Treasures reside in the Tall Timbers Archives
Long-time Tall Timbers archivist Juanita Whiddon, who is closing in on retirement, has ceded archival duties to me. I’ve been exploring the shelves in the archives to learn about its holdings. What is in all those boxes on the shelves?
The Tall Timbers archives holds institutional records from 1958 to the present. However, there are also private papers including diaries from 1891–1963 of Henry Ludlow Beadel and his wife Genevieve Dillon Beadel, as well as their extensive film collection. These records have been used by Juanita to interpret the Beadel House. There are also correspondence and field notes of Herbert L. Stoddard (1925–1966); correspondence, field notes and photographs of Edward V. Komarek and his brother Roy Komarek (1930s–1980s); as well has records for many of the Beadel Fellows who have contributed scientific and historical research while associated with Tall Timbers.
Stoddard Bird Observation Data Cards
While learning my way around the collection of records in the archives, I came across several metal card cases. The cases had belonged to Herbert Stoddard. Inside were 269 typed 4×6 cards with individual bird observations, most from 1931-1951; slips of paper labeled manuscript notes with bird observations from 1924-1929; some calendar pages; and small field notebooks and loose notebook pages. Stoddard made notes on many of the cards. Most of the bird observations Stoddard made were in north Florida. There are only seven observations noted from south Georgia; they were in Grady County and Thomas County. What a treasure of information!
The cards are organized by bird type: herons, ducks, vireos, warblers, sparrows, finches, birds of prey, game birds, shore birds, woodpeckers, swallows, etc. Each bird has its own labeled card divider; each card lists the county and date where the bird was observed.
In search of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker
My curiosity peaked, I looked for a card divider for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker. To my dismay, there wasn’t one. But soon after, I was happy to find a data card for the Ivory-billed woodpecker in with the Pileated Woodpecker cards in the case. The card describes two Ivory-bill sightings, neither by Stoddard. However, one sighting noted was on April 5, 1918 at Wakulla Springs by H. L. Beadel, Tall Timbers benefactor and close Stoddard friend. As Beadel was a daily diarist, I checked the diary card for that date, and sure enough, he writes about the Ivory-bill sighting. The other sighting noted was in 1933, also at Wakulla Springs, by the Wakulla County game warden.
The Pileated Woodpecker card lists the following counties where the bird was observed: Wakulla County, Jefferson County, Leon County, Walton County, Liberty County*, Franklin County 1931-1951; *On the card Stoddard writes about his search for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker during 1950 at Scott’s Ferry, Liberty County.
As previously stated, most of the bird observations were made in north Florida. Leon County, Jefferson County, Gadsden County, Wakulla County and Franklin County were close by to Stoddard’s home, Sherwood Plantation in Grady County, Georgia. During the time period, Stoddard also made almost yearly visits farther away to Liberty County (Scott’s Ferry**), DeFuniak Springs in Walton County, Bay County, and a few times to an island off Pensacola.
**Multiple bird cards indicate that Scott’s Ferry is in Liberty County, but the unincorporated town of Scott’s Ferry is on State Road 71 in Calhoun County, which is bordered by Apalachicola River in the east and is bisected by the Chipola River. Liberty County is across the Apalachicola River to the east of Calhoun County. It’s interesting to note that none of the bird cards have Calhoun County listed as an observation site.
Ivory-bills were believed to be extinct by the 1970s in the United States. As sightings of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker are reported (without definitive proof), the search for the existence of the bird in the Southeast continues, even as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is ready to declare it extinct.
Historic Photo Found of Participants and Spectators at the 1947 Georgia–Florida Field Trials
When I was checking out a box of records on an Archives shelf, which included photos used in Herbert L. Stoddard’s Memoirs of a Naturalist, I came across a photo that I hadn’t seen before. I recognized a couple of people, including Stoddard, but it wasn’t labeled, so I didn’t have a clue as to when and where the photo was taken. I checked with Kevin McGorty, director of Tall Timbers Land Conservancy, and he remembered the photo from a newspaper clipping he had seen while doing research on Livingston Place. It ran in the Tallahassee Democrat on February 23, 1947; Kevin sent me a copy of the clipping, which listed the names of those present, including Mr. and Mrs. Gerald Livingston.
As the names are hard to read on clipping, I looked at a copy of a book that is part of the library collection in the Archives, The Georgia–Florida Field Trial Club 1916-1948, to verify the names. Luckily the photo is included there, with members listed. It was taken on the steps of the old antebellum (Ponder) house at Sunny Hill Plantation in February 1947, after lunch and the annual Field Trial Club meeting. While reviewing the book, I saw that Herbert Stoddard was the official timekeeper; there is a photo of him on horseback in this capacity.
Many of the last names in the photo are of families who are longtime supporters of Tall Timbers; through the years they have served on its Board of Trustees, made significant financial contributions, and even donated conservation easements. These benefactors have helped the organization carry out its mission, weather challenges, and thrive for over 60 years.