This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V22", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Lord Byron somewhere tells us that it is one of the easiest things in the world to be a self-sacrificing philosopher when all the world is looking on and applauding the good deeds. Generally, the devotee of science is as indifferent to personal glory as any class of his fellow mortals; but he relishes praise for ali.
In these days the labors of few men meet with so much public recognition, as the labors of the man of science, and it would be scarcely doing justice to human nature if it were not admitted that in most cases the good word from his fellows is a great encouragement to him to persevere in his labors.
But there are men like Burk and Parker in Philadelphia, Strecker in Beading, Davenport in Boston, and numerous others in the United States, who, without any early advantages, without any thought of ever being famous, giving their first duty to their families fully in daily toil, yet employing their leisure in so improving themselves, and devoting their improvement to the study of nature, keep on throughout their lives in their humble, quiet way, amassing facts, and finally becoming so useful that even the march of high science has to stop a few moments to pay them respect. Sometimes this recognition comes before they die; but generally the world does not know how much it has lost till the good man is gone away. Of this last is Charles C. Frost, who died at Brattleboro, on the 16th of March, in his 75th year, having all his life remained in the town wherein he was born. He was apprenticed to a shoemaker in his early teens, and continued on with that business till his death, as his father had done before him. The story of how he became a botanist is a very interesting one. When he was fifteen years of age, his father became possessor of "Hutton's Mathematics," which he had taken for debt from some West Point student.
Young Frost looked at it with evident delight, and his father told him that it should be his property if he could read it at twenty-one. At nineteen he had mastered the whole course. He went into astronomical mathematics, took up chemistry, learned very much of natural sciences in every department, and all the while attended to his business as a shoemaker. From some neglect of his physical habits, he superinduced mucous dyspepsia. No medical skill in his neighborhood seemed able to relieve him. He went to New York to consult Dr. Willard Parker. While waiting in the anteroom, he admired intently a very handsome bouquet of flowers on the mantel, and was examining them when the doctor called him in. Dr. Parker candidly told him he could do nothing for him: " But," said the skillful and honest physician, " you can do very much for yourself. Are you fond of flowers? "Very much so, indeed," said Mr. Frost. " Then make it a point to walk one hour in the morning, and one in the evening, looking for flowers".
Anxious once to know more about some ferns than he thought he could find in American works, he sent $12 to London for a work by the celebrated Fries, and was somewhat put out when it came and he found it was in Latin. But he at once procured a Latin grammar and dictionary, and before the year was over he knew all that Fries could tell. Finding by this experiment in languages that fortune favors the brave, he took up at once French and German, and soon learned to read and write them correctly. A botanist who went to see him once found him in his little shoe-shop; but no matter how interesting the botanical conversation, he would break off instantly, and without the slightest " excuse me," to attend to his customers. That was his business, and he owed his first duty to that without the sham formality of apologizing for doing his duty. As he returned once after taking out some pegs from the shoe of a factory girl, the visitor asked him how he could be content to spend his days in that little shoe-shop, with these capabilities and acquirements? "Why," said he, " it is the business of my life. Whatever I have acquired of science came in the search of health and mental entertainment.
Science is not my profession - shoe-making is".
In this mental entertainment he had accumulated about one thousand volumes, and yet at no more cost in his life than other people spent in cigars. As in his business so in whatever he thought to be his duty, he would not let his scientific entertainments run away with him. He had been for many years a member of the Centre Congregational church, and up to the time of the beginning of his final illness, three weeks ago, had not failed of an attendance at church on Sunday for thirty-five years. His leading scientific specialty was as a botanist, and no man in the country was a better authority on the ferns, lichens and mosses of this region. In entomology he was an authority, and both as a botanist and entomologist he was quoted by the scientists both of this country and Europe.
As a general rule a prophet is not honored in his own country, especial!y a prophet who makes no special effort to make his voice heard; but it is a pleasure to note in this case that while the honor due to a prophet came in the shape of close correspondence with many of the great men of the old world, he was not wholly neglected at home. The degree of A. M. was conferred upon him by both Dartmouth and Middlebury Colleges.