Bird Observer - The New England Birding Journal

Bird Observer

The Birding Journal for New England

April 2015

Vol. 43, No. 2

A Commemoration of Birders at Mount Auburn Cemetery

Regina Harrison

Juliet Appleby Kepes, 1919 - 1999 (detail) (All photographs courtesy of Mount Auburn Cemetery)

From its founding in 1831, Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has been frequented by birds and by those who watch, admire, and study them. Many of those ornithologists and birders chose to remain at Mount Auburn in perpetuity, becoming a part of the landscape that supports so much avian life throughout the seasons. As you visit Mount Auburn this spring to enjoy its bounty of warblers and other migrants, keep an eye out for the names of the following individuals who contributed greatly to the study of birds and the avocation of birding in New England and beyond. This list is by no means exhaustive, but provides a sampling.

Path names of burial locations are provided here. If you like, you can obtain a specific location for an individual by visiting, clicking on “Graves” in the upper right-hand corner, and entering the individual’s name and a range of dates that include when that individual was interred. A pamphlet with a map is also available at the Mount Auburn Visitor Center for a small fee; it includes most of the individuals listed here. On the other hand, coming across one of these names by chance can provide a wonderful moment of unexpected communion with a past counterpart. For just as generations of birds continue to visit Mount Auburn, so too do generations of birders continue to arrive in spring, walking in one another’s footsteps along the paths and roads of the cemetery with a continuity that feels timeless.

Glover Morrill Allen 1879–1942 (Maple Avenue)

Allen was a zoologist and ornithologist, and president of the Nuttall Ornithological Club from 1919 to 1942. He was a professor of zoology at Harvard University and the author of many scientific publications, including The Birds of Massachusetts (with R. H. Howe, Jr., 1901), Birds and Their Attributes (1925), and Bats: Biology, Behavior and Folklore (1939). He also published numerous distributional records and regional checklists of birds and was a prolific reviewer of ornithological works. William E. Davis Jr. profiled him in "Glover Morrill Allen: Accomplished Scientist, Teacher, and Fine Human Being” in Bird Observer December 2011.

Oakes Ingalls Ames 1893–1970 (Begonia Path)

Ames was the president of Mount Auburn Cemetery from 1934–1963 and again from 1967–1968. He was also a director of the Massachusetts Audubon Society. With lifelong interests in horticulture and conservation, he recognized and developed Mount Auburn’s resources as an arboretum and a bird sanctuary, and oversaw the cemetery’s restoration following the hurricane of 1938 with those resources in mind.

Francis Parkman Atkinson 1851–1874 (Palm Avenue)

Atkinson was one of the nine original members of the Nuttall Ornithological Club.

Outram Bangs 1863–1932 (Woodbine Path)

Bangs was elected a member of the Nuttall Ornithological Club in 1880. As a young man, he was known to his fellows as a boxer and a keen quail shooter, and admired for his dazzling waistcoats. As a curator of mammals and curator of birds at Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology (MCZ), he built collections of worldwide fame, including a contribution of 24,000 of his own specimens. William E. Davis Jr. wrote about him in “Outram Bangs and the Creation of a World-Class Bird Collection at Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology” in Bird Observer December 1997.

Thomas Barbour 1884–1946 (Excelsior Path)

Professor of zoology at Harvard and director of the MCZ, Barbour was one of the foremost American naturalists of his time, specializing in herpetology but also a great generalist. He was a member of the Nuttall Ornithological Club and author of several books, including The Birds of Cuba (1923) and Cuban Ornithology (1943). William E. Davis Jr. wrote about him in “Thomas Barbour: The Last of the Gentleman Naturalists” in Bird Observer October 2001.

Charles Foster Batchelder 1856–1954 (Excelsior Path)

Batchelder was elected a member of the Nuttall Ornithological Club in 1877, and was a founder of the New England Zoological Club in 1899. He was an associate in mammalogy and ornithology at the MCZ and author of An Account of the Nuttall Ornithological Club 1873 to 1919 (1937). William E. Davis Jr. featured him in “He Spanned Two Eras: Charles Foster Batchelder, Last of the ‘Shotgun’ Ornithologists” in Bird Observer February 1999.

Thomas Mayo Brewer 1814–1880 (Yarrow Path)

Brewer was an early ornithologist and a friend of Thomas Nuttall and John James Audubon, who named Brewer’s Blackbird after him; his friend John Cassin similarly honored him in the naming of Brewer’s Sparrow. He was the editor of a revised edition of Wilson’s American Ornithology (1840), and author of North American Oölogy (1857) and A History of North American Birds (with Spencer Fullerton Baird and Robert Ridgway, 1874). He was a trustee of Mount Auburn, 1870–1880, and was elected a member of the Nuttall Ornithological Club in 1876.

William Brewster, July 5, 1851 - July 11, 1919. "For, lo the winter is past, the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come."

William Brewster 1851–1919 (Larch Avenue)

Brewster was the founder of the Nuttall Ornithological Club in 1873 and the American Ornithologists’ Union (AOU) in 1884. The first president of the Massachusetts Audubon Society (1896), he also amassed one of the best collections of North American birds, which is now at the MCZ. He authored almost 300 papers and the book Birds of Cambridge Region (1906). Selections from his journals were published as October Farm (1936) and Concord River (1937). He was an early conservationist who understood the importance of preserving habitat. His studies of the Cambridge landscape were discussed by Michael W. Strohbach, Paige S. Warren, and Andrew Hrycyna in “‘Saturday, April 28th, 1866: Saw The First Chimney Swallow Today.’ 150 Years of Bird Observation In Western Cambridge” in Bird Observer August 2014, and his writings were showcased in a series of articles compiled by Robert H. Stymeist titled “Gleanings from the Journal of William Brewster” in Bird Observer October 2003 through October 2004.

Zebedee Cook Jr. 1786–1858 (Rose Path)

Cook was a horticulturist and a founding member of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society in 1829, as well as a founder and trustee of Mount Auburn Cemetery from 1832–1833. During the early years of the cemetery, he called for the protection and preservation of birds at Mount Auburn.

Ruthven Deane 1851–1934 (Beryl Path)

Deane was an original member of the Nuttall Ornithological Club and a fellow of the AOU. He was a businessman by profession, but President Theodore Roosevelt referred to him approvingly as a “heart ornithologist” (Osgood 1935). After moving to Chicago, he became the first president of the Illinois Audubon Society in 1897.

Ludlow Griscom, 1890 - 1959

Ludlow Griscom 1890–1959 (Palm Avenue)

Griscom became a curator at MCZ in 1927; prior to that, he was an ornithologist at American Museum of Natural History from 1917–1927. An expert on Mexican and Central American avifaunas, he was known for his brilliant field identification skills, encyclopedic memory, and enthusiasm for the sport of birding, to which he attracted a host of followers and protégés. He authored several works, including Birds of the New York City Region (1923), Modern Bird Study (1945), The Birds of Nantucket (with E. Folger, 1948), Birds of Concord (1949), Birds of Massachusetts (with D. Snyder, 1955), and Birds of Martha’s Vineyard (with G. Emerson, 1959). His birding experiences during World War I were recently recounted in “Birding from the Front: A Wartime Letter from Ludlow Griscom,” edited by David Swain, in Bird Observer October 2014; William E. Davis Jr. provided further biographical information in “Ludlow Griscom: The Birdwatchers’ Guru” in Bird Observer February 1993.

Harriet Lawrence Hemenway 1858–1960 (Thistle Path)

With her cousin Minna Hall, Hemenway cofounded the Massachusetts Audubon Society in 1896, spurred by outrage over the devastation of colonies of Snowy Egrets and other birds for the sake of using their plumage in women’s hats.

Juliet Appleby Kepes 1919–1999 (Oxalis Path)

Kepes was an artist and a writer and illustrator of children’s books including the Caldecott Medal recipient Five Little Monkeys (1953). She collaborated with her husband Gyorgy Kepes on a series of experimental enamel panels of bird and tree designs for the Morse School in Cambridge, Massachusetts (1955), and she also designed a series of bronze birds in flight set against a wall of a playground at Clarendon Avenue Park, Cambridge (1980). Her elegant monument bears several engraved images of her fine bird illustrations.

Elizabeth “Betty” Petersen 1943–2013 (Andromeda Path)

Petersen was a volunteer and staff member at the Manomet Center for Conservation Services working on bird surveys, bird banding, marketing, and the Birders’ Exchange Program, which delivers used binoculars, spotting scopes, and birding equipment to Latin American communities that would not otherwise be able to afford them. She joined the American Birding Association (ABA) staff in 2000 when the Birders’ Exchange Program transferred to the ABA. She was president of the Nuttall Ornithological Club from 2011–2013.

Horace Winslow Wright, 1848 - 1920. The Lord is the strength of my life.

Henry Augustus Purdie 1840–1911 (Mimosa Path)

Purdie was an original member of the Nuttall Ornithological Club and a fellow of the AOU.

Henry Munson Spelman 1861–1946 (Olive Path)

Spelman was elected a member of the Nuttall Ornithological Club in 1879 at the age of 18, one of the youngest members ever admitted and also one of the most active. He was a lawyer by profession and was the son of Israel Munson Spelman, who was president of Mount Auburn Cemetery from 1874–1905.

Wendell Taber 1897–1960 (Excelsior Path)

Taber was a member of AOU and the Wilson, Cooper, and Nuttall ornithological clubs. He edited some of the final volumes of Bent's Life Histories of North American Birds for the Smithsonian Institution. An investment counselor by trade, he was “one of the most active and enthusiastic amateur ornithologists in New England” (Unknown 1972). He was the brother of Elizabeth Taber Taintor.

Elizabeth Taber Taintor 1895–1955 (Excelsior Path)

A local authority on birds, Taintor was active in the Massachusetts Audubon Society’s work to interest children in the appreciation of birds. She was the sister of Wendell Taber.

Charles Wendell Townsend 1859–1934 (Rose Path)

A physician by profession, Townsend was a prolific amateur ornithologist. Author of Birds of Essex County, Massachusetts (1904), Supplement (1920), and many reports in Bent’s Life Histories of North American Birds, he was a member of the Nuttall Ornithological Club and a fellow of the AOU. He was also a member of the Cooper Ornithological Club, the Wilson Ornithological Club, the Deutsche Ornithologische Gesellschaft, and a charter member of the Essex County Ornithological Club. In addition, he was a member of the Boston Society of Natural History and, at the time of his death, a director of the Massachusetts Audubon Society.

Horace Winslow Wright 1848–1920 (Lily Path)

Wright was the author of Birds of the Boston Public Garden: a Study in Migration (1909) and a member of the Nuttall Ornithological Club.


  • Allen, G. M. 1935. In Memoriam: Charles Wendell Townsend. The Auk, 52 (3): 227–232.
  • Brewster, W. 1912. In Memoriam: Henry Augustus Purdie. Born December 16, 1840 - Died March 29, 1911. The Auk 29 (1): 1–15.
  • Davis, W. E. Jr. 1993. Ludlow Griscom: The Birdwatcher’s Guru. Bird Observer 21 (1): 15–21. 
  • Davis, W. E. Jr. 1997. Outram Bangs and the Creation of a World-Class Bird Collection at Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology. Bird Observer 25 (6): 311–316.
  • Davis, W. E. Jr. 1999. He Spanned Two Eras: Charles Foster Batchelder, Last of the “Shotgun” Ornithologists. Bird Observer 27 (1): 12–18.
  • Davis, W. E. Jr. 2001. Thomas Barbour: The Last of the Gentleman Naturalists. Bird Observer 29 (5): 381–386.
  • Davis, W. E. Jr. 2011. Glover Morrill Allen: Accomplished Scientist, Teacher, and Fine Human Being. Bird Observer 39 (6): 327–337.
  • Heywood, J. 1992. Some Ornithologists & Benefactors of Birds at Mount Auburn. Pamphlet printed by Friends of Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
  • Osgood, W. H. 1935. In Memoriam: Ruthven Deane, 1851–1934. The Auk 52 (1): 1–14.
  • Peters, B. J. L. 1933. Outram Bangs, 1863–1932. The Auk, 50 (33): 265–274.
  • Souder, W. 2013. How Two Women Ended the Deadly Feather Trade. Smithsonian Magazine March 2013. Accessed February 5, 2015.
  • Strohbach, M. W., P. S. Warren and A. Hrycyna. 2014. “Saturday, April 28th, 1866: Saw the First Chimney Swallow Today.” 150 Years of Bird Observation in Western Cambridge. Bird Observer 42 (4): 202–213.
  • Stymeist, R. H., ed. 2003–2004. Gleanings from the Journal of William Brewster. Bird Observer 31 (5) – 32 (5).
  • Swain, D., ed. 2014. Birding from the Front: A Wartime Letter from Ludlow Griscom. Bird Observer 42 (5): 293–297.
  • Taber, W. 1958. In Memoriam: Charles Foster Batchelder. The Auk, 74 (1): 15-24.
  • Tyler, W. M. 1943. In Memoriam: Glover Morrill Allen. The Auk, 60 (2): 163-168.
  • University of Brighton. 2015. Juliet Kepes, 1919–1999, Accessed February 5, 2015.
  • Unknown. 1972. Obituaries. The Auk 89 (4): 939.

Regina Harrison is the executive assistant at Mount Auburn Cemetery and is an associate editor of Bird Observer. She is also engaged in a long-term habitat restoration project at her home in Woburn, Massachusetts, with an emphasis on providing year-round food and shelter for birds.

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