The early days…
On February 13, 1913, “a group of nature lovers in the Town of Bedford organized the Bedford Audubon Society, as an affiliate of the National Audubon Society”1.
As we started to think about our 110th anniversary, we wanted to take a closer look at where we have come from. While little is known about that very early iteration of the Society, we do have copies of the very first annual report, published in 1914, and we know the names of our very first officers: William G. Borland, President; Miss Mary A. Clark, Recording Secretary; Mrs. Henry C. Hopkins, Corresponding Secretary & Treasurer; Henry M. Howe, Christmas Nesting-Box Committee.
From the very beginning, “the object of this Society shall be to increase the bird population of this region”2. While we recognize our remit is now so much broader, everything we do is ultimately “for the birds”. Even back in 1913-14 we delivered programs and lectures; we fostered partnerships with local organizations and schools; distributed books and leaflets to spread the word and advocate for change; and took steps to organize “field excursions under a competent leader for the purpose of learning to recognize our various birds by their appearance, flight and note”2.
Like any organization, we have been continually evolving over more than a century. We know the Society was active for about 10 years and continued to pay annual dues to National Audubon through the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s “with the hope that sometime a group of persons interested in birds and all other wildlife will offer to revive bird and animal protection activities in this community”3.
And then in 1948 – voila – Bedford Audubon Society springs back to life: an invitation from National to the organization meeting of the Bedford Audubon Society, Friday December 3, 1948, at the Bedford Hills Community House. From this day forward, Bedford Audubon became a branch of the National Audubon Society. Moving into 1949 and we held our first meeting of the Board of Directors at Bylane, the home of Mr. and Mrs. Morgan Parker, Week Street, Katonah (Week Street is now Todd Road), although regular meetings continued to be held at the Bedford Hills Community House.
Fast forward to 1975, and Bedford Audubon was incorporated into its current iteration as a chapter of National Audubon, at which time “the territory in which the corporation’s activities are principally to be conducted is northern Westchester County in the State of New York, comprised mainly of the Towns of Bedford, New Castle, North Castle, Lewisboro, Mt. Pleasant, North Salem, Ossining, Pound Ridge, Somers, and Yorktown”4.
As we celebrate our 110th anniversary and reflect on our history, we should recognize our achievements as one of the oldest Audubon chapters in the country. And as we move forward into the next 110 years, celebrate all that has come before.
Happy Birthday, Bedford Audubon!
1 The Bedford Audubon Society First Annual Report, May 6, 1949
2 Bedford Adubuon Society First Annual Report, 1914
3 Mount Kisco, N.Y. Times, January 14, 1943
4 Incorporation of Bedford Audubon Society, 1975