The Saving of Mt. Penn (As related by the Hon. D.K. Hoch) Part II April 25, 1947

The time was now ripe to act in regard to Mt. Penn. Mr. Harvey Heinly, the new president of the Conservation Association sensed that public sentiment had been aroused to a point where legal steps could be taken to put an end to the commercial operations which made Mt. Penn unsightly. In company with Dr. Frederick Wilson he called upon George D. Horst, owner of some of the land involved, and prevailed upon Horst to deed some of the land to the city. With these deeds in their hands Heinly and Wilson called upon city council, declaring, “See what Mr. Horst has done? Now what will council do?”

The city council caught the spirit; the quarries were condemned, damages were paid to the owners and the western slop of Mt. Penn became city property.

Meanwhile Mr. Solan Parkes established himself as a tree surgeon and Mr.  Walter Wells became the secretary of the Conservation Association. On the occasion of the tenth anniversary (1923) of the association another meeting was held at the Pagoda. As on the former occasion it was attended by state and national foresters.

Solan L. Parkes suffered a handicap which the general public knew nothing. During his childhood he met with an accident which resulted in severe injury to his right foot. For years he was not able to use this member and therefore was deprived of the pleasure and benefit of joining in play with the children of his age. As a result, he spent much of his time alone, and when he did associate with others he was in constant fear lest someone come in contact with his foot and thereby cause him pain. This made it difficult for him to work with other people. Frequently he became involved in misunderstandings with his associates. He was the first Boy Scout executive in the county.

Solan L. Parkes knew trees as few men did and for years practiced tree surgery. Many shade trees in Reading and Berks owe their lives to the efficient care which he gave them. The depression of the ’30s hit him hard. because. when money became tight, people no longer gave their trees the same care that they had given formerly and Parkes found himself without finances during his declining years.

Perhaps the most lasting contribution which Solan L. Parkes made to his fellowmen was to have the white birch adopted as the Mother’s Day tree. With the permission of the city council of Reading he planted the first Mother’s Day tree at Antietam, on Mother’s Day . 1914. Elaborate ceremonies attended the event. City officials were present and there was singing, prayer, and oratory. The idea spread beyond Reading and its environs. In subsequent years Mr. Parkes was invited to plant Mother’s Day trees in the park in the national capital and in a number of larger American cities. Whenever he performed this act he used a large silver-bladed shovel, the same one he had used to plant the one in Berks.

Hon. D. K. Hoch pays the following personal tribute to the memory of Solan L. Parkes:

“I care not what estimate others may place upon his record, as for myself, I shall always feel that he left two standing monuments– the forest at Antietam and the Mother’s Day Tree. In addition he should have credit for saving Mt. Penn, for it was he who laid the….. (The rest of the article is missing, please forgive us but we do not have the Reading Times available for that date to fill in the missing section.)

ceremony mothers day tree

solan parkes

Images Source: Courtesy of the Historical Society of Berks County.

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