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George “Nessmuk” Sears

April is National Poetry Month. One notable poet who lived not too far from the present location of the Lumber Museum was George “Nessmuk” Sears.

George Sears (1821-1890) was an adventurer, author and early conservationist who wrote under the pen name “Nessmuk” . Born in South Oxford (now Webster), Massachusetts, George grew up as an eyewitness to the early days of the American Industrial Revolution.  His home town was where Samuel Slater, known as the “Father of the American Factory System”, had his textile mills. In addition to his early exposure to factory life, George was also introduced to the outdoor life by a Native-American friend named Nessmuck (George would later honor his friend by adapting the name Nessmuck as his pen name). George decided that he preferred the outdoor life to the factory life and started to explore the county. In 1848 he moved to the North-Central Pennsylvania town of Wellsboro, where he would live the rest of his life. It was in Wellsboro that he built his reputation first as an outdoorsman then as a conservationist. 

His 1884 book “Woodcraft and Camping” and the articles he wrote for “Forests and Stream” magazine about his lightweight canoeing trips helped to popularize the notion of outdoor recreation. Just as he had been a witness to the early industrialization of American, George also witnessed the destruction of Penn’s Woods by the logging industry and tanneries. He wrote letters and articles decrying what he saw as the destruction of nature for profit and he joined lawsuits against the bark tanning and lumber industries. Whether he realized it or not these efforts made him one of America’s first conservationists.

In addition to the accounts of his adventures he also wrote poetry inspired by his love of nature and camping. A book of his poems, “Forest Runes” was published in 1887.

“Nessmuk” has been recognized by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission with two historical markers, one located on the town square in Wellsboro, and the other located at Leonard Harrison State Park (the PA Grand Canyon).

Author Front-page image from “Woodcraft and Camping” 1884 (Public Domain)
Nessmuck Historical Marker, Wellsboro, PA.