Dark Entry Forest
In the valley below Dark Entry Forest, 1930s Private Collection
By 1920, Cornwall’s population had declined to 834 people, from a peak of more than 2,000 in 1850. The low price and ready availability of Cornwall’s real estate, as well as its close proximity to New York City, made it very appealing to New Yorkers who sought refuge from the hustle and bustle of city life.
"I would describe it as being the Utopian idea that… this would be self-sustaining as a garden of trees, with an inexhaustible supply that they would keep cutting out…. It was a place to get away from the trials and tribulations of New York."
~ Stephen G. Clarke, 1984
William C. Clarke, Jr. sledding near
the Dark Entry ski area, 1930s Private Collection
The work being done by the state in establishing public forests helped inspire the creation of private forests. In 1924, when Mohawk and Housatonic State Forests were being created, a group of New Yorkers acquired 800 acres of farmland on Bald Mountain in Cornwall with goals that included the promotion of forestation and conservation of nature.
This society is planned to promote forestation, to run a wood mill, to promote conservation of bird, animal and wildflower life, and to afford a playground for you and your children and your children’s children.
~ Prospectus, Dark Entry Forest, March 1924
Trees planted at Dark Entry, 1930s Private Collection
The group was formed by Dr. William Cogswell Clarke, who had purchased 300 acres of land in Cornwall in 1906. Ten years later, captivated by the beauty of the forest, Dr. Clarke recruited Yale Forestry School graduate Edward Behre to work as his forester, planting several thousand red pine saplings in 1916.
Dr. William C. Clarke, 1934
The fence, built by William C. Clarke, Jr., was
made from chestnut logged after the blight.
There were many abandoned and open fields. This was not so much a question of soil deterioration as it was the result of the opening up of the west, which made farming on the rocky and hilly soils of New England unattractive. In this situation, foresters throughout the northeast were encouraging tree planting on these old fields.
~ Edward Behre, 1978
Tree planting; Dr. Clarke on the right Private Collection
Dark Entry Forest was incorporated in December 1924 with 41 shareholders. The following April, they began planting 4,000 tree seedlings. By the summer of 1927, they had planted 10,000 seedlings, mostly red pine.
Dr. Josephine Evarts with horse Harriet, 1930s Private Collection
"Dr. Jo," as she was known, was later the local
country doctor in Kent, CT and Millerton, NY,
and a physician at the Harlem Valley State Hospital .
In 1936, the red pine trees began to suffer from infestation of the pine shoot moth. The following summer, two bad brush fires destroyed numerous walnut seedlings. Norway pines were planted to replace lost trees. Around 1940, the federal government donated Japanese chestnut trees and one hundred hybrid poplars.
Dark Entry Forest Summer Campers, 1930s Private Collection
A summer camp for boys and girls was started in the 1930s and included horseback riding and sports.
Dr. Clarke sometimes lectured to groups outside Dark Entry Forest: in 1935, he visited the CCC Camp Cross and spoke to the camp members about "Gaining the Most Out of Living."
During the 1930s and early '40s, weekend residents included the Skidreiverein club from New York City.
Kate Wolfe with horses Chief and Jerry, 1980s Private Collection
Dark Entry Forest, Inc. continues to the present day. Despite rumors to the contrary, the area is as populated as any other part of Cornwall.