Meet One of the Pioneers of Excelsior’s Horticultural History

by | Nov 2019

A portrait of A.W. Latham

Photo: Kay Derner

A.W. Latham was a member of the State Horticulture Society for 59 years.

A.W. Latham (1845-1932) was the epitome of the nurserymen who played a large part in Excelsior’s horticultural history. He was born in Massachusetts and became a teacher, but horticulture became his life’s work. After the Civil War, he came to Minneapolis and taught in South Minneapolis schools. There he became interested in gardening, rented a $20 unoccupied city block, and started a garden.

In 1867, Latham married Cordella White and established their home in Excelsior. The house he built in 1873 is still standing today. At the height of his nursery production, he cultivated acreage on his own land, on land between his home and Excelsior cemetery, 25 acres on Christmas Lake, and land in Kansas, where he started nursery stock. Two other ventures were the first hothouse growing of vegetables and lettuce (during the winter) and a partnership in a seed business.

Latham was a member of the State Horticulture Society for 59 years. He oversaw the fruit exhibit at the Minnesota State Fair for 20 years and in 1893-94 designed and installed the Minnesota Horticulture display at the Chicago World’s Fair. From 1871 to 1893, he also served as town clerk in Excelsior township.

A variety of raspberry developed at the University of Minnesota fruit farm in Victoria was named the “Latham” in his honor and is grown yet today.

Kay Derner is a volunteer and museum coordinator for the Excelsior-Lake Minnetonka Historical Society. A.W. Latham is her great-grandfather. 


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