woodland garden east path

History of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden

Winter 1942/1943

Martha Crone
Martha Crone in the Garden in a 1951 photo.

1943, the second year of WWII for the United States, subdued a number of Garden activities. Garden Curator Martha Crone did very little planting compared to other years. Rationing was increased in scope and even plants were difficult to obtain. People did come to the Garden for the respite it brought.

Martha’s Garden log was quite sparse this year, most notations concerned bird sightings and flower bloom. Most of the information for this year comes from her personal diary.

1943 was Martha Crone’s 11th year in charge of the Garden, which began its 37th year. She was 49 years old on January 29th. The month was extremely cold.

On March 29, rationing went into effect for meat, butter, fats and cheese. She noted that by the 27th all stores were sold out of meat. (1)

Spring 1943

Theodore Wirth
Retired Parks Superintendent Theodore Wirth who visited the Garden regularly to see Martha Crone. Photo MHS.

April 1st, Garden opening day was cold and snowing hard. The road barricades were still up so she parked at the foot of the trail on the north side of the Garden and walked in via Tamarack Trail. After opening the east gate she walked down to her car and found the men had arrived to open the barricade, so she drove the car up and then spent time cleaning the front room of the Garden Office. Mr. Lucking [Park Board Horticulturist] and Mr. Jacobson from the Park Board were in to check on things. They all found that holes had been shot in all the office windows. (1)

The Dutchman’s pipe vine that grew on the office trellis had been eaten down by rabbits. The kerosene stove she brought from home was working and the office warmed up in time for Miss Aler and Mrs. Ure to visit. Both were birders (3).

Dutchman's Pipe Vine
Dutchman's Pipe Vine (Aristolochia marcophylla) Rabbit food in the Winter of 1943. Photo Mark Garland, USDA-NRCS Plants Database.

On the 2nd her books and typewriter were delivered from Park Board storage and 5 gallons of kerosene for the stove were delivered. Audubon was in for a birding walk.

Within a few days the weather warmed and the Snow Trillium and Hepatica were in bloom on the 5th. On the 8th the temperature was 75 degrees, then in snowed all day on the 13th and Martha stayed home. On the 15th yet, the water in the bird bath was frozen and in all the pails in the office. Theodore Wirth [retired Parks Superintendent] came in that day for his first visit of the year.

Martha’s $60 semi/monthly pay check was subject to deductions of $1.70 for a “victory tax” and $8.20 for the pension.

On the 23rd Robert Dassett Jr. was in to visit. He was now teaching high school in Springfield. He was a young teacher who loved the Garden and birding, later joining the Friends in 1960, becoming a board member in 1969 and President in 1971.

Martha Crone in the Garden
Martha Crone as pictured in the May 23 Tribune story

The 23rd was also the date the Minneapolis Sunday Tribune published a substantial article about the Garden, Written by Virginia Dustin, it gave a little history, but generally explained the flowers, the setting and wrote of the Curator. The writer opened with the closeness of the Garden to downtown: “Despite its great accessibility, the Garden remains fresh and untrammeled. There are no formal paths in the Garden, only leafy trails that seem to carry no mark of passing feet.” She also said “There are no policemen in the Garden, no FORBIDDEN signs. . . . It is the Curator, really, who makes the Garden. She not only receives the visitors, but keeps the records and does most of the actual gardening.” The sign comment reflects back to Eloise Butler who had numerous “NO” and “DO NOT” signs in the Garden. [PDF of article]

An interesting development was happening in the Cedar Creek area were Martha and Bill Crone had a cabin and land. The University of Minnesota had just purchased over $2,000 worth of land just north of their property and Bill Crone went to the University Academy of Natural Sciences on the 24th to learn more about the U’s project. Years later, the University would purchase the Crone property also.

May was a cold month. Martha noted on the 4th “all plants two weeks behind.” By the 7th it was 30 degrees and Martha was “dressed for Winter.” She noted the first waves of warblers coming through on the 15th. Then the weather started to warm. On the 18th she was “pulling Jewelweeds by the thousands.” [Jewelweed is an annual that can be very invasive if not frequently controlled.]

Showy Orchis
The Showy Orchis (Orchis spectabilis) of the type that makes a reappearance in 1943. Photo ©Jeff Hapeman, Wisconsin Flora

May 20th “First warm day and all windows open” (2). Mrs. Cram was in for a visit that day and after a cold spring Martha could only note on May 28th “most terrible heat set in - 87 degrees.” (1)

During May the elusive and rare Blue-gray Gnatcatcher was sighted again, this time in the Garden on the West Path. It was first seen in the area in 1936. The Gnatcatcher would not be mentioned again until 1955. (2) A plant re-appearance pleased Martha so much that she reported it to the park board:

The reappearance of the beautiful and rare Showy Orchis (Orchis spectabilis). It completely disappeared 10 years ago during the drought, being unable to adapt itself to dry conditions. Many unsuccessful attempts were made to reestablish it. This season 9 plants reappeared and hopes are held for many more next spring. (4)

She does not link these plants to the three that Gertrude Cram brought in the previous spring, so perhaps, these were another cluster. The last notable event of May was on the 30th when she wrote:

Many birds noted, also a most unusual find, a “western tanager” discovered by Mr. Whitney Eastman, south of upper gate just west of deep hole. We observed it a long while. It was traveling with a number of scarlet tanagers.(2).

Mr. Eastman later joined the board of the Friends of the Wild Flower Garden in 1961. When he was invited back to the 25th Annual Meeting of the Friends in 1977 he told the story about that tanager - as reported in the Friends Minutes:

He believed he was alone in the Garden when he spotted a Western Tanager which had no business in this area. He looked around excitedly to fine someone to vouch for his identification and called to a man who appeared nearby --Western tanager! Western Tanager!!. The man disappeared hurriedly and Mr. Eastman didn’t know whether the man was an escapee from Stillwater [State Prison] or thought he was.

That "deep hole south of the upper gate" would fill with invasive Buckthorn over the years and in 2014 was more or less re-discovered by Jim Proctor of the Friends Invasive Plant Action Group (FIPAG). The hillsides of this natural amphitheater have many mature maples and the east facing hillside has an ancient patch of Interrupted Fern, similar to the hillside in the Garden. Over the following 7 years FIPAG cleared the invasives from the area, allowing native plants to regenerate, planting other natives, and now the "maple glen" is visible to all who walk by.

Summer 1943

Example of how Jewelweed can become quite invasive. Contemporary photo of the marsh from 2010. Photo G D Bebeau.

Once again, most of summer's activities are from Martha’s diary. Early June saw Martha pulling more Jewelweed: June 4 - “Worked pulling Jewelweed all day. Saw two wood ducks on the pond.”

Cold weather again, 44 to 55 degrees on the 6th, with the stove in the office going all day. Another pay raise for Martha - now $130 per month. Mr. Dassett was in again announcing he was going to work for Northrup King Seed in Texas. We don’t know how long he was there, but he eventually returned and became a professor of Spanish at Macalester College in St. Paul, MN.

In July the first direction signs leading the way to the Garden north entrance were erected by Martha, Mr. Jacobson and 2 men from the Park Board. Then on August 5th Mr. Erickson of the Park Board arrives with 4 locks the gates.(5) Martha writes: “I will not leave them on the fence now, very deserted in the Garden.” The old locks were obviously stolen by some one while the gates were unlocked.

On August 11th Martha gave a radio interview about the Garden on WCCO radio on the “Outdoor Minnesota” program. The script is found here (pdf). In the interview she explained what the Garden was, how many plants, what types and her philosophy for operating the Garden. This interview was pre-recorded because she notes that it was broadcast on a Wednesday when she was at the cabin at Cedar Creek and she went to a neighbor to hear the broadcast on the radio and “was amazed at my voice.” This is typical reaction of anyone hearing their recorded voice for the first time.

By August 16 and 17th waves of warblers were returning through the Garden and it is interesting that those dates are so similar year to year. Martha always noted the dates.

Autumn 1943

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

At the State Fair of 1943, wartime activity was most noticeable. Martha wrote:

Horticulture Bldg. most desolate sight. Closed for duration and full of tools. All bldgs. below the state log cabin [sounds like the DNR building] taken over for plane propeller manufacture.

September was also a cold month. The last hummingbird departed on Sept. 14th. The Garden closed on Oct. 15. Martha wrote:
Last 2 days have been bitter cold after summer-like weather in October. Purple finches still sing. White baneberries still perfect. Black-eyed Susans in front of office still in good bloom. (2)

On December 29 she notes: “I to library to see Mr. Vity in reference to Museum position.” On the 31st she was back at the library and spent all day being shown around which means she got the job.

The job refers to the Minneapolis Public Library and its Science Museum. She was a member of the Science Museum Society, which published a small newsletter titled “Minnesota Naturalist.” During the winter months of early 1944 Martha had a job of “Acting Head,” a position she kept until the 1944 Garden season.

At the end of 1943 coffee came off rationing, some of the canned goods but all meat except fowl, remained rationed.

During the year Martha planted only three species that are still in the Garden today -
Hepatica triloba (Anemone acutiloba),
Smooth Aster (Symphyotrichum laeve var. laeve) and
Ontario Aster (Symphyotrichum ontarionis).
She sowed seeds of three others that are still extant -
Large Flowered Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum),
Tall Bellflower (Campanulastrum americanum) and
Cardinal Flowers (Lobelia cardinalis).

(1) Martha Crone’s Diary - 1943

(2) Garden Log - 1943

(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. Miss Aler set up and maintained a large bird feeding station at the back side of the Garden, 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, which then became affiliated with the Minneapolis Audubon society. See the “Bird Feeding Station” history. The feeding table is not maintained today

(4) Annual Report to the Board of Park Commissioners dated February 12, 1944, to Superintendent C A Bossen.

Erickson is Carl Erickson, Park Keeper for Glenwood Park.

Photo top of page: The east path in the woodland garden approaching the Garden office. Photo by Martha Crone on June 1, 1950.

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

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


Martha Crone's Diary - 1943

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.

Kodachromes of Martha Crone are from her collection that was given to the Friends by her daughter Janet following Martha's death in 1989.

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

Friends Home Page

©2017 Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc. Photos as credited and 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" - 030322