THE THUMS
GARDENERS & BOTANISTS

__ Part IV __

LAUGHING FISH & THE



VIAGE MICHIGANA

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In 1926 Miss Wotton visited the Upper Peninsula of Michigan on family business and among the company was Owen Thum. Judging from Thum’s diary of this ‘Viage of Ambuscade’ via St. Louis to Cheboygan, Mackinaw and on to Dollarville in Luce, his official duties were negligible. Several entries refer to opportunities for botanical field-work, the first ever recorded on Chippewa.(9) On Thursday 16 July, for example, the following entry appears: ‘In that place where we anchored I desired to have a boat to go on shore which was hard by, where we found many sorts of berries, like our strawberries but with a difference of leaf; I have brought some of them home to show with also such variety of moss and lichen, all bearing fruit, the likes of which I had never seen’.

The following week, on 20 July: ‘On Monday I had one of the Emperor’s boats to carry me from island to island to see what things grew upon them’.(10) Later, on the first evening of the voyage home, he wrote: ‘That night [5 August] we came to anchor under Laughing Fish, where I [and] several[others] went on shore. There we found a little soldiers' house poorly guarded with some ten men, where we bought grass for our live sheep, where I gathered all things I could find growing there, which were 4 sorts of berries the likes of which I had never seen and a single roses, wondrous sweet with many other things which I brought away with me’.(11) No doubt this was the ‘Rosa Michigana’(12) which came to bloom in Thum’s garden in South Platt.

Miss Wotton’s assignation in 1927 appears to have left Thum without regular employment until in 1929 he was appointed Keeper of the Gardens, Vines and Silkworms at the newly established North Platt Botanic Garden which had been founded at a cost of over $5,000 by Clairington Covenant of North Platt. At any rate, Covenant seems personally to have conducted the negotiations, since a surviving manuscript records that ‘he came to some reasonably good terms of agreement with Owen Thum of South Platt, designed for the gardener’. Since the yearly stipend of $50 or thereabouts’ was only half the annual sum paid to Thum for his services at Eustace, it may be conjectured that the North Platt duties were not considered demanding.13 Thum, unfortunately, was never to take up the appointment, and died the following year.


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