Cage 750

Gaines and McCulloch Family

Papers, 1902-2008

Xerpha Gaines on Moscow Mountain, 1940.

Acquisition And Processing Information

Jocelyn Liu donated these papers in 2009 to the Washington State University Libraries (MS 2009-21). The collection was processed by Susan Vetter in 2010.

Extent/Quantity Information

Number of Containers: 6

Linear Feet of Shelf Space: 4.5


Both the Gaines and McCulloch families arrived in Washington from the Midwest at the turn of the twentieth century. Edward F. Gaines (1886-1944) was born in Missouri and moved as a teenager with his family to a farm near Chewelah. The McCulloch family and young Xerpha Mae (1891-1970) left Wisconsin to homestead near Othello.

Edward F. Gaines graduated from the State Normal School at Cheney (now Eastern Washington University) in 1907. He then worked as a public school principal and teacher in Ritzville, where he met Xerpha Mae McCulloch, who graduated from high school there in 1910. Edward left Ritzville in 1909 to continue his education at the State College of Washington (now Washington State University) in Pullman where he earned his bachelor and master of science degrees in agronomy in 1911 and 1913, respectively.

Throughout his career, Edward was associated with several plant genetics pioneers, as a student, colleague, and mentor. One of his students was Karl Sax, who received his bachelor's degree in agriculture from WSC in 1916 and became a leading cytologist and plant geneticist, and National Academy of Science member. Sax credited Edward Gaines for introducing him as an undergraduate to research in plant breeding, and encouraging his pursuit of graduate studies, and they remained correspondents throughout Gaines's lifetime.

Another lifelong correspondent was Harry B. Humphrey, who had been Edward's botany professor at WSC and became long-time phytopathologist with the Bureau of Plant Industry of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). In an obituary for Edward in the journal Phytopathology, Humphrey wrote that his most important contributions centered on his genetic studies of bunt resistance in wheat and smut resistance in wheat and oats. Gaines developed the Triplet, Ridit, and Albit wheat varieties to increase both yields and smut resistance. Orville Vogel, renowned wheat breeder at WSU with the USDA, named two wheat varieties for Edward Gaines: Gaines (1961), the first semidwarf winter wheat for commercial production, and NuGaines (1965).

Xerpha McCulloch Gaines established her own legacy at WSC. Though she pursued her education at WSC in the first years of marriage, raising her four children delayed her graduation until 1930 when she received her bachelor of arts degree in education and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

Married in 1912, Edward F. and Xerpha McCulloch Gaines made their home in Pullman as Edward continued in his position as Assistant Cerealist and Instructor of Agronomy. Edward spent a semester at Harvard University in 1915 studying genetics and plant breeding under Dr. Edward M. East at the Bussey Institution for Research in Applied Biology. He returned in 1920, and received his Doctor of Science degree in 1921. At the same time, he continued on the faculty at WSC, rising to Cerealist in 1917 and serving as Assistant Professor of Farm Crops from 1918 to 1926, Associate Professor from 1926 to 1930, and as Professor of Genetics in Agronomy from 1930 until his death in 1944.

Xerpha began a collaboration in 1950 with Dr. Theodore Scheffer of the U.S. Biological Survey to collect plant specimens in the area around Grand Coulee Dam with their results published in a 1957 article: "A Botanical Survey of the Grand Coulee-Eastern Washington," Research Studies of the State College of Washington 25.3 (Sept. 1957): 207-235. In 1957 she accepted an invitation from the Museum of Northern Arizona for a May botanical collection raft trip down the Colorado River through the area soon to be inundated behind the Glen Canyon Dam. She published her results in an article, "Plants in Glen Canyon," Plateau 30, no. 2 (October 1957): 31-34.

For each of the above botanical surveys, Xerpha collected specimens for herbaria. The University of Washington's Burke Museum herbarium today lists nearly 400 specimens collected by Xerpha Gaines, many from the Grand Coulee surveys. A University of Utah publication about the 1957 Colorado River trip noted that Xerpha Gaines collected specimens from 150 species for the Museum of Northern Arizona herbarium. Because of her association with what is now WSU's Ownbey Herbarium, Xerpha duplicated her Glen Canyon specimens there as well as adding her many specimens collected over her years in the Palouse.

After retirement, Xerpha continued her work, identifying specimens from home at her kitchen table. The WSU Agronomy Club and Agronomy and Soils Department dedicated its Spring 1971 Agronomy and Men issue to Xerpha Gaines, noting that "[h]er reputation as an excellent 'seed hawk' was known throughout the Inland Empire and the State." Xerpha listed under "Hobbies, recreational activities, specialties" on a 1957 WSC personnel information form: "Taxonomy of plants and plant collecting Seeds." That lifelong interest culminated in the posthumous publication of a book, co-authored with D.G. Swan, Weeds of Eastern Washington & Adjacent Areas (1972).

In 2008, Dr. Stephen Jones, Director at the WSU Research and Extension Center in Mt. Vernon, released "Xerpha," a new variety of soft-white common winter wheat named after Xerpha Gaines.

Edward and Xerpha Gaines had four children: Edward M. (1913-2000), Xerpha Mae (1915-2003), John (1917-1955), and Grant (1922-1965). Xerpha Mae Gaines was always known as "Mae." All four siblings graduated from WSC. In 1938 Mae married Ramon Kent, who had a long career with the Soil Conservation Service primarily out of the Spokane office. Janice Gaines Walker, daughter of Grant, and Jocelyn Liu, granddaughter of Mae Gaines Kent, were instrumental in the donation of this collection to WSU.

Collection Description

This collection includes papers of Edward F. and Xerpha Mae McCulloch Gaines consisting of letters between them, correspondence with their children, other correspondence, newspaper clippings, photographs, research notes for both Edward. and Xerpha, a few professional papers, and some genealogical information. Of note in E.F. Gaines's "letter box" (subseries 2.4) is his correspondence with pioneers in plant genetics, many with State College of Washington (WSC) connections. Other items of interest include the courtship letters from Edward to Xerpha.

Collection Arrangement

The collection is arranged in six series, with Series 2 further divided into five subseries:

Series Descriptions

Series 1: Parents and siblings of E.F. Gaines and Xerpha Mae McCulloch, 1902-1929. This series includes genealogical information about the McCulloch family, some reproductions, and a few items about E.F. Gaines's sisters.

Series 2: Edward F. and Xerpha Mae McCulloch Gaines papers, 1907-1970

Subseries 2.1: E.F. Gaines to Xerpha McCulloch Gaines correspondence, 1910-1914. This subseries begins with the 1910 and 1911 postcards and letters from E.F. Gaines to Xerpha McCulloch. It continues with cards and letters from E.F. to Xerpha in the first years after their marriage.

Subseries 2.2: E.F. and Xerpha McCulloch Gaines correspondence, 1907-1970. Combining correspondence to E.F. Gaines and Xerpha McCulloch before and after their marriage, this subseries includes cards and letters received by E.F. and Xerpha including letters from their children.

Subseries 2.3: E.F. and Xerpha McCulloch Gaines, miscellaneous items, 1911-1970. This subseries collects sundry items from diplomas and obituaries for E.F. and Xerpha to address and memorial service guest books.

Subseries 2.4: E.F. Gaines letter box, 1913-1941. This subseries contains the contents of a pasteboard letter box of correspondence (incoming and outgoing). The original alphabetical arrangement has been retained. E.F. Gaines combined personal and professional topics here and arranged letters by subject or by name of correspondent or, for his outgoing correspondence, by addressee. Some letters to Xerpha Gaines are included. Interspersed with the correspondence are newspaper clippings and other items such as grade transcripts for their children, photographs, and some scientific publications.

The correspondence includes a number of letters from pioneers in plant genetics discussing their work and the state of the field in the first few decades of the 20th century. Some were WSC alumni such as Karl Sax, who became a leading cytogeneticist and a founder of the field of radiation cytology and a National Academy of Science member; William Ralph Singleton, who developed a hybrid sweet corn breeding program; and Frederick J. Stevenson, principal geneticist with National Potato Breeding Program beginning in 1930. Others were associated with programs at WSC: A. Leonard Melander, Professor of Entomology, E.C. Johnson, Dean of the College of Agriculture, E.G. Shafer, Professor of Agronomy, and Harry B. Humphrey, who had been professor of botany and the first with the title "plant pathologist" at WSC, and became long-time phytopathologist with the Bureau of Plant Industry of the USDA. Other correspondents include National Academy of Science members William E. Castle and Edward M. East of the Bussey Institution for Research in Applied Biology, Harvard University, and George H. Shull, founding editor of the journal Genetics.

This subseries also includes letters from the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions (ABCFM) facility at Mt. Silinda, Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), many by former WSC students there, and correspondence with the Leopold Schepp Foundation regarding a boy sponsored by Gaines.

Subseries 2.5: Xerpha Gaines professional project papers, 1940s-1970. Reflected in this subseries are a number of projects Xerpha Gaines participated in, some resulting in her authorship of professional publications. Among these were the preparation of an index for Enoch Albert Bryan's Historical Sketch of the State College of Washingtong1890-1925 (1928); a May 1957 botanical collection trip with the Museum of Northern Arizona down the Colorado River through the area soon to be inundated by the Glen Canyon Dam whose results Mrs. Gaines published in an article "Plants in Glen Canyon," Plateau 30.2 (October 1957): 31-34; and the book, co-authored with D.G. Swan, Weeds of Eastern Washington & Adjacent Areas (1972). Mrs. Gaines (with Theo. H. Scheffer) wrote "A Botanical Survey of the Grand Coulee-Eastern Washington," Research Studies of the State College of Washington 25.3 (Sept. 1957): 207-235.

Series 3: Children and Grandchildren of E.F. and Xerpha Gaines, primarily Mae Gaines Kent and Ramon Kent. The materials of Mae (Gaines) Kent dominate this series from her school days in the 1920s to her 1938 marriage to Ramon Kent up to the 1970s and the death of her mother Xerpha Gaines.

Series 4: Miscellaneous.

Series 5: Photographs. People and places represented in the photographs follow the generational distribution of the above series: McCulloch and Gaines families, E.F. Gaines and Xerpha McCulloch, their children, grandchildren and acquaintances.

Series 6: Oversize items.


Gaines family
McCulloch family
Gaines, Xerpha M.
Gaines, Edward F. (Edward Franklin), 1886-1944
Kent, Mae (Xerpha Mae)
Washington State University -- Faculty -- Archives
Scientists -- Washington (State) -- Archives


This collection is open and available for research use. Copyright restrictions apply.

Preferred Citation

The suggested citation for the collection is:

[Item Description]
Gaines and McCulloch Family papers, 1902-2008
Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections
Washington State University Libraries
Pullman, WA

Related Materials

Xerpha Mae Gaines Papers, Cage 122, includes notes on the Grand Coulee, Glen Canyon, and weeds of Eastern Washington projects described in Subseries 2.5.

Edward M. Gaines (son of Xerpha and Edward F.) was interviewed as a "golden grad" in 1984. That interview is housed in the Centennial Oral History Project, Oral Histories, 1982-1988, Archives 202.

W.S.U. Scrapbooks collection (PC 5) contains a Charles D. Gaines and Helen Gowdy photograph album.

Publication Note

During his school years at WSC, Edward wrote a number of letters to Xerpha that became the subject for a 2009 Washington State Magazine article:

Sudermann, Hannelore. "The Love Letters." Washington State Magazine 8, no. 2 (Spring 2009): 33-39.


Most documents are in English; however, a few are in German.

Container List:

Box Folder Description
    Series 1: Parents and siblings of E.F. Gaines and Xerpha Mae McCulloch, 1902-1929
1 1 Mrs. J.H. (Fannie Wise) McCulloch obituary, Othello Times, 1929 November 28
  2 McCulloch family history reproductions, 2008 (reproduction date)
  3 Hattie and Mattie Gaines, sisters of E.F. Gaines, school records, 1902-1910
    Series 2: Edward F. and Xerpha Mae McCulloch Gaines papers, 1907-1970
    Subseries 2.1: E.F. Gaines to Xerpha McCulloch correspondence, 1910-1914
    Letters from E.F. Gaines to Xerpha McCulloch
  4-5 1910-1911
  6 1913-1914 and undated
    Subseries 2.2: E.F. Gaines and Xerpha McCulloch Gaines correspondence, 1907-1970
  7 E.F. Gaines, incoming postcards, 1907-1913
  8 Xerpha McCulloch, incoming, 1909-1912
  9 E.F. and Xerpha Gaines, incoming postcards, 1912-1915
  10 E.F. and Xerpha Gaines, incoming and outgoing while in Europe, 1930-1931
  11 E.F. and Xerpha Gaines, outgoing to Mae Gaines, 1930-31
2 12 E.F. and Xerpha Gaines, 1914-1941
  13 Xerpha Gaines, incoming correspondence; 1946-1960, undated
  14 Xerpha Gaines, incoming, 1970
    Subseries 2.3: E.F. and Xerpha McCulloch Gaines, miscellaneous items, 1911-1970
  15 Diplomas, State College of Washington; E.F. Gaines, 1911 and 1913, Xerpha Gaines, 1930
  16 E.F. Gaines, memberships, transcripts, obituary (from Phytopathology), 1909-1941
  17 Xerpha Gaines, address book
  18 Xerpha Gaines, clippings (including her obituaries from The Grange News and Pullman Herald), 1960-1970
  19 Xerpha Gaines, guest book, Mother of the Year reception, 1963
  20 Xerpha Gaines, memorial guest book, 1970
    Subseries 2.4: E.F. Gaines letter box, 1913-1941
  21 Career chronology and publications list, photographs with some identified as from Africa, 1920s-1930s.
  22 "A." Includes clippings and correspondence with former WSC students serving at the ABCFM facility at Mt. Silinda, Rhodesia (Zimbabwe).
  23 "B."
  24 "C." Includes correspondence from Mt. Silinda Mission and from William E. Castle.
  25 "D." Includes correspondence with Leopold Schepp Foundation.
  26 "E." Includes correspondence with Edward M. East.
  27 "F."
  28 "G." Includes correspondence with plant pathologist George H. Godfrey.
3 29 "H." Includes correspondence with Harry B. Humphrey and photographs of unidentified house.
  30 "I-J."
  31 "K."
  32 "L." Includes 1915 lecture on history of WSC cereal investigations.
  33 "M." Includes photographs from unidentified exhibit.
  34 "N-O."
  35 "P-Q." Includes correspondence with John H. Parker, professor of agronomy at Kansas State University regarding wheat.
  36 "R."
  37 "S." Includes correspondence with Karl Sax, George H. Shull, William Ralph Singleton, and Frederick J. Stevenson.
  38 "T." Includes correspondence with an editor at Farm & Fireside about "stinking smut" (Tilletia tritici) in winter wheat in which Gaines mentions efforts to breed smut-resistant strains.
  39 "U-V."
  40 "W." Includes correspondence from Mt. Silinda Mission and a photograph of a mission school in Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe).
  41 "Y-Z."
    Subseries 2.5: Xerpha Gaines professional project papers, 1940s-1970
  42 "Bryan index." Subject index prepared by Xerpha Gaines for Enoch Albert Bryan's Historical Sketch of the State College of Washington, 1890-1925 (1928), manuscript and typescript drafts, undated.
  43 The Reclamation Era, Official Publication of the Bureau of the Bureau of Reclamation 44.2 (May 1958). Contains the article "Adventure in the Glen Canyon of the Colorado" (p. 41-45) by Stanley Rasmussen about a September 1957 trip down the Colorado River from Hite to the Glen Canyon dam site by 5 University of Utah biologists and 3 Bureau of Reclamation personnel to plan further study of the area to be inundated by the dam. Xerpha Gaines participated in a May 1957 trip with the Museum of Northern Arizona and published "Plants in Glen Canyon," Plateau 30.2 (October 1957) about her study.
  44 Weed manual correspondence, 1972. Correspondence between Na-Bor-Lee Association and its representatives with Edward M. Gaines as executor of Xerpha Gaines's estate for publication of Weeds of Eastern Washington & Adjacent Areas (1972) by Xerpha M. Gaines and D.G. Swan.
    Series 3: Children and Grandchildren of E.F. and Xerpha Gaines, primarily Mae Gaines Kent and Ramon Kent, 1915-2000
  45 Mae Gaines, clippings, 1915-1956
  46 Mae Gaines, incoming correspondence; 1929-1933, undated
  47 Mae Gaines, International Typing Contest, Virginia, 1930
  48 Mae Gaines, secondary school, autograph book, programs, 1925-1931
  49 Mae Gaines, high school (Pullman, WA), diploma, graduation announcement, commencement program, report cards, 1927-1931
  50 Mae Gaines, State College of Washington (WSC), diploma, schedule, correspondence, transcript, 1931-1935
  51 Ramon Kent to Mae Gaines, correspondence, 1938
  52 Mae Gaines and Ramon Kent, wedding planner, 1938
  53 Correspondence, incoming, Ramon and Mae Gaines Kent, 1944-1974
4 54 Mae Gaines Kent, "keepsakes" volume (includes photographs), 1952-1979
  55 Mae Gaines Kent, "keepsakes" volume, "obituaries," 1982-2000
  56-58 Mae Gaines Kent, condolence correspondence about Xerpha Gaines, 1970
  59 Gaines children (Edward M., Mae, John, Grant), incoming correspondence, 1928-1970
  60 Gaines children (Edward M., John, Grant), miscellaneous, 1930-1965
    Series 4: Miscellaneous
  61 Postcards
  62 Miscellaneous and unidentified items
    Series 5: Photographs
5 63 McCulloch family, 1928
  64 McCulloch family (reproductions)
  65 Xerpha McCulloch Gaines and her sisters, Flossie Vercler and Alice Tipton; 1959, 1970, undated
  66 Parents and siblings of E.F. Gaines (especially sister of E.F. Nellie Gaines later Gallagher and her daughter Hallie Gallagher); 1907-1917, undated
  67 From pocket-sized photograph album, primarily of Xerpha Gaines, children and grandchildren; 1961-1970, undated
  68 Xerpha and E.F. Gaines, 1907-1952
  69 Gaines home (many reproductions), Pullman, WA, 1935-1950
  70 Unidentified photographs (mostly negatives) developed for Xerpha Gaines in Pullman, WA, undated
  71 E.F. and Xerpha Gaines children (especially Mae Gaines); 1922-1934, undated
  72 E.F. and Xerpha Gaines children (especially John and Grant Gaines); 1940-1972, undated
  73 Wedding, Ramon Kent and Mae Gaines, 1938
  74 Ramon and Mae Gaines Kent family; 1941-1961, undated
  75 Gaines and Kent family acquaintances; 1919-1969, undated
  76-78 Miscellaneous (many unidentified and includes tintype and glass); 1902-1974, undated
    Series 6: Oversize items
    E.F. Gaines diplomas and membership certificate
6   8th Grade Completion, issued by Common Schools, State of Washington, Stevens County, 1901
    Completion of "Advanced Course of Instruction" to qualify to teach in any of Washington State Public Schools for 5 years and to satisfy eligibility for "Life Diploma," issued by Washington State Normal School, 1907
    "Life Diploma" to teach in "any Common School in the State of Washington, issued by Washington State Normal School, 1909
    Scientiae Doctoris (Doctor of Science), Harvard University, 1921
    Phi Kappa Phi fraternity (multi-discipline honor society), 1920
    Photograph: Washington State Grange members (panoramic view), Bremerton, WA, 1923 June 15
5   Processing file (collection background information)