Along the Way… The Louis J. Taber Memorial Forest
By Norman Houser
In Good Day!, Vol. 6, Issue 2, August 2022
Reprinted with permission
The forests of southeastern Ohio provide countless opportunities to explore the wonders of nature. With more than 830,000 acres to enjoy nature, Wayne National Forest has over 300 miles of hiking trails, almost 80 miles of horse-riding trails, countless camping spots, and hunting and fishing opportunities.
While it is easy to get lost in the beauty of nature, it is easy to overlook the history of the landscape. In 1947, the National Grange, in cooperation with the National Forestry Service, designated 200 acres within the Wayne National Forest to memorialize Louis J. Taber.
On Sunday, November 16, 1947, a convoy of charter buses and personal cars left Columbus, Ohio and descended upon the community of Greendale, in Logan County, bringing with them 150 delegates to spend the day in the Hocking Hills region. Their journey was to honor former National Master Louis J. Taber, who held that office from 1923 until 1941.
After a church service and a hearty lunch, the group traveled to the 50-acre Juvenile (Junior) Grange Cooperative Plantation, which was part of the “Louis J. Taber Memorial Forest.”
The Juvenile Grangers had planted trees as a living memorial to the former National Grange Master. To mark the spot, a boulder from the Taber Farm had been transported to the site and a plaque upon it to mark the significance of the location.
Louis John Taber was born September 19, 1878, at Mount Pleasant, Ohio and as a youngster moved to Barnesville, Ohio. At the age of 14, upon the passing of his father, Taber would assume life would assume the responsibilities of the family farm.
While living in Barnesville, he helped organize Belmont Grange #889. Taber would rise to the station of Ohio State Master, but would resign the position in 1921 when he was appointed Ohio State Director of Agriculture. In 1923, Taber would assume the responsibilities of National Master, a position which he held for nine terms. Taber was considered a pioneer in the conservation movement, pushing for legislation that would protect the soil and forests.
In 1941, with his terms of service as the National Master closing, a living tribute was organized for him. “This forest proclaims the unity of the American way of life. The roots of freedom grow deepest where the soil is good, where childhood is protected.” (The Logan Daily News, Logan, OH, November 17, 1941).
Taber stepped down as National Master to devote more time as a member of the Farmers and Traders Life Insurance Company. He became the Chairman of the organization in 1955. He would pass on October 16, 1960 in Syracuse, New York, and his body would return to his hometown and buried in the Stillwater Friends Cemetery in Barnesville.
While the Wayne National Forest is still used daily by countless people enjoying nature, Taber Forest is a nearly forgotten piece of both Ohio and National Grange history. The forest which had been planted as a living memorial to Louis Tabor continues to grow, However, according to an article in the Logan Daily News (May 8, 2006) the plaque which once adorned the boulder from the Taber farm has vanished.
In talking with the staff of Wayne National Forest, the exact location of the Taber Memorial Forest is not clear. The best clue to where the lost memorial forest is located comes from the November 17, 1841 edition of The Logan Daily News. It states the monument had been placed close to the schoolhouse near Greendale.
The location where the forest had been erected may have been lost and the memorial may be gone, but it is still easy to remember Louis John Taber through conservation practices and also by stepping out and enjoying what nature has provided.