Liriodendron tulipifera flower

The University of North Carolina
A Department of the North Carolina Botanical Garden



Collectors of the UNC Herbarium
Information compiled by Carol Ann McCormick,
Curator of the University of North Carolina Herbarium

Samuel Barnum Mead
(18 October 1799-1880)


The University of North Carolina Herbarium has catalogued a single mycological specimen collected by Dr. Samuel Barnum Mead, a physician and botanist.  As more of the collection is catalogued and databased, possibly more specimens that he collected will be found.

Carte-de-visite portrait of Dr. Samuel Barnum Mead
Collections of Increase Allen Lapham in the Wisconsin Historical Society1

Samuel B. Mead was the eldest of four sons and three daughters born to Jonathan Mead (1769-1851) and Martha Barnum Mead (d. 1812).  The Mead family moved to Augusta, Illinois in June, 1837.2

“Dr. Samuel B. Mead lived on his father’s farm until about 15 years of age, receiving, during this time, a common school education.  He then received a collegiate course and graduated at Yale College, New Haven, Conn., in 1820.  He studied medicine a received his diploma to practice from the same college, February 25, 1824.  He emigrated to Illinois in the spring of 1833, living for a short time at Rushville; the following August he came to Hancock County and located at Augusta, then called “Oliver’s Settlement,” and commenced the practice of his profession, which he continued until 1860, commanding extensive practice. He was next to the first regular physician practice medicine in this county. In 1833 Dr. Isaac Galland was said to be the only practicing physician in the county, and probably was the first. In 1834 Dr. John F. Charles settled in Carthage. On Dr. Mead’s arrival at “Oliver’s Settlement,” now Augusta, he immediately selected a site for a dwelling; first had a well dug and engaged a hewed log-cabin built; this was in July. It was finished in August, and he moved into it, with his family. It was the first cabin built on the site of Augusta. In February, 1836, the town was laid out by the proprietors, William D Abernathy, Joel Catlin and Dr. S. B. Mead. October 1, 1834, Dr. Mead was appointed “Surgeon Mate” in the Regiment of militia for Hancock County, by Dr. Isaac Galland, Colonel; September 12, 1840, he was appointed Postmaster at Augusta; November 14, 1840 he took charge of the same and continued as Postmaster until February 2, 1857.  He received the first mail carried by railroad into Augusta, February 6, 1856.  He has kept meteorological observations for the Smithsonian Institution at Washington, D. C., nearly since its beginning -- till it turned them over to the War Department, and he still keeps them. He has many years devoted much time to the study of botany, and has discovered several interesting plants. As a botanist he has a worldwide reputation, frequently receiving letters from Europe and other distant places, asking for information in matters pertaining to plants etc. Several plants are named after him.

Dr. Mead was married to Arietta Purdy [b. 27 July 1804] January 9, 1822…They had six children.  Only one is now living, Mrs. Velia Bredett, of Augusta.  Mrs. Mead died May 7, 1865.  April 18, 1866, the Doctor married his present wife, whose name was Martha Putnam, of Putnam, Ohio… They had one child, Ora Mead, born August 23, 1868.  The Doctor is still living at Augusta, very pleasantly and comfortably situated, and is respected and honored by all.  Although now nearly 81 years of age, he is still active, with his mental faculties unimpaired, and is prepared to enjoy life for many years to come; that it may be so is the wish of many friends.”2


Asclepias meadii
photo by Mike Redmer


Mead’s Milkweed, Asclepias meadii Torr. ex A. Gray, named in Samuel Mead’s honor, is native to tallgrass prairies and rhyolite glades of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Wisconsin.  It has been on the United States list of Threatened Species since 1988 due to habitat destruction, haying, grazing and fire suppression.3,4 



1.  Wisconsin Historical Society. “Dr. Samuel Barnum Mead, Physician and Botanist.” Image ID 47415.  accessed on 9 August, 2016.

2.  “Dr. Samuel B. Mead.” In:  1889 History of Hancock County, Illinois by T. H. Gregg.  Published by Charles C. Chapman & Co. pp. 522-523.  Transcribed by Marcia Siegfried Redding for Hancock County IL Genweb.  accessed on 9 August, 2016.

3.  “Mead’s milkweed.”  U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Endangered Species, Midwest Region. accessed on 9 August, 2016.
4.  “Mead’s milkweed.”  U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Chicago Ecological Services Field Office. accessed on 9 August, 2016.



University of North Carolina Herbarium
CB# 3280, Coker Hall
University of North Carolina
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3280
phone: (919) 962-6931


Last Updated: 9 August 2016