By Archival Staff & HPC Commissioner Mimi Styles
“Francis Hiller – The Only Nature Lover?”
It was customary in Washington Grove’s earlier days as a camp meeting association with a Board of Trustees, that the president of the Washington Grove Association* would give an annual report to the stockholders. In his 1930 report, President Francis L. L. Hiller expressed his concern for the health of Washington Grove’s woods. Although perceived threats to our woods have evolved in the almost 90 years since Hiller’s report, we are reminded of Washington Grove’s longstanding commitment to stewardship of this precious resource.
Excerpt from “The Annual Report of the President of Washington Grove Association”
May 30, 1930 from the Town Archives
“ . . . The Woman’s Guild has continued, during the year now closed, it’s care of the entrance to Washington Grove, and other points about the Grounds for which service, I am certain, the thanks of all dwellers in the community are due the Woman’s Guild. The Woman’s Club has been very active during the year in matters looking toward the improvement of conditions in Washington Grove, and in the opinion of your President bids fair to become our foremost agency for civic betterment.
Your President cannot forbear saying on this occasion something about the general condition of the Washington Grove grounds outside of the restricted area where we have our homes. I am sometimes constrained to think that I am the only nature lover in Washington Grove because in my walks thru the furthermost recesses of the Washington Grove grounds, it is only on the rarest occasions that I ever meet anyone except a stray small boy or two. Fifteen years ago or more when I began these walks there were many places within our grounds that were real beauty spots, but I regret to say that there now remain only a few secluded places where it is any longer any pleasure to go. Our outlying woods properties have been more and more neglected – that is they have been neglected by everyone except the people who dump trash wherever it is most convenient for them. It makes no difference now in which direction you go in our woods now, it is just a succession of old tin cans, abandoned oil stoves, broken crockery, discarded furniture, and household refuse of every possible description. I would as soon ask a visitor to take a walk with me over the city dump in Washington as thru our once beautiful woods. Beginning on the west side of the Pike, not over 18 inches inside the gate, with a discarded tin bathtub, the road from there to Whetstone Spring—a road that it was a pleasure to walk along not many years ago, is now decorated on either side with a constant succession of piles of unsightly refuse. Going east from where I live it is the same story. All this is certainly not a good advertisement for Washington Grove. Instead of what we now have in this line, the expenditure of a few hundred dollars, and a decent regard thereafter for cleanliness, order and beauty, could give us in either direction from our homes, woodlands that would be a joy and inspiration to walk in. It is up to the residents of the Grove to say whether present conditions shall be improved, or whether present conditions shall be permitted to grow worse. Perhaps nobody but the present President cares much about this—at least during the entire year out two people have com(pl)ained to your President about It . . . “
*Note: In 1906, the Washington Grove Camp Meeting Association (formed in 1873) changed its name to Washington Grove Association.