Jack Miner: Westlake's world-famous conservationist
Jack Miner was born April 7, 1865, in the section of Dover Township that was known as Dover Center. He lived in a small weather-beaten home with a leaky roof, just south of where Jenkins Funeral Chapel now stands, on Dover Center Road near Westown Blvd. Young Jack was one of 11 children, born of English parents who made a meager living in the brickyard across the street from their home. Jack’s father worked long hours to form the bricks that were sold for $3.50 per 1,000.
As a young boy, Jack liked to work in the brickyard instead of attending school. He was not fond of school because he was teased for his English ancestry, fiery red hair and freckles. At age 12, Jack returned to school at the urging of his friends, and felt a sense of belonging when his teacher, Miss Minnie Chubb, gave him the job of starting and tending the fire in the schoolroom stove. He learned a few basic reading skills in school, but did not truly learn to read until he was around 35 years old.
Jack spent hours at Cahoon Creek near his home studying the lessons of nature. The creek was both a laboratory and play-yard. With great enthusiasm, he studied the habits of all that crept and swam. In addition, he learned lessons on birdlife that formed a foundation for his life’s work.
When Jack was 13 years old, hard times hit the state of Ohio. The Miner family reluctantly decided to move the family to Kingsville, Ontario, Canada. Although it was difficult leaving friends like Mr. and Mrs. John Cooley and the Pease family, the move provided a new income for the family and supplied new wildlife for Jack.
Jack went on to become a great conservationist (once named the fifth-best-known person in North America) and conceived the idea of reforestation and a sanctuary to protect wildlife.
He began the practice of banding Canada geese to study their migration habits and turned his sprawling farm into one of North America’s first bird sanctuaries, earning him the nickname “Wild Goose Jack.” He also lectured throughout the United States and Canada and was the first to use the word “pollution” in the way we use it today.
Auto pioneer Henry Ford once said, “Jack Miner’s companionship with the birds and his service to them have made his work known and have warmed the hearts of good people everywhere. He has taught us all that there is always something to do for one who looks for something to do.”
In Jack’s autobiography, he wrote, “It must be remembered that I was born, and spent my innocent boyhood days, in that dear old Dover Centre, Ohio; and I love the descendants of the men who were kind to me in my barefoot days... And some day I expect to go there and get a few bagfuls of earth from the spot where I was born, and make a ‘Buckeye’ flower garden under my observation window.”
In August 1961, Manly Miner, Jack’s son, rode with Westlake’s mayor in a local parade to celebrate the 150th birthday of our city. Then a truckload of dirt from Jack’s birth place was loaded in a truck and shipped to his Kingsville home by the local Kiwanis club for the “Buckeye” garden he wrote about.
In 2009, the Westlake Historical Society, in conjunction with the city of Westlake, refurbished the original Ohio historical marker that was placed in 1975 near the site of Jack’s birth. With help from the members of Rock Point Church, a memorial planter was built at the base of the huge rock located at the memorial.
This year’s annual Jack Miner Day will be celebrated August 21. To learn more about Jack Miner and his life, please visit the Westlake Historical Society museum, or check our website at www.westlakeohiohistory.org.