Charles Washington Culpepper

Male, #34516, (21 Nov 1888 - Jan 1980)
Father*Robert Benjamin F. Culpepper (20 Nov 1864 - 22 Sep 1946)
Mother*Medora Virginia Bailey (Jun 1865 - 1948)
Name Variation He was also known as Cholly.1 
Nickname  Charles Washington Culpepper also went by the name of Dr. Charley.2 
Birth21 Nov 1886 He was born on 21 Nov 1886.3 
Birth*21 Nov 1888 Charles was born at Randolph Co., Alabama, on 21 Nov 1888.4 
Employment* Charles's occupation: Dept Agriculture. 
Residence*1900 Charles resided at Flat Rock, Randolph Co., Alabama, in 1900.5 
Census*1910 He was listed as a resident in the census report at Randolph Co., Alabama, in 1910. 
1920 Census*1 Jan 1920 Charles was listed as the head of a family on the 1920 Census at Washington, District of Columbia. ED 73, sheet 7, line 22.6 
Marriage*Oct 1920 He married Anna Connelly at Harrisburg, Dauphin Co., Pennsylvania, in Oct 1920 at age 31. 
Birth of Son10 Apr 1927 His son Charles Washington Culpepper Jr. was born on 10 Apr 1927 at Pennsylvania.7,3 
1930 Census*1 Apr 1930 Charles was listed as the head of a family on the 1930 Census at Arlington, Arlington Co., Virginia.8 
1940 Census*1 Apr 1940 Charles was listed as the head of a family on the 1940 Census at Arlington, Arlington Co., Virginia.7 
WWII Draft Reg*27 Apr 1942 He registered for the WW-II draft on 27 Apr 1942 at Arlington, Arlington Co., Virginia.4 
Death of Father22 Sep 1946 His father Robert Benjamin F. Culpepper died on 22 Sep 1946 at Wadley, Randolph Co., Alabama
Death of Mother1948 His mother Medora Virginia Bailey died in 1948 at Wadley, Randolph Co., Alabama
SSN*1956 His Social Security Number was issued in 1956 in Virginia.3 
Death of Spouse1967 His wife Anna Connelly died in 1967 at Washington, District of Columbia
News Article*9 Apr 1973 A Public Secret - Dr. Culpepper's Garden

To "Dr." Charles W. Culpepper, this spring brings a special sense of urgency.

It is the last he will spend hybridizing daffodils in his Arlington garden, the last of 45 springs there. To the three generations of people who have awarded him an unofficial doctorate for the pleasure he brings them each year, the Rites of Spring may never be the same. For "Dr." Culpepper, now 84, is leaving five acres of a kind of "secret garden" he has shared with children, housewives, strolling couples, businessmen playing hookey and other horticulturalists since the early 1930's. People who brave the neglected front of the property at 4435 N. Pershing Drive are still rewarded with a vista of garden after garden, some wooded, some sunny, filled with a rich tangle of camellia, azalea, amaryllis, bamboo, and bulb flowers.

There is a veritable sea of daffodils of every color and size. From his battered wheelbarrow they can still buy for 50 cents a bunch mixed armful of such species as "White Gold," "Snow Gem," "Hazel Brilliant" and "Yellow Sunset," developed and picked fresh daily by "Dr." Culpepper. They may have more trouble locating the resident alchemist since his sense of time passing keeps him on his knees early and late this year among the beds of flowers. He is in perfect camouflage, brown in his worn garden clothes against the brown earth, bent nearly double by arthritis and isolated by near total deafness that seems to improve his rapt concentration, he is cross-pollinating a promising row of pale yellow daffodils. When he is interrupted he is skeptical that anyone could be interested in hearing about him, but he is willing to explain with shy gravity and precision what keeps him in his garden during this last flowering.

"Later in July, I'll be collecting seeds from these crosses. They're going to be sent all over the country by the American Daffodil Society to other people young enough to continue. Some are going to Australia," he says, obviously pleased.

Between March 15 and April 15 is the crucial time: "You pollinate now when the daffodils are in flower by putting pollen of another variety on the pistil of this one. If they set seed then you know you have a cross. This one is ‘Yellow Sunset,’ one of my own varieties. I tear off the petals so people won't pick them. If they set seed, then I'll harvest them in July or August. These varieties don't set seed very copiously without hand pollination."

"I'm too old to do this," Dr. Culpepper says, in the middle of a patch of unnamed seedlings.

"I'll never live to see them because it takes from five to seven years for them to flower. I won't see them, but maybe others will."

When he grew his own seedlings, he says, he planted them in September in flats and they germinated in March or April, so small at first that "they look like wheat or rye."

"I did my fist crosses here in 1927," he recalls, "after I bought the place in 1924.

"Mrs. Culpepper and I had been living in an apartment close to my work at the Department of Agriculture. She looked all over Maryland and Virginia to find this place.

"It was way out in the country then, part of an abandoned farm. This was all an open field, mostly in blackberry briar and sedge grass. It was very poor soil. I added fertilizer and organic matter to grow what I was interested in."

To a farm boy from Wadley, AL, who abandoned the idea of farming after some economic courses at what is now Auburn University convinced him he couldn't afford it, it must have been a real homecoming. Most of the labor involved over the years, he has done himself in the spare time spent after his real work as a research chemist helping to develop food preservation techniques.

"Dr." Culpepper left the University of Chicago in 1918 without his doctorate in botany to accept the job, from which he retired in 1954. Before he left though, he made a lasting impression on his lab partner, "a little bit of a Pennsylvania farm girl” to whom he proposed the day he left without ever having taken her out.

Two years later Anna Connelly joined him in Washington. He admits that it was her "financial management and every other kind of management" that enabled him to steadily expand his "hobby" from the first bulbs he planted in 1926.

"Daffodils were the first things that I grew," he says.

"Every year I've been getting a few new varieties, getting more and more seedlings."

And how many varieties has he used in his crosses?

With a slow shake of the head, he replied, "That I couldn't say... Perhaps a hundred different varieties, that's the best I can say. Of course, not all of the seedlings were good enough to introduce. I have seven or eight in the trade: All of the seedlings Grant E. Mitch of Canby, OR (according to "Dr." Culpepper, one of the largest hybridizers in the country) introduced them several years ago.”

Mrs. Culpepper died in 1967 and "Dr." Culpepper has continued to live alone in the large brick house until increasing vandalism and the desire of his two nearby daughters to see him comfortably settled persuaded him to sell the place. A pending suit by the neighbors still holds up the sale of the property to the Unitarian Church of Arlington for construction of a home for the aged.

"I didn't expect to be picking daffodils now," he said, somewhat ruefully.

"I didn't expect to be here. I'll be moving to my daughter, Myra Anne's, near Mt. Vernon as soon as I wind up my affairs here. But as long as I still own the property, I thought people might as well enjoy it."

As he talks, a group of neighborhood children from the nearby Buckingham Apartment complex flits through the trees, helping to locate some white daffodils for a visitor.

Another elderly lady stops to tell him how glad she is to see him working in his garden again.

Another younger woman waves to him, drops change on his cart and remarks, "This always means spring to me."

Some of the daffodils have been transferred to his daughter's mountain farm in the Massanutten section of the Blue Ridge where the soil yields larger blooms that "Dr." Culpepper was ever able to get here.

For the rest, "The old folks home has promised to save everything possible, to replant all the bulbs and trees they can."

They also claim they will keep the gardens for public use.2
 
Death*Jan 1980 He died at Alexandria, Fairfax Co., Virginia, in Jan 1980 at age 91.3 

Family

Anna Connelly (circa 1890 - 1967)
Marriage*Oct 1920 He married Anna Connelly at Harrisburg, Dauphin Co., Pennsylvania, in Oct 1920 at age 31. 
Child
ChartsJohn Culpepper of Randolph Co, AL: Descendant Chart
Last Edited24 Oct 2012

Citations

  1. Louis Alford Culpepper referred to Charles Washington Culpepper as "Cholly."
  2. Deborah Fialka, The Evening Star and Daily News: Washington, DC, "A Public Secret - Dr. Culpepper's Garden," 9 Apr 1973.
  3. U.S. Social Security Administration, compiler, Social Security Death Index (SSDI), Online database at Ancestry.com.
    http://www.ancestry.com/search/rectype/vital/ssdi/main.htm
  4. WW-II Draft Registration Cards, 1942, Online database at Ancestry.com.
    Charles Washington Culpepper, White, born 10 Nov 1888 in Wadley, Randolph Co., Alabama; resided in Arlington (city), Virginia; Contact: Stanley Monroe in Arlington, Virginia; Employed by U.S. Horticultural Station at Beltsville, Maryland; Height 6’ 0”, Weight 175, Blue eyes, Brown hair, Light complexion, left leg enlarged; Registered 27 Apr 1942 in Arlington (city), Virginia.
  5. Pct8 ED58 sht9 ln41 (Charley Nov 1888 AL in hh of.
  6. 1920 Federal Census, United States.
    ED 73, page 7A, 925 Virginia Avenue, Washington, DC
    Lodger with Aubrey Prince:
    Charles W. Culpepper, Lodger, M, W, 31, S, AL/AL/AL, Physiologist/US Gov't.
  7. 1940 (16th) US Census, compiled by the US Bureau of the Census, Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1940. T627, 4,643 rolls., Online database at Ancestry.com.
    http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=2442
    Arlington (city), VA, ED 7-21, Web page 56 (30 Apr 1930)
    Lines 10-14, 4305 N Pershing
    Charles W. Culpepper, Head, M, Wh, 51, md, AL, 1935 in same house, Chemist/Dept of Agriculture
    Anna M. Culpepper, Wife, F, Wh, 53, md, PA 1935 in same house, Housework
    Myra A. Culpepper, Daughter, F, Wh, 18, sng, PA 1935 in same house, Student
    Sarah V. Culpepper, Daughter, F, Wh, 17, sng, PA 1935 in same house, Student
    Charles W. Culpepper, Son, F, Wh, 13, sng, PA 1935 in same house.
  8. 1930 Federal Census, United States.
    Ballston, Arlington (city), VA, ED 9, Web page 8 (5 Apr 1930)
    Lines 97-100, Pershing Dr, (#34516)
    Charles W. Culpepper, Head, M, Wh, 41, md@31, AL/AL/AL, Chemist/Agriculture
    Anna M. Culpepper, Wife, F, Wh, 43, md@33, PA/PA/PA
    Myra A. Culpepper, Daughter, F, Wh, 8, sng, PA/PA/PA
    Sarah V. Culpepper, Daughter, F, Wh, 7, sng, PA/PA/PA

    And then on the next page, on lines 13-16...
    Nathan Scanlon, Head, M, Wh, 65, wid, VA/VA/VA, Clerk/Purchasing Ofc
    Cleo S. Parks, Daughter, F, Wh, 32, wid, VA/VA/VA, Concert Singer
    Hilda D. Parks, Granddaughter, F, Wh, 4, sng, DC/MS/VA
    Charles W. Culpepper, Grandson, F, Wh, 3, sng, PA/PA/PA.