146.526 acres in Pike County created by benevolence
2005: 76 Acres donated by John and Emily Samson in memory of Clifton and Dorothy Samson, John Samson’s parents.
2018: 70.526 Acres donated by Marjorie Obrist in memory of George E. Obrist, Jr. and in honor of His Children Ellen Nelson, Kathleen Chatterton, Marianne Cosper and George E. Obrist, III
Samson Woods and the Samson-Obrist Preserve is one-of-a-kind, in the sense that it is the only preserve in the Arc’s system created entirely by donation from benevolent landowners. Nestled just north of the ancient Teays River Valley, in an area comprised of ridges and ravines, the preserve projects a mature forest composed of oaks, maples, dogwoods, and sassafras trees.
The first donation came in the summer of 2005. John and Emily Samson signed over their 76-acre farm in Pike County to the Arc of Appalachia, securing its destiny as an enduring nature preserve. William J. Samson, the namesake of the preserve and John’s great grandfather, purchased the Appalachian hill farm in the mid 1800’s and began to eke out a modest living there as a southeastern Ohio farmer. Allowing the elevated hill country to remain in its natural forest cover of oaks, he managed the lower-lying acreage as pastures and farm fields. A modest house was built on the property which William lived in, and passed on to his son, John (our John’s grandfather), who continued to occupy and oversee the farm.
Although the forest has almost assuredly been cut sometime since European settlement, the Samson’s had a remarkable and unheard of family practice of leaving the trees untouched. That tradition carried onto John, who played in the woods as a boy, and hunted there as a man. With the passing of his grandfather in 1948, and then his father in 1987, he eventually became owner and steward of the beloved family woods – which now, due to natural succession, covers the entire property. The once-cultivated farm fields that were never planted in pines, now have a solid canopy of naturally sown deciduous trees — tall tulip poplars and sugar maples. Even the foundation of the Samson farmhouse lies in the deep shade of a cove forest. What was once the front lawn is now densely carpeted with spring beauties in the springtime. Click here to read more of the preserve’s history. In John’s words, letting go of the land was one of the hardest things he had ever done. But John knew in his heart that the only way to save the woods into perpetuity was to give it away.
Just this past winter, the Arc of Appalachia received notice from Marjorie Obrist that she was interested and ready to donate land in Pike County that had been in the Obrist family for four generations. The property, made up of 70 forested acres, lies immediately adjacent to the Arc’s existing Samson Woods preserve. To say that we were thrilled by the prospect of expanding the Samson Woods preserve is an understatement. By April, the paperwork was in order for the transfer and the Arc became the recipient and steward of the land. The addition nearly doubles the size of the preserve, and will allow the Arc to install a public hiking trail in the future.
Giving up land – even when one knows it is the best thing for the preservation of the trees – is still a very difficult thing to do, especially when it has been in one’s family for four generations. The Arc is humbled by the generosity of both families, and is grateful for the opportunity to carry on their legacies by protecting their beloved woods.