Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chapter 19: The Ecologist - The Goodriches: An American Family
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Chapter 19: The Ecologist - Dane Starbuck, The Goodriches: An American Family 
The Goodriches: An American Family (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2001).
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To waste, to destroy, our natural resources, to skin and exhaust the land instead of using it so as to increase its usefulness, will result in undermining in the days of our children the very prosperity which we ought by right to hand down to them amplified and developed.
president theodore roosevelt, Message to Congress, December 3, 1907
. . . What we need is a good biography of Pierre Goodrich, the pioneer, that can be made required reading in all high school and college courses on ecology.
john chamberlain, “Strip Mining: Can It Unlock Fertile Land?”
During the first twenty years of the twentieth century, many Americans began to be aware of ecology. President Theodore Roosevelt was one of the first national leaders to take an interest in preserving much of America’s most scenic and pristine lands. Local chapters of such conservation organizations as the Sierra Club were also being established across the country, furthering environmental awareness. At the state level, in 1917, James P. Goodrich had been instrumental in creating the Indiana Department of Conservation, which greatly expanded the fledgling Indiana state parks system. At the federal level, in 1930, the former governor served on the Public Lands Commission, which examined land reclamation, wildlife reserves, and other environmental issues. Generally, ecological and wildlife practices became popular and were used as themes in books and movies. One of the best-known naturalist authors in the country was Indiana’s own Geneva “Gene” Stratton-Porter, from nearby Geneva, Indiana. During the early part of the century, Stratton-Porter’s books, such as Freckles (1904), A Girl of the Limberlost (1909), The Harvester (1911), and A Daughter of the Land (1918) were very well received. At the height of Stratton-Porter’s popularity, publishers estimated that she had a following of fifty million readers, making her one of the five most popular American authors of the 1920s. Several of her books were made into popular movies. Pierre Goodrich was related to Stratton-Porter through his first wife, Dorothy Dugan.1
As previously noted, Pierre’s values regarding personal, business, and public conservation can be at least partially attributed to his upbringing. His mother went to extremes to economize. Moreover, James Goodrich was ever watchful as well, constantly questioning how business and government could be conducted more efficiently. For example, in early 1920, while James Goodrich was still governor, he traveled to New York by railcar. When he disembarked at one large train depot, he noticed that railroad workers were extracting used wool packing from casings that covered the old passenger and freight-car axles. James observed that the men were simply throwing the used wool away. He realized that there was a market for recycling the wool. In June 1920, James Goodrich had two employees of the Goodrich Brothers Hay and Grain Company, Claude Barnes and Merl Chenoweth, form the Railway Service and Supply Corporation. Goodrich money was used to finance the new company, which became quite profitable. This episode demonstrates James Goodrich’s shrewd business eye.2
Pierre hated waste of any kind and thought that it was one of man’s greatest sins.3 As a businessman, he took extraordinary measures to preserve his family’s assets, increasing the worth of existing capital through steady, often innovative practices. Pierre Goodrich was not prone to go after quick profits, especially if extravagant expenditures or exploitation of natural resources was involved. He took a tight-fisted approach to investment and relished squeezing more out of less. It was that philosophy that made him, in every sense, a true ecologist.4
Goodrich detested public waste. During World War I, he had served in the Quartermaster Corps, that branch of the army concerned with furnishing war supplies. He often related to employees and friends the story of how the government took over the railroads for the purpose of shipping supplies. The custom at the time was to “featherbed,” a union practice that demanded extra workers by contract in order to provide more jobs and prevent unemployment. Goodrich denounced the practice, especially during a period of national crisis.5
From a business perspective, the operations of the Ayrshire and Patoka collieries provided Pierre Goodrich with one of his greatest challenges: to practice savings and ecology simultaneously. At their height, the collieries owned or leased more than 165,000 acres of land in Kentucky, Illinois, southwestern Indiana, West Virginia, and Wyoming.6 Strip mining had occurred both in the United States and abroad for hundreds of years, and the mined lands often resembled moon craters. At the time, strip-mine operators took the view that there was little or no economic reason to reclaim land. The free market simply did not factor into the cost of mining coal any negative effect on the environment. Pierre Goodrich challenged this view, not only because of potential profits but also because of his belief in responsible land husbandry.7
A singular event occurred in the early 1940s that was a significant factor in Goodrich’s deepening interest in conservation. In the summer of 1942, Richard Lieber, longtime chairman of the Indiana Commission on Conservation, found himself without a job or office. Lieber had previously resigned as chairman of the commission in 1933 after having served under three governors (James P. Goodrich, Warren T. McCray, and Edward L. Jackson). Lieber then served for the next nine years as a paid consultant to the National Park Service. He had an office in Washington, D.C., to which he would commute regularly from Indianapolis. When appropriations for the National Park Service were cut, Lieber had nothing to do.
At that time, in August 1942, Pierre provided Lieber an office, free of charge, in his legal suite on the seventh floor of the Electric Building in downtown Indianapolis. Lieber was very grateful for Goodrich’s generosity. The two, despite a significant age difference, became exceptionally close friends. In December 1942, Lieber’s book America’s Natural Wealth was published by Harper and Brothers in New York. Lieber dedicated the book to James P. Goodrich, who had given him the opportunity to apply his love of nature to the preservation of Indiana’s most pristine land. When Lieber died in April 1944, the normally reserved Pierre took the conservationist’s death extremely hard, telling Lieber’s wife that he felt as though he had lost a second father.8
After Lieber’s death but on his recommendation, Pierre Goodrich established in November 1945 a subsidiary corporation of the Ayrshire Collieries that he called Meadowlark Farms.9 Earlier, Goodrich had contacted the College of Agriculture at the University of Illinois and met with Charles Stewart and Laurence Norton, both professors of agricultural economics. Goodrich explained to the two professors his desire to reclaim the mined coal lands owned by Ayrshire. Professor Stewart initially did not believe Goodrich. He thought that the coal executive was simply attempting to promote public relations in order to improve the bad image that strip-mine operators had because of the way they stripped coal fields. Ultimately, however, Goodrich was able to convince the two academics of his sincerity. Stewart and Norton ultimately put Goodrich in touch with Irwin H. Reiss. Reiss did not immediately take a position with Goodrich. He first served in Burma during World War II and then worked in an avocado business in southern California. In November 1948, Reiss finally returned to Indiana to manage Meadowlark Farms. Goodrich placed the subsidiary’s headquarters in Sullivan, Indiana, which was in proximity to Ayrshire’s coal fields in the southwestern part of the state.10
According to Reiss, who served as general manager and later as president of Meadowlark Farms (1948–83), “[In the mid 1940s], the college courses or even the reference books on reclamation were not available, but Mr. Goodrich felt that with a commonsense application of technology, management and capital, something constructive could be done with surface-mined coal lands.”11
Owners were reluctant to take any measures to restore the land to its prestripped appearance because the cost of reclamation was generally greater than the land’s profitable use; that is, the land could not be easily converted into valuable farm or commercial ground. For ecological reasons, that was especially unfortunate, because stripped land created vast scenic and soil erosion problems.12 As chairman of the Ayrshire Collieries, Goodrich could not tolerate seeing thousands of acres, stripped of coal, lying ruined and useless. The purposes of Meadowlark Farms were twofold: first, to make productive use of the land before strip mining; and, second, after the coal had been removed, to make the stripped land suitable for some profitable use, preferably agricultural or recreational. Today, this is common practice and is, in fact, mandated by federal and state laws. When Goodrich began the reclamation process in the 1940s, however, he was one of the first in the nation to practice reclamation on a large scale. The problem was not that there was insufficient technology available to reclaim the land, but that the job had to be accomplished on the basis of very thin profit margins.
Meadowlark Farms also came about because of the demands of the coal industry. To be in the coal business, a colliery had to enter into long-term contracts (twenty to thirty years). To have sufficient reserves to deliver on those long-term contracts, coal companies had to buy the reserves and the surface land rights to guarantee delivery. Thus, farming Ayrshire’s land was natural, both before and after mining.13
To accomplish reclamation successfully, Goodrich sought out soil specialists and applied practical business methods. “He would buy grass seed by the truck loads,” said Roy Barnes, who worked at the Goodrich Brothers Hay and Grain Company in Winchester.14 Goodrich had soil specialists analyze the soil to see what would be the best use of the land once the coal had been removed. Options included agricultural use, such as the planting of crops or the grazing of livestock; reforestation; and recreational use. In the 1960s, after Ayrshire strip mined forty acres near Fairview, Illinois, Meadowlark Farms created a lake on the land on the town’s outskirts.15 By the early 1970s, a million bushels of corn a year were being grown on land controlled by Meadowlark Farms, and five hundred head of cattle and two thousand hogs per year were being produced on Meadowlark land.16 At its height, Meadowlark Farms was farming and managing approximately fifty thousand acres of land owned by Ayrshire Collieries.17
For the first three years of Meadowlark’s existence (1945–48), it became involved in farming by establishing six corporate farms. A resident manager supervised the farm and the farmhands who lived there. All the livestock and farm machinery were owned by Ayrshire. Goodrich and Reiss soon realized that that type of operation was not necessary. In fact, they found that the practice was counterproductive in that the employees had no vested interest in what was being produced or in turning a profit. Soon after, an arrangement was instituted whereby farmers could stay on their land. Leases were adopted that encouraged farming both before and after coal was removed. Approximately two hundred tenant farmers were cultivating Meadowlark land by the early 1980s.18
By the early 1970s, AMAX (the successor to Ayrshire) owned land and held options to mine coal in twenty counties in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Wyoming, and Montana. At that time in Indiana alone, Meadowlark Farms had leased approximately twenty-five hundred acres to the Department of Conservation for public fishing, camping, boating, swimming, and hiking. Other lands were resown with clover and other seed, which turned wasteland into valuable farm ground. Ayrshire and AMAX, through Meadowlark Farms, were able to accomplish this while turning a profit.
When Goodrich sold the Ayrshire Collieries Corporation to American Metal Climax (AMAX) in 1969, part of the agreement was that American Metal Climax had to maintain Meadowlark Farms’ reclamation operations. So successful were Meadowlark Farms’ practices that they were adopted by AMAX and other strip-mining operations throughout the country. As a result, wheat, corn, and other crops are now raised over played-out coal seams. Other uses of the land, such as the grazing of livestock, continue to this day.19
Another reason for Goodrich’s concern about reclamation came from L. E. “Buck” Sawyer. Sawyer served as director of forestry and reclamation for the Indiana Coal Producers from 1944 to 1969. In that position, Sawyer encouraged corporate owners such as Goodrich to practice sound reclamation and assisted them in doing so, especially with the planting of trees.20 Thus, the efforts of Goodrich, Lieber, Reiss, and Sawyer had a significant influence in making Indiana a state leader in reclamation practices long before state and federal governments passed legislation mandating such actions. Probably the most important and comprehensive federal legislation regulating reclamation did not occur until 1977, when Congress passed the Surface Mining and Control Reclamation Act. That was more than thirty years after Goodrich had established Meadowlark Farms.
Anne C. Lawrason, who worked for Goodrich, recalls how important the work of Meadowlark Farms was to her employer: “I believe [Mr. Goodrich’s] greatest accomplishment, in his own eyes, was creating the beautiful Meadowlark Farms out of an ugly, scarred former strip-mining project. He never tired of telling how he used the same machinery that did the mining to renovate the land and make it productive.”21
Goodrich’s ecological efforts have not gone unnoticed. Over the past fifteen years, John A. Baden, chairman of the Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment (FREE) in Bozeman, Montana, has conducted more than two dozen Liberty Fund conferences linking the ideas of liberty and ecology. In the early 1980s, Baden established the Pierre F. Goodrich Conservation Award. To date, two individuals have received the honor: Arthur Temple, Jr., of Diboll and Lufkin, Texas; and David True of Casper, Wyoming. Temple, a third-generation owner of a large east Texas timber company, has been instrumental in reintroducing nearly extinct native species into more than twenty thousand acres of woodland in Texas and Louisiana. True, formerly an independent oil driller and chairman of the board of regents at the University of Wyoming, has managed and cared for indigenous wildlife on two large ranches in Wyoming.22
[1. ]See Barbara Olenyik Morrow, From “Ben-Hur” to “Sister Carrie”: Remembering the Lives and Works of Five Indiana Authors (Indianapolis: Guild Press of Indiana, 1995), p. 96. Stratton-Porter was married to Charles D. Porter, pharmacist, banker, and great-uncle to Dorothy Dugan.
[2. ]Perce G. Goodrich, interview, November 9, 1991. See also “Railway Service Corporation,” Dissolved Corporations, State Archives, Indiana Commission on Public Records, AR-1988. On November 19, 1921, a petition to change the name of the company to the Railway Service and Supply Corporation was filed and granted. On February 14, 1922, Edward Goodrich was elected chairman. The company had capital stock of $500,000 as of March 13, 1922.
[3. ]Roy Barnes, interview, February 8, 1992.
[4. ]Pierre Goodrich’s abhorrence of waste can be seen in the way he conducted his private life. Time, not money, was his most precious possession, and he safeguarded it prudently—to his way of thinking. He avoided most social or fraternal organizations because he believed them to be time-consuming and nonproductive. For the same reasons, he did not watch television. “I’ve always felt that there are a lot of things to do and learn about in life, and a person can waste a great deal of time on things that don’t matter,” Goodrich once told an interviewer. Thomas R. Keating, “He’s Unknown—and Remarkable,” Indianapolis Star, April 12, 1973, p. 21, col. 1.
[5. ]Rosanna Amos, interview, December 12, 1991.
[6. ]Goodrich wrote to the Wabash College president Paul W. Cook in December 1966 that Meadowlark Farms at the time held between 25,000 and 26,000 acres of land in various states of cultivation. Moreover, “there is in this land relationship to the coal business, around 60,000 acres.” Letter from Goodrich to Paul W. Cook, December 2, 1966, Pierre F. Goodrich Papers, Archives, Wabash College, Crawfordsville, Indiana. Irwin H. Reiss stated that at one time the Ayrshire Collieries Corporation owned as much as 165,000 acres outright. Reiss said that Goodrich never wanted to buy the land on a lease or royalty basis, but to own it outright (interview by William C. Dennis, February 11, 1994).
[7. ]Chamberlain, “Strip Mining: Can It Unlock Fertile Land?” Roanoke (Va.) Times, July 31, 1974.
[8. ]Emma Lieber, Richard Lieber, pp. 160–61; Roy Barnes, interview, February 8, 1992. See also William H. Andrews, “Ayrshire Collieries Corporation—Profit with Ecology” (research paper, Indiana University, n.d.), p. 17 and footnote 15. Andrews briefly describes the relationship between Pierre Goodrich and Lieber based on an interview with Goodrich’s law partner Albert Campbell.
[9. ]William H. Andrews, “The Ayrshire Collieries Corporation—Profit with Ecology,” p. 17 and n. 15. Andrews obtained this information in an interview with Albert M. Campbell, who served as vice-president of the Ayrshire Coal Company and was Goodrich’s law partner beginning in the 1930s. See also Strip Mine Farming (Sullivan, Ind.: Meadowlark Farms, 1952).
[10. ]Irwin H. Reiss, interview, June 29, 1996. Another reason that Sullivan may have been chosen as the headquarters site for Meadowlark Farms, according to Reiss, was that it was the home of Will H. Hays, Sr., a longtime friend of James and Pierre Goodrich.
[11. ]Ibid. Reiss not only became general manager and later president and CEO of Meadowlark Farms, but in 1960 Goodrich appointed Reiss to the board of the Ayrshire Collieries Company and, in 1961, to the board of the Republic Coal and Coke Company. Reiss was also a founding member of Liberty Fund, Inc., in 1960 (Irwin H. Reiss, interview, June 29, 1996).
[12. ]Irwin H. Reiss, “We Are Farmers, Not Miners,” Coal Mining and Processing, May 1974; Carol L. Cornforth, “Reclamation Commitment Proves Rewarding,” Coal Mining and Processing, March 1973; Irwin H. Reiss, interview, June 29, 1996.
[13. ]Irwin H. Reiss, interview by William C. Dennis, February 11, 1991 (tape and transcript of interview are in the possession of Liberty Fund).
[14. ]Roy Barnes, interview, February 8, 1992.
[15. ]Reiss, “We Are Farmers, Not Miners.”
[16. ]Irwin H. Reiss, interview, June 29, 1996.
[17. ]Irwin H. Reiss, interview by William C. Dennis, February 11, 1991.
[18. ]Ibid.; Irwin H. Reiss, interview, June 29, 1996.
[19. ]Irwin H. Reiss, interview, June 29, 1996. According to Reiss, when Cyprus Minerals Company purchased AMAX Coal in December 1993, the operations of Meadowlark Farms were ended. As a result, the farms that were once operated by Meadowlark were sold to farmers and other investors.
[20. ]Andrews, “The Ayrshire Collieries Corporation—Profit with Ecology,” p. 17.
[21. ]Letter from Anne C. Lawrason to author, December 11, 1995.
[22. ]John Baden, telephone interview, December 30, 1996. Baden wrote in a letter to the author: “I believe Mr. Goodrich could be noted as the businessman who has done the most to create the field of restoration ecology” (January 10, 1996).