Victor M. Cassidy, a professional writer and conservationist and author of
Henry Chandler Cowles, Pioneer Ecologist, was speaker for the Duneland
Historical Society’s September meeting at the Library Service Center.
Cassidy told of Cowles (pronounced Coals) life and work, particularly his
work in the Indiana Dunes. Cowles was a botanist, ecologist, field teacher
and conservationist. He investigated and described plant succession more
comprehensively than anyone before him.
In 1965 the 53 acre Mineral Springs Bog which had been purchased by the Save
the Dunes Council in 1953 was renamed Cowles Bog in his honor.
He was born in Kennsington, Connecticut in 1869 and first came to the dunes
in 1896. He grew up doing farm work and had a passion for plants. He studied
at Oberlin College and did graduate studies at the University of Chicago.
He created the ecology curriculum at the University of Chicago where he
taught in the Botany Department until he retired in 1934.
In 1900 Cowles married Elizabeth Waller and they had one daughter Harriet in
In 1916 he testified before Congress in favor of a Dunes Park. He worked with
Jens Jensen and the Friends of Our Native Landscape.
A quote about Cowles from Cassidy’s book: “At the end of the nineteenth
century he made hundreds of field observtions of the sand dunes landscape
that rings the southern and eastern shore of Lake Michigan. His study
demonstrated that the outdoor environment is a dynamic system in which
plants, soil, moisture, climate and topography interact.”
Cassidy told of a collection of 4500 glass negatives taken by Cowles and
others, 1891-1936, which can be seen on the internet. A search for American
Environmental Photographs reaches the site where there are 251 Indiana Dunes
Henry Chandler Cowles, Pioneer Ecologist by Victor M. Cassidy was published
in March, 2007 by Kedzie Press and will soon be available at the Westchester
Township History Museum, 700 West Porter Ave.
Duneland Historical Society will meet at the Library Service Center on
Thursday, October 18 at 7:30 p.m. when the program will be the History of
Morgan Park, Chesterton’s First Subdivision, 1907-2007 presented by Betty
Members will receive information about the society’s fall dinner prior to the