History of the John W. Sellars – Lebanon Chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society


Who was John W. Sellars?


The Migrant, December 1950, announcing formation of the Lebanon Chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society

The John W. Sellars Chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society was founded in 1950, but was originally known as the Lebanon Bird Club. It began as a group of people interested in promoting the appreciation of birds. One  of the group’s first activites was participation in the 1950 Christmas Bird Count, which was documented in the December 1950 issue of The Migrant.


This group started a lifelong tradition which continues in Wilson County today. Charter members included Robert C. Bone, Albert F. Ganier, Loyd Hester, Mary Frances Holloway, Graham Kash, G.R. Mayfield, Dixon L. Merritt and his wife, Harvey Scurlock, Mrs. J.C. Sellars, James Shaw, Jimmy Shaw, Dan Schreiber, Norman and Donald Thomas, and Mrs. Henry Waters.

john_sellars-04On the third Saturday of each month, the group met at various homes looking and listening for birds while walking along the farms and fields. Perhaps the group’s beginnings were similar to today’s membership in that it was a well-educated, friendly bunch encouraging to all ages, including a youth by the name of Bill Sellars. Bill’s passion and interest in birds eventually led to his parents’, John and Francis Sellars, involvement in the club. Stories of late night birding forays into the wee hours of the morning have been shared over the years–stories of how John drove the group in a church van searching for birds or on owl prowls. His sudden and untimely death in the early 1980’s led to the group’s decision of a name change to the John W. Sellars – Lebanon Chapter TOS.

Who is Dixon L. Merritt?

Dixon_Lanier_Merritt01Born in Wilson County Tennessee on 9 July 1879, Dixon Lanier Merritt was Tennessee State Director of Public Safety, taught at Cumberland University and was editor of The Tennessean and Lebanon Democrat newspapers. He also served as President of the American Press Humorists Association and contributed to several periodicals throughout his life. Merritt was also a founding member of the Tennessee Ornithological Society and the Lebanon Bird Club.

In addition to being a talented writer and editor, Merritt was a well-known poet. One of his best known creations is the following limerick penned in 1910 and entitled

The Pelican.

A wonderful bird is the pelican,
His bill will hold more than his belican,
He can take in his beak
Enough food for a week
But I’m damned if I see how the helican!