Features appear in each issue of Pennsylvania Heritage showcasing a variety of subjects from various periods and geographic locations in Pennsylvania.

There is a point in crossing the top of the Allegheny Mountains between Pittsburgh and Harris­burg at which a traveler sees, at every turn, only trees. It is one of the most spectacular views on the North American Continent. The scene lacks the frenetic energy of Niagara Falls, or the awe-filling majesty of the Grand Canyon, but this several­-hundred-square-mile panorama of second-growth forest is, nonetheless, a dramatic sight for the observant visitor to the mountaintop.

For tens of thousands of years, the virgin forest blanketed Pennsylvania from the Delaware to the Ohio Rivers. Its thick carpet of loam and hardwoods swept across valleys and lapped up over mountain ridges like the waves of an enormous emerald sea. Within a hundred years of the arrival of the first European settlers, though, much of this land had been stripped bare to sate the needs of a growing nation.

First came the pioneers hungry for land to farm, then the lumbermen eager to harvest timber and bark. The method of both was simple: slash everything to the ground – the first to uncover the rich soil, the second to harvest the maples, birches, elms, and oaks that rose above it. The destruction of the nation’s forests had become so extreme by the second half of the nineteenth century that the cries for their restoration by forestry pioneers Joseph Trimble Rothrock (1839-1922) and Mira Lloyd Dock (1853-1945) found fertile ground in the General Assembly of Pennsylvania. The state legislature enacted legislation in the 1890s to provide for the establishment of “forest preserves” and the creation of a state forest commission headed by Rothrock.

During the early decades of the twentieth century, notable strides were made in reversing the forest decline. In 1902, the Commonwealth’s first professional foresters began training at Mont Alto, south of Chambersburg, in Franklin County. Programs for planting seedlings on denuded land were commenced, and Rothrock established wildfire fighting teams of “a man, a mule, and a bucket of water.” Gradually, these initiatives helped reverse the desolation.

A half-century later, in 1955, Governor George M. Leader appointed Maurice K “Doc” Goddard (1912-1995), then head of the forestry school at the Pennsylvania State University (PSU) in State College, as his new Secretary of Forests and Waters. His appointment signaled the dawn of a new era in Pennsylvania forest conservation.

Goddard would serve as steward of the state’s forest, water and park resources for twenty-four years under five governors, both Republican and Democrat. During his tenure, forest land in the state grew by more than one and a half million acres; the number of state parks – with forty-two new park openings – more than tripled; annual forest destruction by wildfires was reduced from an average of thirty-five thousand to seventy-five hundred acres; and innumerable dams and flood abatement works were constructed along the Commonwealth’s waterways.

Maurice Kimball Goddard was born September 13, 1912, in Lowell, Massachusetts, to Norman O. and Susan Kimball Goddard. His mother descended from Pilgrim stock, and his father, at the time of their son’s birth, was a student at the New Church Theological School (renamed the Swedenborg School of Religion on its centennial in 1966) in Cambridge. After graduation, Goddard accepted a position with the Church of the New Jerusalem in Pretty Prairie, Kansas, a village of less than six hundred residents tucked squarely in America’s heartland, where Maurice grew up.

In Pretty Prairie, the young Goddard wandered through the wheat fields, swam and fished in the ponds and creeks, helped the milk man with his rounds, shoveled snow for the neighbors, carried chairs to and from the church for social occasions, and played with friends on the town’s dusty streets. The annual harvest was one of the few festive occasions in the town, especially exciting for an energetic boy like Maurice K. Goddard. Workers who came to bring in the wheat thronged the town every August. Each day, the streets were filled with the “pageantry of the harvest,” as Ben Hibbs (1901-1975), editor of the Saturday Evening Post, described it. Hibbs, who grew up in Pretty Prairie about the same time as Goddard, remembered it crowded with “the sweating men, the horse-drawn headers and the great steam threshing rigs clanking down Main Street.”

The New Jerusalem Church building in Pretty Prairie was small and plain, but it did have a steeple and an organ, which Goddard’s mother played each Sunday. Both the church and the parsonage were constructed of wood, a scarce commodity on the plains. Wheat grew from horizon to horizon, and there were few trees. To Susan Goddard, the vast stretches of endless, empty land were discouraging and so she planted trees around the house. Much like photographs of distant loved ones, they were reassuring, comforting reminders of her Massachusetts home with its ashes, maples, cherries, dogwoods, oaks, and black walnuts.

Goddard was impressed with how important these reminders of the eastern forest were to his mother – and the spiritual sustenance she drew from them. Years later he recalled that every time a big summer thunderstorm swept across the prairie to threaten the Goddard property, she would “whip out” with three-year old Maurice in tow to “check on her trees.” Only when their welfare had been assured, would she turn her attention to their home.

When Goddard was twelve, his father accepted a pastorate at Toronto, Canada. Three years later the family moved again, this time to Maine, where the elder Goddard assumed his third charge, the Swedenborgian Church of Portland. Following his graduation from Portland’s Deering High School in 1931, Mau­rice K. Goddard entered the forestry school of the University of Maine at Orono. He proved to be an outstanding scholar, track star, and popular student, serving as an officer in several social organizations and academic fraternities. He had hoped to enter the U.S. Forest Service following graduation, but after passing the civil service examination, he heard nothing from the government and accepted a position on the forestry faculty at Penn State for the fall of 1935. The Forest Service’s offer finally came through, but Goddard felt bound to honor his commitment to the university and became a teacher instead of a forester.

He first taught at PSU’s Mont Alto campus, where all forestry students took their first year’s course work, and three years later became an associate professor of forestry on the main campus at State College. He was well liked by students and faculty alike was considered an excellent instructor – tough but fair, with a gruff sense of humor.

Forestry at the time involved mainly hard physical labor and was strictly a male preserve. Goddard insisted his students accompany him into the woods, even in the rain. “Let’s go!,” he shouted. “Your skin don’t leak.” It was exactly the type of rugged leadership the men eagerly followed. He brought an enthusiasm to his classes that was infectious. His students came to expect a stimulating lecture, high in energy as well as interest. With his deep, resonant voice they were treated to both performance and pedagogy.

In 1943, Goddard was called to active duty with the U.S. Army. He served as an adjutant general officer at several stateside bases, where he sharpened the management skills he had developed at Penn State. It was on the Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF), staff in London and then in France following the Normandy invasion on June 6, 1944, that his leadership ability seems to have crystallized. While at SHAEF he advanced to the rank of lieutenant colonel, received several citations and medals and, of greater significance, was exposed to the brusque, no-nonsense military manner of officers, among them Major General Walter Bedell Smith (1895-1961), General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s chief of staff.

Eisenhower ran the field campaign and left the day-to-day SHAEF headquarters’ operations to General Smith. According to General Omar N. Bradley (1893-1981), Smith was an “intense, tempestuous and harassed” man. He was “ruthless” when it came to dismissing any officer who could not work as part of a team a key Eisenhower requirement. Smith’s inimitable style deeply impressed Goddard.

Following his discharge in 1946, Goddard returned to Penn State. His first assignment was a return to Mont Alto as resident director. He was a natural leader. His handling of the returning World War II veterans – most of them serious and many accompanied by wives and children – was comprised of a generous blend of charm, persuasiveness, and tough schoolmaster discipline. He played softball on a faculty team, chaperoned student dances, regularly invited pupils to his and wife Ethel’s home, and attended their games, his voice booming over the crowd as he cheered the boys from Mont Alto.

In 1952, Penn State promoted Goddard to head the forestry department at its main campus. It was a selection that met with the unanimous approval of the department’s faculty. Three years later, Governor Leader tapped him to head the Pennsylvania Department of Forests and Waters. “He not only had impressive credentials for the position,” Leader recently recalled, “but Genevieve [Blatt, Secretary of Internal Affairs] and I immensely liked his honest, direct style, as well as his philosophy on reforestation and recreation. When I called Dr. Milton Eisenhower, president of the university, on the following day, it was especially reassuring to have him tell me, ‘Well, you sure know how to pick them.'”

As soon as he took office Secretary Goddard began wielding the administrative ax for which he would become legendary. He reversed a last minute award by his predecessor, Samuel S. Lewis, which would have permitted the commercial cutting of four and a half million board feet of timber in Perry County at a price unfavorable to the Commonwealth. He quickly began to upgrade the department’s four nurseries and within two years they were producing fifteen million seedlings for planting at abandoned strip mining operations. Reclamation of this scarred landscape was a key objective of the governor and the secretary. Leader was so appalled when he first saw the gaping, grotesque sites from the air that he instructed his pilot to avoid flying over them.

One of Governor Leader’s goals was the reduction of patronage and the placement of professional managers throughout the executive departments of state govern­ment (see “Born A Leader For Pennsylvania” by Kenneth C. Wolensky, Winter 2002). When he was unable to get the necessary legislation enacted, the governor issued an executive order placing large numbers of positions – including many in Goddard’s Department of Forests and Waters – under civil service. Secretary Goddard soon began hiring professionals to run the nurseries, manage the twenty state forest districts, and head his department’s bureaus in Harrisburg.

For a half-century, from the inception of the state forestry program under Rothrock, wildfires had concerned government leaders. Fires ignited by lightning, manufacturing plants, and railroads caused the destruction of thousands of acres of forestland. In time, the prevention and fighting of fires fell to Forests and Waters. In 1960, God­dard added new ammunition to the arsenal when he approved trials of air assaults on wildfires by helicopter. So successful were these trials that program leaders added a Stearman crop-dusting biplane. It was soon discovered that using aircraft as a “first strike” capability with fire crews on the ground for mop up not only stopped many fires before they grew out of control, but also dramatically reduced the amount of acreage burned. The Commonwealth added five Stearman water bombers the following year. In ten years the average size of a burn was reduced by twenty-one acres, from 26.6 to 5.6 acres.

In a major speech in November 1960 to the Society of American Foresters in Washington, D.C., Goddard expressed his vision for parks and foresters. “Our interests are no longer solely in [parks as] great natural museums. They have shifted from mere preservation to development and management of our resources to meet sky­rocketing interest in recreation, as well as mushrooming appetites for water, timber, soil and minerals.

“Today’s forester,” he continued, “is no longer so much a forester, as he is a “‘land-management special­ist.”‘ Moreover, he claimed the “parks have come out of the forests and are moving along slowly toward the metropolitan periphery.” This was the spark for his plan the following year to ring each of Pennsylvania’s cities with state parks so that every citizen had access to one. He believed a state park should be located within twenty­five miles of every Pennsylvanian (see “The Gentleman From Pennsylvania: An Interview with William W. Scran­ton” by Michael J. O’Malley III, Winter 2001).

To Goddard, a park was more than simply a picnic area. It had to have water for swimming and boating, pro­vide for hiking and camping, and be a place for promul­gating conservation awareness (see “Life On Wheels­ – Camping in Pennsylvania” by Diane B. Reed, Summer 2002). To fund his ideas for state parks, Secretary God­dard put together two bond issue initiatives: one for land­-acquisition, Project 70 and, several years later, a companion park development program, Project 500. He traveled throughout the Commonwealth and talked to hundreds of community groups to sell the idea of issuing public bonds for the creation of parks. Both proposals passed.

With forestry in professional hands and the state parks program underway, he turned his attention to the issues of water use. With its large number of steep mountain slopes and narrow valleys, Pennsylvania suffers from flooding, much of it catastrophic. (Floods in 1889, 1936, 1955, and 1972 caused millions of dollars in damage and took the lives of many Pennsylvanians.) By the mid-twentieth century, water supply problems were beginning to surface. It became painfully apparent that the era of “free, plentiful, and everlasting” water for industrial, municipal, and private use was nearing an end. Goddard saw the solution to the Commonwealth’s water problems in the implementation of his multiple-use conservation concept. Dams would serve not just for flood control, but also to store water for low-flow situations and to provide facilities for recreation.

With the help of the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, he embarked on a twenty-year program of damming streams and rivers to create recreational opportunities, to control floods, and to ensure the availability of adequate supplies of water for the future. Goddard’s water conservation and park building programs of the sixties and seventies were the most significant public endeavors of his career. The idea of damming the country’s waterways later fell into disrepute, a period during which his most protracted fight and conspicuous loss occurred over a giant dam on the Delaware River.

The Delaware River extends nearly three hundred miles from the confluence of its east and west branches at Hancock, New York, to the mouth of the Delaware Bay. For decades, Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey squabbled over which had the right to how much of the river’s water. In the 1930s, the State of New York began diverting ever-increasing amounts of upriver water to supply New York City. New York’s withdrawals during droughts threatened water supplies at Philadelphia and Trenton, New Jersey, as well as the river’s ability to carry off municipal and industrial wastes. Through the creation, in 1961, of the Delaware River Basin Commission by Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York, New Jersey, and the federal government, the member states eventually agreed to build a monolithic facility for flood control, power generation, and water storage at Tocks Island, barely six and a half miles upstream from the Delaware Water Gap, in northeastern Pennsylvania. New York and New Jersey eventually withdrew their support in the face of mounting public hostility and bitter opposition and the dam was never built. The project eventually emerged as one of the more bitter environmental controversies of the twentieth century, ultimately involving thousands of individuals who either supported or opposed the construction of the Tocks Island Dam.

Pennsylvania Governor Milton J. Shapp (1912-1994) and God­dard, then secretary of Shapp’s new Department of Environmental Resources (which replaced the Department of Forests and Waters in January 1971), believed the Tocks Island Dam was critical for flood control and water supply. Their hopes were dashed when the movement to construct the dam – which over the years had attracted national publicity, much of it negative – faltered for the final time and the project was deferred indefinitely – but not until millions of dollars were expended for planning studies, environmental impact reviews, and property acquisition.

Echoing his approach to water issues, Secretary Goddard also applied his concept of multiple use to forests. Although a forest plan had been developed in the years immediately preceding his arrival at the Department of Forests and Waters, a major revision of the 1955 plan was implemented in 1970. The new plan covered the conservation not only of trees, but also soil, plants, wildlife, and recreational uses of the state’s forests.

The secret to his success in implementing his conservation program, as well as for his longevity as a cabinet officer, lay in his knowledge and his integrity. He had an uncanny memory for facts and an ability to field the most difficult of questions. Moreover, legislators on both sides of the aisle, and in both chambers of the general assembly, knew that he always leveled with them and trusted his word.

As a worker, he was as unrelenting as the waters of a spring freshet, while his willingness to make tough, unpleasant decisions was a trait that endeared him to a succession of governors of both parties. In spite of his blunt, military-like approach to handling subordinates – he summoned them much the same way army platoon leaders addressed their men, curtly and by their surnames – they invariably respected and often revered him.

In addition to Goddard’s impact on Pennsylvania’s natural resources, he also enjoyed a national reputation, one that is relatively unappreciated. He was appointed to federal commissions on water and on land utilization, made several appearances before U.S. Senate committees, and was a panel chairman at President Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1965 White House Conference on Natural Beauty. He received frequent invitations to chair or speak at conservation conferences and before commissions around the country.

Following his retirement in 1979 and until his death on September 14, 1995, at the age of eighty-three, Goddard continued to participate in meetings and legislative sessions helping to define park and land-use issues for the Commonwealth. Primary among these efforts were appearances on behalf of maintaining the integrity of the state park system and the development of legislation for the preservation of farmland. To Maurice K. Goddard, conservation was always about humanity. “People, not trees, are our chief concern and principal resource,” he told one audience. Forests, parks, and pure water were needed for people’s physical and spiritual sustenance. He considered it his duty to see they were safeguarded for all Pennsylvanians to discover and enjoy.


For Further Reading

Albert, Richard C. Damming the Delaware: The Rise and Fall of Tocks Island Dam. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1987.

Cupper, Dan. Our Priceless Heritage: Pennsylvania State Parks, 1893-1993. Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources, 1993.

DeCoster, Lester A. The Legacy of Penn’s Woods: A History of the Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry. Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission for the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, 1995.

Fergus, Charles. Natural Pennsylvania: Exploring the State For­est Natural Areas. Mechanicsburg, Pa.: Stackpole Books, 2002.

Illick, Joseph S. Joseph Trimble Rothrock: Father of Pennsylvania Forestry. Norristown, Pa.: Norristown Press, 1929.

Lear, Linda, ed. Lost Woods: The Discovered Writing of Rachel Carson. Thorndike, Maine: Thorndike Press, 1999.

Morrison, Ernest. A Walk on the Downhill Side of the Log: The Life of Maurice K. Goddard. Mechanicsburg, Pa.: Pennsylvania Forestry Association, 2002.

____. J. Horace McFarland: A Thorn for Beauty. Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1995.

Pinchot, Gifford. Breaking New Ground. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1947.


Ernest Morrison of New Cumberland, Cumberland County, is the author of several biographies and Central Pennsylvania historical sketches. This article is an outgrowth of his biography, A Walk on the Downhill Side of the Log: The Life of Maurice K. Goddard, published in 2002 by the Pennsylvania Forestry Association. The author’s earlier work, J. Horace McFarland: A Thorn for Beauty, published by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission in 1995, won a certificate of commendation from the American Asso­ciation for State and Local History.