John H. Foster

John H. Foster: Texas’ First State Forester (1915-1918)

The first state forester in Texas was John Harold Foster. Born on April 13, 1880, Foster hailed from Waltham, Massachusetts. He graduated in 1903 with a Bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Norwich University in Vermont and conducted graduate work in chemistry at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and European Studies. He attended Yale, graduating with a Master of Forestry degree in 1907. As a US Forest Service employee, Foster worked in the Rocky Mountains, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and in the Northeast, becoming assistant chief of state cooperation within four years. A prolific writer, he authored several publications prior to coming to Texas on forest conditions in Louisiana and Mississippi as well as forest taxation in New Hampshire. Foster was a member of the Society of American Foresters, American Forestry Association, Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, the Eastern Foresters Association and, after moving to Texas, the Texas Forestry Association. In 1911, he became head of the forestry department at New Hampshire State College and forester with the New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station. In his history of TFS, historian David Chapman wrote “It is unlikely that Texas could have secured a more qualified individual than John Foster. His inside knowledge of the workings of the US Forest Service and the requirements of the Weeks Law would be a great asset in making Texas eligible for federal funding.” Although serving as Texas’ first state forester for less than three years, Foster got the agency off to a solid start, despite very limited state appropriations and resources. He obtained funding from the US Forest Service to help initiate the first forestry public awareness and fire protection program in Texas. He published several bulletins on forestry and the Department of Forestry’s first accomplishments and gave numerous public addresses on forestry during his short tenure. Two years after his resignation in 1918, he became the second state forester of New Hampshire. Here, he had more success, holding the position for thirty-one years. He passed on September 6, 1956 at the age of seventy-six.