Features appear in each issue of Pennsylvania Heritage showcasing a variety of subjects from various periods and geographic locations in Pennsylvania.

Each fall, when north­west winds blast down from Canada, knowledgeable bird watchers hurriedly make their way to the Appalachian Mountain ridges that zig west, then zag south through the center of the Keystone State. Binoculars in hand, they climb and hike the rocky ridge tops to await the thousands of hawks, eagles, and falcons flying south­ward.

Autumn’s winds have beckoned people to these ridges to witness this spectacle for one hundred years. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth cen­turies, those that came carried guns and the passing hawks were their targets. The shooting stopped and bird watching began seventy years ago, in September 1934, at this hallowed place, Hawk Mountain, straddling Berks and Schuylkill Counties. At a point on the Blue Mountain twenty-five miles north of the Berks County seat of Reading, a handful of courageous individuals took a stand and began to change the minds of many.

The saga of the unlikely transformation from shooting stand to sanctuary begins in the opening years of the twentieth century with a determined young man, Richard Hooper Pough (1904-2003). Born in Brooklyn, ew York, he was one of three sons of sulphur industry pioneer Francis Pough and Alice Beckler Pough, who met while students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.l.T.). Nature and birds had fascinated Pough since early childhood. On Rode Island’s Block Island, where his family summered, he watched a sand hill crane for several – until two men shot it. Pough scolded and chased them.

In 1919, the Pough family moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where Pough discovered expansive Forest Park, site of the 1904 World’s Fair, an ideal place to watch birds. Member of the St. Louis Bird Club elected him, at the age of eighteen, to be their president and he spearheaded the club’s successful effort to lobby the Illinois legislature to protect Cahokia Mounds, the remains of the largest and most sophisticated prehistoric native civilization north of Mexico. (Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, administered by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, located eight miles from center city St. Louis, near Collinsville, was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO for its importance in understanding the prehistory of North America.)

For his education, Pough followed his parents to M.I.T., from which he earned, in 1926, a degree in chemical engineering. (His father left college before completing his degree to accept a position in industry; his mother graduated in 1892.) Following graduation, he worked for his father’s employer, Southern Acid and Sulphur Company, and the Fulton Iron Work . When the Great Depression threatened business, he had a falling out with management and left. Jobs were scarce in 1931, but alerted by a professor at M.l.T., Pough found a position at McCallum’s, a photography laboratory and store in Philadelphia. He promptly joined the Delaware Valley Ornithological Club and in June of that year came across a startling report by Pennsylvania State Ornithologist George Miksch Sutton in the Wilson Bulletin, a quarterly journal of ornithology.

Sutton’s article mapped the locations where more than four hundred go hawks, a powerful, steely blue raptor, had been hot in the Commonwealth in 1926 and 1927. Pough was struck by Sutton’s reference to a “remarkable” hawk migration on the Blue Mountain near the village of Drehersville in eastern Schuylkill County, where twenty goshawks alone had been killed. A rare predator in Pennsylvania, the goshawk had migrated deep into the Keystone State’s woodlands during the winter of 1926 and 1927. The influx had alarmed officials of the Pennsylvania Game Commission who, concerned about the ruffed grouse populations, began offering in 1929 a bounty of five dollars for each goshawk. (The ruffed grouse was named Pennsylvania’s official state bird in 1931.) The establishment of bounties for destroying predatory birds originated with “An Act for the Destruction of Wolves, Wildcats, Foxes, Minks, Hawks, Weasel and Owl,” commonly known a the “Scalp Act.” Signed into law on June 23, 1885, by Governor Robert E. Pattison, the act authorized the payment of fifty cents for each hawk, owl, weasel, and mink killed. More than ninety thousand dollars in bounties were paid for the killing of 128,000 “certain noxious animals and birds” – most of them hawks and owls. The law was repealed two years later, on May 13, 1887, after C. Hart Merriam, an entomologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, pointed out in an official department report that the Scalp Act actually cost farmers between two and four million dollars because each hawk and owl destroyed approximately one thousand mice each year.

Nevertheless, the practice of predator control – whether of wolves, foxes, or hawks – prevailed and most states officially considered hawks as vermin. Gun clubs offered prizes to their mem­bers who shot the most hawks. The resulting, indiscriminate slaughter provoked the early defenders of hawks, including J. Warren Jacobs, of Waynes­burg, Greene County, whose fanciful purple martin houses were purchased by a number of personalities, among them Thomas Alva Edison and John D. Rockefeller. In 1916, Jacobs published a leaflet condemning the shooting of hawks (see “Curator’s Choice” in this issue). Like many opponents of the mass killings, he attempted to counter the prejudice against hawks with science, illustrating with pie charts showing that insects, snakes, and rodents made up 90 percent of the diets of red-tailed and red­-shouldered hawks.

Between the majority of people who believed “the only good hawk is a dead hawk” and the minority who contended that all hawks had a rightful place in nature stood many eminent birdwatchers and conservationists, including William Hornaday and Louis Agassiz Fuertes. A famous bird artist and professor at Cornell University, Fuertes reflected mainstream opinion when he advocated legal protection of hawks, except for the so-called “destructive” hawks or “bird killers,” specifically the Cooper’s hawk, the sharp-shinned hawk, and the Northern goshawk.

Richard Pough stood with the minority of absolute hawk defenders and, with Sutton’s map to guide him, set out on the first Sunday of October 1932 to find the site of hawk shooting at Drehersville. As he drove north of Reading, he stopped and asked residents, “Where’s a good place nearby to shoot hawks?” A farmer directed him to a road that crossed the Blue Mountain. As he motored to the top of the mountain, Pough counted fifty cars parked along the roadside. He parked his red Ford and headed up a well-worn path leading through the woods toward the sounds of gunshot. The trail ended in a clearing in which about four dozen men with shotguns spoke to one another in “Pennsylvania Dutch,” a High German dialect, as they blazed away at a steady stream of migrating hawks. Outraged by what he saw, but realizing that he could do nothing at that moment, Pough watched the slaughter in silence.

Pough returned to the site the following weekend with his brother Harold, William Jeans, and Henry H. Collins Jr., a fellow member of the Delaware Valley Ornithological Club. The mountain was deserted and eerily quiet. They encountered a solitary hunter who explained that hawks flew only on strong winds. Pough and his party clambered into the steeply sloped forest along the “Slide,” the path leading to the valley below the shooting stand. “A horrifying sight met our eyes,” he recalled. “Dead hawks littered the ground, but dozens were still alive and defiant as only a wounded hawk can be, despite festering wounds.” To assess the kill, the four carried the carcasses to the clearing, sorted them by species into rows, and took photographs. They counted 230, mostly sharp-shinned hawks. Although only the goshawk had a price on .its head, other hawks, except for the osprey and American kestrel, were legal targets in Pennsylvania.

Accompanied by friends, Pough visited the mountain four more times that autumn. One friend, Julian Hill, later described the patter of the shot falling on the dry leaves in the valley sounding like a tropical deluge. ”When a hawk came within range, a salvo of at least twenty gunS would go off. A small bird, like a sharp shin, would often disappear in a puff of feathers,” he wrote. Shooting was so heavy each year that several individuals collected the spent shells for scrap brass.

Returning home, Pough and his friends reported the extent of the shooting at Hawk Mountain to ornithological societies and bird clubs. He asked the Pennsylvania Game Commission to enforce the Commonwealth’s “blue laws” – draconian legislation originated to prescribe proper behavior on the Sabbath – that banned hunting on Sunday, the most popular day of the week for hawk shooting. He also wrote to the National Association of Audubon Societies (NAAS) which, in turn, appealed to the Pennsylvania Game Commission on the grounds that Pough had found slain ospreys protected by state law. His appeals fell on deaf ears.

In November 1933, Pough and Collins showed their photographs and spoke about the grisly shooting on Hawk Mountain at a joint meeting of the NAAS and the Linnaean Society in New York, an organization devoted to fostering cultivation of natural history in all of its branches. Among those in the audience was Mabel Rosalie Barrow Edge (1877-1962), a founder, chairman, and staff member, albeit unpaid, of the militant Emergency Conservation Committee, headquartered in New York.

A member of an aristocratic New York family, Edge had distinguished herself as secretary and treasurer of the New York State Suffrage Party. She gradually withdrew from the organization after 1919, when women won the right to vote and the name changed to the New York Women’s League of Voters. It was about this time that she dropped the name Mabel in favor of Rosalie.

Edge’s career as a conservation activist began in 1929 when she was fifty-two, five years after her divorce from Charles Noel Edge, a successful British engineer, whom she had married in 1909 in Yokohama, Japan, at the age of thirty-two. While vacationing in Paris in the summer of 1929, she received a leaflet from home, A Crisis in Conservation, written by Willard Gibbs Van Name, curator for the American Museum of Natural History in New York. In his pamphlet, Van Name identified thirty-five species of birds in danger of extinction and accused the NAAS of inaction and apathy. An ardent birdwatcher and life member of the NAAS, Edge was indignant.

When she returned home in September, Edge invited Van Name to her home to discuss his allegations. She came away from their meeting convinced of his cause and swayed by his conviction. In October she attended her first NAAS annual meeting, asking its board of directors to answer the charges Van Name had made in A Crisis in Conservation. Not long after the meeting, the museum censored Van Name. He asked Edge to form a committee to publish and distribute pamphlets he would write. She agreed to help, envisioning the committee – with her in a partnership role – as an opportunity to reform NAAS and to campaign for the protection of wildlife.

Van Name and Edge’s Emergency Conservation Committee would eventually produce and circulate more than ninety informational leaflets. The first distributed in December 1929, was entitled Framing the Birds of Prey;: An Arraignment of the Fanatical and Economically Harmful Campaign of Extermination Being Waged Against Hawks and Owls. The pamphlet condemned Pennsylvania’s goshawk bounty of five dollars, a substantial sum which was in effect from 1929 to 1951. “Not one hunter in a hundred would know a goshawk if he should ever see one, but the large bounty insures the shooting of every bird of prey on the chance that it will prove to be a goshawk,” warned Van Name.

With this background, Edge listened sympathetically to Pough and his gruesome accounts of the killings on Hawk Mountain. She left the meeting, satisfied that representatives of the Audubon Society would acquire the mountain property. Several times during the winter months, though, Pough contacted Edge, telling her that the society had done nothing. By spring, Edge had grown anxious and asked Pough to find a local real estate agent.

Edge, her son Peter, and Pough met a realtor at Hawk Mountain in June 1934. Although she lacked the personal wherewithal to purchase the property outright, she negotiated leasing it for five hundred dollars a year, with an option to buy 1,373 acres at $2.50 per acre. Van Name loaned Edge the money for the first year’s lease, a debt he later forgave.

It was obvious to Edge and Pough that they needed to hire a warden before the autumn shooting began – a tall order to fill in just two months. Edge asked Maurice Broun (1906-1979), naturalist at Long Trail Lodge in Vermont and former assistant to Massachusetts ornithologist Edward Forbush, to consider taking on Hawk Mountain. “It is a job that needs some courage,” Edge wrote. Broun’s response was characteristically enthusiastic. “Let me post, patrol, and otherwise guard that sanctuary, and you’ll never regret it,” he fired back.

He arid his wife Irma Penniman Broun (1908-1997) arrived in Drehersville on Wednesday, September 10. The next day he visited the offices of local newspapers to let shooters know about the lease of Hawk Mountain by the Emergency Conservation Committee. A day later the Pottsville Evening Republican broke the news about the sanctuary’s creation and avowed that Schuylkill County hunters were “incensed at outsiders interfering with their hunting. They feel that if hawks are to be protected, the state game commission should be the one to decide and have laws passed to that effect.”

Two days later the Evening Republican published a statement by Broun under the headline ”New Deal for Hawks Sought.” Broun defended hawks and challenged the widely held notion that killing predators increased game and songbird populations.

Among the first to applaud the creation of the refuge was Colonel Henry W. Shoemaker (1880-1952), a prominent reformist newspaper publisher, who praised Edge in his newspaper, the Altoona Tribune. Shoemaker, who later told Edge that he had unsuccessfully tried to stop the decimation at Hawk Mountain two decades earlier, became the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary Association’s first vice president upon its incorporation in 1938. (A colorful character, Shoemaker turned out hundreds of pamphlets extolling the Commonwealth’s history, scenic beauty, and wildlife. He served as chairman of the Pennsylvania Historical Commission, predecessor of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, under Governor Gifford Pinchot and later as State Archivist, director of the State Museum, and State Folklorist.)

Although the land on Hawk Mountain was secured by lease, it was up to Broun to protect it. He posted the property against trespassers and, in anticipation of organized opposition, hired an armed deputy who spoke Pennsylvania Dutch, Bob Kramer of nearby Auburn, in Schuylkill County. When Pough sent two husky young men, members of the Delaware Valley Ornithological Club, Charlie French and Dudley Wagar, to the mountain for a show of strength in mid-October, rumors flew fast and furious that Broun had hired two private detectives. Resistance eventually faded as shooters moved to other, more remote ridges. Not a single shot was fired at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary that fall, and more than 160 hunters were turned away without incident.

In the meantime, Rosalie Barrow Edge needed funds to operate and purchase the property and she informed Pough that she believed the purchase money should come from the Philadelphia area. Pough turned to his friends in the Delaware Valley Ornithological Club who assured him that if the National Association of Audubon Societies would take on the sanctuary, they would put up cash. Pough invited John Baker, NAAS’s new executive director, to Philadelphia and he promptly secured fifteen hundred dollars in pledges. However, when he notified Edge that he had raised funds sufficient to purchase Hawk Mountain, Edge bristled. She had no intention of turning Hawk Mountain over to the NAAS. On the contrary, she now envisioned an organization devoted solely to birds of prey and planned to incorporate the sanctuary as an independent entity.

Edge’s relationship with the NAAS had been punctuated with contention. She attended Audubon meetings, sitting with the individuals whom she, in trnth, despised. She listened patiently to speakers, many of whom she held in contempt, and in open session grilled them, peppering them with pointed questions they could not answer without loss of face. Edge’s entry in the Ecology Hall of Fame bears witness to her stature as an iconoclast.

They tried to dismiss her, but in vain. She had fifteen years experience in the political trenches. Next to her, the Audubon directors were rank amateurs. She was fifty-three years old, financially independent, living apart from her husband, and ready to devote all her time, energy and intelligence to bringing to light the collusion between the Audubon directors and commercial wildlife harvesters. In what must have been the most shocking revelation of the whole dispute, Edge discovered that the directors had, over the period 1921 to 1931, received $50,000 for “renting” their forty-acre Rainey Wildlife Sanctuary in Louisiana. The renters were trapping muskrats for their fur. Most important, Edge was angry with Audubon for its willingness to take a strong position on wildlife conservation issues.

Edge ultimately prevailed. She regained the Delaware Valley Ornithological Club contributions and the Audubon Society supported her efforts, underwrit­ing half of the sanctuary’s operating expenses in 1934 and 1935. She raised enough money for the purchase of the mountain by the end of 1935 and three years later, after the title cleared, she signed the deed transferring the property to the newly incorporated Hawk Mountain Sanctuary Association. It was a landmark year for Edge and the Emergency Conservation Committee. Not only had she and her committee created the world’s first organization devoted to the conservation of birds of prey, but after a four-year campaign, they succeeded in pushing a bill through Congress to create Olympic National Park, in Washington, which was signed by an enthusiastic President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on June 29, 1938.

Rosalie Barrow Edge renamed president of the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary Association for twenty-four years, raising money for its operation and building a loyal membership, which at her death in 1962 totaled three thousand supporters. Because of the Emergency Conservation Committee’s lasting achievements in protecting Hawk Mountain, Olympic National Park , Yosemite National Park, and King’s Canyon National Park, today’s environmentalists consider Edge a pioneer in the early national parks and conservation movement.

Hawk Mountain forever changed Richard Pough’s life. Shortly after the creation of the sanctuary, he went on to work at the NAAS for the protection of hawks and owls, at which time Edge severed his involvement with Hawk Mountain. He ascended to leadership positions in many conservation organizations, rising to the presidency of the Defenders of Wildlife. In 1950, he helped establish the Nature Conservancy and served as its first president.

In the sanctuary’s first year of operation, more than eleven thousand hawks flew safely above and across the mountain – watched by several hundred observers who traveled from near and far to witness the elegant flight of the soaring birds. The creation of the sanctuary, followed by public awareness efforts undertaken by proponents, eventually spurred mainstream conservationists to support full protection for all hawks as a new “hands-off” wildlife management policy for predators emerged. Three years after the founding of the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, the Pennsylvania Game Commission began protecting every species of hawks, except the bird-eating hawks. The goshawk bounty remained in effect until 1951. In 1957, hawks were protected during the months of September and October north of U.S. Route 22 and east of the Susquehanna River, an area which constituted the migration corridor. In 1970, Governor Raymond P. Shafer signed the “model hawk” law which extended year-­round protection to all hawks.

Through time, the public’s way of looking at hawks has been transformed.

One of the country’s most hated forms of wildlife, derided by generations as “chicken hawks” has become greatly admired and preserved by birdwatchers and the general public. Where hundreds of shooter had gathered in autumn, thousands of birdwatchers travel from near and far to witness, first hand, the stunning beauty of the soaring raptors. It was seventy year ago this fall that Rosalie Edge made her first visit to Hawk Mountain and devoted her energies and time to creating the world’s first raptor sanctuary. Hawk Mountain has attracted scores of celebrities, among them writer and ecologist Rachel Carson (1907-1964) and Roger Tory Peterson (1908-1966), renowned artist, naturalist, and author of the hugely popular birding field guides (who also served on the sanctuary associations board of directors). But the mountain also attracts an audience-seventy thousand in 2003 alone-of school students, teachers, nature lovers, birders, outdoors enthusiasts, hikers, and budding naturalists, who travel to Hawk Mountain in autumn to enjoy the thrilling spectacle of hawks soaring through the vast open skies just above the rocky promontory, as well as eagles, ospreys, falcons, kestrals, merlins and vultures swooping among the craggy stone outcroppings. It remains in the words of veteran naturalist Vernon Bailey ( who wrote to Rosalie Edge in 1941, “this school in the clouds that is reaching so far I and so many.”

 

Hawk Mountain Sanctuary Association

The largest and oldest member­-supported raptor conservation organization in the world, Hawk Moun­tain Sanctuary Association safeguards twenty-six hundred acres which, combined with thirteen thousand acres of private and public lands, make up one of the greatest protected tracts of contiguous forest _in southeastern Pennsylvania. Tn autumn 2004, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary Association will observe the seventieth anniversary of its stewardship of its refuge for birds of prey.

No matter the season, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary offers spectacular vistas­ – stretching as far as seventy miles! – of the Appalachian Mountains, with plunging valleys, sharp ridges, and dramatic rock outcroppings. But the real excitement occurs during the autumn months, just as the Keystone State’s flaming foliage begins to ignite this part of the Kittatinny Ridge, known by most simply as the Blue Mountain.

From August through December, a stream of hawks, falcons, and eagles­ – about twenty thousand each season – soar past Hawk Mountain’s craggy ridge top. Visitors from all parts of the world travel to the summit of this vast forest reserve to experience the thrill of watching the birds glide by at eye level! Since 1934, bird­watchers at Hawk Mountain have documented a total of 265 species, 96 of which have nested at least once, and more than 65 species that regularly nest at the sanctuary. About 150 species migrate through the area or nest on and near the mountain during the winter months.

Hawk Mountain Sanctuary Associa­tion operates a visitor center, open throughout the year, which serves as the gateway to its eight-mile network of trails. The center includes an exhibition galJery and nature bookstore. The sanctuary grounds feature a native plant garden, historic Shaumboch’s Tavern, entered in the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, and the newly-­opened Acopian Center for Conservation Learning, a state-of-the-art biological field station and training facility.

For information on visiting Hawk Mountain, including travel directions, hours of operation, and admission fees, write: Hawk Mountain Sanctuary Association, 1700 Hawk Mountain Rd., Kempton, PA 19529-9379; telephone (610) 756-6000; or visit www.hawkmountain.org on the web.

 

For Further Reading

Brett, James J., and Alexander C. Nagy. Feathers in the Wind: The Mountain and the Migration. Kempton, Pa.: Hawk Mountain Sanctuary Association, 1973.

Bronner, Simon F. Popularizing Pennsylvania: Henry W. Shoemaker and the Progressive Uses of Folklore and History. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1996.

Broun, Maurice. Hawks Aloft: The Story of Hawk Mountain. Mechanicsburg, Pa.: Stackpole Books, 2000.

Harwood, Michael. The View From Hawk Mountain: The Story of the World’s First Raptor Sanctuary. Mechanicsburg, Pa.: Stackpole Books, 1993.

Kosack, Joe. The Pennsylvania Game Commission, 1895-1995: 100 Years of Wildlife Conservation. Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Game Commission, 1995.

McWilliams, Gerald M., and Daniel W. Brauning. The Birds of Pennsylvania. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2000.

Wakely, James S., and Lillian D. Wakeley. Birds of Pennsylvania: Natural History and Conservation. Harrisburg: Pennsylva­nia Game Commission, 1983.

Weidensaul, Scott. The Raptor Almanac: A Comprehensive Guide to Eagles, Hawks, Falcons, and Vultures. Guilford, Conn.: Lyons Press, 2004.

 

Nancy J. Keeler has been director of development and communications for Hawk Mountain Sanctuary Association since 1991. A graduate of the Pennsylvania State University, she received her master’s degree in mass communications from the University of Florida. Before returning to her native Lehigh Valley to join the staff of sanctuary association, she worked for the Erie Zoologi­cal Society and WQLN public television and radio stations serving northwestern Pennsylvania. Site inaugurated the cataloging and conservation of the sanctuary association’s archives, which includes the papers of founder Rosalie Edge.