The Pasadena Audubon Society had its first meeting on March 25, 1904 presided over by its Chairman, Dr. Garrett Newkirk (the office of President wasn’t created until 1908). He had come from Chicago with his wife Martha and their son John in the late 1890’s and settled in Altadena at the head of Santa Rosa Avenue building his house in a grove of eucalyptus trees. He was a dentist by profession but was passionate about the protection of birds.
At the end of the 19th Century an uneasy and mistrustful relationship had developed between bird protectionists and the professional ornithologists. To illustrate, in 1902, Charles B. Cory, president-elect of the American Ornithologists’ Union, when invited by the District of Columbia Audubon Society to speak responded: “I do not protect birds. I kill them.” Dr. Newkirk wrote a letter to the Condor, the Bulletin of the Cooper Ornithological Club, in which he protested “the cruel indifference to and lack of genuine sympathy with bird life on the part of some of the scientific ornithologists”.
With the formation of Pasadena Audubon Dr. Newkirk served as temporary Chairman, as President (1910-1919), as program chairman and as a speaker. At one program he told of beautiful cloaks, helmets and necklets woven from feathers from the Hawaiian Islands which had resulted in the extermination of some of the birds there.
Newkirk was fond of creating bird poetry which he often presented at the meetings. Many of his poems can be found in “Bird-Lore” published by the MacMillan Company.