Indiana, PA - Indiana County

Local author pens historical booklet

by on February 02, 2014 1:55 AM

Indiana County Parks & Trails director and part-time author Ed Patterson has penned another interesting sidelight on the county’s natural history.

Patterson’s latest offering is a short booklet on Richard White Wehrle, regarded as the county’s foremost naturalist and herpetologist of his time.

Wehrle was born in Indiana in 1852 and was a successful jeweler, but his passion was the natural history of the county.

He collected hundreds of fish, snakes, insects and turtles around Indiana County and submitted them to museums.

In 1912 he founded a Boys Naturalist Club in Indiana and directed the boys in building and placing 400 birdhouses in Indiana.

In 1930 he sent 1,000 butterflies and insects collected in Indiana County to the Honolulu Museum, which he had visited the year before during a five-month world tour.

In 1911 Wehrle collected a salamander in the Two Lick Hills area of the county that until then was unknown to science.

It was named Plethodon wehrlei in his honor by the Academy of Sciences in Philadelphia.

Patterson has found some of the 6-inch long, bluish-black Wehrle’s salamanders in Blue Spruce Park. Wehrle was wellknown around Indiana during his lifetime, but only a couple reminders of him are visible today. “R.W. Wehrle 1904” is etched on the stone front of the building at 560 Philadelphia St., the site of his former jewelry store. And Wehrle’s Way is a small side street in the borough’s Second Ward.

Limited copies of Patterson’s booklet, “R.W. Wehrle — A Natural Life,” will be available at the Indiana County parks.

Randy Wells has been a reporter and staff writer at The Indiana Gazette since 1988. His regular assignments include coverage of the Indiana County commissioners, Indiana Borough council and the Marion Center Area School District. His email address is
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