Hometown Heroes: Jack Miner

In 1944, United States newspapers were publishing eulogies and paying tribute to the fifth-best-known man in North America behind only Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Charles Lindbergh, and Eddie Rickenbacker. The man receiving this tribute was Jack Miner, a noted naturalist and lecturer who was born in Westlake (then known as Dover Center, Ohio) in the year 1865.

Mr. Miner was one of 10 children living in a small frame house that stood near the intersection of Dover Center and Westown Blvd. Jack's English-born parents made a meager living in a brickyard located across the street from the family home. As a boy, Jack chose to work long hours in the brickyard instead of attending school because he was teased relentlessly about his fiery red hair and freckles. He only returned to school at the age of 12 because he was urged to return by friends Jack Rublin, Jack Klotze, Herbert Pease and George Hubbard.

During the years Jack was not in school, he spent hours learning the lessons of nature. The creek that ran near his home was both a play yard and a laboratory. Jack spent a great deal of time studying the creatures that crept and swam there, as well as the lessons he learned about bird life that would become his life's work.

Hard times hit the state of Ohio when Jack was 13 years old, and the family moved north to Kingsville, Ontario, Canada. Although it was hard leaving kind people like Mr. and Mrs. John Cooley and the Pease family, a new brickyard supplied income for the family and the Canadian fields supplied new wildlife for Jack to study.

Jack later transformed the family farm land into a wild life refuge to study the migratory habits of Canadian Geese (and other water fowl). He banded the legs of thousands of wild birds that visited the sanctuary, each with aluminum bands that also bore a printed Bible verse.

As early as 1906, a large Minneapolis newspaper recognized Jack as the "Father of the Conservation Movement." He lectured throughout the U.S. and Canada and was one of the first to use the term "Pollution."

By 1910, over 350 Canadian Geese had landed at his sanctuary. Not only did waterfowl visit his sanctuary, so did visitors from all over the world (as many as 15,000 people visited in one day), including Henry Ford, Ty Cobb and President Herbert Hoover.

Miner never forgot his roots. In his autobiography, he wrote,"It must be remembered that I was born, and spent my innocent boyhood days, in that dear old Dover Center, Ohio; and I love the descendants of the men who were kind to me in my barefoot days....Such is the burning love I have for the land of my birth."

In 2009, the Westlake Historical Society led the refurbishment of the Jack Miner historical marker located at Dover Center Rd. and Westown Blvd. To learn more about Mr. Miner, please e-mail Lysa at westlakehistory@yahoo.com.   

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Volume 2, Issue 17, Posted 7:33 PM, 08.20.2010