Lucia Summers (1835-1898): First Resident Botanist in the Pacific Northwest

Lucia Summers was a pioneer botanist in the Pacific Coast states between 1871 and 1898. She experienced the Northwest landscape as it was just beginning to be altered by the first generation of European settlers. When she arrived in Seattle with her husband, the Rev. Robert W. Summers (the first Episcopal priest in Seattle), it had been a mere 17 years since the arrival of the first permanent European settlers. Seattle of 1871 was little more than a village of about 1500 inhabitants. Lucia was well educated, and an accomplished linguist and musician, when she arrived in Seattle at the age of 34.

Lucia’s given name was Susan Ann Noyes, and she was born in Hartland, Vermont, on November 22, 1835, the older daughter of Benjamin Noyes and Julia Ann Bartlett. Her nickname Lucia was probably in honor of her father’s first wife, who died in 1831. Lucia had one sibling, a sister, Lavinia, who was born in 1839 (Noyes 1904). Lucia’s father Benjamin was listed in the 1860 census as a “master carpenter,” with a combined value of real estate and personal property of $2900, a considerable amount at that time. The Noyes were a long established New England family, and sufficiently affluent for Lucia to receive an advanced education, unusual for women at that time.

Some time during the 1850s, Lucia’s family moved from Vermont to Hannibal, Missouri, where she met her future husband, Robert William Summers. They were married there on July 17, 1859. Hannibal, of course, is the river town along the Mississippi that was the childhood home of Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain).

You can read an expanded article about her work by clicking here (PDF, 422kb).

Comments are closed.