The Friends of the Wild Flower Garden

Report of the Last Rites for Eloise Butler

At 4:00 o’clock on the afternoon of May 5, 1933, the entire Board of Park Commissioners, together with approximately a hundred friends and former students of Miss Eloise Butler, gathered at the Wild Botanic Garden to pay last tribute to the memory of the founder of the Garden at Glenwood Park, who died April 10. The newspaper reported "Curiosity seekers there were none." They "had come to pay a last tribute to the woman they had admired." (note)

Superintendent Theodore Wirth opened the ceremony, standing beside a Pin Oak that had already been set into the ground as a memorial to her. He asked each Board member to put a few shovels of dirt around the tree and then introduced the speaker:

“Friends and Associates of Miss Eloise Butler” (The Honorable A. F. Pillsbury, President of Minneapolis Park Board, speaking):

“We have gathered here today to do honor to one who was the moving spirit in the establishment and care of this unique and interesting garden.

“Being a great lover of nature, an especially of wild flowers and plant life, it was her desire that one part of our park system should be left in its natural condition and devoted to the wild flowers and birds of our state. Under her loving care for many years, this garden has become famous and given pleasure to many. In the presence of friends and to her memory we have planted this rare tree, and in accordance with her wishes we now, with respect and admiration, distribute the ashes of Miss Eloise Butler over the ground she loved so well.”

Butler Tree Planting

Above: Planting the Pin Oak: (l to r) Alfred F. Pillsbury, President of the Park Board; Theodore Wirth, Superintendent of Parks; Francis A. Gross, Vice President of the Board. The tree had been set the previous day and now the Park Commissioners were to fill in the dirt around it.

President Pillsbury was then given by Martha Crone, a cardboard box holding the ashes of Miss Butler and he then began to spread the ashes first around the base of the tree and then in the area on all sides of the little office building. Some of the ash was wafted farther by the breeze. The audience looked on in silence. The only sound was that of Mr. Pillsbury moving through the growths. It was said even the birds were quiet.

Martha Crone and Theodore Wirth spoke last. Martha Crone read Eloise Butler's last report to the Park Board. General Superintendent Wirth in a few brief remarks called attention to the fact that the pin oak had long been a favorite of Miss Butler’s and for this reason had been chosen as the tree to be dedicated in her services. He suggested that a year from today this same group of friends gather to place a bronze tablet on a boulder near the tree to perpetuate the dedication, and the friends made preparation to raise the funds necessary for this purpose. (Note: Details on the memorial tablet)

Although no poem was recited that day, perhaps this poem found in Martha Crone's Notebook, Martha Crone Collection, Minnesota Historical Society, would certainly have been appropriate:

Poem for Eloise

Dust we are, and now to dust again
But gently blown throughout the glen
Which was your alter and your shrine
Wherein you gave a life of tenderness all thine
In every nook your footsteps trod
The plants you loved belong to God
And in his keeping they are ours
The trees, the shrubs, the blessed flowers
And still your soul, on guard, will stand
Against the touch of vandal hand.

Photo Below - Old Garden Office - front view, SE side, 1935. Note: The settees the gentlemen on the left are sitting on were replaced in 1960 by a pair of limestone benches donated by Moana Odell Beim in honor of her father, Clinton Odell. The large stone at the right bears the memorial tablet to Eloise Butler.(See Garden Memorials for details.)

1935 view of office

In the photo below from October 2008, we see the current arrangement of the site of the old Garden Office. The boulder with the memorial table is at bottom right. At bottom left are a pair of limestone benches donated by Moana Odell Beim in honor of her father, Clinton Odell. They replaced the old settees in 1960. The old office would have been in the flat area where the patio benches are in the center of the photo. That area, now covered with a thick layer of cedar shavings is underlain with a paver surface. It was around this area that the ashes of Eloise Butler were spread during her memorial service. The new shelter sits up a path to the right from just behind the boulder and the large Leatherwood Shrub that guards it. The original Pin Oak died and was replaced and that also died as they are not native to our climate.

Old Cabin Site

Parts of the text of the memorial service are found in several places - Minnesota Historical Society, Martha Crone Collection; the Minneapolis Tribune which printed the photo on Sat. May 6, 1933; and in an article in the Minnesota Clubwoman (pdf) of June 1933.

Note: Minneapolis Tribune, May 6, 1933 (PDF).

Printable PDF file of this page.

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