Henshaw, Henry W. (Henry Wetherbee), 1850-1930

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Henry Wetherbee Henshaw (1850-1930) was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on March 3, 1850. Henshaw wanted to go to Harvard, but due to his health he was unable to go. He was invited to go on a voyage to the southern coast of Louisiana. That was where he began his career as a naturalist. He traveled to many places and became particularly interested in birds. He collected many unknown bird species in Arizona and made valuable observations. In 1880, he worked as an ethnologist at the Bureau of American Ethnology. He secured information for the Indians of the Pacific Coast States for the 1880 census. In 1883 he became a member of the American Ornithologists’ Union and served two terms as vice president. In 1894, Henshaw resigned from Bureau of American Ethnology due to his health and moved to Hawaii. There he became a photographer. In 1905, he returned to Washington and worked for the Bureau of Biological Survey as an administrative assistant, assistant chief, and chief. He continued to work until his health began to decline again. He died on August 1, 1930.

Smithsonian Institution Archives Field Book Project: Person : Description : rid_534_pid_EACP531

Stephen Bowers (1832?-1907) was a geologist, archaeologist, journalist and Methodist minister, who maintained an interest in southern California, including area fossils and artifacts. His geological and archaeological work was financed by the Smithsonian Institution and the U.S. Department of the Interior. In 1997 a California archaeologist and Simi Valley, California resident Arlene Benson published Bowers’ field notes, collected by Smithsonian field ethnologist John Peabody Harrington, under the title The Noontide Sun: The Field Journals of the Reverend Stephen Bowers, Pioneer California Archaeologist.

Bowers was born near Wilmington, Indiana on March 3, 1832 to David and Esther Bowers. One of thirteen children, the family moved to a farm eight miles north of Indianapolis when he was one year old. A studious lad, he walked or rode on horseback several miles to a small rural schoolhouse. Poor health kept him indoors as a child during the winter months. Realizing that he was not cut out to be a farmer, Bowers decided at an early age to pursue the ministry, and at twenty-three was ordained a Methodist minister, affiliated with the Indiana Conference. He was dispatched as a Methodist circuit rider ninety miles west of his birthplace in Lawrence County, Indiana. In November 1856, just ten months after beginning his ministry, Bowers married the seventeen-year-old Martha Cracraft from the farming community of Greencastle. Their first son, Hayden, was named for Bowers’ hero Dr. Ferdinand V. Hayden (1829-1887, APS 1860), the leader of U.S. government surveying expeditions to 109 western territories in 1859-60.

From his youth Bowers became a lifelong collector of artifacts and geological specimens. Although he dedicated himself to the pastorate and later also pursued a second career as a newspaper publisher, his primary interest was always archaeology. With the exception of military service with the 67th Indiana Volunteers during the Civil War, Bowers spent several decades in pastoral ministry that took him to churches in Kentucky, Oregon and finally (because of his wife’s failing health) to California. In 1874 he moved from his first pulpit in Napa City to the city of Santa Barbara. There Bowers found the lure of the Indian burial grounds on the Santa Barbara channel irresistible.

In the summer of 1875 Bowers accepted an assignment as guide for several survey parties of the Army Corp of Engineers, working on both sides of the Santa Barbara channel. Wheeler’s party included archaeologist Paul Schumacher, botanist Joseph Trimble Rothrock (1839-1922, APS 1877) of the University of Pennsylvania and Henry Wetherbee Henshaw, an ethnologist and ornithologist with the Smithsonian Institution. The Wheeler survey occupied all of Bowers’ time, except Sundays, for three months and Wheeler’s notes make sixteen references to him. It was through Henshaw that Bowers came to the attention of Smithsonian professor Spencer Fullerton Baird (1823-1887, APS 1855), who carried on an extensive twelve-year correspondence with him. Through Bowers’ excavations the Smithsonian would acquire thousands of California and Midwestern fossils and native American artifacts for its collections-seventeen accessions over twenty-nine years.

Since no trained archaeologist had ever visited the native American burial grounds on the San Nicholas and Santa Rosa Islands before Bowers’ 1875 excavation, he was the first to examine the remains of these settlements, and remove the skulls, implements and artifacts for shipment to the Smithsonian and other museums, as well as to private collectors. Most of the skeletons and artifacts were from the Chumash tribe. During his three-year tenure as pastor of the Santa Barbara Methodist congregation at the corner of De la Vina and De la Guerra streets, made one trip after another to the islands, usually accompanied by correspondent Simon Peter Guiberson of the Ventura Free Press and sometimes by his wife Martha and Dr. Lorenzo Yates of Centerville.

Although methods of archaeological excavation were crude at the time, and Bowers was not the only untrained archaeologist doing field work, modern historians and archaeologists, who are familiar with his activities generally regard him as “a meddler who destroyed fully as many artifacts as he preserved-and rendered the site scientifically useless as well.” They find his “flagrant disregard for orderly methods and his failure to preserve sites” inexcusable. It is unclear how many barrels of native American skulls, utensils and implements Bowers sent to collectors in New York, Washington, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Los Angeles and the District of Columbia, but the Smithsonian alone credits 2,200 to 2,500 of its native American relics to his excavations between 1876-1905. Harvard’s Peabody Museum recorded 826 and hundreds made their way in public and private collections from Philadelphia to Los Angeles.

No doubt, Bowers used questionable methods and was generally too impatient to exercise care in his excavations. Dr. Baird of the Smithsonian and Professor Josiah Dwight Whitney (1819-1894, APS 1863) of Harvard, two of his primary customers, were probably unaware of Bower’s methods, although the former was definitely impressed by him. Bowers completed his excavations for the Smithsonian in September 1877, and moved to Indianapolis to accept a temporary call. Sometime in 1878 he returned to California and resumed his excavations. But after his wife and son Hayden died within months of each other in October 1879 and April 1880, he could not bear to continue excavations. Instead, he departed from Santa Barbara to launch a new career as a newspaper publisher in Beloit, California; Platteville, Wisconsin; and Falls City, Nebraska. By October 1883 he had returned to California with a new wife Margaret Dickson to become publisher of the Ventura Free Press. Also serving a the Methodist pastor in the nearby town of Santa Paula, he launched another daily newspaper he called the Golden State. As a Prohibitionist and a Republican Bowers became involved in political controversy in his newspapers and in the pulpit, often teetering on the edge of libel. All the while he found time to continue digging artifacts in the Santa Barbara Channel!

In 1899 the aging Bowers was appointed State Mine Examiner by California Governor Henry T. Gage. He had attracted the attention of one of the governor’s aids by some earlier pamphlets he had written for the state mineralogist, as well as reports that made use of some of his geological contributions on rocks, fossils and oil-bearing strata. During his tenure Bowers endured the heat of the San Diego County desert to dig fossils in thirteen different counties and also undertook an assignment from the U.S. Geological Survey to survey fossil around Riverside.

Bowers enjoyed excellent health into his mid-seventies, and was accustomed to delivering two sermons weekly. However, in the final hours of 1906 while on a New Years vigil, he fell ill and three days later suffered a stroke from which he died. He was survived by his wife Margaret, his son DeMoss, and daughters Anna Bailey and Florence Cooper.

The American Philosophical Society’s holdings of his letters show that he corresponded with major nineteenth century American naturalists, including Asa Gray (1810-1888, APS 1848) and Joseph Le Conte (1823-1901, APS 1873), as well as the Academy of Natural Sciences, the Museum of Natural History, the National Geographic Society and the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Geographical Survey. Bowers also received an honorary doctorate from Willamette University in Oregon.

From the guide to the Stephen Bowers correspondence, 1860-1915, 1860-1915, (American Philosophical Society)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Sennett, George B. (George Burritt), 1840-1900. George Burritt Sennett papers, 1885-1899. Cornell University Library
referencedIn Harry C. OberholserPapers, 1883-1960, (bulk 1920-1945) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Dubois, Alfred. Diary : Nevada, 1876 Aug 28-Nov 26. Yale University, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
referencedIn Dubois, Alfred. Diary : Nevada, 1876 Aug 28-Nov 26. Yale University, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
creatorOf Lawrence, George N. (George Newbold), 1806-1895. Correspondence, 1847-1894 (bulk 1865-1894). American Museum of Natural History
referencedIn Brewster, William, 1851-1919. Papers, 1865-1919 (inclusive) 1875-1919 (bulk). HCL Technical Services, Harvard College Library
creatorOf Stephen Bowers correspondence, 1860-1915, 1860-1915 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn W. L. (Waldo Lee) McAtee papers, 1883-1942, 1883-1942 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn Bowers, Stephen, 1832-1907. Correspondence, 1860-1915. American Philosophical Society Library
referencedIn McAtee, W. L. (Waldo Lee), 1883-1962. Papers, 1883-1942. American Philosophical Society Library
referencedIn Oberholser, Harry C. (Harry Church), 1870-1963. Papers of Harry C. Oberholser, 1883-1960 (bulk 1920-1945). Library of Congress
referencedIn Brewster, William, 1851-1919. Papers, 1865-1919 (inclusive) 1875-1919 (bulk). Harvard University, Ernst Mayr Library of the Museum of Comparative Zoology
referencedIn Buchanan, Charles Milton, 1868-1920. Letter to Ella Higginson, 1907, Oct. 7. Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens
referencedIn American Philosophical Society Archives. Record Group IIg, 1887-1891 American Philosophical Society
creatorOf Rothrock, Joseph T., 1839-1922. Papers, 1855-1954. Chester County Historical Society Library
creatorOf Ward, Lester Frank, 1841-1913. Correspondence, 1865-1913, "Gattinger" to "Hillemand". Brown University, John Hay Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Direct Relationships
Relation Name
associatedWith Alliot, Hector, 1862-1919 person
associatedWith American Philosophical Society. corporateBody
associatedWith Baird, Spencer Fullerton, 1823-1887 person
associatedWith Bowers, Stephen, 1832-1907. person
associatedWith Brewster, William, 1851-1919. person
associatedWith Brinton, Daniel Garrison, 1837-1899 person
associatedWith Buchanan, Charles Milton, 1868-1920. person
associatedWith Dubois, Alfred. person
associatedWith Goode, G. Brown, (George Brown), 1851-1896 person
associatedWith Gray, Asa, 1810-1888 person
associatedWith Hayden, F. V., (Ferdinand Vandeveer), 1829-1887 person
associatedWith Hilgard, Eugene W., (Eugene Woldemar), 1833-1916 person
associatedWith Hrdlicka, Ales, 1869-1943 person
associatedWith Lawrence, George N. (George Newbold), 1806-1895. person
associatedWith McAtee, W. L. (Waldo Lee), 1883-1962. person
associatedWith Merrill, George P., (George Perkins), 1854-1929 person
correspondedWith Oberholser, Harry C. (Harry Church), 1870-1963. person
associatedWith Rothrock, Joseph T., 1839-1922. person
associatedWith Sennett, George B. (George Burritt), 1840-1900. person
associatedWith Silliman, Benjamin, Jr., 1816-1885 person
associatedWith Smithsonian Institution. corporateBody
associatedWith Vail, Isaac N., (Isaac Newton), 1840-1912 person
associatedWith Ward, Lester Frank, 1841-1913. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Indians of North America--California--Antiquities
Fossils--Collection and preservation--California


Birth 1850-03-03

Death 1930-08-01




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