Francis Beidler was a Chicago businessman who owned the Santee River Cypress Company. By 1905 he had stopped timbering in swamps he possessed near Charleston, South Carolina, having decided it wasn’t cost-effective to pull logs out of the inaccessible waterlogged lands. In addition, one of those tracts, the Four Holes Swamp, was full of ancient trees as much as 1,000 years old, making it one of the few areas in the state that remained just as it had been when the original European settlers arrived. It was against Beidler’s historic and conserving instincts to cut this forest, and his descendants also decided not to. Indeed, they fought heated battles with the federal government, which wanted to use the land during FDR’s administration.
In the 1960s, the Nature Conservancy and the Audubon Society joined together and launched a campaign that raised $1.5 million in donations to buy 3,400 acres of the Four Holes Swamp, which they renamed the Francis Beidler Forest. In 2003, the two organizations combined forces again to expand the tract. Today, it is the world’s biggest virgin cypress-tupelo swamp forest—a 12,500-acre National Natural Landmark that harbors, among other things, one of the oldest bald cypress trees in the world.