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Wading River Horticulturist

Footnotes to Long Island History

Wading River Horticulturist

by
Thomas R. Bayles

Navy

 


Wading River is on the Sound about 70 miles from New York and was the terminal of the Wading River branch of the Long Island Rail Road, which was extended from Port Jefferson in 1895. Ralph Peters, president of the railroad, established a large farm here, and Hal B. Fullerton, agricultural, promoter for the railroad, started an experimental farm at this place. Wading River has some of the most beautiful scenery to be found anywhere on the north side of the Island.

 The following account of Elihu S. Miller, a prominent horticulturist of the village, appeared in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle August 15, 1908:

 "In Wading River dwells Elihu S. Miller, the man who some years ago collected the valuable and famous herbarium representing the flora of Long Island, and who has lately disposed of it to the Brooklyn Society of Arts and Sciences.

 "The herbarium contains 'about 4,000 species of plant life, all of them habitués of Suffolk County. There are between five and six thousand specimens, from oaks, acorns, fruits, maples, down to the wild flowers and ferns. All the specimens were collected within a radius of 15 miles of this place. They were all carefully selected, preserved, mounted on cards, and each given the botanical name as well as the more ordinary name by which they are known in the country. It is only complete herbarium of the Island ever preserved, and is highly valuable. Many of the specimens in it are not now to be found on the Island having been crowded out by the march of civilization.

 "Mr. Miller was born in Wading River in the charming old fashioned house where he now resides, which was built before 1800. In his very early life he was an enthusiastic amateur botanist, and as he grew older decided to take up the study of botany, and when he went to the Williston Seminary in Massachusetts, took up special studies and courses in his hobby, Later, when he returned to Wading River, he began the assembling of the botanical collection we have described. He collected many more specimen than are contained in the herbarium presented to the Brooklyn Society, for he afterward presented his alma mater with a collection of 2,000 specimens.

 "Mr. Miller's charming home savors of an honored age, and is surrounded by immense, stately old oaks and other trees. The proprietor of this delightful country retreat is a quiet, dignified, unassuming, yet hospitable man. He is in perfect accord with the peaceful surroundings, and Mrs. Miller bears the same stamp of estimable and courteous affability, making one at home in a way so well remembered of the old fashioned woman. Mr. Miller's estate of 50 acres contains everything to gladden the heart of the rural enthusiast. 

 "Professionally, he is a florist seedsman, working under contract with some of the largest seed and bulb houses. For several years he lived at Floral Park, where he was employed by John Lewis Childs.

 "Mr. Miller loves his flowers as a man loves his child. He sees better things in them than simply commercial returns, and tended by his loving hands, they do his bidding in a way that is almost human. Here are acres of gladioli and rare Japanese lilies and other flowers; in another locality is an apple, pear, and plum orchard, and another large tract  is devoted to grapes, melons, and other fruits which he exhibits at the country fair at Riverhead every year and captures many first place prizes, especially for the many varieties of grapes that he always presents.

 "The highways of Wading River are a twisting, turning sort, full of delightful surprises as to scenic beauty, making driving conditions over very good roads, one continual delight from beginning to end. The inhabitants of this village, so different from many other places on Long Island, have had the sense not to destroy the town's quaint, rustic beauty. For this reason, if for no other, the place is getting better known each year as a delightful spot to while away a few weeks, 'right next to real nature' the article concluded.

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