Bay Reflection
Earth Week Homage
When White Pines Were the Redwoods of Chesapeake Country
by Roger Ethier

Huge white pines dominated the eastern forests of the United States until early this century.

These tremendous trees supplied the wood in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries that was used to build the great cities of North America and Europe, the merchant sailing fleets throughout the world and the hundreds of thousands of miles of railroad beds that snaked over rivers, around mountains and into the canyons of the United States.

During the early pioneering days, pine trees 250 feet tall and up to 10 feet in diameter were not uncommon. These trees rivaled today's western redwoods and were prized for their clear, knotless white wood needed for the masts of the largest sailing vessels of the world.

The English policy of seizing the best and straightest pine trees in the forests of America for use on her merchant ship was a painful thorn in the sides of the colonists and one of the lesser known mandatory tributes that led to the American Revolution.

The last of the great white pine trees of the eastern United States were toppled by a violent, destructive hurricane in 1938. The trees that Gramps limbed and cut into 10-foot lengths and the brush that Petite Mom and Little Jack dragged away and stacked into large piles were felled by that great hurricane.

A white pine tree with a diameter of 10 feet has approximately 480 concentric circles embedded in its wood. When we know that each circle equals one complete year and there are, on average, eight circles per inch, we also know that the tree is 480 years old.

Before the first lumber mill on this continent was built in the year 1623, the pine forest already was over 150 years old and 120 feet high. The great trees watched Columbus approach the New World. They witnessed the pioneering and colonization of the United States and trembled with the earth to the thunder of the American Revolution and the Civil War.

They pondered the American Industrial Revolution and guarded and shaded six generations of Americans before the cutters ruthlessly laid them low.

Finally, the Great Hurricane of 1938 completed the deadly carnage in the pine forests of America.


Editor's Note. This reflection is excerpted from Mr. Ethier's third children's book, Scared Out of My Skin, soon to be published. Now in print are Goose Music and The Happiest Place on Earth.

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Volume VI Number 16
April 23-29, 1998
New Bay Times

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