The Natural History Society of Barrington
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Established in 1945 as an outgrowth of the Barrington Bird Club that was formed back in 1926, the Society draws its membership from a number of Chicago’s northwest suburbs.

Its purpose is to enable its members and the general public to learn more about
the natural world about them as well as to encourage the preservation of natural lands.

This is accomplished through monthly meetings held at the Lake Barrington Woods in September through November and from February through May and by means of field trips scheduled to various parks, museums, preserves and other natural sites.

History: The first organizational meeting of the Natural History Society was held May 22, 1945,
at the Barrington home of Mr. & Mrs. Reuben Plagge with Mr. James Plagge acting as temporary chairman. Mrs. Robert Work was elected president at the June meeting and the Society’s constitution and by-laws were adopted. Monthly meetings followed at the Barrington Public School, now the site of today’s Hough Street School.

Dr. Julian Steyermark of North Barrington was elected the Society’s second president, an office he held for the next seven years. Dr. Steyermark, assistant curator at Chicago’s Field Museum and world-renowned botanist is well known for his pioneering botanical work in Venezuela and for his Flora of Missouri published in 1963. Dr. Steyermark encouraged the development of the Natural History Society of Barrington along the lines of the Webster Groves Nature Study Society near St. Louis.

Guest speakers at the Society’s monthly meetings have come from a wide range of scientific, educational and conservation organizations. These include, among others, the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium, Chicago Academy of Sciences, the Universities of Chicago, Illinois, Northeastern Illinois, and Wisconsin, The Nature Conservancy, U.S. Weather Service and Fish & Wildlife Service, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Agriculture and Nature Preserves Commission, McHenry County Conservancy District, Forest Preserve Districts of Cook, DuPage and Lake Counties, the Morton Arboretum, Brookfield Zoo, Citizens for Conservation and Friends of the Fox River.

Topics presented by our various guest speakers have included endangered species, local birdlife, spring wildflowers, local rivers, reptiles, archaeology, native trees, bats, white-tailed deer, ants, prairie wildlife, tropical ecology, birds and mammals of the United States and Canada and related subjects.

Each spring and fall the Society sponsors guided bird walks at Crabtree Nature Center. Short trips to other nature centers and museums, state parks and forest preserves are scheduled throughout the year. Longer weekend trips into Wisconsin or Michigan are sometimes on its agenda.

The Natural History Society has involved itself in a number of community projects and events in past years. These included participation in the former Barrington Garden Clubs’ Annual Show, sponsorship of a Nature Hobby Show for several years, a study of DDT poisoning of robins in the village of Barrington in 1957 and encouraging the preservation of Baker’s Lake and its adjacent oak savanna.

The Society commissioned and placed two large interpretive signs at the Baker’s Lake Savanna off Highland Avenue in Barrington. One done by artists Nancy Halliday and Chester Ryndak depicts the waterbirds of Baker’s Lake. A second sign done by North Barrington’s Beth Lee Cripe illustrates many of the wildflowers of the oak savanna.

Funds secured from the sale of sunflower seed for bird feeding which the Society sold from 1967 until 1997 supported the commissioning of these two signs. In addition, substantial contributions were able to be made to local, regional and national conservation organizations as a result of the seed sales.
The final meeting of the Society was held on November 16, 2017. At this meeting a formal turnover of the Society’s remaining assets was made to the Citizens for Conservation by Duane Heaton, President of the NHSOB to Steve Smith, board member of CFC.  
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Members of NHSOB and CFC attend the final meeting of the Society on November 16, 2017.
Photo by Stephen Barten

Cultivating conservation achievements for 72 years:
The Natural History Society of Barrington disbands organization

On November 16, the long-standing Natural History Society of Barrington formally ended its existence, yet celebrated its long, proud history of conservation achievements.  The Society also ensured that its investments in conservation would live on by transferring its assets to Citizens for Conservation.

 “While it is sad to see the Society’s 72-year existence come to an end,” said NHSOB President Duane Heaton, “it is fortunate that our assets can go to an organization such as CFC, whose philosophy and geographic range so perfectly match the Society’s.”
CFC board member Steve Smith accepted the transfer on behalf of CFC. He also gave a presentation on the Barrington Greenway Initiative, highlighting CFC’s vision and plans to link more than 14,000 acres of land across the greater Barrington area to improve ecosystems, biodiversity, and nature-based services to the community.

Long-time Society leader Chuck Westcott recounted some of the Society’s many accomplishments. The Society “was involved in a study of DDT poisoning of robins in the Village of Barrington in 1957; and supported the preservation of Volo Bog, Bakers Lake, and its adjacent savanna. It conducted a very successful sunflower bird seed sale for many years with the proceeds going to local, state and national conservation organizations; provided leadership for guided bird walks at Crabtree Nature Center each spring and fall for thirty-seven years; and brought to its monthly meetings guest speakers from a wide range of scientific, educational and conservation organizations.”

Westcott captured the sentiments of members, saying “The Society has touched many individuals during its time and I feel that it has been instrumental in educating residents in the appreciation and protection of the many natural assets of the Barrington Area. Like a frail and failing old oak tree, perhaps it has produced enough ‘acorns’ during its lifetime to insure that its purpose endures and that residents will always cherish and protect the flora, fauna and scenic beauties of the Barrington area.”

CFC committed to carry forward the Society’s objectives of “education about the natural world and encouraging local residents to preserve natural lands”.  CFC was also honored to formally recognize the Natural History Society of Barrington as a Barrington Greenway Initiative Supporting Partner.

 A Joint Press Release was issued on November 17, 2017 by both organizations, as follows: