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Caroline Elizabeth Dormon (July 19, 1888 - November 21, 1971) was a botanist, horticulturist, ornithologist, historian, archeologist, preservationist, naturalist, conservationist, and author from Louisiana. She was born in modest circumstances at Briarwood, the family home in northern Natchitoches Parish, to James L. Dormon and the former Caroline Trotti. She was reared in Arcadia, the seat of Bienville Parish, in northern Louisiana. She never married.

As a child, she developed a great interest in plants and wildlife. She was educated at the Baptist-affiliated Judson College in Marion (Perry County), Alabama, from which she received a bachelor's degree in literature and art. She taught for several years in Louisiana schools, and then re-established her home at Briarwood in 1918. She began to collect and preserve native trees and shrubs. In 1921, she became a public relations representative for the Louisiana Forestry Department. She attended a Southern Forestry Congress in 1922 and persuaded the United States Forest Service to establish a national forest in Louisiana. U.S. Representative James B. Aswell of Natchitoches worked with Dormon to bring to fruition the Kisatchie National Forest, which was designated in 1930 during the administration of President Herbert C. Hoover.

In 1941 during the administration of Governor Sam Houston Jones, Caroline Dormon joined the Louisiana Highway Department (Department of Transportation and Development) as beautification consultant. She was later a landscape consultant for the Huey P. Long Charity Hospital in Pineville in Rapides Parish east of the Red River from Alexandria.

She was also a consultant for the popular Hodges Gardens State Park near Many, the seat of Sabine Parish. The park opened as a private development in the 1950s, but came under the operation of the State of Louisiana in April 2007.

Dormon also proposed what became the Louisiana State Arboretum, located some eight miles (13 km) north of Ville Platte, the seat of Evangeline Parish, as part of nearby Chicot State Park. The 301-acre (1.22 km2) site was dedicated in 1964. The Caroline Dormon Lodge opened in 1965, serving as a visitor center, library, and herbarium of native plants which grow within the boundaries of the arboretum.

Her published works include: Wild Flowers of Louisiana (1934), Forest Trees of Louisiana (1941), Flowers Native to the Deep South (1958), Natives Preferred (1965), Southern Indian Boy (1967), and Bird Talk (1969).

Caroline Dormon was the only woman member of the De Soto Commission established by Congress in 1935 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Hernando de Soto's expedition across the American Southeast, which crossed northern Louisiana.

In 1965, Dormon was presented with an honorary Doctor of Science award from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. The Dormon Collection is located at the Eugene P. Watson Memorial Library of Northwestern State University in Natchitoches.

Briarwood, located near Saline (Bienville Parish), is now the headquarters of the Caroline Dormon Nature Preserve. Natchitoches attorney and philanthropist Arthur C. Watson organized the Foundation for the Preservation of the Caroline Dormon Nature Preserve and served as its treasurer until his death in 1984. There is also a Caroline Dormon Trail extending 10.5 miles (16.9 km) in the Kisatchie Bayou Recreation Complex within the national forest. It is popular for horseback riding, hiking, and bicycling. The trail starts at the Longleaf Scenic Byway.

Dormon is interred in the Briarwood Baptist Church Cemetery near her home.


"Caroline C. Dormon", A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography, Vol. 1 (1988), p. 251

Donald M. Rawson, "Caroline Dormon: A Renaissance Spirit of Twentieth Century Louisiana," Louisiana History, XXIV (1983)


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