Trees in the 1800’s or the lack thereof…

When I wrote the addendum to Half Hill earlier today it made me think about what they could see because there were few trees to block the view. We New Englanders are used to seeing lots of trees, at least in my lifetime, 1941 and up. And we are so surprised to hear that back in the early 1800’s, from Boston to New York, it was just about treeless. Hard to imagine isn’t it? Oh, they had woodlots but not the forests we have today. Why? Well, they cut the trees to build their houses, barns and other buildings, and also to heat and cook their food, year round. They cleared the fields so they could plant crops to feed their livestock and themselves. No convenience store just around the corner!

  And way back then most people didn’t have the money to buy things in a store. They bartered for what they needed, made it or raised it themselves or did without.

So for 150 years they cut down trees for their own use. And I don’t think they were planting seedlings like we do now for future use.
Then the mills came along and they were mostly of wood. Towns sprung up around the mill sites and more houses and other buildings were built. Mostly of wood. And they had to be heated, with wood of course.

Then in 1839/40 the Norwich & Worcester railroad came through here. In order to lay the tracks they need ties, which of course meant cutting down more trees. And in order to run the engines what did they use?? You guessed it – Wood. So, you can see that the forests that had been here were being quickly depleted.
When the train engines switched to burning coal it eased up on the need for wood. And more of the mills were being built of brick or stone.

The editor of the paper from 1859 to mid-1890’s, John Q. A. Stone, pushed for planting trees in Danielsonville (as it was called then) and surrounding area.

In the 29 June 1848 issue of the Windham County Telegraph (the name before it was changed to the Transcript by John Q. A. Stone) is a tidbit about Mr. Turner of the Danielsonville Cash Store, having an eye to the cool comforts of this life– has in the absence of much needed shade trees—thrown a beautiful awning across the walk, opposite his store. The new awning makes the “Cash store” a perfect oasis in the desert about the Depot.

In the 11 May 1865 issue of the paper we find this: Trees—We have never known so many trees planted in this section in one season as during the present Spring, and we are pleased to chronicle the fact. A few dollars expended in this way will pay a large interest. Every man who has a piece of land will do well to see that it is occupied with trees and grape vines, currant bushes, &c. for they will grow while he sleeps. Nothing adds more to the beauty of a dwelling, than trees and shrubbery, tastefully arranged, and owners of real estate cannot better invest a few dollars than in this way.

Then in the 21 Sept. 1871 issue this: Mr. Isaac Hyde, now a resident of California, who formerly lived in Danielsonville, after an absence of twenty years, revisited this place last week. Arriving in the evening, he was completely lost, so greatly has the appearance of the village changed in the past two decades. Inquiring for the street that led to Westfield, he discovered he was walking upon that thoroughfare. When he was here, there were no trees, and but very few buildings.

If you look at photo’s from that time period it is very obvious that there were few trees.

And I am glad that today we do have those wonderful trees that not only shade us but make our surroundings beautiful and supply oxygen for us to breathe.

I have been noticing for awhile now how young the trees are in the woods along I-395 and other roads and realize that I do not remember what it was like before the trees grew in. It had to be open fields for the most part. Things happen so gradually that we don’t even notice it. Even the woods in back of our house where our boys played has filled in. No more children running and playing keeping the brush and trees at bay.

It just seems like we should have noticed these things happening. Maybe we are all too busy and have no time to appreciate our surroundings. That is sad! Time to slow down and smell the roses as they say.

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