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James Whalen was born in Collingwood, Ontario in 1869. In 1875, at the age of six, his family moved to Port Arthur, Ontario. Not long after the Whalen's arrival in Port Arthur, James' father drowned and he was left as the sole provider for his mother and younger siblings.
Once out of public school Whalen entered the logging and railway contracting business with a very strong drive for achievement. He cared deeply for the city of Port Arthur and wished to develop the city as much as possible. The empire which he eventually built included logging, pebble, dredging, shipbuilding, insurance, and real estate companies. For his involvement with the dredging and shipping industries, Whalen came to be known as the man who "put the Port in Port Arthur." One of his great accomplishments was the construction of the Whalen Building in 1913, which still stands today as the Thunder Bay Hydro Building. When it opened in 1914 it was said to be "the finest between Toronto and Winnipeg."
James Whalen married Laurel Conmee, the daughter of James Conmee, Member of Parliament. Together James and Laurel had five children, Hazel, Edward, Jim, Loley, and
During his last years, Whalen moved to the West coast to continue working with the pulp and paper industries. Within a few years he was diagnosed with Bright's Disease, affecting his kidneys. He passed away on June 4, 1929, while being treated in a Duluth, MN hospital. In recognition of this man and his accomplishments, the city of Port Arthur honoured him with a half-day holiday.
- Corporate body
The Thunder Bay Field Naturalists Society was first established on January 26, 1933 as a chapter of the Federation of Ontario Naturalists. The club originally consisted of 32 members, with Colonel Lionel S. Dear as president. After holding several meetings in 1933 the club dissolved, primarily due to the effects of the Great Depression. The Field Naturalists restarted in 1937 with Claude E. Garton as president. By 1939 there were upwards of 50 active members. The Second World War brought most club activities to a halt, as many members were busy with the war effort. The club was once again revived in 1946 by Dr. Howard Quackenbush and Dr. Albert E. Allen, who was president from 1943-46 and from 1951-53. Since then, the club has gained steadily in membership and continues to be active in the Thunder Bay community.
The Thunder Bay Field Naturalists originally formed to promote the sharing of knowledge about natural history topics among its members. At first, the club concentrated on the specific interests of individual members on certain plants, birds, fish, rocks, etc, but as time progressed they began to focus more upon larger environmental issues. The current goals of the Field Naturalists are to: acquire, record, and disseminate knowledge of natural history; to promote the wise use of natural resources; to stimulate public interest in nature and its protection; and to promote the preservation of natural areas. Throughout their history the Field Naturalists have engaged in many activities to meet these goals. They have regularly held field trips to various parks in the region. Members have lectured on natural history topics. They have brought in guest speakers at their meetings from the Lakehead University Biology department, the Thunder Bay region, and other individuals from outside the region. The club has also actively supported conservation activities to protect wildlife, including supporting a ban on the harmful chemical DDT. They have participated in discussions on the management of provincial parks, Ontario Hydro projects, and other environmental concerns.