S. Fred Prince

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Published on: Dec. 2, 1998

Last revision: Nov. 3, 2010

that I think probably is something Mr. Prince had started there." He also raked a path through the woods, leading to a spring down the hill. Bass says he was "knowledgeable, a wonderful artist."

In 1929, when Prince was 72, he returned to Stone County. At last, he had time to concentrate on his manuscripts-ferns, violets, wildflowers, insects and the cave-separate parts of what he called "The Woodland Book." In the 1930s he worked from memory and from his writings and drawings dating from the 1890s.

"Certainly he was a unique individual in terms of the amount he accomplished," says George Yatskievych, Conservation Department botanist and curator of Missouri plants at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis. He says it's unfortunate Prince published so little.

In 1904, Prince's article on the ferns of the Marble Cave area was published in the American Fern Society's Fern Bulletin. In Galena, he discovered a new form of dandelion, Taraxacum laevigatum f. scapifolium, which was distinctive because of leaves growing on the stalk and at its top, around the base of the flower. Prince co-authored an article on it for the Kansas Academy of Science in 1938.

When Prince began listing wildflowers in 1893, not much botanical investigation was going on in southwest Missouri. In the 1920s and 1930s, researchers made rapid advances in inventories, but population growth in Stone County led to changes in the environment, and a number of plants once noted by botanists haven't been seen in recent years.

"There would have been added historical importance to the publication of his work simply as a record of a snapshot in time," says Yatskievych.

Although his caving days were past, the mysteries and challenges of Marvel Cave stayed alive for him as he worked on his cave book. "After many years of absence, I can still thrill to the memory of my adventures in this greatest of all caverns," he wrote in 1938. "...Time itself is lost in its tremendous depths." Prince died in 1949 at age 92.

He'd explored these hills inside and out, capturing on paper much of what he learned about "this curious country," as he called it. He had devoted himself to understanding one place on earth.

Fred Prince's works traveled far. In the late 1930s, his daughter Alice took most of his manuscripts east, hoping to sell them and raise money for his support.

After Alice Prince Shafer's death in Washington, D.C., in 1992, her niece, Charlotte Prince Al-Hujazi, found the cave book and some sales records from the 1960s, but no trace of several manuscripts Shafer had included on her list of the artist's works.

Still missing are 23 watercolors of butterflies and insects, which could be tucked away in institutional or private collections.

One more unsolved mystery: Several people have seen additional wildflower illustrations in Stone County since Prince's death, with the last report around 1980. Those pages have not come to light again.

There are clues to the number of wildflowers the artist may have intended to include in Rainbow in the Grass, his wildflower manuscript. Stanley Prince has his father's wildflower sketchbook, full of pencil sketches with touches of color to guide him in painting the book illustrations, and two notebooks that list 333 flowers he found. Only 230 finished illustrations are in the institutional collections.

So the question arises: Did Prince continue to paint the remaining flowers on this list after his daughter took the manuscript? That might explain the later appearance of illustrations in Stone County, but where are they now?

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