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Dr. Wyche seeds: beans, tomatoes, ?

December 26, 2004

Hi, Folks - happy holidays to you all.

I was browsing through the SSE public catalog and discovered that the Cherokee Trail of Tears bean and the Dr. Wyche Yellow tomato are from the same source. In the bean description it says Dr. Wyche's Cherokee ancestors carried them West. Cool, I have (sort of distant) Cherokee relatives and am interested in indigenous gardens anyway.

In the tomato description it talks about Dr. W fertilizing his garden with elephant and lion and tiger manure, as he was owner of Cole Bros. Circus. Well, my grandfather was with Russell Bros. Circus in the 30s, and it was later bought up by Cole Bros. and we had family friends on Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. all these years, up until about 5 years ago when the last one finally retired - Jimmy James, the ringmaster.

So I am seriously intrigued with this Dr. Wyche character, and I am wondering (see, this really IS on topic!) ---- what other varieties might originate with him? Do any of you know of any more, besides the one bean and one tomato?

Comments (8)

  • lplott

    You know, I just read about this last night in tbe SSE book and then in the 'Heirloom Gardening' big book I bought. I live in Hugo and will see if I can gather anymore info on this and pass to you. May take me a few days though. Dr. Wyche that I know was a dentist here, but he moved to another area, this one in the book is obviously the father or grandfatehr. We still have circuses here but not a Cole circus, I can't even remember that one. We are known as "Circus City". I am also intrigued with these plants. I will also give you the other info I have on the beans soon as I can get my book back, I loaned it out for the day. It says they used the beans to make flour.
    Will post again later.

  • reginak

    lplott, Cole Bros. has been based out of Sarasota, FL, for many years now. I was surprised to read that Dr. Wyche gardened in Oklahoma.... Russell Bros. had their winter quarters in Rolla, Missouri. Anyway, I don't know how he could garden at all, because from spring through fall the circus travels! Maybe as owner he didn't travel with them the whole time... but SSE comments about him using the animal poop in his garden, so. I don't know. By the way, Clyde Beatty Cole Bros. went back to just plain Cole Bros last year, under new ownership. They don't even have elephants any more, which makes me sad. "World's Largest Circus under the Big Top" -- with no elephants? I don't know.

  • lplott

    Regina..Ladonna called me and I thought I might just share a wee bit with you....my father was Dr. John Wyche and he passed away in 1985. My brother and I were privy to all the enthusiasm he would love to share with the gardening...which he took up when he semi retireed from dentistry. He mailed and shared seeds everywhere and truly enjoyed this hobby...he was a very "bigger than life" man; hunted and fished all over the world, owned a multitude of businesses which included part owner of a circus; we actually traveled briefly with them one summer. When he retired (somewhat!!) he took up gardening and at his death had this seed room with all sorts of seeds in little packages and compartments...we had to wear masks and go in briefly because difficult to breathe all the pollen and particles!!! He was very colorful, entertaining, and much loved in the community...and yes, we are Cherokee and I actually work for one of the tribal clinics of the five civilized tribes. Even some notorious history: my grandfather (daddy's dad) had an uncle who was married to the infamous Belle Starr (bank robber and outlaw)....of course, he was an outlaw too and was shot!! My grandfather ran whiskey, lived to be around a hundred and gardened up into his eighties. Sadly enough, I do not garden....love working and traveling instead at this point in my life. I know recently the long time master gardener in a neighboring community made mention of my dad and his gardening...if you are interested I could perhaps get in touch with her and she might have info as to the heirloom gardening tribally, etc. Good luck and enjoy!! Joan Wyche Eighmy

  • carolyn137


    Do you mind of I share the additional info you've given with SSE, of which I'm a long time, life time member?

    Regina, from reading the SSE YEarbooks thru the years I don't recall any other varieties being personally attributed to Dr. Wyche other than the yellow tomato, which as you may know I also included in my book on heirloom tomatoes, and the Cherokee Trail of Tears bean. Of course he grew many different veggies and as Joan said, and like many SSE members shared seeds with others thru the Yearbook.

    In the Yearbooks there are many other varieties of this and that attributed to the Cherokee, from various sources. Same for other indigenous Indian tribes. H owever one can only, as an SSE member, request those seeds being offered in the current Yearbook, not the back Yearbooks.


  • reginak

    Joan, I can't tell you how exciting this is! It's so rare to meet up with circus folks, much less Cole Bros. circus particularly, and then to have the Native American connection and the gardening connection, well it's just fantastic! I would really love to hear more about your father and your family. Would you be willing to correspond by e-mail? Do you have pictures, especially circus pictures? I forwarded your post to my mom, and she's pretty excited about it too. I'll be growing the beans and tomatoes next summer for sure.

    And Dr. Carolyn, so glad to see you back online! What a treat this thread has become. Of course I remembered seeing the Dr. Wyche tomato in your book and went back to re-read it after picking up on the circus and Cherokee connections from the SSE catalog. I can't wait until my first SSE Yearbook shows up! I wish I had access to a complete set, just for research purposes. Well, and for pleasure reading. One of these days I'll have to go up and check out the library at U of MD's agric. school, right up the road from me, maybe they've got treasures I don't know about.

    Carolyn, how many members did SSE start out with, way back when the first Yearbook was published? Were you with them from the beginning? And, is there somewhere where SSE members can express interest in finding particular varieties, where other members can see and respond? Take your time responding, dear, I know from reading your post over in tomato conversations that you'll have lots going on to get yourself all arranged back at home.

    And Joan, if you'd like to correspond off-forum, you can e-mail me by clicking on my name at the top of my post. I'd be delighted to hear from you.


  • Mesquite_CA

    Dr. Wyche also introduced the (purple/blue & white dent)Cherokee squaw corn.... the name of which is in reference to it being a "squaw corn" (a general purpose Indian corn, typically multicolored) rather than being a non-PC reference to Cherokee women. He also introduced the "Cherokee" blue mustard, the Cherokee long pod Okra (which he initially used a rather risque name for), and a fair number of other varieties I don't offhand recall. I'm pretty sure one of the blue & white Chickasaw corns came from him, at the very least,& I recall seeing his name given as the O.S. for a lot of stuff (Cherokee Trail of Tears corn? Cherokee Trail of Tears bean?) when I joined SSE back in the mid 80's, but I'd have to dig up my old SSE Yearbooks to find out the details. Sadly, I don't see most of his seeds offered much, nowadays.

  • carolyn137

    when I joined SSE back in the mid 80's, but I'd have to dig up my old SSE Yearbooks to find out the details. Sadly, I don't see most of his seeds offered much, nowadays.

    Why am I not surprised to see you posting here after I just saw your post in the Vegetable Forum. ( smile)

    I have all but one of the SSE Yearbooks going back to 1975 and could also look.

    But back them I don't think each person was asked to donate varieties to SSE for permanent storage although I could be wrong, so with no one bringing those varieties forward thru the years, they won't be available unless SSE itself has them and starts reoffering them as they have with lot s of tomato varieties that had dropped from sight.


  • Mesquite_CA

    No, the current system of varietal curators didn't start until sometime in the late 90's, although Heritage Farm DID start accumulating a collection of seeds donated to it prior to that, that it used for farmsite growouts.

    I've got old seed of the Blue mustard & the Long Pod Okra, enough of which should germinate that I could perpetuate the variety (I plan to grow out in a year or so, after I've relocated).

    I've NEVER had any luck with the "wants" listings in the SSE publications, but writing around to folk particularly interested in a given species, or to someone who last listed it, "sometimes" worked.

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