A L Heermann, A Life Corrected (I)
- Adolphus Lewis Heermann (A. L.) was an important mid-nineteenth century, natural history collector whose material from California and the Southwest can be found in many of our major national repositories. Honoring him we have Heermann's Gull, Tarweed, Kangaroo Rat, Buckwheat, Oyster (fossil), and a Song Sparrow subspecies. Although I'm not a medical doctor, I'm reporting to you on how I extended his life. I'm a little hurt he hasn't acknowledged that, but perhaps it's because he died about 148 years ago. I thank a number of people who have helped me with this ongoing research: Paul Strauss, Rene Corado, Lois Colwell, Nate Rice, Scott McConnell, Henry Mcghie, Megan Gibes, Tony Lewis, Dan Thomas, Bert Filemyr, Jacqueline Falbo, Nancy Bruce, Randy Thompson, and the ILL group at California State University, Fullerton. I intend to eventually submit these findings for publication.
Pt. I: Who Do You Believe?
A. L.'s first biography in 1907 was by Witmer Stone in "Cassinia." For Heermann's personal life, Stone relied on Edward Nolan and Henry Dresser who had met the naturalist 40 years earlier. Stone wrote: "From estimates of two who knew him, I infer that he was born about 1818, probably in South Carolina." The next biographer of note was Edgar Hume with a chapter on Adolphus in "Ornithologists of the United States Army Medical Corps" published in 1942. Hume relied on a 1923 biography by F. L. Pleadwell and W. M. Kerr (in "Annals of Medical History") on A. L.'s father, the distinguished naval surgeon Lewis Heermann (who was honored by the USS Heermann, a WW II destroyer). The 1923 paper acknowledged the help of Lewis's granddaughter for providing family information. Hume learned from that article that Adolphus was the youngest of five sons, and his parents married in 1821. From this information alone, he deduced A. L. was born about 1827 and used South Carolina as the possible birthplace. The 1818, or especially the 1827 birth date can be found in almost all publications that refer to A. L.'s life. The exception is a little noticed paper in 1995 by Stanley Casto on Adolphus collecting around San Antonio TX, in the journal La Tierra. Casto mainly used for A. L.'s early years documents in the possession of the great great granddaughter of Theodore Heermann (A. L.'s brother). Here we learn that Adolphus was the oldest of five sons, and Casto "suggests" he was born about 1821, in New Orleans, LA.
So let's see, born about 1818, or 1821, or 1827. Born in South Carolina, or New Orleans. The youngest, or oldest of the five sons. And there are other paradoxes in the biographical information. I think A. L. would love this. But today, any competent genealogist with access to online search utilities (both free and subscription), would solve this birth puzzle within 30 minutes. Using the 1850 and 1860 U. S. censuses, A. L.'s 1839 passport application, and an online index to births in New Orleans, one finds Adolphus Lewis Heermann was born 21 Oct. 1821 in New Orleans and was the oldest of five sons. I then got a certified copy of his birth certificate (never rely only on an index) which shows this same birth information. In addition, this birth date is found on one of his father's probate documents as well as another New Orleans legal document.
Joel Weintraub, Dana Pt, CA