Who would have guessed that one of the largest, most innovative tree planting projects ever undertaken began in the year 1902 with young forest professionals employed by the US Government? Buried in the Old Timers Collection, we find the who, what, where. when, how and why such a massive reforestation effort was envisioned!
One of the Old Timers who responded to Gifford Pinchot's call for narratives was Charles A. Scott, (1875-1961), a native of Westmoreland, Kansas. He recounts his efforts in a series of documents written in 1951 (and housed in the Nebraska State Historical Society, firstname.lastname@example.org.). His and his colleagues' efforts are also described in detail in the narrative he sent to then-retired Chief Forester Gifford Pinchot housed in the Pinchot Collection at the Library of Congress.
In the summer and fall of 1901, Scott worked as a cook on the Nebraska Sandhills Reconnaissance Survey as part of the Bureau of Forestry, U.S. Department of Agriculture. During the following summer of 1902, he assisted in a survey of the Dismal River Forest Reserve after which he helped plan Nebraska's Halsey Nursery, also known as the Bessey Nursery after University of Nebraska Botany Professor Charles A. Bessey. Following his work in designing and implementing plans for the first government nursery in the United States, Scott set off for the Yale School of Forestry where he earned his degree. As a newly minted Forest Assistant, he then returned to Nebraska to oversee the nursery at Halsey he had helped plan. He also administered three Nebraska forest reservations.
There is no underestimating the amount of innovation and stamina such a project required. In his account, Scott writes: "This was the first project of its kind ever attempted in the United States. No one in the Bureau of Forestry could advise us and the Commercial Nurserymen of the country had no experience with this type of work and we were told we would have to use our own judgement and do the best we could."
In 1940, Gifford Pinchot wrote Scott a letter of appreciation for the narrative he submitted
I have just finished reading your very interesting account of your early work in establishing the first Government forest nursery in America and making the planting on the Nebraska National Forests a success. The detail is particularly valuable, and I am very much in your debt. Hearty thanks to you.
Yours as always,
From the narrative of Charles A. Scott. Old Timers Collection. Gifford Pinchot Collection. Library of Congress. Manuscript Division.