Erwin Frink Smith’s Memories of His Wife Charlotte

While I was researching the adoption of the Peach Blossom as the Delaware State Flower, I ran across a botanist named Erwin Frink Smith.

Erwin had attempted to solve the problem of the peach yellows. Had Erwin solved the problem, he would have become world-famous. But, he didn't. Years later, it was actually the botanist Louis Otto Kunkel who discovered that a type of leafhopper was carrying the disease.

In researching Erwin, I discovered a rare combination of kindness and intellect. Erwin married the pretty Charlotte Mae buffet on April 13, 1893. They were quite happy together. They shared a love for reading and poetry. Tragically, Charlotte was diagnosed with endocarditis and she died eight months later on December 28, 1906.

Erwin dealt with his grief by putting together a book made up of poetry, stories, and a biography of Charlotte. The book is called for her friends and mine: A book of aspirations, dreams, and memories. Of it, Erwin says,

"This book is a cycle of my life— seven lonely years are in it. The long ode(on page 62) is a cry of pain."

There are many touching passages in Erwin's book – too many to share here now. But there's one passage that describes Charlotte's amazing ability to see the world with profound clarity and I thought you'd like it:

"Her visual powers were remarkable. They far exceeded my own.

Out of doors her keen eyes were always prying into the habits of all sorts of living things: ants, spiders, bees, wasps, fish, birds, cats, dogs.

Had she cared for classification, which she did not, and been willing to make careful records, she might have become an expert naturalist. Form in nature seemed to interest her little, or at least comparative studies of form.

What did interest her tremendously was the grade of intelligence manifested in the lower forms of life.

She would spend hours watching the habits of birds and insects, and never without discovering new and interesting things.

Whether she looked into the tops of the tallest trees, or the bottom of a stream, or the grass at her feet, she was always finding marvels of adaptation to wonder at, and links binding the world of life into a golden whole.

She made lists of all the birds that visited her neighborhood. She knew most of them by their songs, and some times distinguished individuals of the same species by little differences in their notes, as once a song-sparrow at Woods Hole, which had two added notes.

She knew when they nested and where, how they made their nests, and what food they brought to their young.

In studying birds she used an opera glass, not a shotgun.

She was, however, a very good shot with the revolver."

This post was featured on
The Daily Gardener podcast:

helping gardeners find their roots,
one story at a time
Erwin Frink Smith

Leave a Comment