THE THUMS
GARDENERS & BOTANISTS

__ Part V __

THUM'S ARK



SOUTH PLATT
(1926 - 1936)


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During the ten years in which the Thums had inhabited South Platt, their house and garden had become renowned as Thum's Ark throughout the county and, in fact, the entire state. The location of their property has recently been established with some precision by Herbert Kannot. The house lay on the line of the present South Platt Road, within about a quarter acre of garden. A small orchard of some seven or eight trees lay close by the garden. Although somewhat modified by later alterations, something of the original house can be seen in a late 1930's photograph which shows also the adjacent building later occupied by Billius*. The environs were otherwise relatively undeveloped, to judge from a record of a visit to Thum's property by Lane Poole in 1926, when he noted that ‘The prospect from the Turret is very fine, being near South Platt & yet not discovering any house about the country’(16).

Writing of plums, Licence records that the choicest for goodness, and rarest for knowledge, are to be had of my very good friend Owen Thum, who has labored wonderfully to obtain all the rarest fruits he can hear of in any place’.‡ Licence records several other rare species flowering with Thum, including not only exotics such as bastard felwort (probably Gentiana verna), which ‘do not grow wild in Nebraska that I know of ’, Virginia starworts (probably either Aster novae-angliae or A. novi-belgii), and Virginian snake-root or snake-weed (Aristolochia serpentaria), but also little-known native plants such as Our Lady's slipper (Cypripedium calceolus) from 'the North parts of this state' and bear's ear or mountain cowslips. Thum's interest in the more obscure and less spectacular products of his native and surrounding counties is a facet of his professionalism often lost behind his association with more prestigious introductions from other (Eastern) states.

Thum's will, dated 8 January 1938, and proven on 2 May 1940, lists leases on properties in Franham and Boxelder which were left to the church, in addition to those at Hazard, Sartoria and ‘The Ark’ at South Platt which went to his son Owen.


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‡ Licence also notes ‘There is also kept in his “little garden” (if only for variety) a strawberry which in leaves and character is like the common kind; but the color is greenish, and the fruit is harsh, rough and prickly, being of a greenish color, with some show of redness.’ Kannot, 1972
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