South Dakota

Up Catalog

Lake Poinsett and the Poinsettia

     Joel Roberts Poinsett (1779-1851) was appointed Ambassador to Mexico by President John Quincy Adams, and served in that capacity from 1825 to 1829. In Mexico he discovered a beautiful shrub with large red flowers growing next to a road on a hillside near Taxco in December 1828. He took cuttings from the plant and brought them back to his greenhouse in South Carolina. William Hicking Prescott named the plant “Poinsettia” for Poinsett around 1836. (Prescott, Arizona was named for William Hicking Prescott.)

SCN 1256

     In 1836 Joel Poinsett got John Charles Fremont his first position as a mathematics instructor to the midshipmen on board the USS Natchez. After two years Fremont was commissioned a second lieutenant of the U.S. Topographical Corps. His first assignment was to assist Joseph N. Nicollet in a reconnaissance of the Minnesota and Dakota territories. He and Nicollet surveyed the Coteau, and Fremont gave the second largest lake in what became eastern South Dakota the name Poinsett for his patron. Fremont later explored the Rocky Mountains, surveyed the Oregon Trail in 1842, and ran unsuccessfully for President in 1856.

SCN 2869i

 SCN 288

Back Next