Marking Time highlights one of the more than 2,500 markers that have been installed throughout the state since 1914 as part of the Pennsylvania Historical Marker Program, operated by PHMC's State Historic Preservation Office.

No Comment.

In 1989, this pithy epitaph was chiseled in stone somewhere in Arizona’s vast Cabeza Prieta wilderness. It marks the end of a life full of “comment” – the life of environmental advocate and Pennsylvania native Edward Abbey (1927-1989).

Edward Abbey was born in Indiana, Indiana County, but claimed the village of Home, ten miles to the north, as his birth­place, perhaps because he liked its name or because he had lived in the village as a child. He spent most of his childhood in Indiana County and dubbed his favorite home there “The Old Lonesome Briar Patch,” later describing it in Appalachian Wilderness (1970), as “an austere and ancient clapboarded farm­house, taller than wide when seen from the road.” He would later recall the Appalachia he knew in his youth in several of his novels, such as Jonathan Troy (1954), The Journey Home (1977), and The Fool’s Progress (1988).

When Abbey was seventeen, he hitch­hiked and rode the rails West. The vistas of the Rocky Mountains impressed him mightily: they struck “a fundamental chord in [his] imagination that has sounded ever since.” In 1948, Abbey moved West, and then moved frequently, taking a series of jobs with the National Park Service. His non-fiction book, Desert Solitaire (1968), speaks of his experiences as a park ranger at the Arches and Canyonlands National Parks in Utah and of his connection with the land. “Standing there, gaping at this monstrous and inhuman spectacle of rock and cloud and sky and space,” he wrote, “I feel a ridiculous greed and possessiveness come over me. I want to know it all, possess it all, embrace the entire scene intimately, deeply, totally, as a man desires a beautiful woman.” The book was. well-received by readers, one of whom, Larry McMurtry, author of Lone­some Dove and other Western novels, pro­nounced Abbey “the Thoreau of the American West.”

Seven years after Desert Solitaire was published, Abbey wrote The Monkey Wrench Gang (1975). The book made him a cult hero and launched Earth First!, a radical environmental movement that advocated acts of civil disobedience to protect wilderness areas, protest federal land use policy, and halt “progress.”

A prolific and prominent literary figure, Abbey wrote more than twenty books. In 1996, James M. Cahalan, Indiana University of Pennsylvania English professor and author of Edward Abbey: A Life (2001), nominated him for commemoration by a state historical marker. He garnered support from various celebrities, including actor Robert Red­ford, who tribute to his literary and environmental legacy. “Since the 1950s,” Redford wrote, “Abbey has been recog­nized as an accomplished novelist and essayist, as well as a key voice in the struggle to defend wilderness from the continual onslaught of ‘progress.’ Through his work, he has positively influenced many to not only treasure our natural heritage but to fight for its preservation as well.”

The historical marker honoring Abbey was dedicated by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission in September 1996 along Route 119 in Home. Among those in attendance were Cahalan, and Abbey’s siblings Nancy, Bill, and Howard.

Several times during his life Abbey entertained the question, “Can one ever come home again?” Interestingly, his answer to this question changed over time. But as one stops to observe the village sign for Home on one side of the road and the state historical marker on the other, one could be inclined to think, “Yes, Edward Abbey has finally come home.”