Resignation Letter of Fred S. Breen

Fred S. Breen was supervisor of the Grand Canyon National Forest (South) and San Francisco Mountains National Forest, parts of which merged on July 1, 1908, to become the Cococino National Forest. His resignation letter to Forest Service Chief Gifford Pinchot laments poor salaries and strained public relations, and is reproduced below as it appears in the original. Breen's outlook on timber, grazing, and public relations is illuminated in “Early Arizona Problems” by Theodore S. Woolsey, Jr. (Journal of Forestry, vol. 18, no. 2 (February 1920), p. 135-142). According to Woolsey, "When the Forest Service took over the administrative force organized by the General Land Office, it was exceedingly difficult to make promotions correctly. The best that could be done was to have reports from traveling inspectors as to how they sized up the different men. It was natural that mistakes were made." A copy of this letter appeared in Forest Service History Line in Spring 1979 (pages 4-5).

This page is a transcription of the original document; the layout reflects the general style and organization of the original where possible.

Flagstaff, Arizona, March 7, 1908

The Forester,
Washington, D.C.

Dear Sir:

I am in receipt of your telegram of today, accepting my resignation, to take effect March 15th next.

I had intended to send in my resignation on receipt of my salary check in January, providing that I received no increase, but at the suggestion of Mr. Bronson gave it to him to file with my grievances.

You see, since my salary is less now than it was about ten years ago, after two “promotions” in the Forest Service, I rather felt that someone was afflicted with the ingrowing salary habit, and it wouldn’t take too long before my creditors would notice my financial lassitude.

I had received a number of letter approving my work, or at least I took it that way, and I understand my inspectors give me a fairly good recommend, and recommend for promotion, so I do not fully understand just where my promotion caught the locomotor ataxia.

I guess I must have misunderstood, but I thought there was a good possibility of an increase up to $2500 a year if one could deliver the goods - folks in the Service intimated that I could. I thought I had a bright future before me, but that durned bright future has certainly side-stepped me along the route somewhere, and must be loafing behind.

I was not promoted in 1905, when the transfer was made from the Land Office. I didn’t think much about it at the time one way or the other, but when I did get promoted in 1906, I was glad I wasn’t “promoted” in 1905. I was getting $2371 until my promotion came along in 1906, which gave me $2200. I know it was a promotion, for my commission from the Secretary of the Interior said so right square in the middle of it.

In 1907 I was raised to $2300; so I am still shy some of the good old salary that I started with away back in September, 1898, with only the San Francisco Mts. National Forest to handle; The fellows on the Black Mesa and Grand Canyon forests were getting the same amount that I got, but when they fell by the wayside I fell heir to their territory and their troubles, but none of the pesos they were getting.

I fully acknowledge your right to assay the intellects of us wood-chucks, and raise, drop, or fire; and it is up to me to raise, fall, or git, as the case may be. As I didn’t get the first (raise), but the second (fall), I thought I had better take the third myself.

One can get a heap more money out of a little old band of sheep, or something of that kind, even if his intellect does not average over 30%, with a whole lot less trouble, and retain some friends; but with this job the general public just naturally gets cross if you try to enforce the rules, and if you don’t enforce the rules then you get cross; so the Supervisor gets the double cross whatever happens, and has no pension at the end of the game, to sorter ease down his old age when the pace is too fast.

While I think a good deal of forestry, I realize that a man can’t live in this country and lay up anything, unless he gets a good salary; consequently believe I should go out and make money while I can.

It takes a considerable brain fag and wrangling to gather up the $115,581.34 from timber sales, stockmen and settlers, as well as the fag entailed by judiciously expending $23,459.37 in doing the work. I hav’n’t counted, of course, the different amount connected with the work on the Black Mesa (N.) and Grand Canyon (S.) forests. I am under the impression that amounts given for the San Francisco Mts. Forest for last year are the largest receipts for any forest, by long odds. I am glad of it, even if it don’t count.

I want to thank the different Chiefs for their many kindnesses to me, for I know a feller gets sorter peevish at times when his troubles come in bunches.

I feel mightily relieved at the prospect of seeing some other fellow being accused of prejudice, ignorance, partiality, graft, ulterior motives, laziness, salary grabbing and other such innocent pastimes.

Ten years is a long time to wrangle over the same ground and troubles, then to look ahead to a heap more of it in larger varieties and quantities, which will assay a heap stronger strain both mentally and financially, and it certainly aggrivates one’s desire to sorter seggrigate.

I am glad there will be a bright young man here March 15, to separate me and my troubles and let me wander away to new fields, where the bleat of the sheep, the height of a stump, the brand of a cow nor even a special privilege can hop up and fill me with fright or woe.

While according to my idea I have not been treated right, I am not carrying away in my bosom any sassy or lacerated feelings, for I hav’n’t time to use them; and, further, I will be in easy reach in case any of the old grazing scraps come up at any time.

Very truly yours,
(signed) Fred S. Breen
Ex-Forest Supervisor