Greg Gober – Godfather of Gettysburg’s Witness Trees
Without Gregory Gober, no one would know today that there are hundreds of witness trees still living on the battlefield at Gettysburg National Military Park.
A resident of Delaware, Greg has been visiting Gettysburg on a regular basis – typically every other weekend – for almost 15 years. Very soon in his visits, Greg, began to take an interest in the trees of the battlefield, and, by comparing images taken by early battlefield photographer William H. Tipton, he discovered that many of the trees that appeared in Tipton’s pictures could still be found on the grounds of the National Park Service today. From here began his efforts to publicize and protect the witness trees of Gettysburg.
Greg’s battle has been an uphill one. The National Park Service has never formally recognized the existence of any other than a few well-known witness trees, nor has it ever taken a systematic survey or instituted any program to determine if and how many witness trees live today on park lands. Greg has observed first-hand witness trees being cut down in an effort to manage the woods of the park, and trees accidentally singed during controlled burns. In 2018, he started a Facebook page focused on spreading the news of the witness trees to the general public.
His efforts are now beginning to pay off. The highlight of Greg’s work so far has been to save a number of witness trees from being cut down in February 2022, when the NPS began its long two-year program to expand parking and restore Little Round Top. The park’s original plans had included the cutting down of many old trees on the hill. The effected trees were marked with spray-paint in January 2022. Greg contacted park officials to let them know that many of the trees targeted for destruction were witness trees. Greg’s efforts paid off when park administrators within the natural resources group, alerted by Greg’s warnings, modified the plans so as to preserve most of the doomed witnessed trees from being cut down.
I have heard GNMP Superintendent Steve Syms himself credit Greg with saving most of Little Round Top’s witness trees.
Greg has indeed deserved the title of “Godfather of Gettysburg’s Witness Trees.”
In December 2021, I joined Greg’s Witness Tree Facebook page, and began a correspondence with Greg. From Greg I learned how many of the living trees can be found in the old photographs of the battlefield taken by William H. Tipton over several decades in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Greg inspired me to begin an intense project of identifying more trees by researching the internet and GNMP and Adams County Historical Society archives for long-lost or forgotten images of the battlefield in a quest to find more trees. The fruits of my labor are on this website.