers previous arrangements. The Garden looked good - on May 14 she noted “Mobs at garden in afternoon, trilliums beautiful, also mertensia”.(1)

On the 15th Mrs. Cram (Gertrude Cram) was in, then Mrs. Phelps and Miss Leavitt - all friends of Eloise Butler. All three and Martha would be forming a committee to provide the memorial tablet for Eloise Butler (PDF of Committee details). On the 18th Theodore Wirth’s secretary, Miss Merkert was in to sort out the books in the office that had been the domain of Eloise Butler - the books were being sent back to the Butler relatives at Malden MA.

May 20 was not a good day - Bill Crone was driving Martha to the Garden when they were in an accident at Lowry and James. Martha sprained an ankle and skinned an elbow but nevertheless arrived at the Garden by 9:15 AM. Due to the dry spring weather there was a dust storm on the 23rd - no Garden visitors. On the 25th Martha closed the Garden at 3 so as to get down to the main Minneapolis Library for a meeting on the memorial for Eloise.

Martha was well known in the area for her plant collecting efforts. She did what Eloise had done - search the wild for suitable specimens and get permission to retrieve them if permission was necessary; rescue them when the habitat was about to be destroyed; receive donations of plants from friends; and plant seeds for new plants.

note from Mrs. CramBack on 23rd April Gertrude Cram had send a note of introduction to Martha. Mrs. Cram then ends with this comment about Martha: “She (Eloise) said ‘you really should know her; she is a wild flower crank like you’. That tells us both what to expect, doesn’t it?” (4)

One of purposes for plants collected and planted by Martha in 1933 was the completion of the planting around the Mallard Pool area that had been started by Eloise Butler in 1932. (details) In 1932 Eloise Butler’s design for this pool area had been accomplished and she had started the planting from her list of desired plants. Martha’s May and June collecting trips, especially to areas around Anoka were to secure plants needed for the pool area. In that era one could still dig up plants in open areas without much restriction, even on street corners.

Many school groups toured the Garden in late May to early June. (1) May was a rainy month, June turned dry and historically hot.

Summer 1933

The Showy-lady’s-slippers always bring visitors to the Garden when they bloom. Mid-June this year was the peak bloom time, although it was 95 degrees on June 17. Many June days were over 100 degrees. June 30 was the 14th day of June over 90 degrees. It was the warmest June in weather history (as of 2018) and very little rain. July and August were very dry also.

Mosquitos were always a problem in the Garden. So bad in early 1933 that Theodore Wirth complained about them to Martha in a letter to her. In her reply (pdf copy) dated June 22 she wrote: “I wish to offer my apologies for the ill manner of my mosquitoes, they are rather difficult to train as each one lives only a short time.” (letter).

Martha’s husband Bill frequently came to the Garden with her on Sundays and on July 2nd he cut a new path in the meadow to reach the new Mallard Pool. (1) Martha mentioned her work on the paths in the Garden in her annual report to the Superintendent. (6)

On July 13, Gertrude Cram came to the Garden with a Mr. Burgess who was a frequent Garden visitor and occasional plant supplier.(1) The water fountain inside the Garden front gate is a memorial to him and his wife.

Swamp Candles
Swamp Candles, Lysimachia terrestris, also called Yellow Loosestrife.

Martha applied to Theodore Wirth on July 15 for a 5 day vacation. Time off was granted and it was taken on July 26 to 30. She was on a plant collecting trip to Duluth and the North Shore and noting in her diary on the 31st - “planted many plants we brought from Duluth.” On July 31 and August 1, her log shows 304 plants put in representing 33 species. (2)

This group of plants was supplemented with packages of plants shipped by Mrs. Cram from Isle Royal where she was vacationing in August. She had done this for some years for Eloise Butler and it would continue until 1939. Humorous letters would accompany the plants. Here is an example from a letter posted from Isle Royal August 8, 1933 - Mrs. Cram writes:

“By the Wednesday boat I am sending you a box of things, a funny one. It contains a sample of a number of plants of which you may or may not want more. ... This is what Miss Butler used to call a ‘surprise’ package, I am sure. The tall yellow things on top of the box is (sic), I think, Lysimachia terrestis, (Swamp Candles) which Miss Butler asked for last year. The roots go to China. I don’t think I got much, for as I was groveling in the muck among sticks and roots I couldn’t seem to feel the ends of the ones I was blindly following.”

Theodore Wirth would visit the Garden several times during the summer months - perhaps to check on how his new curator was doing.

Autumn 1933

Polyporus frondosa
Polyphorus frondosa, Hen of the Woods mushroom. Photo from a Kodachrome taken by Martha Crone on Sept. 25, 1951.

On Aug. 28 Martha and husband Bill gathered cranberries in the Quaking Bog to go into a collection of fruits of the Garden. It is unclear from the diary if this was for the Garden Office or for a State Fair display. She also was gathering mushrooms for the Mycological Societies State Fair exhibit. On Sept 4 she notes picking up a 15 pound Frondosa and many others out of the Garden for the fair exhibit. (1) 1933 was unusual in that no morel mushrooms were found that year.

Aromatic Aster
Aromatic Aster, Symphyotrichum oblongifolium, planted in September. Photo ©G D Bebeau

On Sept. 14 at 11:45 at the bath house at Glenwood Lake (now Wirth Beach) she meets a Mr. Boelin, 3 men and a truck from the Park Board and they go to Rice Lake at Shakopee to get Lotus. (1) She reports they got 125 good roots and are back at 5PM. This was probably to fulfill a request of Theodore Wirth to locate the plants, a request that she references in her June 22 reply to his letter (noted above in the Summer section). Rice Lake was the place where Martha and Bill discovered an unknown growth of American Lotus in 1930. Details of that are in the 1930 history. She also picked a few other plants that she notes in the log that they came from Rice Lake. This area must have good for collecting because she notes on Sept. 20, a Wednesday - her day off - that she went back to Shakopee and dug Aromatic Aster, Smooth Aster and Ironweed. (1) These she planted on the 21st (2).

The Garden closed on the last day of September and she notes that Mr. Johnson (Ben) came to the Garden to get Garden books, etc, for winter storage. Martha and Bill would frequently return to the Garden after closing in those early years to attend to the birds along with Miss Aler. (5) Thus on Oct. 20 she writes: “went down in garden to meet Miss Aler and Mrs. Ure at 1:30 put up bird pan and filled bird bath, real cold but sat in office for awhile”. (1) To the Garden again on the 25th when they saw many birds including a wood cock, and she collects seed of Red Turtlehead. (1)

In her first annual report to the Parks Superintendent (6) Martha Wrote: "It is indeed an effort well repaid to visit this beautiful spot where the abundance of our native flora has been made still more beautiful and interesting by plantings of other Minnesota wild flowers that are fast becoming exterminated elsewhere. During the season many varieties of seeds were sown. 1330 plants were set out, all obtained from their native haunts. They comprise 166 species, representing 108 genera and 48 families.

It has been an honor and a pleasure to have served in the Native Plant Reserve this past season and I wish to thank you for the privilege."

Twenty-seven species were added to the Garden, eight were new and those are listed in her log are listed below.

On Nov. 11 she noted “15th anniversary of the Armistice, very quiet, hardly to be noticed”(1) and on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 30 “Bill and I to garden to feed birds, warm and rainy.”(1) They go several more times in December, including with Miss Aler on Dec. 10.

A Christmas tree costs the Crones 75 cents in 1933. On Christmas Day it was 16 below in morning and 8 below all day. Coldest Christmas since 1890, following what had been the hottest June in recorded weather history for the area.

October, November and December had very little precipitation. Snowfall and total precipitation for the year were well under average.

List of new species added to the Garden in 1933

Photo top of page is a collage of Eloise Butler at 4 stages in her life: A young woman, ca1890, Garden Curator 1910-20, mid 1920s and age 80 at her birthday party, Aug. 2, 1931. Photos courtesy Minneapolis Public Library, Minneapolis Collection, and Minnesota Historical Society.

Specific References:

(1) Martha Crone’s Diary - 1933

(2) Garden Log - 1933

(3) Letter, Eloise Butler to Mrs. Frazer, Sept. 29.1932. Pearl Frazer was the daughter of Fanny Heath of North Dakota. Mrs. Heath was a wildflower expert and correspondence friend of Eloise Butler. See The Wild Gardener, by Martha Hellander, pgs. 94ff.

(4) Letter of Gertrude Cram to Martha Crone April 23, 1933.

(5) Lulu May Aler - Miss Aler set up and maintained a large bird feeding station at the back side of the Garden, outside the gate, so she would visit several time a week to maintain it. In later years when Miss Aler was too old to do it, the station was maintained by the Minneapolis Bird Club, then Audubon. See J. S. Futcher, Collection of Friends Memories, 2003

(6). Annual Report to Parks Superintendent Theodore Wirth dated Nov. 19, 1933.

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Year chart - all years
Garden History Archive

Printable PDF file of this page.

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

General References:

Garden Log - Native Plant Reserve, Glenwood Park, Minneapolis, MN by Eloise Butler

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

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

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

Friends Home Page

©2016 Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc. Photos are ©G D Bebeau 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. "https://www.friendsofthewildflowergarden.org" - 010819