Emmett Dandridge Gallion
Founder, Prince Edward-Gallion State Forest
Virginia’s First State Forest and Forest Preserve

Born sometime before 1850 in Prince Edward County, Virginia, Emmett D. Gallion was the son of Richard M. and Saluda (Medley) Gallion. He is believed to have been an only child. His mother died when he was young, and he was raised by his father and his grandmother.

Mr. Gallion entered the Virginia Agriculture and Mechanical College (the precursor to Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University) its first year of operation (1872). He was a leader in the establishment of the Epsilon chapter; was a charter member, and he served as chapter president in the fall of 1873. He left the school after that semester and never returned.

Little is known about Mr. Gallion from 1874 to 1895, except that he was “reading law under Maj. John W. Daniel of Lynchburg,” in 1877, according to the April 1877 edition of the “Gray Jacket,” a publication of the first student organization at Virginia Tech, the Virginia Literary Society. Mr. Gallion entered Federal government service in 1895 in Alleghany County, Pennsylvania. He immediately moved to Washington, D.C. where he spent 18 years working in the Pension Office. He later worked in the U.S. Department of Labor’s General Land Office until his death in 1919. A bachelor who loved the outdoors, he spent free time as possible in the woods of his Prince Edward County farm, called Wildlands, which he inherited from his father.

Mr. Gallion had a severe hearing problem, which led to deafness. This problem nearly cost him his life late one night. He had gone to visit a friend. After he knocked on the door, his friend asked that the visitor identify himself. When Mr. Gallion did not answer, the friend fired a bullet through the door, barely missing Mr. Gallion.

In his will, Mr. Gallion left his beloved “Wildlands” to the Commonwealth to establish Virginia’s first forest preserve. The nearly 600 acres of land was to go to VPISU in the event that the state should ever abolish its forestry department. Wildlands became the nucleus of what is now the 6,500-acre Prince Edward-Gallion State Forest, located near Green Bay, Virginia.

Thomas A. Dierauf, assistant chief, Applied Forest Research, within the Virginia Dept. of Conservation and Development, wrote in a May 21, 1969 letter to A. M. Hillhouse, that Mr. Gallion’s gift “established the first state forest in Virginia and stimulated interest in acquiring land not only to increase the size of Gallion State Forest, but also to establish other state forests.” The American Forestry Association’s Chief Forester, Kenneth Pomeroy, wrote in a July 9, 1969 letter to Mr. Hillhouse that, “The gift by Mr. Gallion…had considerable significance in the establishment of forest reserves. State Forestry was just getting underway. It required positive action by public-spirited citizens in order to get general support from other citizens. Without hesitation, we here in AFA would acclaim Mr. Gallion’s action as an important pioneering forestry effort.”

Mr. Gallion had one other stipulation in his will – that his body be cremated and buried in an urn in the family cemetery at Wildlands. No one knows whether this stipulation became reality as his grave has never been marked.