Joseph Battell was a Vermont newspaper publisher, and promoter of the Morgan horse. His creation of the American Morgan Horse Registry and donation of his horse farm to the national breeding program for Morgans helped save the breed. Battell was also an avid land buyer, and when he died in 1915 he left more than 30,000 acres of forest and farm to Middlebury College, of which he was a trustee. The college established a summer writers’ school within the Victorian buildings at the heart of the property (which it continues to operate to this day), and sold most of the surrounding land to the U.S. Forest Service. Contrary to Battell’s hope that the tract could be preserved as “a specimen of the original Vermont forest,” the college and Forest Service saw no responsible way to maintain the property without some commercial logging.
In 1911, Battell made a separate gift to the State Forester of about 1,000 acres of wild land surrounding the third highest peak in Vermont—Camel’s Hump, which offers one of the most distinctive rocky profiles in New England and tops out at 4,083 feet. Apart from its popular hiking trails, this mountain land was left undisturbed until 1969, when it was turned into a state park with a forest reserve to surround it—now totaling 20,000 acres. The area includes a section kept in a primitive state to protect rare alpine plants and wilderness settings. A second portion is managed for timber production, wildlife and hunting, hiking, Nordic skiing, and snowmobiling. A third piece includes farms and some seasonal and permanent homes. Camel’s Hump is the only peak in Vermont of 4,000 feet or more that doesn’t have an adjoining ski resort.
- Vermont State Parks, vtstateparks.com/htm/camelshump.htm
- Tom Butler, Wildlands Philanthropy: The Great American Tradition (Earth Aware, 2008)