Anyone researching the history of the Buckeye Lake Christmas Bird Count, or even historical records documenting the flora and fauna of Ohio, is likely to come across references to The Wheaton Club. That’s because its members were instrumental in starting this bird count, participating on the count, and documenting the flora and fauna of the region and of the state throughout the years.
It is named in honor of John Maynard Wheaton (1840-1887), a Columbus physician and surgeon who became renowned as a naturalist and ornithologist. Although he wrote many scientific articles about birds, Dr. Wheaton’s most recognized work was the Report on the Birds of Ohio, published in 1882 (Geologic Survey of Ohio, Vol. 4, Zoology and Botany, pp. 189-628).
The Wheaton Club for the Systematic Study of Ornithology and Oology, was first organized in Columbus, Ohio, in 1896, by professors and students of The Ohio State University (OSU). Sometime in the early 1900s, the organization became inactive and disbanded for reasons that are not now known.
The group was reorganized in 1921, but with the name shortened to The Wheaton Club. Again, its membership was comprised primarily of zoology and biology professors at OSU, with the club’s focus decidedly on ornithology.
In the 1800s and into the first half of the 20th Century, an emphasis of all disciplines of field biology was identifying and documenting the presence and distribution of plant and animal species. This is evident in the professional academic work of many of the early Wheaton Club members, such as Milton Trautman, Charles Walker, and Lawrence Hicks among others. Also, the written records of the club — minutes of meetings and the annual bulletin — contain field sightings and results of field studies by members. The club’s records are archived in the Wheaton Club Collection of the Ohio Historical Society.
By the 1940s, the club’s membership included individuals from a broad range of professional disciplines, not just academia, but all sharing an interest in Ohio’s natural history. Although the club’s focus was still bird study, records indicate that the interests of members covered the spectrum of plant and animal life.
Current club membership is comprised mostly of generalists who have varied interests including (but not limited to) the study of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, insects, plants, geology and ecology.
Meetings are typically held on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month, usually in Westerville. For more information, please contact Jeffrey White.