This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V26", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
This well-known botanist, whose death we briefly recorded in our last, was born in Torrey, Yates Co., New York, in 1809. His father was Major Robert Buckley, who was an officer in a New York regiment in the war of 1812. The son obtained a collegiate education in what is now the Genesee College, at Lima, New York, from whence he entered the Wesley an University, of Middletown, New York. His health breaking down under his scholastic studies, he took up with botany and mineralogy, as open air occupations, with the result of a complete restoration to health, after which he took a full collegiate education, graduating as Master of Arts in 1836. In 1837 and 1838, as we find from Torrey & Gray's "Flora of North America," he made botanical collections in Virginia and westward to Illinois. In 1838 he joined Drs. Powell and Spillman in an excursion into Alabama, exploring caves, and adding much to our knowledge of mineralogy and palaeontology. While here, he was offered and accepted the Principalship of the Allentown Academy, in Wilcox county, Alabama, a position he held two years, making, during leisure time and vacations, large collections in every department of natural history, many of which were sent to the New York Lyceum. In 1842 he discovered the bones of a species of zeuglodon, the skeleton of which is now in the Warren Museum, at Boston. In 1843, with a horse and buggy, he started on his famous trip which resulted in probably his richest botanical discoveries, and on which trip was found the Buckleya, as already noticed.
This was on the French Broad river, near Warm Springs, and the few bushes then seen were still found growing there by the editor of this magazine a few years ago. In the course of 1842 and 1843 he took a course of medical studies at the College of Surgeons, in New York, and again in the spring of 1843 started on a scientific exploration through Florida. Here he was again fortunate in adding to our knowledge of natural history, one of his new shells being named Unio Buckleyi by Isaac Lea. There he caught fever, and barely got through with his life, and had to return. His father presented him with a farm of 400 acres, on which he resided till 1855, still pursuing his scientific studies in connection with Dr. Sartwell, of Penn Yan. His desire for knowledge, however, induced him to sell and go West, and in 1855 he settled in Yellow Springs, Ohio, as a bookseller. In 1857 his wife died, when he soon alter broke up housekeeping, his two children being taken in charge by their grandparents, and again he started on a scientific exploration to North Carolina. Buckley's Peak, one of the highest elevations in the Smoky range was measured by him on this trip.
In 1859, the publishers of Michaux & .Nuttall's Sylva decided on issuing some more volumes to bring the knowledge of American forest trees down to date, and engaged Mr. Buckley to prepare it for them. Desirous of investigating from his own knowledge, he at once started on a long journey, with the view of specially looking into the vegetation of Texas, which was unknown to Michaux or Nuttall. In Texas he met Dr. Shumard, and joined him in the geological survey of the State. Dr. Moore subsequently became State geologist, and Mr. Buckley obtained the appointment of first assistant. The war breaking out, he started North through Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky, with such plants as he could take with him, the balance and best collection not getting through. He reached Philadelphia finally, and spent the autumn and winter of 1861 and 1862 at the Philadelphia Academy in communicating his discoveries to various bodies, and prepared a paper on his plants for the Proceedings of the Academy. Many of the species he then described were found to have been already named, and his work was necessarily criticised by those whose duty to science demanded the thankless task.
It was always a sore subject with Dr. Buckley. This much may be said in his behalf, that it was a great feat to bring back, under so many difficulties, the package of material, poor as it was, and he probably trusted too much to his memory on the better specimens which he had lost; and, again, the specimens which he had for comparison with his own were by no means as rich or well-authenticated as they would be found at this day. But for all the mistakes then made, many of the species proved to be new, and his name still stands with them. In 1862 he became connected with a sanitary department of the army, and continued with the army of the Potomac to the close of the war. In 1866 he was appointed State Geologist of Texas; but in 1867, the prosecution of the State survey was suspended, and not again resumed till 1874, when he again resumed the work, publishing the first annual report in 1875, and the next the year following. During the few past years he has been working in connection with the Forestry Department of the tenth census, and the American Museum of Natural History, of New York. This brief account of his life-work will show how active and how useful a life he has led.
A few years ago he established a permanent home on a small farm near Austin, neatly fenced with that valuable product of Texas, the Osage orange; and the numerous fruit trees, greenhouse, and flowers, made it one of the charming spots near that flourishing city. Mrs. Buckley, his second wife, will probably still reside here.