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Nelson "Spence" Woodward

Nelson S. Woodward Fire Observer resigns
Nelson S. Woodward Fire Observer resign, c.1936

Nelson S. Woodward walked 12,000 miles to and from Mt. Massaemet tower.

Shelburne Falls - Nelson S. Woodward announced yesterday he has resigned after 26 years as fire observer at the Mt. Massaemet tower.

During the 26 years Woodward walked 12,000 miles, halfway around the earth. He averaged a little less than three miles a day on an average of seven months of the year. Verne J. Fitzroy, state fire warden, said no appointment had been made. The position will be filled from applications already on file and will be announced in several days.

Woodward's duties at the tower were to spot and report fires by telephone within a radius of 15 miles. He began his duties in 1910 and was the first fire observer at the tower. During his years of duty he reported many hundreds of fires and although few were serious, if not spotted in time, many valuable timberlands might have been destroyed.

For the first 10 years Woodward reported many fires caused by trains, but these have diminished due to modern improvements on the trains. The number of fires reported each year has fallen because of the state laws and the education of the people in realizing the seriousness of forest fires.

Woodward has entertained many thousands of visitors at the tower from every state in the union and several foreign countries. The most frequent were from Shelburne Falls and vicinity. His worst experiences were with hard thunderstorms which drove him to seek shelter and protection in the cabin. For several years cars have been able to drive to the top of the mountain over a rough road, but most of the hike was up a streep grade. (Unreadable) Woodward climbed the mountain and returned and made his trips daily. If there had been an overnight rain he did not climb the mountain until noon the following day.

The tower was constructed by Roy Merrill, local stone mason, and was completed in 1909. During the first year Woodward had no covering on the tower, but due to rain and high wind the top was enclosed by Eugene Griswold with windows and a wooden dome.

Woodward has seen many wild animals and birds during his trips and for some time had several tame grey squirrels which were later shot by hunters. He has also observed eagles but said they seldom came near the tower. He has no future plans.

"Donald G. Wood, forest fire observer at Mt. Massaemet tower, reopening this state observation station yesterday for his second season. Mr. Wood was appointed last year after the resignation of Nelson S. Woodward, who had served at this fire tower for 26 seasons. Preparations for the reopening of this tower were made on Saturday, telephone service connected and necessary repairs made. This district covers a radius of 15 miles and fires discovered are reported by telephone to the district fire warden caring for the vicinity where the fire is raging. Last year was a quiet one for the local tower observer and not many fires as usual were located."
North Adams Transcript. April 25, 1938