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Departments    Forest Engineering, Resources & Management | Forest Ecosystems & Society | Wood Science & Engineering

1906-1919: Started in Botany

by T. J. Starker, '10
Starker Forests

LISTED ALPHABETICALLY, the 1910 class -- the first to graduate from the School of Forestry -- included four men: Harold D. Gill, Jacques Francois Pernot, T. J. Starker and Sinclair A. Wilson ("Weary"). T. J., a forester his entire life 90 years old in the 1980's, was the only surviving member of the class, 70 years after graduation.

Jack Pernot, a Corvallis boy, had probably the best scientific mind of the four. He was a very good ornithologist and on field trips carried a BB-gun in order to bag birds for his collection. Jack, not a horse-man, was killed by a runaway horse in 1914 in Eastern Oregon. I had asked Jack to be best man at my wedding,so classmate S.A. Wilson pinchhitted.

Sinclair Wilson, nicknamed "Weary", was the son of a Linnton,Oregon timber and sawmill man. So he had sawdust in his hair. One of the first sawmill lumber grade studies made by the U.S. Forest Service in portland, Oregon, was conducted at the Clark-Wilson mill at Linnton. T.J. worked on that study.

Wilson was quite prominent at Oregon Agricultural College. He was editor of the college's "Barometer" and on the debate team. Both Wilson and T.J. were members of the Philadelphia Debating Society. Wilson later worked for Region 6 of the Forest Service as a senior economist and has his name on some of the early publications. He was also T.J.'s roommate at the University of Michigan for one year. There he took law, while T.J. Took forestry. Both of us were members of The Rocky Mountain Club, whose members had to be from west of the Rockies; the club was one of the strongest on campus.

ONE OF Wilson's outstanding studies covered the Forest Land Tax Delinquency of the 1929-31 period. He, along with the writer, mapped out a petition to the Board of Regents to change the name Oregon Agricultural College to Oregon State College. At a general forestry meeting this petition was presented to President Kerr, and it is believed that this was the first formal attempt to have the name changed to be more inclusive than just "agricultural".

The "character" in our class undoubtedly was Harold Gill. As a member of the J. K. Gill family, he had a berth in that book company and made many trips to Alaska selling school text books. Gill wanted to go to sea and eventually traveled considerably on the ocean. Once when Dean George W. Peavy asked the class in dendrology to draw a Douglas fir cone, he looked in Gill's notebook and saw a sketch of a wind jammer vessel. In the tree identification class, when Gill had problems using the botanical key for species identification, he calmly called the species "Gillifolia".

At another time, in a range management class taught by Professor Dad Potter, Gill was asked to read a paragraph in which appeared the work "ewe". Being a city boy, he pronounced the word "e-wee".

IN THOSE DAYS about the only forestry jobs available were with the U.S. Forest Service. To secure such a job one had to pass an examination for forest rangers. As I had worked on the Whitman National Forest and had packed horses, I borrowed a college horse and after regular class hours instructed a class in throwing a "diamond hitch". Dollars weren't too plentiful in those days, so T.J. had to sell his saddle (a good western one) and his camera to supplement his meager funds.

When the OAC Board of Regents decided to add a forestry department to the college, botanist E.R. Lake was drafted to head the department. when T.J. decided to register in forestry in the fall of 1908 as a graduate of the Portland High School, we had no College Forestry building nor Forestry Library and only a limited staff and enrollment.

Professor Lake held class in an informal manner. Students sat around in chairs in his office while he quizzed us on what we had learned in our assigned reading in botany books. But soon we had some 12 students enrolled and a technical forester was fired. He was George Wilcox Peavy, trained at the University of Michigan and recently in charge of planting in the Forest Service's California region. Professor Lake was transferred to Washington, D.C., in about 1910, where I believe he specialized in growing nut trees.

During this early period the school occupied the "Heaventh" floor of the Chem Shack -- later to become Education Hall. We didn't have any "two-bits" or "four-bits" college-owned trucks. Our spring trips were financed by pooling finances in a private car and camping out as much as possible.

IN THE FALL of 1908, some 20 students were enrolled in the Forestry Club. Records show that the following subjects were discussed at the meetings of the club during the year: "New Uses of Waste Products," "Pulp Wood Industry," "Railroad Ties," "Sea Going Rafts," and "Forests of Oregon." The same subjects might still be appropriate in 1981.

As for my own career, I was appointed as a Forest Examiner with the U.S. Forest Service in 1918, at the princely salary of $1,440 per annum. Later on I became a Collaborator. From there on I was with the Western Pine Association, the State Board of Forestry, and Society of American Foresters. I joined the School of Forestry faculty in 1922 and took extended leave of absence in 1942 to become founder of Starker Forests. I had always advised my depression-era foresters-in-training to buy cutover lands as an investment. I practiced what I preached.

I also take great pride in knowing that many of the students I taught have since held important positions in state and federal government and in private industry. That's the real test of being a good instructor.

I HAD GATHERED a few axioms during my forestry career:

  1. If you use all the sunshine available, you are a good forester.
  2. Don't start to practice forestry until all the snags are down.
  3. The best forestry is that which makes the most profit.
  4. Run a one-man show and work like hades.
  5. Fences make for good neighbors (if they own grazing stock).

This article was originally written in 1981...