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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Thomas Howie   20 April 1877

Vinita Cherokee Nation | Ind Ter

April 20th 1877

Dr Sir

a young gentelman of this place a beleaver in science requists me to make the following statement as he like myself thinks if you are not already aware of it, it might be a link that would enable you to solve the great work you have already progresed with

(viz) In the year 1863 whilst working in the Colony of Victoria Australia at gold mining on the devide between the head of the Golbourn and the Yara rivers I discovered that many of the Young Ferns Shrubs that I dug up that the roots were alive and moved like worms or Grubs1   In fact they were not so repulsave haveing the apearance more like small human fingers than any thing I could compair them to   the lower ends had more life than the uper part which resembeled the ordinary roots of other shrubs   I observed that theire were genarly three live roots to each plant

if the foregoeing should be of any service to you all I ask of you is to acknolage it by droping me a few lines eather to my adress In this countray or to to my sister Mrs H Carson 25 St Pauls Place Cannonbury Islington London England2   if to the later I will be shure to get it

very respectfully | Thos Howie

P O Box 104 Vinita | Cherokee Nation | Ind Ter | U S America

PS I am well known In Australia being the first white man that ever crossed the Australian Alps from Gipps Land via the Baw Baw range and the first to discover the head watters of the La Trobe the Yara and Big river   I succeded whare Dr Müller failed eaven with Black Guides   My report was published in the Melbourne argus Feby 14th 62 or 63 and is on file In the National Liberary Melbourne3


The Goulburn and Yarra rivers rise in the Great Dividing Range in Victoria, Australia; the Goulburn flows north-west while the Yarra flows west through Melbourne (Columbia gazetteer of the world). The ferns and shrubs have not been identified.
Howie’s sister was Helen Carson.
The Latrobe River is in West Gippsland and rises from the Baw Baw plateau, part of the Great Dividing Range. Howie probably refers to the Big River, which rises on the north of the Yarra range, part of the Great Dividing Range, and descends into the Goulburn River. Ferdinand von Mueller had explored many regions of Australia as government botanist from 1853 (Aust. dict. biog.). Howie’s letter to the editor describing his discovery appeared in the Melbourne Argus, 11 February 1862, p. 6.


Aust. dict. biog.: Australian dictionary of biography. Edited by Douglas Pike et al. 14 vols. [Melbourne]: Melbourne University Press. London and New York: Cambridge University Press. 1966–96.

Columbia gazetteer of the world: The Columbia gazetteer of the world. Edited by Saul B. Cohen. 3 vols. New York: Columbia University Press. 1998.


Offers key to CD’s theory: fern roots are like little grubs.

Claims to have crossed the Australian Alps where Dr Müller [Ferdinand von Mueller?] failed.

Letter details

Letter no.
Thomas Howie
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Vinita Okla.
Source of text
DAR 166: 276
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10934,” accessed on 13 July 2024,