History Of Ogeechee Audubon Society


The Ogeechee Audubon Society wishes to thank James F. Flynn, Jr. for sending this article to our chapter. The article is from an issue of the Georgia Ornithological Society’s publication “The Oriole” which was printed in June 1938 (volume III, No. 2, pp 14-17).

 

History Of The Savannah Audubon Society

By Edna A. Pigman

It was April in Savannah. The great Chautauqua tent was up in Forsyth Park Extension and Mr. Earnest Harold Baines of Meridian, N. H., was speaking. “My Wild Bird Guests” was his subject and, as he told in happy fashion of these friends, there was a quickening in the hearts of his audience: April had pierced the tent and was entering in on myriad tiny wings. He paused. Then, “Who will organize a society for the protection of birds in this beautiful city of Savannah?”

And then it was that one sitting not far away rose to her feet and answered simply, “I will.” Two others quickly declared themselves. And thus on the afternoon of April 29, 1916 the Savannah Audubon Society came into being.

The lecture was ended; but the writer of this history, realizing what she had done, hurried home aghast. However, to the heart’s S.O.S. came the answer in person: Mrs. Alex Thesmar’s great organizing- strength was to stand behind her.

For the present the volunteers of that fateful afternoon were pulling mightily together. The third day, May 2, 1916, found them, also Professor Hoxie, collaborating on the future of Savannah’s birds. It was agreed that Mrs. B. F. Bullard was to be secretary, and Miss Eleanor Puder treasurer.

The first public meeting of the Audubon Club was held at the DeSoto Hotel May 5, 1916. Six new members were enrolled. It was decided to visit the schools through the Parent-Teachers meetings as a means of interesting both children and adults in the movement of bird conservation. By May 22, 1916 the membership had increased to 176.

A committee was now appointed by the acting president to draw up a Constitution and By-laws. Among the new members was one with a gift for parliamentary law, Miss Dora Mendes. Her memory will ever sweeten the tangle of those early days. Aided by Mr. Walter Stillwell and Miss Puder she made the crooked ways straight. On June 5, 1916 the Pape School witnessed the reading and adoption of said Constitution and By-laws, after which a committee headed by Mrs. Alex Thesmar returned the following slate which was voted on as a whole and adopted:

OFFICERS

  • President- Mr. Walter B. Stillwell
  • First Vice President- Mrs. W. A. Pigman
  • Second Vice President- Mrs. J. S. Howkins
  • Secretary- Mrs. J. A. Montgomery
  • Corresponding Secretary- Miss Hattie Drew

MEMBERS OF BOARD

For 2 Years: Mrs. Victor Bassett, Mrs. J. F. C. Myers, Mrs. M. L. Myrick, Mr. W. L. Wilson, Mr. J. B. Copps, and Mr. A. P. Solomons

For 1 Year: Mrs. W. W. Gordon, Mrs. M. S. Lebey, Mrs. Charles Ellis, Mr. Robert Butler, Mr. T. L. Draper, and Mr. H. B. Skeele

HONORARY ADVISORY BOARD OF NATURALISTS

Prof. A. R. Hoxie, Mr. Troup Perrv, Mr. G. R. Rossignol, Jr., Mr. W. J. Erickson

Mr. Stillwell’s term of office was brief. Business caused him to resign January 20, 1917.

With the election of Mr. H. B. Skeele to the presidency, January 29, 1917, a firmer hold was given the society. It acquired membership with the National Society. Early bird walks were the fashion; weekly jaunts to Laurel Grove under the guidance of Mr. Rossignol drew many out. In March of the same year the Norman McClintock lecture packed the Savannah Theatre.

The next few years found the society digging in. Bulwarked on all sides by willing and efficient workers under the guidance of an able president, Savannah had become bird conscious. Mr. Gilbert Pearson, President of the National Association of Audubon Societies, had visited her shores and given several lectures; the Morning News and Savannah Press had generously cooperated with Mrs. Bassett’s Committee on Publication by which some bird was featured each week under a local signature.

Meanwhile the Boy Scouts were busy making bird houses. The work begun in the schools in 1916 had broadened its lines under the enthusiastic leadership of Mrs. Carleton B. Gibson’s Educational Committee. Regular monthly meetings were now the habit of the society; the DeRenne collection of birds was loaned to it and Professor Hoxie made happy displaying their fine points. Spring meant trips to Wormsloe and the Hardy Gardens. It was after breakfast served from the rose covered porch of the latter that Mr. Henry Oldys, national lecturer, mingled his famous bird calls with those of the birds. Mr. Herbert Job’s interesting lecture at the Bijou Theatre was accompanied with lantern slides. Mr. Job later addressed the schools.

During the first ten years the personnel of the Audubon Society saw many changes. Each spring brought new recruits. In 1921 Mrs. J. F. C. Myers was made treasurer; in 1922 the J. E. Wingos—could any name be more fitting?—had arrived; April 17, 1923 the writer was elected from first vice president to honorary president, and Mr. Gilbert Rossignol was made first vice president.

The second stage of the society’s activities was vastly more educational and professional. It had passed its infancy and, save for a love of excursions of all kinds, now entered upon a period of concentrated energy directed more and more to future generations through education of the youth.

Dr. .Eugene Swope, an ardent bird conservationist and superintendent of the Roosevelt Bird Sanctuary at Oyster Bay, Long Island, had visited the schools in Savannah and through his talks and lecture given at the Thirty-fifth Street Junior High School (now Richard Arnold Junior High School) January 24, 1928 had paved the way for a field agent: one to direct the children in the enjoyment of birds and understanding of their economic value. The work was undertaken and Mrs. J. E. Wingo chosen for the position.

The first report made by Mrs. Wingo, May, 1928, shows 179 Junior Audubon Clubs and 6,250 members. The next year’s report tells of the endeavor to make each school a sanctuary for birds and the placing of bird baths on the school lawns.

At the very beautiful exhibit put on by the Audubon Society at the Georgia State Fair and arranged by Mrs. Bassett, Mrs. Wingo and Mr. Copps, a frieze of posters by high school pupils extended around the top of the booth. This exhibit won a blue ribbon and $15.00 for the society. Mr. Skeele speaks in gratitude of Mrs. Wingo’s work, that “in every way the society has reason to feel a pride” in it.

At the very beautiful exhibit put on by the Audubon Society at the Georgia State Fair and arranged by Mrs. Bassett, Mrs. Wingo and Mr. Copps, a frieze of posters by high school pupils extended around the top of the booth. This exhibit won a blue ribbon and $15.00 for the society. Mr. Skeele speaks in gratitude of Mrs. Wingo’s work, that “in every way the society has reason to feel a pride” in it.

Turning back the pages to January, 1928 it is Mrs. Bassett who is second vice president; in January, 1931 Mrs. J. R. Cain who is secretary and Mr. Wingo treasurer. There is a note of sadness in Mr. Rossignol’s saying goodbye to Savannah and a growing feeling of pride in Mrs. Bassett—now next to the president.

At the very beautiful exhibit put on by the Audubon Society at the Georgia State Fair and arranged by Mrs. Bassett, Mrs. Wingo and Mr. Copps, a frieze of posters by high school pupils extended around the top of the booth. This exhibit won a blue ribbon and $15.00 for the society. Mr. Skeele speaks in gratitude of Mrs. Wingo’s work, that “in every way the society has reason to feel a pride” in it.

It is mostly pride that goes with one the rest of the way: pride in Mrs. Cain as she faithfully records each meeting, pride in Mr. Skeele’s resourcefulness in providing interesting speakers—Mr. E. B. Whitehead, Federal Game Warden, and his successor, Mr. John C. Boswell; Mr. Alexander Sprunt, Jr., Curator at the Charleston Museum; and Mr. John H. Baker who lectured in the Gold Room of the DeSoto Hotel.

At the very beautiful exhibit put on by the Audubon Society at the Georgia State Fair and arranged by Mrs. Bassett, Mrs. Wingo and Mr. Copps, a frieze of posters by high school pupils extended around the top of the booth. This exhibit won a blue ribbon and $15.00 for the society. Mr. Skeele speaks in gratitude of Mrs. Wingo’s work, that “in every way the society has reason to feel a pride” in it.

It is with increasing pride that the society and its friends, gathered for the dedication of the beautiful bronze bird sign erected near the approach to the Savannah River bridge, read the words, “Protect the Birds. Savannah Audubon Society;” while listening to a brief resume of its history by the President, Mr. H. B. Skeele; and address by that friend of birds, Mr. James B. Copps. One regrets that the birds were not word-wise on that occasion.

At the very beautiful exhibit put on by the Audubon Society at the Georgia State Fair and arranged by Mrs. Bassett, Mrs. Wingo and Mr. Copps, a frieze of posters by high school pupils extended around the top of the booth. This exhibit won a blue ribbon and $15.00 for the society. Mr. Skeele speaks in gratitude of Mrs. Wingo’s work, that “in every way the society has reason to feel a pride” in it.

These are the same enthusiasts with, now, the John Seymours and the Hugh Tallants, recent members, and many others. There is the Bird Lady, Mrs. Wingo, and her following of children; and there in the trees looking down are the birds. It is May 30, 1934, day of the dedication of the bird bath in Forsyth Park. It is Mr. Tallant who has designed it, a clear pool of water circled in rocks amid a setting of trees, ferns and flowers. It is Mr. Seymour, acting for Mr. Skeele, who presents the bath to the city; Alderman H. E. Wilson, who accepts it in the name of the Mayor, and Miss Angela Altick, teacher at one of the schools, who leads the children in singing “Hark, Hark, the Lark” and other songs. Mr. Copps’ hand shows in the landscaping and his are the lines, “Thanksgiving for Water,” written for the occasion. Over all lingers heaven’s smile in a perfect spring day.

At the very beautiful exhibit put on by the Audubon Society at the Georgia State Fair and arranged by Mrs. Bassett, Mrs. Wingo and Mr. Copps, a frieze of posters by high school pupils extended around the top of the booth. This exhibit won a blue ribbon and $15.00 for the society. Mr. Skeele speaks in gratitude of Mrs. Wingo’s work, that “in every way the society has reason to feel a pride” in it.

How swiftly fly the years! It is now May 14, 1937, and the place the beautiful parlors of the Skeele home. There is nothing new in the society’s meeting here, but some new sadness and new joy seem to be present. It is the annual meeting of the society and a new slate has been made up. But we shall let Mrs. Bassett tell it:

“After twenty years of faithful service our president feels that he must discontinue his work as president to our very great regret.

“Now that the time has come that another must succeed him we wish, as a very small token of our great appreciation, to present him with these books on birds which we hope he will enjoy. . . .

“As Mr. Skeele looks over the books we hope they will bring back happy memories. . . . These we herewith present with beautiful affection and appreciation to our dear friends, Mr. and Mrs. Skeele.”

Thus Mr. Skeele was elected honorary president, and Mr. John B. Seymour, president.

October 9 and 10, 1937 was the meeting of the Georgia Ornithological Society, honored guests of this, the oldest organized bird study group in the state. Dr. R. J. H. DeLoach of Statesboro, presided at the afternoon business session held at the Armstrong Junior College; Mrs. Bassett welcomed the visitors and Mrs. J. C. Oliver of the Atlanta Bird Club responded. The large gathering at dinner in the college grill presented a merry crowd to which the witticisms of Dr. Eugene Murphey, toastmaster, gave added zest. Mr. Alexander Sprunt’s stirring appeal for bird protection closed the day’s entertainment. Sunday morning was given over to a trip to Oysterbed Island led by Mr. Ivan Tomkins of Savannah. It was a distinguished gathering that did honor to these shores, and a happy time long to be remembered.

Though Mr. Seymour wrote from England his acceptance of the presidency and all hearts made ready to receive him, it was not to be. And so it is Mrs. Seymour who will carry on for him the activities of the Savannah Audubon Society.