by Clay Coppedge
The best friend Texas trees ever had
people might be tempted to refer to W. Goodrich Jones as the original
tree hugger. While there is no record of Jones in an arbor embrace,
he was no doubt a pioneering conservation and a profound and lasting
impact on forestry in this country, especially Texas
. A state forest in East Texas
is named in his honor.
A report Jones wrote on the condition and future of forestry in Texas
set the tone for the past century’s conservation practices in the
state on behalf of trees. If trees could hug people Jones was a person
to whom the trees would have opened their limbs.
Jones attended a White House Conference on conservation called by
another ardent conservationist, President Theodore Roosevelt, and
helped form the Texas Forestry Association in 1914, serving seven
years as the association’s president. Later, he lobbied the state
legislature for creation of the Texas Department of Forestry, which
became the Texas Forest Service in 1926.
All this from a man who made his home and his fortune in Temple,
a town founded and constructed on virtually treeless prairie. He didn’t
think much of Temple
when he first saw it. “My first impressions of Temple
were unfavorable,” he later wrote. “Not a tree was to be seen. The
tree idea possessed me so I planted some pecans in a tin can filled
with sand and placed it on my hotel’s windowsill. That was the town’s
first tree planting.”
As a child in an affluent family, Jones spent two years in Europe
where his father took him on a tour of the fabled Black Forest. What
he saw there had a profound impact on Jones. The German system of
continuous planting, cultivating and cutting rotation, along with
the forest’s almost mystical beauty, was something he never forgot.
Jones came to Texas in 1883 after his
graduation from Princeton to serve apprenticeships at banks in Galveston
and South Texas. A family
friend staked Jones to $80,000 to start the Temple National Bank,
otherwise known in that town as “Jones’ bank.”
The U.S. Forest Service asked Jones to survey the forests of East
Texas in 1905. “I went by train, carriage and horseback,” he wrote.
“It was a scene of terrible waste of virgin timber, by the lumber
mills in the harvesting of lumber. To cut down and drag out one tree,
100 younger trees were knocked down and killed.”
The state was, he concluded, “killing the goose that lays the golden
Jones still he liked what he had seen in the Black Forest, a cooperative
effort between state and federal governments to regulate planned cutting
and planting as part of a systematic program to replenish the forests
Jones organized the first Arbor Day celebrations in Temple
in the late 1880s and lobbied for a statewide recognition of a day
dedicated to trees. Arbor Day was first celebrated in Texas on Feb.
22, 1889, the anniversary of George Washington’s birthday. It continued
on that date every year until 1949 when it was changed to the third
Friday in January.
The W. Goodrich Jones State Forest in Montgomery County south of Conroe
is both a place of primal beauty and scientific inquiry. Among the
native loblolly pines, some of them 100 years old, are a number of
endangered red cockaded woodpeckers. The Texas Forest Service has
operated the forest partly as a demonstration forest since it bought
the land in 1926.
Even without its beauty, wonder charm and inherent value, the W. Goodrich
Jones Forest provides us something else: a way to remember W. Goodrich
Jones, who did more than any other Texan of his generation to keep