Frances Ernestine Silliman

14 February 1906 – 19 October 1976

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Herbarium (NCU) has cataloged about 70 botanical specimens collected by Frances Ernestine Silliman.  Fellow graduate student Mary Sue Munson Brehme was a frequent co-collector.  All were collected in 1954 in North Carolina with the exception of a single specimen of Micranthes petiolaris collected in 1963 in Bridgewater, Virginia.  As more of our collection is cataloged, without doubt more specimens collected by Dr. Silliman will be found.  Bridgewater College Herbarium curates approximately 140 specimens collected by Dr. Silliman.

Frances Silliman was born to Arthur P. and Emma F. Silliman in Hibbing, St. Louis County, Minnesota on 14 February 1906.  Her siblings were Thomas A. (21 Sept. 1902 – 11 Nov. 1974), Paul Dwight (b. ~ 1905), Mary W. (b. ~ 1913), and Arthur P., Jr. (b. ~ 1916). (7)  Her father was a mining engineer. (5)  In 1924 Frances and her brother, Thomas, lived in Brooklyn, on the outskirts of Hibbing; both are listed as “student.” (3)

Third Avenue, Hibbing, Minnesota ca. 1908; Minnesota Historical Society Photograph Collection

In 1928, Frances is listed in the city directory as a student residing in Sanford Hall at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. (6)  She graduated from the University of Minnesota, College of Education with a Bachelors of Science in June, 1928. (8)

Frances Silliman had a long association with Bridgewater College in Virginia.  She taught Biology at Bridgewater College from 1944 -1946 and again from 1947-1953. (4)

Bridgewater College ca. 1960
Photograph courtesy of Bridgewater College Special Collections

Silliman earned a Masters degree in 1955 and a Ph.D. in 1957 under the direction of Dr. J. E. Adams in the Botany Department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  The titles of her theses were “A study of a colony of hybrid oaks among the white oak group,” and “Chamaelirium luteum (L.) Gray:  a biological study.”

Chamaelirium luteum
photograph courtesy of Mt. Cuba Center, Delaware

Dr. Silliman returned to Bridgewater College and taught in the Biology Department from 1958-1973. (4)  “Her influence on our department runs deep,” says Dr. Edgar Lickey, Curator of the Bridgewater College Herbarium. “We have an endowment ​in her honor that supports a student research project in cell and molecular biology, microbiology, and biochemistry as well as an annual invited lecture.”(9)  After retiring from Bridgewater College, Dr. Silliman lived in Chapel Hill, Orange County, North Carolina, but died in Indiana in October 1976. (1)

Dr. Frances Ernestine Silliman in her office at Bridgewater College (undated)
Photograph courtesy of Bridgewater College Special Collections

Her obituary appeared in the Terre Haute Tribune.  She is buried in the Silliman family plot in the North Hibbing Cemetery, St. Louis County, Minnesota. (2)


Silliman, Frances E. and Robert S. Leisner (1958)  An analysis of a colony of hybrid oaks.  Am. J. Bot. 45(10):  730-736.
Silliman, Frances Ernestine (1957)  Chamaelirium luteum (L.) Gray:  a biological study.  Ph.D. thesis, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Silliman, Frances Ernestine (1955)  A study of a colony of hybrid oaks among the white oak group.  M.A. thesis, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


1.       North Carolina Dept. of Health.  North Carolina Deaths, 1976-1977.


3.      R.L. Polk & Co.’s City Directory of Biwabik, Buhl, Chisholm, Eveleth, Gilbert, Hibbing and Virginia  1924.  The Principal Cities of the Famous Mesaba Iron Range in Northern Minnesota and a classified business directory of Duluth, an alphabetical list of all business firms and private citizens, with an encyclopedia of miscellaneous information, embracing the government of each city, the county, state and United States, and a list of all churches, postoffice department, societies, streets and avenues.  Duluth, Minnesota:  R.L. Polk & Co. Publishers.  Pg. 379 .

4.      Wayland, Francis Fry (1993) Bridgewater College:  The First Hundred Years:  1880-1980.  Lawrenceville, Virginia:  Brunswick Pub.

5.      Thirteenth Census of the United States:  1910.  State:  Minnesota.  County:  St. Louis.  Name of incorporated place:  Hibbing Village.  Enumeration District No. 235; sheet no. 36B

6.      Minneapolis City Directory Vol. LVI, 1928.  An alphabetical list of business firms, corporations and private citizens, a miscellaneous directory of the city, county and state officers, schools, etc. Also a complete classified business directory.  Minneapolis Directory Company, Publishers:  Minneapolis.

7.      Fourteenth Census of the United States:  1920.  State:  Minnesota.  County:  St. Louis.  Name of Incorporated Place:  Hibbing Village.

8.      Commencement Program, 1928.  University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.

9.  pers. comm.  Lickey to McCormick email 6 April 2020.