By Ethel Simpson

The first recorded suggestion that a “Naturalist Club” be formed in Greenville appeared in a column in The Greenville Piedmont in 1959, written by Dave Tillinghast, local naturalist and Piedmont reporter.

Apparently this was an idea whose time had not come, for it was not implemented.

Since 1925, the YWCA had practiced conservation on its property at Camp Burgiss, Cedar Mountain, North Carolina.  Under the leadership of Mrs. George Stephenson, Camp Naturalist in the thirties and the forties and assisted by the Carolina Foothills Garden Club, the YWCA camp had developed into a natural sanctuary of unique interest and beauty.

YWCA leaders wishing to use the place as an outdoor education laboratory began to offer programs there for adults and families as well as for schoolgirls.  The response to this new venture was excellent, attracting people from the entire Piedmont area.


Of special interest were the wildflower weekends in May, the family camp in late August, the Labor Day weekend, the fall foliage weekend in October and the “Winter Walk in the Woods” in December.  These outdoor activities were supplemented from time to time during the winter months by nature slide-lectures in the city.  Jay Shuler, Greenville Naturalist, was among those who gave leadership to the YWCA adult-family program and was familiar with the response.

In the Spring of 1968 it was evident that the time for a “Naturalist Club” had now come.  Jay approached Ethel Simpson, retired Executive Director of the YWCA who was then serving as consultant to the camp, with reference to forming a group open to interested persons in the area.  To discuss this, Jay, Ethel, Metro Johnstone and Conner Tedards met for lunch at the YWCA and decided to call a larger group together to discuss the possibilities.  The following persons were in this group: Jay Shuler, Ethel Simpson, Frontis and Shag (John F.) Chandler, Metro Johnstone (Mrs. T. K.), Dorothy Welborn (Mrs. John F., Jr.), Peggy and Ernest Patton and Albert Southern (Dr. J. A.).  The group became a self-appointed Executive Committee with Shag Chandler acting as temporary chairman and Dorothy Welborn as Treasurer.  Dues of $2.00 per year to finance bulletins and correspondence were agreed upon.

The name, “Greenville Natural History Association”, was suggested by Frontis Chandler.

There was unanimity of opinion that the group being formed would have a minimum of structure – few committees or meetings, and there was to be no pressure on anyone.  People could “take it or leave it”.

The first newsletter written by Jay Shuler appeared in June 1968.  This announced the formation of the group, its general goals, and stated that the members were invited and dues were being received.  Suggestions as to possible activities in the area which might be enjoyed during the summer were included.

Those who had participated in the YWCA program and other suggested persons received the newsletter.  By Fall a program was formulated and another newsletter with an essay on the winter orchids by Jay Shuler and illustrated by Wm. C. Grimm, was issued.  Since then, up to 1974, ten other essays have been written.  Many have been illustrated by Carol Sutherland and written by Albert Southern, Bob Joerger and others.

On October 15, 1968 the first membership meeting was held, and Dr. J. A. Southern was elected President, an office he held for two years.

In the early years newspaper publicity by Jay Shuler in his “The Foothills Naturalist” column in the Sunday Greenville News, by Gil Rowland in his “Good Afternoon” column in the Greenville Piedmont and in calendars carried in both newspapers contributed to success in recruiting members.  “Word of mouth” was also an important factor.

Too much cannot be said regarding the talent and leadership in the group.  Among members were the following: authors (natural subjects), photographers, lecturers, rock hounds, poets, ornithologists, a herpetologist, botanists, a soil conservationist, artists, a chemistry professor and many amateur naturalists.  Those with special skills and knowledge included Jay Shuler, Albert Southern, Bob Joerger, Louis Tolleson, Carol Sutherland, Mary Frances Dodenhoff, Duane Jackson, Dorothy and John Welborn, Wm. C. Grimm, Roy Campbell, Ruth Gilreath, Joe Norwood, Meta Jones, Mary Louise Roe and Fred Bettis.  Also, the one and only Dick Garren, our outdoorsman and our own “Thoreau”.  To walk in the woods with these people and others who shared their abilities and enthusiasms has been a joy and an experience beyond compare.

For two years the group functioned in the unstructured manner in which it had begun.  Soon, however, it became apparent that a constitution and simple by-laws would be needed. 


Dr. Albert Southern                                   1968-1970

Bob Joerger                                                   1970-1974

Joe Norwood                                                1974-1975

Fred Bettis                                                     1976-1977

Joe Garrett                                                    1978-1980

Bonnie Whitfill                                            1980-1981

Bill Bozeman                                                 1982-1984

Margaret Brockman                                  1985-1986

Jane Snipes                                                   1987-1988

Peter Taylor                                                1989-1991

John Holliday                                             1992-1993

Ian Clarke                                                     1994-1995

Virginia Garrett                                          1996-1997

Clint Edwards                                              1998-1999

Jean Arthur                                                  2000-2001

Jane Clarke                                                   2002-2003

Jim Woodside                                              2004-2005

Gary Hayler                                                  2006-2007

Andy Heman                                                2008-2009

Ron & Sharon Blake                                  2010-2011

Bev Parlier                                                     2012-2013

Lynne Scoggins                                             2014-2015

Jerry Miller                                                   2016-2017


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