Near the current entrance to the Jed Smith State Park campground, a memorial stone sits 20 feet from Highway 199, north of Crescent City, California. Hundreds drive by it daily, never realizing it’s there.
Following World War II, a push to form memorials to its veterans was made. Small memorials were established all over the country, but one in particular has national significance and it’s been there since 1949.
The memorial is like no other. This is because the ‘National Tribute Grove,’ includes 5,000 acres of old-growth redwood forest.
Dr. Ray Lyman Wilbur, a former Secretary of the Interior, said “Instead of stone or concrete, this monument is made up of living trees, survivors of centuries of combat with storm, drought, fire and flood.”
At the start of the war, the land was owned by the Del Norte Lumber Company. The ‘Save the Redwoods League’ contracted with the company to buy the land as ten, 500-acre parcels and asked Americans to give to the cause.
The 5,000 acres purchased with these donations are almost half of the park. The names given with the donations were published in the ‘Golden Book,’ with one copy to be kept in the state and another in Washington, D.C.
Adopting the grove as a national project, the ‘Daughters of the American Revolution’ took up the goal of purchasing the final 500-acre parcel, raising over $26,000 through thousands of 10 to 29 cent donations.
The state of California matched the DAR donation dollar for dollar to make the final purchase. Located on the only part of the grove along the highway, the monument was placed so that anyone traveling 199 would see it.
The monument was unveiled September 15th, 1929, during a dedication ceremony. Mrs. Roscoe C. O’Byrne, the DAR President General, gave a speech about the importance of the trees to the veterans and to America.
“We recognize that conservation is of vital importance to this country,” she said. “Unless we conserve, we shall be among the nations that have not. Preservation of this grove is a lesson in conservation to every American. We should apply this lesson not only to our trees, but to our very national life.”
She concluded, “In loving memory of the men and women of our country who served in the world war, we dedicate these trees to their courage, to their fidelity and to their sacrifice. May this ‘Land where our fathers died’ never be despoiled by the enemies of democracy.
“May these trees stand through the centuries as living symbols of the enduring strength of a free people, a great nation, our own United States of America,” she concluded.