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Posts Tagged ‘John F. Kennedy’

We asked Andy Mason of the National Capital chapter of the Society of American Foresters to share with us what he recently learned about a family with deep forestry roots.

Shirley Ann Mattoon was there on September 24, 1963, joining the large crowd that welcomed President John F. Kennedy to Milford, Pennsylvania, and Grey Towers for the dedication of the Pinchot Institute for Conservation. On this day, Gifford Pinchot’s ancestral home, was given by the Pinchot family to the American people and is now managed as a national historic site by the U.S. Forest Service. Known to her friends as “Sam,” now 88 years old, Shirley was a celebrity at the 50th anniversary of the 1963 dedication. She had many other stories to tell us about that day and her family of foresters with connections to Pinchot as we sat and enjoyed appetizers and sipped wine on a beautiful moonlit fall evening on the lawn in front of the Grey Towers mansion.

Sam Mattoon

Sam Mattoon identifying herself in this 1963 photo of President John F. Kennedy at Grey Towers. President Kennedy is to the right of the man with the camera.

Sam’s husband, John A. Mattoon, a second-generation forester and U.S. Forest Service employee, was also there in 1963 with just a few things on his mind. John worked for the national “I&E” office (Information and Education office, known today as the Office of Communication and Conservation Education), and with the chief of I&E (his boss) on assignment in Europe, John had a major role in coordinating the president’s visit and the event.

Sam Mattoon (right) with Margie Mattoon Cox (John A. Mattoon’s sister) at the 1963 dedication.

Sam Mattoon (right) with Margie Mattoon Cox (John A. Mattoon’s sister) at the 1963 dedication.

When he retired in 1983, John A. Mattoon had more than 40 years of federal service that began in World War II, when he served as a naval aviator flying a Curtiss Helldiver bomber with the 88th squadron on the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown. For several heroic actions in the Pacific, he earned two Distinguished Flying Crosses and two Air Medals. He graduated from Penn State before the war and received a master’s degree from the Yale School of Forestry in 1950.

Early in his distinguished natural resources career, in the 1950s, John A. Mattoon was district ranger on national forests in Colorado, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. He transferred to the Washington Office, where he worked closely with Forest Service artist Rudy Wendelin and others to help promote Smokey Bear into the icon it remains today. While in Washington, Mattoon and Wendelin also worked together to design the agency’s shoulder patch that was used beginning in 1963 until the early 1970s.

John A. Mattoon (center) with fellow employees showing off their new Forest Service shoulder emblems at the Pisgah Ranger District, Pisgah National Forest, 1963

John A. Mattoon (center) with fellow employees showing off their new Forest Service shoulder emblems at the Pisgah Ranger District, Pisgah National Forest, 1963

After 24 years with the U.S. Forest Service, Mattoon transferred to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and continued his work to promote conservation and educate the public about it. He had a major role in developing the advertising campaign for Johnny Horizon, BLM’s very successful symbol of the late 1960s and early 1970s that encouraged litter cleanup and brought attention to air and water pollution and other issues. He also worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and ended his federal career in the Department of the Interior working on the Alaska pipeline and the Endangered Species Act, among other issues. When he retired in 1983, his colleagues presented him with a framed simulated press release that described how he was widely admired throughout his long career by coworkers, the conservation community, and the news media for his “outstanding personal and professional integrity, unswerving loyalty, and dedication to open communication.”

Singer Burl Ives, broadcaster Arthur Godfrey, and Secretary of the Interior Wally Hickel follow John A. Mattoon (far right) at a Johnny Horizon publicity event on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., in 1970 (Photo by Jack Rottier, National Park Service)

Singer Burl Ives, broadcaster Arthur Godfrey, and Secretary of the Interior Wally Hickel follow John A. Mattoon (far right) at a Johnny Horizon publicity event on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., in 1970 (Photo by Jack Rottier, National Park Service)

The forestry roots of the Mattoon family go deep. John A. Mattoon’s father, Merwin “Chic” Mattoon, was also a Yale Forestry School graduate (class of 1914) and the second forest supervisor of the Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina. The Pisgah was the first national forest established under the Weeks Act of 1911 and included a portion of the Biltmore Estate, where Gifford Pinchot first put scientific forestry to work in America. The first school of forestry in the United States—the Biltmore Forest School—was also there, now preserved as the Cradle of Forestry in America National Historic Site.

John and Margie Mattoon on a U.S. Forest Service parade float, Asheville, North Carolina, circa 1930

John and and his sister Margie Mattoon on a U.S. Forest Service parade float, Asheville, North Carolina, circa 1930

“Party on Big Levels Federal Refuge—May 1939” is written on the back of this photo, along with the following identifications: “Standing (Left to Right): T. E. Clarke, Leo Couch, E. Addy, Dr. Jackson, C. O. Handley, Carl Nolting, M. A. Mattoon (tall man wearing a vest), R. M. Evans, D. J. Wooley, and H. S. Mosby. Bottom Row (Left to Right): B. C. Park, G. L. Varney, A. L. Nelson, S. P. Goodloe, Dr. H. L. Shantz, and Mr. Thornton.”

“Party on Big Levels Federal Refuge—May 1939” is written on the back of this photo, along with the following identifications: “Standing (Left to Right): T. E. Clarke, Leo Couch, E. Addy, Dr. Jackson, C. O. Handley, Carl Nolting, M. A. Mattoon (tall man wearing a vest), R. M. Evans, D. J. Wooley, and H. S. Mosby. Bottom Row (Left to Right): B. C. Park, G. L. Varney, A. L. Nelson, S. P. Goodloe, Dr. H. L. Shantz, and Mr. Thornton.”

And the family roots go even deeper. Merwin Mattoon married Marguerite McLean of Simsbury, Connecticut, Gifford Pinchot’s birthplace and early childhood home. Pinchot was close friends with another McLean family member, George P. McLean. Gifford and George were said to be “soulmates” and loved the Simsbury woods. George would gain fame as governor of Connecticut and a three-term U.S. senator. Gifford also knew George’s brother, John B. McLean; the two reportedly met in 1895 to help establish the Connecticut Forestry Association. Merwin was also personal friends with Gifford Pinchot and would fish with him as well as with L. L. Bean. Both Merwin and Marguerite Mattoon are buried in the Hop Meadow cemetery at Simsbury. William “Bill” Cox, grandson of Merwin, great-grandson of John B. McLean, and nephew of John and Sam Mattoon, lives in Simsbury.

The Mattoon family tree includes yet one more forester: Wilbur Reed Mattoon, Yale Class of 1904. Known as W. R. or “Matty,” he was one of the first extension foresters who worked throughout the South to promote farm forestry and the possibilities of growing timber in that region. He is recognized for his many publications and speeches and as one of the best writers in the Forest Service on forestry matters (from 1959 oral interview with Elwood L. Demmon, Asheville, by Elwood R. Maunder, Forest History Foundation, Inc.). One example of his work is “Forestry Lessons on Home Woodlands” (USDA Department Bulletin No. 863), issued in 1920.

Through their associations with Gifford Pinchot, the U.S. Forest Service, other conservation agencies and organizations, the Yale School of Forestry, and a love of the woods, the Mattoons and McLeans certainly had a role in shaping early forestry and conservation in the United States. Thanks to Sam Mattoon and her family, we have now quilted these two families into that rich history. Do you have a story to tell about another “first family of forestry”? Please contact Jamie Lewis, Forest History Society historian.

Andy Mason is the chairperson of the National Capital Society of American Foresters. This article was prepared with the aid of Shirley Ann “Sam” Mattoon, Bill Cox, and Margie Mattoon Cox. Tom Thompson and Karl Brauneis (both foresters and U.S. Forest Service retirees) also made important contributions to this story.

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By Dan Dwyer, Port Jervis Union-Gazette¹

MILFORD, Penn., Sept. 24—

The helicopter landed exactly on time. It was 1 p.m.

The door opened and became a ramp and this man came out.

It was the start of a hectic 70-minute visit by Pres. John F. Kennedy to Grey Towers in Milford yesterday afternoon.

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President Kennedy is greeted by Forest Service Chief Edward P. Cliff.

Mr. Kennedy, dressed in a neat blue suit with a faint pin stripe, white shirt and matching tie, moved towards a waiting convertible with the inevitable secret service men providing a way through the press of the crowd. The familiar shock of brown hair looked lighter than it does in most pictures and the white teeth shone in a constant smile. He is deeply tanned.

President John F. Kennedy

The president entered the third car in the six car entourage that moved slowly through a field to the road leading to Grey Towers. The road was lined with state police, foresters and Milford fire police. The landing field was some 200 yards from the amphitheater where a crowd estimated at over 12,000 waited. Some had been there since early morning, coming to get a good place to stand in front of the 20-foot stage where the ceremonies were scheduled to be held….

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But as the hour neared 1 p.m., the expectation grew and then the great mass of people suddenly knew the president had arrived for the audible noise of the copter blades sounded across the valley even though the Delaware Valley high school band was providing musical entertainment. There was a tingle of anticipation that rolled through the sea of humanity even though it would be another 15 minutes before the president would be seen by most of them.

It was a perfect day. Pennsylvania’s Gov. Scranton said later in his speech that it was typical weather for the state and who could dispute it. It was warm. A heavy frost had covered the area in the morning but the sun warmed the earth and by noon it was anything but cool. There was not a cloud in the blueness of the sky….

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The president stopped off at Grey Towers and for some ten minutes was greeted by area officials and conservation men from all over the country. He met with them on the terrace and the crowd was enlarged by the stream of reporters and camera men who surged in for information and the hundreds and hundreds of photos that were being taken along almost every stop of the way.

The president went up onto the platform and the band began to play the traditional “Hail To The Chief.” There was a feeling that swept across the great masses. I could sense it sitting near the front. It was a feeling of proudness and a feeling of drama and a feeling that this was a great moment in many lives … lives that could go through an entire lifetime and never again be in the presence of a president of the United States.

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The president gets a warm reception from the crowd and from those on the stage with him: (l to r) Secretary of Agriculture Orville Freeman, Chief Cliff, President Kennedy, Samuel H. Ordway, and Penn. Governor William Scranton.

It was 70 minutes that would be hard to account for if you had to list every minute but it was, for most of the people, a highlight in their lives that grandchildren not yet born are destined to hear about.

That’s how it was.

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This breathless article was written by a newspaper columnist from the town located across the river from Milford, PA. It was one of many that appeared in the Port Jervis Union-Gazette the day after President Kennedy paid a brief visit to Grey Towers to dedicate Gifford Pinchot’s home and the establishment of the Pinchot Institute for Conservation Studies on September 24, 1963. This issue, as well as a special commemorative souvenir edition of the Union-Gazette published the day before Kennedy’s visit, can be found in the U.S. Forest Service History Collection here at FHS.

The trip to Grey Towers was the start of a grueling 4-day, 11-state tour for the president that the New York Times said was “dedicated to conservation but tinged with politics.” But on that cloudless day in Milford, the last thing on the minds of the overflow crowd was politics. They were there to see the president dedicate the estate of Gifford Pinchot, the hometown hero, to the cause of conservation. On September 21, 2013, another crowd will watch as dignitaries gather to commemorate that great event and rededicate the home and the institute that bears Pinchot’s name.

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In addition to Dwyer’s article excerpted above (“The Day JFK Was Here“), the September 25th Union-Gazette also included an account by Norman Lehde, “JFK’s Visit Thrills Thousands,” and a look at the special preparations made for the president’s visit to Milford (3 miles of telephone cable!) in “Behind the Scenes for the JFK Visit.”

The collection also contains the original event program from the day, which lists the speakers and guests of honor, along with the transcripts of the remarks given by President Kennedy, Secretary of Agriculture Orville L. Freeman, and Samuel H. Ordway, president of the Conservation Foundation.

View more photos from the September 24, 1963, dedication event at Grey Towers in the Pinchot Institute Dedication photo gallery.

1. Dan Dwyer was a longtime columnist with the Port Jervis (NY) Union-Gazette and a Pulitzer Prize nominee. He interviewed Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson, each time nabbing the interview simply by writing them a letter and asking for an interview. His interview with LBJ took place in the Oval Office and lasted 40 minutes.

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