22-28 February 2006

Installment #305---
Visitor Promo Codes

(Back to Preceding Week; on to Next Week)


During our undergraduate days at Newberry College--a small South Carolina Lutheran school about 40 miles northwest of Columbia--we'd heard of John Bachman but only because the College's academic society was named in his honor. Back then we thought Bachman was Newberry's first president--truth is he founded the College in 1856 and was first president of its board of trustees--and it wasn't until later when we got interested in birds we realized it was this man who lives on in the names of Bachman's Sparrow and Bachman's Warbler. From Hilton Pond Center we write this week about John Bachman because February is the month of his birth and death, having come into the world on 4 Feb 1790 and left it on 24 Feb 1874. We also want to spread the word in time for folks to register for a major John Bachman Symposium being held at Newberry College on 20-23 April 2006.

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center

After graduation we got a bit more interested in John Bachman, particularly his natural history work in South Carolina's Lowcountry that led to having birds named in his honor. We learned Bachman actually discovered Bachman's Swamp-Warbler (now known as Bachman's Warbler, above right), Vermivora bachmanii, and that much-more-famous John James Audubon acknowledged Bachman's natural history accomplishments through the naming of Bachman's Pine Finch (AKA Bachman's Sparrow, above left), Aimophila aestivalis bachmani. These two birds are represented today by outdoor sculptures on the front of the Alumni Music Building at Newberry College, depicted in the photo below.

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center

It's less commonly known that Audubon also honored his South Carolina friend and colleague via Bachman's Oyster-catcher (now Black Oystercatcher, below left), Haematopus bachmani. Until rather recently, other than being aware of these impressive recognitions we knew little else about the founder of our undergraduate alma mater and--like most people--were much more familiar with Audubon and his bird paintings. Now, however, we're become fascinated with Bachman and believe he was nearly as important an historical figure as John James Audubon, and that's why we're on a mission to alert folks to Bachman's contributions. No longer should John Bachman and his accomplishments be obscured by "the shadow of Audubon."

Our near-obsession with John Bachman originated six years ago when we got involved with Newberry College's alumni association and later became president-elect. It was then we realized we'd hold the alumni presidency in 2006--a very important year because it's the 150th anniversary of the founding of the College. We were determined the alumni association would play a major role in helping commemorate the College's sesquicentennial, so we settled on the concept of staging a one-day conference about Bachman's natural history work. However, the more we investigated this incredible individual the more we realized Bachman was so diverse a much bigger, broader symposium would be in order. In the end we settled on a four-day event and a title that reflects Bachman's eclectic endeavors: "Nature, God, and Social Reform in the Old South--The Life and Work of the Rev. John Bachman." Allow us to elaborate.

John Bachman was born in 1790 at Rhinebeck in downstate New York, where he spent his formative years. A rural upbringing allowed Bachman to spend his days exploring and studying plants and animals in local woods and meadows; understandably, he developed a deep appreciation for the out-of-doors. Young Bachman also became quite interested in Martin Luther--so much so that he decided to commit his life to religious service. He studied theology and as a teenager went off to school in Philadelphia; there he frequently visited John Bartram's famous botanical garden and met Alexander Wilson (above left)--who preceded Audubon as a great American ornithologist. It was Wilson who first convinced Bachman he could serve God and still pursue natural history studies.

Bachman's interest in nature and theology blossomed and in late 1814 he became ordained to preach in the Lutheran faith. Almost immediately he accepted the call to St. John's Lutheran Church in far-off Charleston SC--a destination he chose because he thought a warm maritime climate would soothe his chronic respiratory ailments. He arrived at St. John's (below right) in January 1815 and continued as pastor until 1871--an amazing clerical career of 56 years! During his lengthy tenure in Charleston Bachman developed into a true renaissance man. Although his father had been a slave owner, Bachman helped educate scores of Charlestonians of African heritage--an act both illegal and/or socially unacceptable in the antebellum South--and is said to have baptized as many as 90 blacks in one year, helping raise the "minority" membership of St. John's as high as 40%.

Early on Bachman fell in with a "Circle of Naturalists"--a group of physicians and nature devotees from the faculty of the Medical College of South Carolina and College of Charleston. Included in the group were such scientific authorities as John Edwards Holbrook (herpetology), Edmund Ravenel (conchology & paleontology), Lewis Reeve Gibbes (chemistry), Francis Simmons Holmes (paleontology), and John McCrady (marine biology). Together with Bachman (and Audubon) these men made Charleston one of the most productive centers for natural history investigation in the Western Hemisphere--rivaling even Boston and Philadelphia. Bachman's work, in particular, caught the attention of naturalists elsewhere--including Ohio physician Jared P. Kirtland, who further acknowledged Bachman's natural history contributions by giving the American Snout butterfly (above left) the scientific name of Libythaea bachmani (now L. carinenta). Other animals bearing Bachman's name are Bachman's Hare or Brush Rabbit, Sylvilagus bachmani (Audubon's rendering below right), which is related to Eastern Cottontails; and a southern subspecies of Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger bachmani, which has a black mask and white ears, nose, and paws.

Bachman took tremendous pleasure from his scientific study of birds, small mammals (especially rabbits, rodents, and shrews), wildflowers--in other words, virtually ANY kind of flora or fauna. Eventually his reputation as a highly competent naturalist became known to John James Audubon. On a trip to the U.S. in 1831--when Audubon solicited subscriptions to his monumental Birds of North America in which the paintings of the warbler and sparrow later appeared--the artist literally bumped into John Bachman traveling down a Charleston street, got acquainted immediately, and arranged to spend a month at the Bachman home. There began a lifelong relationship of affection, admiration, and respect between these two men.

As Audubon's bird folios began to sell, he and Bachman conceived of another project that would include paintings of North American mammals. Audubon acknowledged that Bachman knew far more about the habits of these creatures, so he did the paintings while Bachman wrote all the text for another massive work on the Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America, i.e., the live-bearing four-legged mammals. These folios included such exotic species as American Bison, Wolverine, and Musk Ox (above left)--animals unknown to the average American citizen--but the paintings and descriptions also documented common mammals such as Eastern Gray Squirrels and the invasive European House Mouse. Bachman--with Audubon's sons--brought Quadrupeds to press after the old artist's death in 1851. Among several animals first described by Audubon and Bachman was Red Wolf, Canis rufus (right), a now-endangered species that may have roamed acoss land that today is part of the Newberry College campus. (Many alumni believe the Red Wolf would be an appropriate mascot for Newberry's athletic teams, especially since its pelage often matches the school's colors of scarlet and gray.)

Back in 1816 in Charleston, Bachman had married Harriet Martin, who bore him 14 children (nine survived). In 1846, wo years after Harriet herself died, Bachman married her sister Maria; she--thanks to strong encouragement from Audubon--became one of the few women in 19th century America to develop talent in natural history illustration. Maria contributed to Holbrook's important North American Herpetology (her rendering of a Black Racer is at left) and painted background features for Bird of North America and the Quadrupeds project; in fact, she is credited by Audubon for painting the flowers that accompany his illustrations of Bachman's Warbler and Bachman's Sparrow. Critics described Maria Martin Bachman's renderings of insects and wildflowers as particularly good in that they coupled scientific accuracy with an artist's sense of color and natural beauty.

The Audubon family spent a lot of time in Charleston and, understandably, the friendship between John Bachman and John James Audubon grew--intensified by the marriage of Audubon sons to Bachman daughters: John Woodhouse Audubon (who also contributed paintings for his father's folios) wed Maria Rebecca Bachman in 1837, and Victor Gifford Audubon married Mary Eliza Bachman a short time later.

Despite Bachman's dedication to natural history--which he pursued by rising very early each morning--during normal business hours Bachman was feverishly active in church affairs and public education. In addition to his pastoral duties, he helped establish the Lutheran Synod of South Carolina, twice serving as its president. He helped found the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary at Pomaria SC in 1831 (now in Columbia), and then Newberry College in 1856 (where he contracted for the first campus building, above right, built where Smeltzer Hall now stands). As first board president Bachman oversaw Newberry's development and expansion for many years.

Bachman also took time to write in various venues, not the least of which was nearly 56 years' worth of Sunday sermons. Bachman's principal religious work was A Defense of Luther and the Reformation (1853), which countered attacks on Protestantism from Roman Catholics in the Charleston area. He also published several important natural history papers, including Two Letters on Hibridity (1850), Notice of the Types of Mankind by Nott and Gliddon (1854), and Examination of Professor Agassiz’s Sketch of the Natural Provinces of the Animal World (1855). He was a frequent contributor to the South Carolina Medical Journal (which included natural history essays), and spoke at science professional meetings on such topics as "The Migration of the Birds of North America" (Bachman's handwritten manuscript, above left).

As sectionalism began to disrupt unity in the South, Bachman wrote Characteristics of Genera and Species, as Applicable to the Doctrine of Unity in the Human Race (1864). This radical, controversial, but logically accurate text argued that master and slave were the SAME species, providing a scientific rationale against slavery. Although he held Unionist views, when South Carolina met to enact the Ordinance of Secession in December 1860 Bachman opened the meeting with a prayer and--disappointed the Civil War could not be averted--thereafter minimized his political activities, choosing to spend the war years ministering to the sick and dying.

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center

Near war's end when Sherman's army came through Charleston, Bachman was severely beaten and had an arm permanently paralyzed by Union soldiers; at the same time his scientific collections and library--slated for delivery to Newberry College--were destroyed. (The collection undoubtedly contained study skins of Bachman's Warbler, such as the one above and below--a male acquired in Florida and now in Virginia Tech's Museum of Natural History.) Partially disabled by the brutal physical attack at the hands of the military, Bachman nonetheless worked for another decade, finally passing away in Charleston in 1874 at the age of 84 years and 20 days. On the day of his interment, bells rang at local churches and all classes were cancelled at the College of Charleston, where he once taught.

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center

From this brief summary of Bachman's life and work you probably understand our new-found interest in him both as a naturalist and as a man of great diversity. You can also see why a major Symposium on Bachman is an appropriate way to kick off Newberry College's 150th anniversary celebration this spring. The alumni association has invited nationally known keynote speakers in natural history, theology, antebellum events, and race relations, and there will be a round of concurrent papers, field trips to nearby Lynches Woods (led by modern-day Carolina naturalist Rudy Mancke), an original play about Bachman at the beautifully restored Newberry Opera House, and a full academic Convocation and Bachman-era worship service with period music. Several direct descendants of Bachman and/or Audubon will be attending, and we're even taking an all-day charter bus excursion to The Charleston Museum (to see its collection of Bachman/Audubon art and memorabilia), St. John's Lutheran Church (where Bachman preached all those years and is buried in front of the altar), and a natural area near I'On Swamp (perhaps the last U.S. hangout of Bachman's Warbler). We're proud that in conjunction with the big event, South Carolina lawmakers have been signing city, state, and federal proclamations recognizing Bachman, Newberry College, and the school's 150th anniversary celebration.

The general public is invited to Newberry College's John Bachman Symposium on 20-23 April 2006; thanks to sponsorships the registration fee is quite low. To view the schedule and register--or to read more about the Rev. Bachman's considerable impact in diverse realms--check out Advance registration is due by 14 April 2006, but on-site registration will be available at a higher rate.

"Nature, God, and Social Reform in the Old South" will be a great weekend in the long history of Newberry College and will provide ample opportunity for the Rev. John Bachman to step from the shadow of Audubon. As they say in Newberry and Charleston and at Hilton Pond Center, "Ya'll come."

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center

Photos of Bachman's Warbler study skin courtesy Virginia Tech Museum of Natural History; Bachman migration manuscript photo courtesy Thomas Cooper Library,
Univ. of South Carolina.


Thanks to the following fine folks for recent gifts in support of Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History and/or Operation RubyThroat: The Hummingbird Project.

Laura Neath Black
Robby Bryant
(Magnolia Financial Planning)
Sherry Irving

Comments or questions about this week's installment?
Please send an E-mail message to INFO.

Be sure to scroll down for an account of all birds banded or recaptured during the week, plus other nature notes of interest.

"This Week at Hilton Pond" is written & photographed
by Bill Hilton Jr., executive director of
Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History.

You may wish to consult our Index of all nature topics covered since February 2000. You can also use the on-line Search Engine at the bottom of this page.

For a free, non-fattening, on-line subscription to "This Week at Hilton Pond," just send us an E-mail with SUBSCRIBE in the Subject line. Please be sure to configure your spam filter to accept E-mails from

If you enjoy "This Week at Hilton Pond,"
please help

Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History.
It's painless, and YOU can make a difference!

Just CLICK on a logo below.

Make direct donations on-line through
Network for Good:
Donate a portion of your purchase price from 500+ top on-line stores via iGive:
Use your PayPal account
to make direct donations:

Oct 15 to Mar 15:
Please report
your sightings of
Vagrant & Winter


22-28 February 2006

American Goldfinch--98
Purple Finch--47
House Finch--2
Mourning Dove--1

* = New species for 2006

4 species
148 individuals

11 species
317 individuals

(since 28 June 1982)
124 species
46,938 individuals

(with original banding date, sex, and current age)
American Goldfinch (8)
02/07/03--after 4th year female
04/18/04--after 3rd year female
02/01/05--3rd year male
02/20/05--3rd year male
02/21/05--after 3rd year male
03/06/05--after 3rd year male
05/01/05--after 3rd year male #1
05/01/05--after 3rd year male #2

Carolina Chickadee (1)
06/10/05--2nd year unknown

Purple Finch (1)
01/10/04--after 3rd year female

--Our local population of Ring-necked Ducks continues to grow. This week we had six
(four males, two females) swimming on Hilton Pond--up from three that have been here for several weeks. All of them likely will be departing soon for nesting grounds in Canada and the U.S. northern tier.

--Good numbers of American Goldfinches and Purple Finches continued at Hilton Pond Center, making this week the most productive so far with 148 birds banded. House Finches remain unusually scarce.

--We also had an excellent week for returns of birds banded at the Center, especially eight American Goldfinches. Two of these--both after-third-year males--are of particular interest because they were banded on the same day (1 May 2005) and recaptured nine months later on the same day (23 Feb 2006). This is an interesting exhibition of site fidelity AND date fidelity.


All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center

This Week at Hilton Pond
is part of the

(Back to Preceding Week; on to Next Week)

Up to Top of Page

Back to This Week at Hilton Pond Center

Current Weather Conditions at Hilton Pond Center

You can also
post questions for
The Piedmont Naturalist

Search Engine for
Hilton Pond Center

Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History is a non-profit research & education organization in York, South Carolina USA; phone (803) 684-5852. Directed by Bill Hilton Jr., aka The Piedmont Naturalist, it is the parent organization for Operation RubyThroat. Contents of this Web site--including articles and photos--may NOT be duplicated, modified, or used in any way except with the express written permission of Hilton Pond Center. All rights reserved worldwide. To obtain permission for use or for further assistance on accessing this Web site, contact the Webmaster. Promo Codes