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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 73.djvu/492

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488
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

A BIOGRAPHICAL HISTORY OF BOTANY AT ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI[1]
By Dr. PERLEY SPAULDING

LABORATORY OF FOREST PATHOLOGY, BUREAU OF PLANT INDUSTRY, U. S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

THE history of botany in St. Louis extends back nearly to the beginning of her political history. The city was founded in 1764, and while it is not as old as most of the other large cities of this country it seems to have been one of the earliest settlements made in the great northwestern region, comprising what was once known as Upper Louisiana. Boston, New York and Philadelphia were already large cities for that time and were centers of botanical activity. In 1795 when Michaux visited the Illinois Territory, Cahokia, Kaskaskia and St. Louis were the principal places west of Vincennes and as late as 1800 St. Louis had a population of less than 1,000. At about this time the fur traders changed their headquarters from Cahokia and Kaskaskia to St. Louis, causing a corresponding increase in population and commercial influence of the latter town.

The Jesuit missionaries were the first white persons to visit the Mississippi Valley and the adjoining country; they undoubtedly explored the Missouri Territory, but probably not so extensively as they did the Illinois Territory. They were versed to some extent in the art of medicine and knew the plants which were generally used for medicinal purposes. They learned the uses of plants new to themselves from their Indian wards, and in this way they must have obtained a considerable knowledge of the plants of the Missouri country. How much farther they may have carried their botanical studies is unknown to the writer. During the period between the founding of St. Louis and the first visit of Michaux to Cahokia there were undoubtedly persons who studied the botany of the St. Louis district. Whether they formed any collections of the plants is not now known and there seems to be no records of any such study.

For all practical purposes Andre Michaux may be said to have been the first botanist to work in the vicinity of St. Louis.

Botany has passed through a number of distinct periods at St. Louis, as in other places; it can not be said to have had a "pharmaceutical "period, as that stage was nearly past in the general history of the science when the city was founded. The medical properties of

  1. Published by permission of the Secretary of Agriculture.