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Mike Watson: A little Big Tree history and historic photo

The Forest industry has played a major role in Adair County history. and some huge trees have been harvested here. Mike Watson, whose family includes great lumberman George Washington Cape, has dug out the records of the biggest ones. He dedicates this column to 'Billy Joe Fudge, Great Wooded South, PhD.'
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A Little Tree History

When Kentucky was first talked about in the annals of our nation's history, most referred to the abundance of game and the vast expanses of woodland. The first men to come into the region, not withstanding the Native Americans, there was a certain awe associated with the fertile wilderness. Hunting was wonderful and stories of the forests spread. It was often said that "a squirrel can cross Kaintuck without ever touching the ground."


Except for the Barrens, most of the territory was certainly covered with trees. This made settlement easier in some ways--timber was easy to obtain for homes, fences, flatboats, and household fires and cooking. It also made travel by wheeled vehicle difficult for many years.

Judge Rollin Hurt wrote the following of his grandfather, William Hurt, Sr., Revolutionary War veteran, who settled in what is now Adair County in the year 1793. "Hurt...returned from Bourbon County, bringing his family...in transporting them, he used his cart, which was drawn by a yoke of oxen. This was the first wheeled vehicle ever used or brought into the county...to Greensburg and, thence, to his place of settlement...several men accompanied him...from Greensburg...and cut out a road for the cart where it was needful."

For many years the Wilderness Road, so well known to Kentucky students today, was nothing more than a track, with tree stumps nearly knee high, cut off just enough so that high-wheeled carts could pass over them.

Big Trees in the early Adair County News:

29 April 1903: Ozark news--Mr. Wm. Montgomery sold a very large poplar tree to Alvin Young for $6 per 1,000 feet. The tree will probably scale 5,000 feet.

3 June 1903: Luther Conover has taken the contract to move the "big tree" that Alvin Young bought of Rev. Tim Montgomery. He says it will take eight mules to the log.

27 November 1912: The Largest Log Known Here--The largest log that ever went out of Adair County was hauled to Campbellsville last week by J.N. Atwell, Vester Deal and John Young. The tree was cut on a farm owned by one of the Tupman boys, lying on Green River. The cut hauled weighed 22,083 pounds and contained 22,028* feet of lumber. It was hauled by twelve horses hooked to an Old Hickory wagon bought by Mr. Atwell from the Buchanan Lyon Company, Campbellsville. The cut belonged to Mr. Whitney, the well-known lumber man. The team and its load was a great attraction as it entered Campbellsville, and also to many people while enroute. [*The following week, 4 December 1912, the News made a correction to the above story--...the big log reported contained...1,228 feet (of lumber).

George W. Cape:

Our great-grandfather, George Washington Cape, spent his life in the lumber business, in addition to other pursuits. He and three of his four sons, Woodie A., Willie Wolford, and John Edd, logged most of their lives. He would purchase tracts of land for the timber, cut the trees, clear or partially clear the land, then sell to someone else to farm. The fourth son, George Allen, ran a store and mill on the Adair-Russell County line, and was first post master at Cape, Adair County.

A photograph, handed down in our family, from circa 1910 to 1915, shows a double-yoke team pulling a log wagon with three good, but not huge logs. On the wagon are, left to right: Woodie Cape, our grandfather, Edd Lee Huddleston, Will Cape, and one of the Morgan men, first name not certain.

-Mike Watson, 2012


This story was posted on 2012-05-21 04:38:23
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Old photo: Big trees in Adair County, KY History



2012-05-21 - South Adair Co., KY - Photo from the collection of Mike Watson.
This photo, handed down in our family, from circa 1910 to 1915, shows a double-yoke team pulling a log wagon with three good, but not huge logs. On the wagon are, from left: Woodie Cape, our grandfather, Edd Lee Huddleston; Will Cape, and one of the Morgan men, first name not certain. Michael Watson

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