Oral History #3 Rudolph L. Fromme

Rudolph L. Fromme was interviewed by Elwood R. Maunder of the Forest History Society in 1967. Mr. Fromme was born in Richmond, Indiana in 1882. He received a bachelor’s degree from Ohio State University in 1905 and a master’s degree in forestry form Yale in 1906. He worked for the U.S. Forest Service for 37 years in a total of 8 national forests.


Bracketed information has been added by the editor for clarity. Ellipses (…) indicate that text has been omitted.

Interviewer: What did you do when you graduated from Yale?

Fromme: My first assignment was in the office of the U.S. Forest Service to get combed over by Gifford Pinchot and Overton W. Price on my qualifications. Then I got shipped to Northern Idaho to the Old Priest River Forest Preserve.In about a year it was changed to Kaniksu National Forest. …

Interviewer: Can you give me a little detail of what your life was like in that first year in the Forest Service?What jobs did you do?

Fromme: I went up to Priest Lake as soon as I heard that McConnell [Forest Supervisor] was up there that summer. I arrived in 1906 and I introduced myself. He said, “Oh, you’re one of those technical guys. I don’t know of any technical work around here but maybe you can make up some. Anyway we can use you fighting fires because we are always having fires in the summer. You can live right here in this cabin with me if you’d like to. There’s a double bunk there down on the floor because I don’t believe in climbing up to get in the bed, I just plop down. You can sleep in there and when a fire breaks out we’ll take you on it. Of course, if you want to study some of the trees around here or something like that or maybe return some of these General Land Office lines, why you could be doing that. Sam Davis is the District Ranger here. He lives right up there by the hotel and you can work for him if you want to.” I said, “ I’ll do anything you can spare until I get the experience.”

About two weeks later McConnell said, “There’s a fire over on the branch of Priest River.”… McConnell didn’t have any telephone service but he’d gotten word from somebody who’d come up from the town of Priest River. Everything was by word of mouth. We had quite a time getting up to Granite Creek. There was a trail about half way and the rest of it was fighting brush and following the creek. When we got over on the other side, it was a little better…. We came across the remains of a fire. It was still burning inside but the fire line seemed to be pretty good. We went around the thing and it was ten acres in size and it probably was a lightning fire but there was nobody there. [McConnell] said, “I’ve got word from the General Land Office at Couer d’Alene that some guys have been cutting timber on the national forest land up there and selling it to a pole company in Newport, and they tow it down the river in a boat. We’ve got to look into it.”… Well, McConnell and Dave McKenzie went on down to Newport then on the train … to where the pole cutting was being done. When they got down there, McConnell saw the poles piled up along the shore of the river and he thought a boat would be here to take them away pretty soon. He said, “I don’t need to stay, Dave, you’ve got your good six-shooter. You guard the poles tonight and I’ll send Fromme down in the morning….” Dave said, “I’ll guard the poles today because you’ve got to make a report on these areas that have been cut. See whether they’re really the legitimate cutting for homesteads or whether it looks like timber thievery.”