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The American Chestnut Tree

By Col. Carlis B. Wilson

The American Chestnut
I was born in the era of the dying chestnut trees. In the first 40 years of the 20th century, blight destroyed billions of American Chestnuts Trees. In the early forties, on a trip to most any woods, one would see these trees laying on the ground and some dead ones still standing. Very few had any leaves or chestnuts, because they were dying because of a "Blight Fungus."

I remember my mother, Blanche Wheeler Wilson, talking about hulling chestnuts which grew on their family farm when she was a young girl. She said her brother Bert "could hull them with his bare feet." However, as a young boy, I only saw a few burr looking chestnuts which had small or no nuts inside. There were a few saplings, but they died before they could bear to any degree.

Rail Fences
The chestnut tree was easy to saw with the crosscut saw and was also easy to split. Many of the rail fences in this area were constructed by using the chestnut wood, most likely due to the ease of splitting and cutting. I remember a good number of the zigzag rail fences that were popular when I was a boy. I heard the old folks say before the chestnuts trees begin to die in Adair County that a man came to some of the meetings and made speeches about the time when the chestnut trees would die. As time went on so did it happen as he said. They did not say who he represented or his name.

Restoring This Species
I did some research and found a good number of related sites on The American Chestnut and efforts to restore this species. Here is a URL if you care to read what is being done to restore The American Chestnut Trees: The American Chestnut Cooperators' Foundation.

Beech Trees
The beech is a favourite of mine, they were some of the largest trees in our section of the county. There was no forest but most farms has a good patch of woods. The beech is a slick-bark knot-free specimen. The beechnut was liked by squirrels and birds. They are large trees, with very little underbrush, which made squirrels an easy target for hunting. An early trip before the break of day to these trees when the squirrels were cutting was the most desirable for a good bag limit. As a young boy I was impressed by the markings on the local beech trees. Some had names or inscriptions and dates. These trees were beginning to die in the forties and fifties, and many had hollow trunks back then. The beech was an easy tree to work up into lumber or fire wood, and the large limbs made a lot of fire wood.


This story was posted on 2003-08-15 18:53:51
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