OAKHURST — Inspired by her beloved grandparents’ own dedication to a stunning stand of trees unlike any other in the world, area writer and educator Brenda Negley has created a comprehensive new book that gives readers a window into everything they need to know about Nelder Grove.
Coming up soon is a chance to view the beautiful compilation, and meet the author in person.
Click on images to enlarge.
On Saturday, July 16 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Branches Books will host Brenda Negley as she signs copies and discusses her work, “Nelder Grove of Giant Sequoias: A Granddaughter’s Stories.” Brenda’s grandparents were John and Marge Hawksworth, long time stewards of Nelder Grove. Publication of the book is sponsored by Friends of Nelder Grove, and all proceeds from the sales will be directed toward the nonprofit.
Nelder Grove is an ecologically unique area with high natural, research and recreation values due to the number of accessible specimen sized Giant Sequoias, cultural artifacts and existing developed recreation sites including trails, interpretive sites, picnic area and campground.
Aside from her pedigree as the Hawksworths’ granddaughter, Army veteran Brenda Negley has a degree in Applied Learning and Development, and her work specialties include Earth Science and Special Education. The author also holds a Master’s Degree in Religious Studies. She was a teacher for 13 years and has been a volunteer with the US Forest service for eight years and counting, as camp host and ambassador for Nelder Grove.
Brenda was motivated to compile her wealth of knowledge into a book for many reasons, some of them recreational, some historical, and others quite personal. Interwoven with tales of the trees, scientific facts, and academic references are stories from Brenda’s childhood in the grove, along with tips and suggestions that can only come with local knowledge.
“Mainly I wanted to honor my grandparents by writing this book. I have so many fond memories of my time there with them, and seeing their committment to protecting and sharing the grove with others made me want to do the same.”
As a local historian, Brenda is compelled to share important information about the grove before that far-flung history, and the grove itself, disappears. It turns out it’s not just the trees that the author is admittedly fascinated with — it’s the people.
“I’ve interviewed several local families with ties to the grove, such as the Hawksworths, Westfalls, and the Bissetts, to name a few. I believe many of their stories and history would be lost if not shared. Many of my grandparents’ longtime friends were people they met in the grove, and their children still return, and those friends are now also mine.”
With many of her most formative days spent playing at the feet of giants in the forest, Brenda has long been determined that her own family have plenty of memories to share in the future. Married to Brian Negley, with children Ben, 16, and Brooke, 14, Brenda is a busy wife and mom who values her time with husband and kids. Fortunately, they are all big supporters of Nelder Grove, just as her grandparents were.
“I like the closeness that I had with my grandparents while camping with them in the grove, and learning more about this special place. For the last eight years my family has camped in the grove while I continued my volunteer work, and they have gained knowledge and appreciation for this place, as well. Because we didn’t have power or television, we also spent much more time together playing games and exploring.”
When it comes to the book, Brenda wants people to know that it’s more than the sum of its subtitle. “Nelder Grove: A Granddaughter’s Stories is filled with useful suggestions, and includes maps and detailed information on trails in the grove. Many of the individual trees in the grove are discussed by name and nickname, and the book also features first inhabitants and visitors, logging, the cabins, summer camp, flora, fauna and more, for a read that’s rich in both history and personality.
“I had a difficult time deciding when to stop,” Brenda admits. “While researching the people associated with the grove, I wanted to learn more about them and share a bit extra because their lives are so interesting. When researching the sequoias, fire, or logging, I wanted to read as many things as possible to be sure to share the most interesting and factual information I could find.”
Going from teacher to mother to published author has been a gratifying process for Brenda, one she says would be impossible without the support of her husband and kids, extended family, and other like-minded history buffs, writers, and anyone whose curiosity matches her own.
“One of the best parts about writing this book is the people that I met while researching it, such as individuals with family ties to the grove, as well as authors, and fellow researchers at libraries and historical societies.”
Brenda’s book will be available at Branches Books and Gifts, and she hopes you’ll stop by on Saturday to celebrate the milestone and pick up a copy.
“The best part of publishing it is the fact that I actually finished it! It feels great to have accomplished this task. It has been a labor of love.”
Friends of Nelder Grove is an informal group of citizens dedicated to better understanding the cultural and natural history of Nelder Grove of Giant Sequoias leading to its interpretation and active management for the mutual benefits of sustaining Nelder Grove’s natural resources and its use and enjoyment by the visiting public.
Friends of Nelder Grove have access to the most complete historical research documents and personal library of John and Marge Hawksworth, long time stewards of Nelder Grove. Enhancing the preservation, reasonable access and interpretation of the Hawksworth Library is a high goal of the Friends of Nelder Grove. The Hawksworth Library has the potential to serve as a foundation for a new series of interpretive publications and maps enhancing visitor knowledge and enjoyment.
Working in partnership with other groups and individuals, Friends of Nelder Grove seek to become a formal organization of volunteers dedicated to assisting the Forest Service in its public service responsibilities in Nelder Grove through improved safe recreation opportunities, site interpretation, and sustainable active management due to increasing threat from wildfires, insect and disease.
SNO’s Kellie Flanagan edited Nelder Grove: A Granddaughter’s Stories