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Winona H. Welch (1896-1990)

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17.6 linear feet  (17 boxes)


Winona H. Welch (1896-1990) was a bryologist specializing in Fontinaceae, and later, the Hookeraceae, at DePauw University in Greencastle Indiana. Welch and Truman G. Yuncker were responsible for the development of the herbarium at DePauw.

In 1987, Welch donated that herbarium, which she had named the Truman Yuncker Herbarium upon his death in 1964, to The New York Botanical Garden. On the occasion of her ninety-second birthday, a Winona H. Welch Festschrift was published in Brittonia.

Winona Welch was born on a farm in Jasper County, Indiana, three miles northeast of the town of Goodland. She had decided to go to DePauw as a child because she liked the name. But first she had to earn the money. She went for teacher training to Indiana State Normal School at Terre Haute and the College at Winona Lake, Indiana. She taught at the Wildasin, Hancock, and Brook public schools during World War I.

In 1919, she entered the freshman class of DePauw. She wanted to major in chemistry but was discouraged from doing so by the head of the department. She turned to biology and from there developed a concentration in botany under Truman G. Yuncker. As his assistant in the herbarium, she helped mount 4,000 specimens collected by Earl Grimes from an area around Russellville, Indiana. Yuncker encouraged her to go to graduate school at the University of Illinois, where she studied plant taxonomy under William Trelease and plant ecology under W.B. MacDougall. Her masters thesis was an enumeration of the plants in Jasper County.

Welch began to specialize in bryophytes, she said, because she felt sorry for them--they were being studied less frequently than the vascular plants. She was given a major bryophyte research project by Charles Deam, the noted Indiana botanist. He invited her to produce a volume on mosses to accompany his Flora of Indiana. This was not published until 1957.

Welch received her Ph.D. in 1928 from Indiana University. Her dissertation was a study of the growth of Vaccinium in the limestone soil of Monroe County, a sponsored fellowship. After spending the next two years at Indiana University. T. G. Yuncker invited her to return to DePauw as an assistant professor of botany.

She stayed in Greencastle for the rest of her life. Her association with Truman Yuncker extended past the Botany Department and Welch effectively became a member of the Yuncker family. The Yuncker daughters, Betty-Jane and Barbara, remembered Welch as a kindly aunt who babysat them over the years and accompanied the family on vacations and field collections.

At DePauw, Yuncker and Welch developed the herbarium founded by Lucien Underwood in 1891. Welch was curator of the cryptogamic herbarium while Yuncker concentrated on the vascular plants. By the time the herbarium was turned over to The New York Botanical Garden, it had grown to 133, 500 collections and was termed "the most significant acquisition made by the Garden since 1945."

Welch was considered one of the outstanding teachers at DePauw, inspiring her students to love nature. She taught comparative morphology and evolution, histology and microtechnique, some systematics, ecology, mycology, plant pathology, and laboratory sections of general botany. She was made a full professor in 1939. In 1956, when Yuncker retired from teaching, she was named department head. When Yuncker died in 1964 and Welch was named curator of the herbarium, she named it in his honor. She served from 1964 to 1981 and as Curator Emeritus from 1981 to 1987. It was Welch who contacted The New York Botanical Garden when she realized that DePauw would be unable to allocate resources to maintain and expand their life's work.

Welch showed the same grace and equanimity over the delayed publication of her monographs on Indiana Mosses and the Fontinalaceae. Although her first work on Fontinalaceae was published in A. J. Grout's 1934 Moss Flora of North America North of Mexico, and the entire monograph was completed by 1949, it had to wait until 1960 when a grant from the National Science Foundation supplied enough money to subsidize its publication. It is considered one of the best monographs ever written in bryology. Likewise the Indiana Mosses, although completed in the 1930's, did not appear until 1957.

Aside from her teaching and research, Welch was an active participant in professional and social organizations. Among the many scientific organizations to which she belonged, she was a charter member of the American and International Societies of Plant Taxonomists and held every executive office of the American Bryological and Lichenological Society. In Greencastle, she belonged to the Daughters of the American Revolution and Professional Women's Club, and she attended the Women's Club with Mrs. Yuncker.

No biography of Winona Welch is complete without mention of her deep religious faith. This sustained her from her childhood and she was an active member of the Presbyterian Church in Greencastle. During her retirement she organized a Bible class at the retirement community where she lived with her sister.

As a woman scientist, Welch held her share of firsts: first woman head of a department at DePauw and first woman president of the Indiana Academy of Science among them. She was also active in the conservation field. In 1969, an area in Putnam County, Indiana was named the Winona Welch Botanical Area to honor her contributions.

Although Welch lived her whole life in Indiana, she collected in all fifty states and almost all of the provinces of Canada, as well as Panama, the West Indies, and the South Pacific. In 1938 she spent six months in European herbariums studying Fontinalaceae for her monograph. She was an active participant in bryological forays where she met scientists such as Howard Crum, William Steere, George Nichols, Margaret Fulford, the Dailys, Lewis Anderson, and dozens more--all of whom became lifelong friends.

Her last years were spent in a retirement community, Asbury Towers, overlooking the DePauw campus. It was there that her many friends feted her life and work on the publication of the Brittonia Festschrift. Winona Welch died on January 16, 1990.


The Winona Welch Papers (1879-1987) document Welch's Fontinaceae and Hookeraceae research and her career as curator of the Truman G. Yuncker Herbarium at DePauw University. Additionally, they document the transfer of the herbarium to The New York Botanical Garden in 1987 and the issue of Brittonia published as a Festschrift in Welch's honor. The collection contains photocopies, manuscripts, correspondence, postcards, notes, index cards, photographs, negatives, illustrations,  and slides, and is arranged into 15 series.


Series 1: Correspondence
Series 2: DePauw Herbarium
Series 3 Welch Library
Series 4: Biographical Information
Series 5: Professional Associations
Series 6: Personal Files
Series 7: Festschrift
Series 8: Manuscripts and Publications
Series 9: Historic Trees
Series 10: Research Files
Series 11: Fontinaceae Literature
Series 12: Hookeraceae Literature
Series 13: Photographs
Series 14: Slides
Series 15: Negatives

Series 1  Correspondence, 1921-1988
                   9.5 lin. in. Arranged alphabetically.

This series contains Welch's professional correspondence generated through her research, teaching, and professional associations. Other correspondence is found in Series 2: DePauw Herbarium and Series 7: Festschrift. The Festschrift correspondence contains solicitations and tributes used to compile the Festschrift. Welch's personal correspondence, including congratulatory letters on the occasion of the Festschrift, is found in Series 6: Personal Files.

Series 2  DePauw Herbarium, 1879-1987
                   4.1 lin. ft. Arranged by subject.

This series contains records of herbaria incorporated into the DePauw herbarium during Welch's stewardship. The list of contributors is contained in an index file arranged alphabetically. Welch's own cryptogamic collections are independently cited. Other independent herbariums found in the DePauw collection are the Mary Haines and Lucy Dickerson Grose collections. Also found here are the original plant accession logs and visitors' book for the DePauw Herbarium. Correspondence in this series relates to incoming and outgoing loans and determinations. Photographs of the transfer of the herbarium are found in Series 13: Photographs. At the same time the DePauw Herbarium was transferred, the Wabash College Herbarium was also moved. Photographs and slides documenting this transfer are found in Series 13: Photographs.

Series 3  Welch Library, n.d.
                   6.5 lin. in. Arranged alphabetically.

This series contains articles and books in Welch's personal library, arranged alphabetically on index cards.

Series 4  Biographical Information, 1928-1982
                   2.5 lin. in. Arranged by subject.

Biographical clippings, including a newspaper obituary and a resume, comprise this series. Also found here are an autobiography related to Dr. Welch's childhood and adolescence, and memorabilia associated with her academic career. Photographs, most of which were used in the Festschrift, are found in Series 7: Festschrift.

Series 5  Professional Associations, 1907-1990
                   3.5 lin. in. Arranged by subject.

This series contains printed matter documenting the activities in the many scientific associations in which Dr. Welch was active. Determinations made by Dr. Welch for Elizabeth Britton are contained in the Sullivant Moss Society folder.

Series 6  Personal Files, 1904-1988
                   4 lin. in. Arranged by subject.

Materials in this series relate to Dr. Welch's personal life, including her activities in the Asbury Towers retirement community, the Presbyterian Church, and the social clubs to which she belonged. Also included here are personal materials related to her early mentors Henry S. Conard and William Trelease. Correspondence in this series consists of congratulatory notes on the Festschrift and letters from former students. Memorabilia includes covers from her personal guest logs.

Series 7  Festschrift, 1987-1988
                   3 lin. in. Arranged by subject.

This series consists of manuscripts used in the 1988 Festschrift and the correspondence soliciting them. Other materials related to the Festschrift are photocopies of the photo layouts and captions in the volume, and photocopies of biographical information and clippings sent by the DePauw University archives.

Series 8  Manuscripts and Publications, 1924-1977
                   6.5 lin. in. Arranged chronologically.

Found here are manuscripts and reprints of Welch's botanical research.

Series 9  Historic Trees, 1922-1986
                   2.5 lin. in. Arranged alphabetically by subject.

Another of Welch's interests was historic and large trees, primarily in Indiana but also in other States. This series contains her reference files assembled on this subject.

Series 10  Research Files, 1876-1987
                   4.5 lin. in. Arranged alphabetically by subject.

This series contains files assembled by Dr. Welch on topics outside her dedicated field. Especially noteworthy here is the documentation of areas in Indiana included in the Natural Heritage Program.

Series 11  Fontinaceae Literature , n.d.
                   1.8 lin. ft. Arranged by subject.

This series consists of photocopies of the literature used by Dr. Welch for her monograph on Fontinaceae, as well as notes and correspondence.

Series 12  Hookeraceae Literature, n.d.
                   6.5 lin. ft. Arranged by subject.

This series consists of photocopies of the literature used by Dr. Welch for her resesearch on Hookeraceae, as well as notes and correspondence.

Series 13  Photographs, 1924-1987
                   3 lin. in. Arranged by subject.

This series contains photos documenting Welch's life, most of which were included in the Festschrift volume. Here also are photographs documenting the transfer of the DePauw and Wabash College herbariums to The New York Botanical Garden. Other photos are a series of views of the Grand Canyon, probably purchased in 1931. Negatives have been removed and are found in the negative series.

Series 14  Slides, ca. 1942
                   1.3 lin. ft. Arranged by subject.

These are slides of Cryptogams and Angiosperms made by Earl Harger and given to Dr. Welch in 1942. Also here are slides documenting the 1987 Herbarium move.

Series 15  Negatives, 1987
                   1 fldr.

This series contains negatives used in the production of the 1988 Festschrift honoring Dr. Welch.


The New York Botanical Garden

RG4    The William Steere Records

PP      The Truman Yuncker Papers

DePauw University Archives

The Winona H. Welch Collection

The Truman G.Yuncker Collection

Cornell University

The Albert Leroy Andrews Collection

Processed February 2000 by Laura Zelasnic under a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) PA-23141-98 and a grant from the Harriet Ford Dickenson Foundation.

For more information and a complete description contact:
Susan Fraser, NYBG Archivist
The LuEsther T. Mertz Library
The New York Botanical Garden
Bronx, NY 10458-5126
(718) 817-8879

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