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S. Fred Prince

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Published on: Dec. 2, 1998

Last revision: Nov. 3, 2010

country drew him back after his marriage at age 50 to 25-year-old Maude Ellen Higgenbotham. Prince cleared a space for a house on the Indian Ridge property they called Butterfly Hill, built a road with a pick and shovel and planted a large garden, fruit trees and berries. He was a free lance illustrator for universities, and Maude was a teacher at Notch. They taught their children, Alice and Stanley, the botanical names of trees and plants.

Prince continued his personal research. Stanley Prince recalls going with his father on "tramps," collecting ferns. On one memorable outing, his father saw a fern on the side of a cliff and tried to reach it from the top. "He just couldn't quite reach it, so he tried to persuade Mother to reach up and get the fern." He remembers his mother, in her long skirt, reaching.

"She was deadly scared of snakes. We had some rattlers, cottonmouths, you name it. All of a sudden it developed there was a swarm of copperheads in there, and she went screaming her head off."

Kansas State Agricultural College hired the artist in 1919. The Princes moved to Manhattan, Kan., where Fred Prince lived apart from his family in a light-filled studio in a rooming house. He worked on scientific illustrations, pressed fern specimens for his collection and painted.

Stanley Prince describes his father as "intelligent, autocratic, the old school, 'My word is law.' He was widely accomplished, a good carpenter, artist, surveyor. He had an inquiring mind."

Rex Johnson, now a retired cave guide, was a young teenager when he assisted the artist in his continuing wildflower search in the 1930s. "I helped him through the woods," says Johnson. "He'd get so wrapped up in his work, he didn't know which way was up; he'd get lost. He'd sit there and sketch them on the spot. He'd have quite a fit when he found a rare flower."

Velma Bass met Prince in 1930 when she worked for Genevieve and Miriam Lynch, after they inherited the cave from their father. She remembers Prince's integration of art and nature with his daily life. He lived at the Lynch sisters' house for a time and planted a garden of wildflowers he brought from the woods.

Bass and her husband live there now, and though the garden is gone, she says, "Every once in a while something shows up that I know is a wildflower and

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