Throwback Thursday by Matson Insurance: Growing Green

Cook Forest pine 001Matson Insurance is partnering with Jefferson County History Center to offer readers a look in Jefferson County’s past. Today “Growing Green” is being showcased.

[Thanks to the far-thinking of the Cook family, a large stand of virgin forest exists today in Cook Forest State Park. (JCHC Collection)]


Apple blossoms that dot the hillside near the old Jefferson Manor in the spring are a reminder of Fudgeon Van Camp, a man who came over the mountains to settle in Jefferson County. When he arrived from Easton during the winter of 1800―1801, he carried apple seeds, “this being the first effort to raise fruit in this wilderness,” according to McKnight. The county historian goes on to describe Van Camp, Jefferson County’s own Johnny Appleseed, as having hair as “white as the wool of a sheep” and a face “as black as charcoal.” A widower, Van Camp raised two sons and two daughters and farmed just about where I-80 crosses SR28.

Trees have been a major part of our livelihood here in Jefferson County for more than two centuries. One timberman was Anthony Wayne Cook. He eventually bought out Matson and Heidrick and ran the mill on the North Fork in Brookville. Cook and his forebears had been careful to preserve a large area of virgin pine timber near their Cooksburg homestead, and about the time the mill was ready to be torn down, “it became his ambition to save this magnificent heritage for the enjoyment of all the people for all time to come.” Twenty-five years later, Anthony Wayne’s persistent efforts resulted in the creation of Cook Forest State Park, now eight thousand acres of trees enjoyed by “all the people for all time to come.”

In the 1930s, as second-growth hardwoods began to cover the hillsides once again, Congress created the Civilian Conservation Corps to provide work for the large numbers of unemployed young men. Boys and young men lived in camps at the Hays Lot (S-53-Pa) and Sprankle Mills (SCS-2-Pa.) They planted trees, and built log cabins, trails, and bridges at Clear Creek State Park which we enjoy today.

In 1939 Brookville Borough Council created a shade tree commission planting trees on the “unused portion of Barnett Street between Jefferson and Jared streets,” an area described as being in need of beautification. Other groups organized major plantings of crab apple trees. Historic Brookville, Inc. organized in 1983, oversaw the installation of 19th century-looking light poles and brick insets in the sidewalks and tree wells. Much study went into determining which type of tree was appropriate for those tree wells.

In 1996 post-flood examination of the larches at Dr. Walter Dick Memorial Park showed them to be diseased and dying. They were removed and the borough and the North Fork Watershed Association planted linden trees, a copper beech, Bradford pear, and other specimens. Hickory Grove Elementary School gets its name from the grove of shagbark hickories on the property. As the original trees began to die, former principal Fred Park arranged for students to plant new ones.

We owe much to these folks who recognized then and recognize today the importance of trees in our daily lives, so in April when trees begin to bloom and put forth new leaves and needles, thank these folks for their foresight so many years ago. Whether planted for food, their economic value, or their beauty, think of the people who planted trees in the past when you enjoy the green all around you this spring.

[email protected] County Historical Society, Inc.

Throwback Thursday is brought to you by Matson Insurance in Brookville.


Submitted by the Jefferson County History Center.

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