(Photo from the Personal Narrative of Agnes V. Scannell. Gifford Pinchot Collection, Library of Congress Manuscript Division)
When Agnes Scannell received Gifford Pinchot's request for remembrances of her time spent in the early days of the U.S. Forest Service, she responded with great enthusiasm, writing to her old Chief that his letter was "like a thought-wave on the ether." For the past year she had been wondering how she might have an opportunity to "put in writing some facts about the Forest Service of the United States," she said, "because I felt a written record should be made of the efforts of Gifford Pinchot in establishing this important branch of the Government."
So write she did. Hailing from Worcester, Massachusetts, Ms. Agnes V. Scannell graduated from Worcester High School and like many of the First Foresters and their associates, she grabbed the rungs of opportunity, noting that she "was eager to go beyond the confines of her little city." In October 1906 she took the Civil Service exam in Boston and was then assigned to the Washington Office on F Street where she assumed her post as "clerk, stenographer, typewriter," at six hundred dollars per annum. Shortly thereafter, she was assigned to Region 6 in Portland, Oregon's Beck Building where she served from 1907-1917.
One of the exceptional aspects of Agnes Scannell's narrative is her dramatic description of her solo cross-country train trip during which various dramatic events occur including losing her pocket book on the train. She writes: "As I sat waiting in the station for results, I began to think that it all happened for the best, and if the pocketbook was not returned, then I should take that for a sign that I was to turn back. In fact, I had about made up my mind to turn back, when in walked a trainman, swinging my little pocketbook; then I knew that was the signal for me to go on."
On and on she went, describing her train voyage as if it were yesterday. "On, on I went, however, and the trip over the Northern Pacific Lines I enjoyed very much. I was eager to see the Rockies. In Montana they are magnificent; so young; so bold; so high. They seemed to give me courage, and I began to feel bolder and bigger, too under their spell. Once I crossed the Great Divide, I realized I was standing alone in the vastness of the west; hence I must not waver as the die was cast."
From the personal narrative of Agnes V. Scannell as told to Gifford Pinchot, dated December 27, 1939.