William Wirt Calkins

(29 May 1842– 9 July 1914)

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Herbarium (NCU) curates both vascular plants and lichens collected by William Wirt Calkins.  All six vascular plant specimens are ferns, and they were given to NCU in 2002 as a gift from the Jesup Herbarium of Dartmouth College (HNH).  They were all collected in 1888-1889 in Florida and Tennessee, and Calkins signed his name as “W. W. Calkins” on the specimens.

NCU curates 45 lichen specimens collected by Calkins.  They are from a much greater geographic area — Alaska (1), California (1), Illinois (7), New York (1), Tennessee (22), South Carolina (1), and Florida (31).  Many are undated, but those that do have dates are from 1888-1892.  Most are signed “W.W.C.”  It is not entirely clear that Calkins was the collector of the lichen from Alaska; it may have been sent to him for determination.

Other herbaria which curate specimens collected by Calkins include:  Academy of Natural Sciences (PH: vascular, bryophytes, lichens & algae), Brigham Young University (BRY: bryophytes), Carnegie Museum of Natural History (CM: vascular), Francis Marion University (CHAS: vascular), Field Museum (F: vascular, bryophytes, lichens & algae), New York Botanical Garden (NY: vascular, bryophytes, lichens & algae), Putnam Museum of History and Natural Sciences (BDI: vascular), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (ILL: vascular & bryophytes), University of Michigan (MICH: vascular, bryophytes & lichens), University of Notre Dame (ND: vascular), University of Wisconsin, Madison (WIS: vascular & lichens), and University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point (UWSP: vascular), Norwegian University of Science and Technology (TRH: bryophytes), Duke University (DUKE: bryophytes & lichens), Harvard Herbaria (FH: bryophytes & lichens), University of Gothenburg (GB: bryophytes & lichens), Missouri Botanical Garden (MO: bryophytes), New York State Museum (NYS: bryophytes), North Dakota State University (NDA: bryophytes), Rutgers University (CHRB: bryophytes), Université de Montréal (MT: bryophytes), Florida Museum of Natural History (FLAS: bryophytes & lichens); University of Vermont (VT: bryophytes), Iowa State University (ISC: lichens), Arizona State University (ASU: lichens), University of Minnesota (MIN: lichens), Canadian Museum of Nature (CANL: lichens), Cornell University (CUP: lichenss), Lund University (LD: lichens), Michigan State University (MSC: lichens), Morton Arboretum (MOR: lichens), University of Oslo (O: lichens), New Brunswick Museum (NBM: lichens), Ohio State University (OS: lichens), Oregon State University (OSC: lichens), Santa Barbara Botanic Garden (SBBG: lichens), Louisiana State University (LSU: lichens), Swedish Museum of Natural History (S: lichens), Auburn University (AUA: lichens), Smithsonian Institution (US: lichens), University of Alaska Museum of the North (ALA: lichens), University of British Columbia (UBC: lichens), University of California (UC: lichens), University of Colorado, Boulder (COLO: lichens), University of Kansas (KANU: lichens), University of Nebraska (NEB: lichens), University of Vermont (VT: lichens), Miami University (MU: lichens), Yale University (YU: lichens).1,2

“Mr. William Wirt Calkins was born May 29, 1842 and died July 9, 1914.  Illinois was his native state and remained in his residence throughout his life.  He prepared for Yale, and began teaching as a ward principal in Ottawa, Illinois, in 1862.  However, he soon resigned, enlisted, and served in the Civil War until its close.  At the close of the war, he entered business life and studied law.  His life was devoted mainly to law and to literary work.

Mr. Calkins was a lover of the natural sciences from boyhood.  His earliest interest was in the study of rocks and fossils, but unfortunately his large collection was destroyed in the Chicago fire of  1871.  After this, he studied conchology, and a number of papers on this subject appeared.  About the same time, he began the study of seed-plants, and his collection of about 4000 species is now [1915] in the herbarium of the University of Notre Dame [ND].  He began the study of fungi about 1885, and papers on lichens and other fungi began to appear at once.  Though he collected and distributed large numbers of fungi of various kinds collected it the South and mainly in Florida, it is apparent both from his publications and from conversations and correspondence with him that he soon gave up all other fungi for the lichens,  which remained his main botanical interest until the time of his death.  His collection of mosses and lichens still remains in the possession of Mrs. Calkins [in 1915].  This collection contains 25 or 30 new species of lichens collected by Mr. Calkins and named mostly by William Nylander.  Many of his other fungi were distributed by Ellis and Everhart.

Mr. Calkins was an amateur scientist, who possessed a genuine love of nature.  Conditions of life prevented his entering the ranks of professional naturalist, but he never lost his relish for the study of natural scenes.  he will be remembered by botanist as a keen-eyed collector of plants, who has by his field work materially added to our knowledge of various kinds of fungi.  Some of his specimens will always remain in various American herbaria.

It will be of interest to botanists to know that Mr. Calkins was a prolific writer from early manhood,   His first papers, in 1860, were on geology, and the whole number of papers and books to the time of his death was about 150.  These writings covered titles on geology, conchology and other zoological subjects, war correspondence, various historical papers, and other miscellaneous topics.  His history of the 104th Illinois regiment is a work of 518 pages, and there are one or two smaller historical books.  His largest scientific paper seems to have been “The lichen flora of Cook County, Illinois” — a work of 50 pages with brief diagnoses of 125 lichens…  Two papers on “The flora about Berwyn, Illinois” published in “The Berwyn Current,” in 1907, eight or nine botanical papers in “The Ottawa (Ill.) Republican,” from 1880 to 1892, and three papers in the first volume of  “The Valley Naturalist,” some of which contain botanical material have not been seen and therefore are not listed.”3

The following was written by Calkins in his magnum opus, “The history of the One Hundred and Fourth Regiment of Illinois Volunteer Infantry, War of the Rebellion 1862-1865”.  The hyperlinks were added by McCormick to clarify place / events referenced by Calkins:
FIRST LIEUTENANT WILLIAM W. CALKINS.  Age 19; born in the Township of Farm Ridge, but lived during the greater part of his early life in Deer Park and was raised a farmer.  The family removed from old Connecticut at an early day.  Lieutenant Calkins’ grandfather on his father’s side fought under General Stark at the Battle of Bennington, and he had several brothers who were also in the army of the Revolution.  The subject of this sketch enlisted from Deer Park, August 7, 1862.  He was appointed First Sergeant and was with his company in the Kentucky campaign and the battle of Hartsville.  Was promoted Second Lieutenant for meritorious services, his commission being dated December 22, 1862, and he was until 1864 the youngest commissioned officer in the Regiment.  When the One Hundred and Fourth was attached to Beatty’s Brigade at Murfreesboro in 1863, Lieutenant Calkins was detached as Aide de Camp on the staff of General John Beatty, and served in that capacity in the Tullahoma and Chickamauga campaigns, being present every hour, and in the actions of Elk River and Davis Cross, Roads; also both days of the battle of Chickamauga,  September 19 and 20, 1863.  Towards the close of the second day’s battle he was wounded in the right leg on the famous “Horseshoe Ridge” while the rebels were charging, and was taken prisoner there.  He was sent from the battlefield to Libby Prison, where he remained seven months and seven days; was afterwards transferred to Macon, Ga. [Georgia], and there selected by the rebels as one of the five hundred officers to be put under the fire of our own batteries (Gilmore’s ) at Charleston, S.C. [South Carolina].  That was regarded as an amusement and the object the rebels had in view, failed.  Lieutenant Calkins was next sent to Columbia, S.C. [South Carolina], and escaped from there (Camp Sorghum) November 28, 1864, by running the guard.  After ten nights of travel, he reached the sea coast at the mouth of the Santee River and was rescued by the United States Steamer Nipsic; was a prisoner of war fourteen months and sick unto dying eight months of that time.  For meritorious services promoted to First Lieutenant, July 20, 1864.  After his escape he partially recovered his health and rejoined the army in March, 1865, first going to Charleston, where he was put in command of the First Battalion, Third Brigade, Coast Division, under General John P. Hatch.  Subsequently, ordered to rejoin his Regiment and did so in North Carolina, and was present at Johnston’s surrender [26 April, 1865 at Bennett Place, Durham County, North Carolina].  He marched with the army to Washington, participated in the Grand Review, and was mustered out June 6, 1865; then returning home was sick for several years in consequence of his prison life.  In 1870, he moved to Chicago and still lives there.  If there is one thing more than another especially valued by him, it is that he was a participant in the war for the Union, and a member of the One Hundred and Fourth, whose history he has written.”6

According to family sources, Calkins was a founder of the Ottawa Academy of Sciences in La Salle County, Illinois, and his last residence was at 3338 Oak Park Avenue, in Berwyn, Illinois.4   Calkins married Louisa Hossack (1843-1918) in 1865.  (Louisa had two daughters born in Mississippi before she married Calkins:  Lucy V. born 1859 and Jennie born 1862.  Both had the surname Calkins, so perhaps were adopted by Calkins after marrying their mother.)  William Wirt Calkins, Louisa Hossack Calkins, and Jennie Baker Calkins are buried in the Calkins family plot in the Ottawa Avenue Cemetery, in Ottawa, La Salle County, Illinois.4,5


PUBLICATIONS  [largely from FINK, 1915]:

Calkins, William Wirt.  1872.  Catalogue of living Illinois Mollusca.  Chicago, IL. [copy curated by University of Chicago Library; call number 594 N200]
Calkins, WIlliam Wirt.  1874.  Land and fresh water shells of La Salle County, Illinois.  Chicago:  McAllister.  [copy curated by University of Chicago Library; call number QL415.I3C3]
Calkins, W. W. 1875.  Rambles of a Naturalist in Southern Florida.  Cinn. Quart. Journ. Sci. 2:161-164.
Calkins, W. W. 1875.  ??  Cinn. Quart. Journ. Sci. 2: ??.  FAUNA
Calkins, W. W. 1877.  Notes on the winter flora of Florida.  Bot. Gaz. 2:128-129.
Calkins, William Wirt.  1877.  The geological formations of La Salle County, and their organic remains.  [Chicago?]: [publisher not identified]  [copy curated by University of Chicago Library; call number 557.73 N700]
Calkins, W. W. 1878. Catalogue of the marine shells of Florida, with notes and descriptions of several new species. Proceedings of the Davenport Academy of Natural Sciences 2: 232–252.
Calkins, W. W. 1879.  Tillandsias under cultivation.  Bot. Gaz. 4: 209-210.
Calkins, W. W. 1879.  January flora of the Indian River country, Florida.  Bot. Gaz. 4:242.
Calkins, W. W. 1880.  Winter herborizations on Indian River, Florida. Bot. Gaz. 5: 57-58.
Calkins, W. W. 1880.  Botanical observations in Florida.  Valley Naturalist 2: 21-21; 33-36.
Calkins, W. W. 1882.  Epidendrum cochleatum L. Bot. Gaz. 7:144.
Calkins, W. W. 1883.  The W. W. Calkins collection of Florida woods. 1-10, Chicago.
Calkins, W. W. 1883.  Notes on some little known Florida trees. Am. Journ. Forestry 1:386-389.
Calkins, W. W. 1885.  Notes on Florida lichens.  Bot. Gaz. 10: 369-370.
Calkins, W. W. 1886.  Catalogue of lichens collected in Florida in 1885, with notes.  Journ. Mycol. 2:112-114.
Calkins, W. W. 1886.  Polyporus officinalis Fries.  Journ. Mycol. 2:107.
Calkins, W. W. 1886.  Notes on Florida fungi — No. 1.  Journ. Mycol. 2: 6-7.
Calkins, W. W. 1886.  Notes on Florida fungi — No. 2.  Journ. Mycol. 2: 23.
Calkins, W. W. 1886.  The leaf fungi of Florida — No. 3.  Journ. Mycol. 2:42.
Calkins, W. W. 1886.  Cryptogamic botany of a Florida log — Paper 4.  Journ. Mycol. 2:53-54.
Calkins, W. W. 1886.  Notes on Florida fungi — No. 5.  Journ. Mycol. 2:70.
Calkins, W. W. 1886.  Notes on Florida fungi — No. 6.  Journ. Mycol. 2:80-81.
Calkins, W. W. 1886.  Notes on Florida fungi — No. 7.  Journ. Mycol. 2:89-91.
Calkins, W. W. 1886.  Notes on Florida fungi — No. 8.  Journ. Mycol. 2:104-106.
Calkins, W. W. 1886.  Notes on Florida fungi — No. 9.  Journ. Mycol. 2:  126-128.
Calkins, W. W. 1887.  Notes on Florida fungi — No. 10.  Journ. Mycol. 3: 7.
Calkins, W. W. 1887.  Notes on Florida fungi — No. 11.  Journ. Mycol. 3:33-34.
Calkins, W. W. 1887.  Notes on Florida fungi — No. 12.  Journ. Mycol. 3: 46.
Calkins, W. W. 1887.  Notes on Florida fungi — No. 13.  Journ. Mycol. 3: 58-59.
Calkins, W. W. 1887.  Notes on Florida fungi — No. 14.  Journ. Mycol. 3: 70.
Calkins, W. W. 1887.  Notes on Florida fungi — No. 15.  Journ. Mycol. 3: 82.
Calkins, W. W. 1887. Notes on Florida Fungi. No. 16. The Journal of Mycology, 3(7), 82–82. https://doi.org/10.2307/3752534
Edkfeldt, J. W and W. W. Calkins.  1887.  The lichen flora of Florida.  Journ. Mycol. 3: 121-126; 133-137.
Calkins, W. W.  1889.  Notes on new Florida lichens.  Bull. Torr. Bot. Club 16: 330.
Calkins, W. W. 1890.  Notes on rare east Tennessee lichens.  Am. Nat. 24: 1078-1079.
Calkins, W. W. 1892.  An edible lichen not heretofore noted as such.  Bot. Gaz. 17: 418.  [Endocarpon miniatum L.]
Calkins, W. W. 1892.  Remarks on North American lichenology — preliminary.  Science 20: 120.
Calkins, W. W. 1892.  Remarks on North American lichenology — II.  Science 20: 205-206.
Calkins, W. W. 1893.  Remarks on North American lichenology — III. Science 21: 77-78.
Calkins, William Wirt.  1895.  The History of the One Hundred and Fourth Regiment of Illinois Volunteer Infantry.  War of the Rebellion 1862-1865.  Chicago:  Donohue & Henneberry.
Calkins, W. W. 1896.  The lichen flora of Chicago and vicinity.  Chicago Acad. Sci. 1: 1-50.  [Verrucaria prospersella is described as new]
Huett, J. W.  1898.  Natural history of La Salle County, Illinois.  Part 2.  Geology and Zoology.  1-174.  Ottawa, Illinois, Fair Dealer Print.  [Pages 120-149 : “The lichen flora of La Salle County” by W. W. Calkins]
Jordan, D. S. 1899.  The fur seal and Fur-Seal Islands.  Part 3.  I-XI. 1-629. Washington, D.C., Government Printing Office.  [Page 583:  list of 9 lichens determined by W. W. Calkins.]
Calkins, William W. 1903.  The Calkins Memorial Military Roster.
Calkins, W. W. 1910.  Mosses of Cook County, Illinois.  Bryologist 13: 107-111.


1.  SERNEC Data Portal. 2023. http//:sernecportal.org/index.php. Accessed on February 05.
2.  Thiers, B. 2016. Index Herbariorum: A Global Directory of Public Herbaria and Associated Staff. New York Botanical Garden’s Virtual Herbarium.
http://sweetgum.nybg.org/science/ih/   accessed on 5 February 2023.
3.  Fink, B. 1915.William Wirt Calkins, amateur mycologist.  Mycologia, 7(2): 57-60.
4. Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/238001736/william-wirt-calkins: accessed 06 February 2023), memorial page for William Wirt Calkins (29 May 1842–9 Jul 1914), Find a Grave Memorial ID 238001736, citing Ottawa Avenue Cemetery, Ottawa, LaSalle County, Illinois, USA; Maintained by Alice M. (contributor 51145782).
5.  “Louisa Hossack 1844-1918.  Calkins Family Tree”  https://www.ancestrylibrary.com/family-tree/person/tree/4884623/person/25778938815/story.  Accessed on 6 February 2023.
6.  Calkins, William Wirt.  1895.  The history of the One Hundred and Fourth Regiment of Illinois Volunteer Infantry, War of the Rebellion 1862-1865.  Chicago:  Donohue & Henneberry.  pp. 433-4.