The Transylvania Times -

DAR Rededicates Its 'Forgotten Forest'

 

October 17, 2016

Matt McGregor

(Left to right) Mark Woods, Blue Ridge Parkway superintendent of the National Park Service; Molly Tarrt, vice-chairman, Marking of the DAR Jubilee Memorial Forest Committee, and historian James G. Lewis all attended Friday's dedication.

The rededication of the Daughters of the American Revolution's (DAR) Jubilee Memorial Forest at Devil's Courthouse on the Blue Ridge Parkway on Friday completed a long journey of rediscovering a forest that wasn't necessarily lost, just forgotten.

Remembering that forest, however, required an excursion through not only the Pisgah National Forest but also through history.

"People loved the story," said Molly Tartt, vice-chairman of the state's Marking of the DAR Jubilee Memorial Forest Committee. "They loved this idea of a lost forest. But the forest wasn't lost. It had been there the whole time. We were the ones who were lost."

Tartt's attempts at finding the forest with the help of her husband, Tom, had initially ended in discouragement.

After three hours of searching, she said they returned home, with Tom solemnly refusing to search for the plantation of red spruce trees until Molly had a better idea of where they are located.

"There are 160,000 acres in the Pisgah National Forest," Tartt said. "So, where was it?"

When the state regent of North Carolina Society DAR, Elizabeth Candler Graham, informed Tartt that DAR wanted to locate the Jubilee Memorial Forest, Tartt said she only had one question.

"What's the Jubilee Memorial Forest?" Tartt asked.

The Waightstill Avery Chapter of DAR planted 50,000 red spruce trees over a period of three years from 1939 to 1941.

They had incorporated the efforts of the U. S. Forest Service and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), who were working together on the Penny Pine project, in which one could donate a penny to pay for a pine-tree seedling.

The seedlings were planted to reforest landscapes left barren because of the logging industry.

"Once you see a mountain that's void of trees, you can appreciate the value of the Penny Pine project," said Ann Dillon, president general of the National Society of DAR.

The DAR dedication service took place on March 15, 1940, its 50th anniversary.

"There was no Parkway at the time," Tartt said. "The Devil's Courthouse tunnel was only partially constructed, so these ladies were taken up to an undisclosed location by the U.S. Forest Service on a logging road, stood on gravel and dedicated the forest with not a tree in site."

World War II came and went, taking the memory of the red spruce forest with it.

The bronze plaque listing the names of deceased DAR members, made to mark the site, disappeared.

"It cost $67 and 38 cents," Tarrt said. "Today, there's no telling what it would cost."

Seventy-six years after the dedication service for the Jubilee Memorial Forest, James Lewis, historian at the Forest History Society and executive producer, said he found himself Hiking through the Pisgah National Forest in search of the red spruce trees.

"July of 2015, Molly contacted me," Lewis said. "We struck up a correspondence in trying to figure out where it was, and narrowed down our search."

With the help of newspaper clippings, old photos and a hand-drawn map, he trekked the area.

He said he walked out to the rock jutting out through the trees at Devil's Courthouse, looked back, and there it was: a red, rectangular canopy.

"It's clear as day that it's red spruce," Lewis said. "You see row after row that it was consciously planted."

Lewis said tree boring, a process of withdrawing a pencil of wood from the tree using a corkscrew-like tool, was used to count the rings in the tree to verify the age.

Other measurements were taken, and, eventually, through collaboration with various organizations such as the Blue Ridge National Park Service and the U.S Forest Service, Tartt said they were finally able to declare the forest as the fruition of DAR's reforestation project.

On the morning of the rededication, Friday, Lorie Stroup, acting Pisgah District Ranger, escorted the national officers of DAR to celebrate the unveiling of the new wayside marker.

Mary Chandler Smith, the WNC campground supervisor, joined Stroup in ushering them to the site.

Tartt said this was just how it was done 76 years ago, minus the accessible Parkway and convenient transportation.

"So, that's my story," Tartt said. "It's been a year and a half, and today it's finished."

Tartt said she's glad she began the project a long time ago because the ceremony itself required several layers of permits.

The research preceding the ceremony was a matter of chasing down leads, Tartt said, which brought her to Lewis.

"It was a really fun project to work on," Lewis said. "It was rare opportunity to dig in and have a concrete outcome."

Today, Tartt knows exactly where the forest is.

She said she follows the trail over the Devil's Courthouse tunnel, then down to the Mountain to Sea trail, taking a left, and then walking about another three-quarters of a mile.

"And there it is," Tarrt said. "I cry every time I go in it. It's history. It's a once in a lifetime recognition."

 
 

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