In the 1930s, Snake Hollow in Shawnee Forest became the location of a wildlife and forestry research station, which received its funding through state and federal conservation programs. One of the station’s major cooperative projects involved the Ohio Division of Conservation, the Ohio State University, the American Wildlife Institute and the U.S. Bureau of Biological Survey.
Beginning in June 1935, Floyd B. Chapman lived here and carried out research on the wildlife resources of the forest, documenting the work of the Southern Ohio Wildlife Sanctuary and Demonstration Project, which benefited from the assistance of the New Deal’s Civilian Conservation Corps. It was from this location that the first published studies of the flora and fauna of Shawnee Forest were conducted. Today, only the poured concrete foundation and ruins of two small stone bridge abutments remain to mark its location at the mouth of Snake Hollow on Forest Road 6. The forest has reclaimed the site and its significance has been lost to time.
On maps and in local lore, the station has gone by various names. These days, if anyone even knows of its existence, its referred to as the Old Forest Experiment Station. In 1939, the Ohio Division of Forestry published the first map of the area that marked its location, labeling it as the “Central States Forest Experiment Station Cabin.” The “Central States” part of its official name points to the cabin’s origins in an earlier Federal forest conservation program.
Under the McSweeny-McNary Act of 1928, Congress authorized and financed a national program of forest experiment stations. The stations were chartered “to conduct silvicultural, forest fire, dendrological, and other experiments and investigations, independently or in cooperation with other branches of the Federal Government, and with States, universities, colleges, county and municipal agencies, associations, and individuals, to determine the best methods for the growing, management, and protection of timber crops on forest lands and farm woodlots.” Headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, the Central States’ Forest Experiment Station helped fund and staff the research facility in Snake Hollow, where the Ohio Division of Forestry had set aside 125-acres for Station use.
Visit the ruins of the Forest Experiment Station on Forest Road 6 and hike the beautiful Snake Hollow. Contemplate the history of state wildlife and forestry programs, as well as the conservation programs of the Federal government, which played a key part in saving the Shawnee Forest.
William H. Alexander, “Report of the Forty-Ninth Annual Meeting of the Ohio Academy of Science,” Ohio Journal of Science Vol. 39, no. 4 (July 1939): 187-212.
Floyd Barton Chapman, “The Development and Utilization of the Wildlife Resources of Unglaciated Ohio,” Ph.D. Dissertation, The Ohio State University, 1938.
Robert William Merz, “A History of the Central States Forest Experiment Station, 1927-1965,” North Central Forest Experiment Station, Forest Service, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, 1981.
Andrew Lee Feight, Ph.D., is a Professor of American History and Coordinator of the History and Appalachian Studies programs at Shawnee State University. As Director of the Shawnee Digital History Lab, he is the founding editor and developer of the Scioto Historical mobile app and website, a public history project that explores the history of Portsmouth, Ohio, and the surrounding Appalachian region. Visit sciotohistorical.org to continue your exploration of Portsmouth and Ohio’s Little Smokies.