Saturday, February 28, 2009

Profile: Putnam Burton Peabody

Six months ago I posted a photograph of of a man whose identity I didn't know, asking readers to comment if they thought they knew who he was. Today, I got my first response...
I think the photo of the man in a buggy outside the Episcopal church in St. Vincent is the Rev. Putnum B. Peabody, the minister there until about 1904. (I was surprised to see nothing about him on your St. Vincent web pages since he was such an important figure in its pre-1900 history.) I can't, of course, be certain it is him since the image of him in the photo is so small, but attached is a set of comparison images -- three of Peabody plus a vignette from your image. I note especially the shape of the head, the mustache, the nose, the expression, and in particular the ears all resemble Peabody. That being said, I actually cannot tell if the man in the buggy has a beard...

I have no genealogical or traditional connection to St. Vincent; only an intense provincial appreciation of all things Minnesota. I have explored the Pembina Trail from St. Paul to the Canadian border, driven across Roseau and Kittson counties in search of birds and history, and camped in the woods throughout the northern counties. David Thompson would be my mentor.

The Reverend Putnam Burton Peabody was a minister in St. Vincent and Hallock before leaving Minnesota about 1903. Peabody (1856–1937) was an ornithologist, Knight Templar, photographer, military captain, Episcopalian minister, Ancient Free and Accepted Mason, author, composer, oologist, nidiologist, and naturalist. He was also one of the pioneer ornithologists of Minnesota. He was a well-known authority on the Yellow Rail and he found the state’s only nesting records of White-faced Ibis. Throughout his life, he published numerous papers on the birds he observed in the places he visited. His notes appeared in The Auk, The Condor, The Oologist, Bird-Lore, The Ornithologist and Oologist, The Nidiologist, The Wilson Bulletin, The Journal of Field Ornithology, and The Warbler, among others.

Though born in Wisconsin, Peabody’s spent his first 45 years in Minnesota where he studied birds, their nests, and their eggs. He lived in the towns of Faribault, Owatonna, Wilder, St. Vincent, and Hallock. He also frequented Heron Lake, the Roseau Bog, Mille Lacs, and other well known birding locations where he collected extensively.

On 7 July 1890, Peabody married Anna Fulton Graham. They had three children, Lloyd Graham, born 12 April 1891, died 14 April 1891; Donald Francis, born 3 July 1892, died in 1899; and Vivian May, born 5 June 1896. In 1903, the family of three left Minnesota for Wyoming, but they eventually settled in Kansas in 1905.

Peabody is an under-appreciated, forgotten pioneer of unusual significance in Minnesota's avifaunal history.
NOTE: The individual who contacted me wishes to remain anonymous...