In memory of John Paul Jones and Daniel & Isa Cox Hall
Allen Jones donated the property to the West Virginia Land Trust (WVLT) in 2016, to uphold his mother’s wishes to see that this untouched forest be protected forever. The natural features include a seasonal stream and a 15-acre stand of old-growth trees, ranging from 160 – 300 years of age.
WVLT manages the property under guidelines outlined in the deed, which require keeping the property in its natural condition, while accommodating hiking and nature study.
The Marie Hall Jones Ancient Forest Preserve is a 190-acre property in Doddridge County, which will be open to the public as a nature preserve in the near future, after parking and access have been developed.
We are currently fundraising and developing a plan for parking and access. There are currently no signs marking the parking area or trailhead. The property is a “work-in-progress” and we welcome newcomers to who want to help out! Please call our office at (304) 346-7788 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marie Hall Jones, born in Ritchie County in 1907, was an ardent conservationist and nature lover. Returning home with her husband after living around the United States and in Southeast Asia, they settled in Fairmont, where they raised four children. An interest in majestic old forests evolved into a near-obsessive search for one to protect, as she realized that many of the patches of ancient forests in West Virginia had already fallen to the axe. “Alas, I was too late,” she later wrote in a journal, about her search for the right tract in Ritchie County in the 1960s and 1970s.
A tip from a professor friend at Fairmont State College (now University) that a Doddridge County property with an impressive stand of ancient trees was going to be auctioned in a sale, forced by a family’s joint owners with differing views on what to do with the land, led her with her youngest child, Allen, to the courthouse in 1972.
“It’s one of those lifetime events that made a lasting impression,” said Allen, then 24 years old, and the donor of the property to the West Virginia Land Trust. “I can still remember exactly what happened. I was visiting at home, in the process of moving to California after graduate school. When we got to the courthouse, it was jam-packed full of people. It was sort of a community event, with people wanting to see how the bidding went.”
“Mother asked me to do the bidding. Lots of people were bidding at the start, but dropped out as the bidding got into more serious money. There I am, a young man with a business degree from Wharton (at U. of Pennsylvania), bidding against timber companies. We hadn’t really talked about a maximum price. I kept looking at Mother, to see if she was happy. She kept saying, ‘go on, go on!’”
The price for the 190-acre tract rose to $39,000. Sensing the timber companies were losing interest, Allen bid $39,100… “And that’s what it sold for.”
Protected ever since, the Jones tract is an exceptional Appalachian mixed hardwood forest and includes Black walnut, a variety of oaks, maples, hickories, birch, basswood, and yellow poplar, among others, typical of the diversity of the central Appalachian deciduous forest. The property includes a flat floodplain meadow, slopes with mature mixed hardwood forests, and near the top of the ridge, on steep slopes, between 15 and 20 acres of impressive ancient trees.
A 44-year journey for a California resident with West Virginia roots has come to “a happy ending as my mother wished,” and entered its next phase with perpetual protection for an ancient forest in the care of the West Virginia Land Trust.