Chesterton Tribune

Author recounts Indiana Dunes place in the history of science

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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 1912.

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 pictures.

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 Canright.

Members will receive information about the society’s fall dinner prior to the program.


Posted 9/24/2007