1908 | Washington, D.C.

Saving the Forest for the Trees

Theodore Roosevelt wonders what’s in a name.

The White House
Washington, DC
January 22, 1908

My dear Mr. Kent:

I have just received from Secretary Garfield your very generous letter enclosing the gift of Redwood Canyon to the national government to be kept as a perpetual park for the preservation of the giant redwoods therein and to be named the Muir National Monument. You have doubtless seen my proclamation of January 9, instant, creating this monument. I thank you most heartily for this singularly generous and public-spirited action on your part. All Americans who prize the undamaged and especially those who realize the literally unique value of the groves of giant trees, must feel that you have conferred a great and lasting benefit upon the whole country.

I have a very great admiration for John Muir; but after all, my dear sir, this is your gift. No other land than that which you give is included in this tract of nearly three hundred acres and I should greatly like to name the monument the Kent Monument if you will permit it.

Sincerely yours,

Theodore Roosevelt

 

Kentfield, CA
January 30, 1908

My dear Mr. Roosevelt:

I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your message of appreciation, and hope and believe it will strengthen me to go on in an attempt to save more of the precious and vanishing glories of nature for a people too slow of perception.

Your kind suggestion of a change of name is not one that I can accept. So many millions of better people have died forgotten that to stencil one’s own name on a benefaction seems to carry with it an implication of mandate immortality, as being something purchasable.

I have five good, husky boys that I am trying to bring up to a knowledge of democracy and to a realizing sense of the rights of the “other fellow,” doctrines which you, sir, have taught with more vigor and effect than any man in my time. If these boys cannot keep the name of Kent alive, I am willing it should be forgotten.

I have this day sent you by mail a few photographs of Muir Woods, and trust that you will believe, before you see the real thing (which I hope will be soon), that our nation has acquired something worthwhile.

Yours truly,

William Kent

 

The White House
Washington, DC
February 5, 1908

My dear Mr. Kent:

By George! you are right. It is enough to do the deed and not to desire, as you say, to “stencil one’s own name on the benefaction.” Good for you, and for the five boys who are to keep the name of Kent alive! I have four who I hope will do the same thing by the name of Roosevelt. Those are awfully good photos.

Sincerely yours,

Theodore Roosevelt

Contributor

Theodore Roosevelt

and William Kent, from a correspondence. In 1905, as president, Roosevelt created the U.S. Forest Service. That same year, William Kent purchased 611 acres of forest in Northern California to save its redwoods from logging interests. A devastating earthquake in San Francisco in 1906 destroyed the city’s access to water reservoirs, and eminent domain proceedings began for a reservoir on forestland. Kent mailed a deed for 295 acres to Secretary of the Interior James R. Garfield in late 1907, knowing that the recently passed Antiquities Act, by which Roosevelt had created national monuments of Devils Tower and the Grand Canyon, could allow for the land’s preservation.