A ground breaking was held May 5 for a new educational pavilion at Briarwood Nature Preserve. The pavilion was donated by the Louisiana Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution. It will mark the birth site of Caroline Dormon, who was born July 19, 1888. She eventually became known for her work as an author, botanist, ethnologist, artist, and educator. She dies in Shreveport on November 22, 1971 at the age of 83.
The educational pavilion is a service project of the Louisiana Society DAR. Each State Regent elects a State Regents Project to raise money for during her three-year administration. The educational pavilion is State Regent Zora M. Olsson’s project. The National Society Daughters of the American Revolution was founded in 1890 to promote historic preservation, education and patriotism. Its members are descended from the patriots who won American independence during the Revolutionary War. With over 177,000 members in approximately 3,000 chapters worldwide, DAR is one of the world’s largest and most active service organizations. Caroline Dormon was a member of the Pelican Chapter DAR joining in 1909.
Briarwood was the Dormon families summer home where Caroline and her siblings spent their time in the woods. In a quote from her, “they did not play Indians, they were Indians.” After doing some genealogical research, State Regent Zora Olsson discovered that Dormon’s Revolutionary War ancestor, Gaspar Joseph Trotti, was born in Italy. He lived and dies at Briarwood Plantation in Barnwell County, South Carolina.
Caroline graduated from Judson College in Alabama and returned home to teach school, which she did for a while. As she witnessed the harvesting of old growth timber by the lumber companies, her dream became the preservation of those trees. She and her sister traveled throughout central Louisiana in a Model T Ford identifying areas to suggest as a future National Forest.
Louisiana didn’t have an Enabling Act that would allow the government to purchase land in the state to stop the harvesting of the old growth forest. With the help of her lawyer brother, Caroline wrote an Enabling Act; and with the help of State Senator Henry Hardtner, the act was attached to another bill and passed. The first unit of the Kisatchie National Forest was purchase in 1928.
In 1921 Caroline was employed by the Louisiana Forestry Division becoming the first woman employed in Forestry in the US. In 1930 the forestry profession honored her by electing her an associate member of the Society of American Foresters. She was the first female so elected. Today, many people consider Kisatchie National Forest to be the prettiest part of Louisiana.
Caroline was truly a woman before her time. She was born before women could even vote, much less hold a job in the Forest Service. President Roosevelt appointed her to the DeSoto Commission to study the route of DeSoto in this country. Caroline was a teacher, artist, conservationist, preservationist, and even requested the military command who were negating in maneuvers in Louisiana during WWII to encourage then not to damage the Indian mounds while acknowledging the inevitable damage to some of the reforestation seedlings. Her book on wild flowers is now a collector’s item. Many of the plants at Briarwood were planted by Caroline after traveling the state and obtaining cuttings, bulbs or the plant.
The Briarwood Foundation, through its efforts, has preserved for all of us a national treasure, Briarwood. Richard and Jessie Johnson were personally entrusted by “Miss Carrie” to care for Briarwood, and now Rick Johnson is the second-generation caretaker. The educational pavilion will enable many to learn more about this extraordinary woman who accomplished so much for Louisiana. Although she was small in stature, her huge legacy will live on.