Major Welch among Five Inducted into Appalachian Trail Hall of Fame
GARDNERS, Pa. – Five Appalachian Trail pioneers, including the first two women and Major William Welch, a founder of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, were inducted into the Appalachian Trail Hall of Fame in June.They join the charter class of Appalachian Trail Hall of Famers—Myron Avery, Gene Espy, Ed Garvey, Benton MacKaye, Arthur Perkins and Earl Shaffer—who were inducted in last year. Members of the 2012 class are:
“Major” William Adams Welch (1868-1941) – The Appalachian Trail Conference and the familiar Appalachian Trail sign and logo can be traced back to “Major” Welch, a Kentuckian and a direct descendant of Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams. Welch was instrumental in forming the New York–New Jersey Trail Conference. He served as general manager of Harriman and Bear Mountain State Parks in New York State. He was called “Major” for his service during World War I. In the 1920s, the club routed the first footpath section of the Appalachian Trail, from which he designed a square, die-cut copper marker with the Appalachian Trail monogram that evolved into the trail’s most recognized symbol. In 1925, park groups in which he was active were among the sponsors of the first Appalachian Trail Conference and selected its first chairman.
Emma “Grandma” Gatewood (1888-1973) – After raising 11 children on farms along the Ohio River and at the age of 67, the grandmother of 23 became the first woman to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail alone and in a continuous hike. That was in 1955. Two years later, she hiked the Appalachian Trail again and later completed a third hike of the trail in sections. She is known for her legendary Keds sneakers that she wore instead of hiking boots and the laundry sack that she used instead of a backpack. Many call “Grandma” Gatewood the first thru-hiker celebrity. She appeared on the Today show and numerous other programs. She inspired two distinct movements in hiking—long-distance hiking for women and the ultra-lite movement. She carried just a few items with her, each chosen carefully so they could perform multiple functions. Including food, water and equipment, she rarely carried more than 20 pounds.
David A Richie (1932-2002) – A man who neither sought nor easily accepted credit for his successes, Dave Richie “had more to do with the reality of today’s Appalachian National Scenic Trail and its management than any other single person,” in the words of David Startzell, longtime executive director of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. Six years after Congress adopted the National Trails System Act, which designated the Appalachian Trail as the first national scenic trail, Richie successfully sought responsibility for the neglected Appalachian Trail when he accepted a new job as deputy director of the agency’s northeast regional office in Boston. Eventually, he obtained approval for a separate Appalachian Trail Project Office, to report directly to Washington. He was largely responsible for developing the “cooperative management system” used to manage the Appalachian Trail today. Born in Moorestown, N.J., Richie was a graduate of Haverford College and of George Washington University's law school. He was also a Navy pilot and Marine captain.
J. Frank Schairer (1904-1970) – The first white blazes for the Appalachian Trail ever painted on Mount Katahdin in Maine and through much of the rest of the Wilderness were done by the hand of Frank Schairer. That was during the summer of 1933. A cofounder of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, he helped to blaze several hundred miles of the Appalachian Trail through what is now Shenandoah National Park as well as the 100-mile Wilderness in Maine. He spent most of his adult life volunteering in one capacity or another on behalf of the Appalachian Trail, attending meetings and serving as treasurer and later supervisor of trails for the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, as well as secretary of the Maine Appalachian Trail Club and as a member of the Appalachian Trail Conference Board of Managers. But his favorite trail-related activity was building, blazing and maintaining the actual footpath. By profession, he was a Yale-trained chemist who was fascinated with the composition of rocks and minerals. This led him early on to backpacking expeditions in search of the prizes of his profession.
Dr. Jean Stephenson (1893-1979) – Her knowledge of the Appalachian Trail was encyclopedic. Her role as editor-in-chief of Appalachian Trail guidebooks and the Appalachian Trailway News set enduring standards. Her involvement led to the trail being completed in Maine and the entire trail being protected by the federal government. Dr. Stephenson came to the Appalachian Trail project in 1933, more than a dozen years after arriving in Washington via Cornell University from her native Waco, Texas, earning a doctorate in law from National University School of Law, and settling into a position at the United States Department of the Navy. She worked closely with trail co-founder Myron Avery and took up his mantle to see the Appalachian Trail become a reality. The Potomac Appalachian Trail Club made her its first honorary member in 1950.
“Each class of Appalachian Trail Museum Hall of Fame inductees includes people who have made a major contribution to the Appalachian Trail, or otherwise have advanced the cause of the Appalachian Trail. The 2012 class certainly upholds those standards” said Larry Luxenberg, founder of the Appalachian Trail Museum and president of the Appalachian Trail Museum Society, the organization that sponsors the Appalachian Trail Hall of Fame.
Jim Foster, chairman of the Appalachian Trail Hall of Fame Committee, said nominees each year will include pioneers who conceived of and developed the trail; those who organized or directed major trail organizations like the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and the Appalachian Trail maintaining clubs; longtime trail maintainers; leaders who promoted and protected the Appalachian Trail; hikers who have made significant accomplishments, and other persons who have enriched the culture or community of the Appalachian Trail by their association with it.
In addition to the five Hall of Fame inductees, Jean Cashin was honored for her lifetime of service to the Appalachian Trail and for befriending generations of hikers. Among her many contributions, Cashin started the tradition of taking a photo of each A.T. thru-hiker who passed through Harpers Ferry.
Appalachian Trail Hall of Fame inductees are honored in the Appalachian Trail Museum, which has had approximately 20,000 visitors from throughout the United States and 18 other countries since it opened in Pine Grove Furnace State Park in June 2010. Located at the midway point of the Appalachian Trail, the museum is across from the Pine Grove General Store on Pennsylvania Route 233. The museum is open from noon to 4 p.m. daily from Memorial Day to Labor Day and on weekends from noon to 4 p.m. in the spring and fall.