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November 1999


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"A LISTSERV list for discussions pertaining to New York State history." <[log in to unmask]>
Wayne Miller <[log in to unmask]>
Sat, 27 Nov 1999 02:34:51 GMT
"A LISTSERV list for discussions pertaining to New York State history." <[log in to unmask]>
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Dear Philip:

You make several interesting points, and I replied to several things in a
(probably too long) message that was lost when my internet provider timed
me out and it was lost. Suffice to say that:
1. The number of paper mills along the northern rim of the State meant that
land just inside the current Blue Line (probably outside the original one)
spurred the clear cutting of considerable chunks of land.
2. The clearing of land for agriculture was a distint activity, but some of
the wood certainly made its way to lumber and pulp mills.
3. Farming in central Franklin County began in the 1840's and picked up
steam about twenty years later when the combination of transportation
(railroads) and markets enlarging due to industrialization, the Civil War,
and the growth of the cities of the north-east created enough demand to
foster prices high enough to make land that is not now viable for
agriculture able to produce crops that were profitable using the techology
of the time.
4. In order to produce charcoal to smelt the iron ore mined at Lyon
Mountain (western Clinton County), narrow guage rail tracks with spurs into
uncut forest lands (where kilns were built) reached about thirty miles west
and south almost to Gabriels/Onchiota.
5. The steel cables for the Brooklyn Bridge were produced at the Catalan
forge at the foot of Chateaugay Lake from ore mined at Lyon Mountain. An
example of 'raw materials' that fed the growth of NYC.

Hope you had a grat Thanksgiving!
Wayne Miller

Philip Terrie writes:

> Wayne, et al.:
> This is a very interesting subject (to me, at least, and I hope to others),
> and I'm grateful to Wayne for pursuing it.
> Let me clarify what I said earlier and respond to Wayne's comments.  The
> posting to which I was originally responding maintained that  "The
> Adirondacks and Catskills were more or less clear
> cut in the 1800's."  This, I believe, is a gross distortion.  As Wayne
> Miller points out, however, there were places where the forest was cleared.
> I agree with this statement.  Our disagreement appears to  be on how
> extensive these clearings were, where they were, why they were cleared, and
> what fraction of the Adirondacks they accounted for.  Wayne is quite right
> in reminding us that agriculture was an important land use in the
> Adirondacks, especially as one moved away from the inner core.  But even
> there, I must admit,  farming persisted well into this century.  In
> addition to Franklin County, which Wayne mentions, clearings even in
> Hamilton County were notable: I've seen photographs owned by the Adirondack
> Museum showing early 20th-century Long Lake and Indian Lake.  You can look
> at these photos, identify distant ridge lines, and figure out exactly where
> they taken.  They show a terrain radically different from what you see now,
> with clearings and farms where today there is forest.  That said, I believe
> that the total acreage cleared for agriculture did not constitute a
> significant fraction of the Adirondacks.   Other evidence demonstrates that
> these farms existed only close to village centers and along main roads.
> The vast backcountry of the central Adirondacks, including the forests of
> what is now most of  the northwestern quadrant of the Park remained
> forested and, in the case of St. Lawrence County, largely untouched until
> early in this century (note that I'm talking about only that part of St. L
> Co. inside the Blueline). Part of the problem here is what do we mean by
> the Adirondacks.  I'll admit to a central Adirondack bias.  The Lake
> Champlain Valley, which was substantially agricultural by the end of the
> 19th century, is now inside the Adirondack Park.  But it wasn't when the
> Park was established in 1892.  In my mind, it's stretching things even now
> to think of, say, Westport as being "in" the Adirondacks the same way that,
> say, Raquette Lake is.  (What the hell, I'll go way out on a limb here and
> say that if the Blue Line hadn't been extended far beyond the original 1892
> version and if the Adirondack Park Agency's Private Land Use and
> Development Plan applied only to those lands inside the 1892 Blue Line, we
> would have been spared most of the contention and turmoil of the last 30
> years. But that's another story altogether.)  What I mean to say is this: I
> was thinking mostly of the central Adirondack plateau when I argued that
> clear cutting was insignificant in the Adirondacks.  I also wonder whether
> much the agricultural acreage in central Franklin County, which Wayne
> mentions, was inside the original Blue Line.
> I have a couple of other quibbles with Wayne's post.  He says that the
> introduction of the "sulfide process" for making paper from wood pulp led
> to clear cutting.  I don't think so.  The use of small saplings for pulp
> definitely did occur, but as I said earlier, in those days, only softwoods
> were thus used.  There are very few places in the Adirondacks where the
> forest is or ever has been purely softwood.  The maples, beech, birches,
> aspen, cherry, etc., are nearly everywhere mixed in with the pine, spruce,
> fir, and hemlock.  And these hardwoods were worthless to loggers; it was
> only after WW II that hardwood cutting became important (with the exception
> of hardwoods cut for charcoal near the iron mines in the Lake Champlain
> Valley. These cut-over lands became much of the farmland in that area).
> The introduction of pulpwood logging certainly had important consequences
> for Adirondack forests, but I don't think it ever led to "clear cutting."
> The lands cleared for agriculture became that way BEFORE the pulpwood
> revolution.  It's also important to note that, as McMartin has shown, the
> height of Adirondack logging occurred AFTER the creation of the Forest
> Preserve (1885) and the Park (1892).   I think that McMartin is probably
> right in arguing that those striving to establish the Forest Preserve and
> Park exaggerated the abuse of the forest.  But I'm mighty glad they did:
> the subsequent  depredations of the pulpwood loggers and the horrible fires
> they were, partly, responsible for in 1903 and 1908 showed that the
> conservation measures of the 1880s and '90s were clearly in the public
> interest.
> If the farms in Franklin County were "subsistence," how were they connected
> to the growth of NYC after the Civil War?
> Again, my thanks to Wayne Miller for advancing this discussion.
> cheers,
> phil
> >Dear Philip,
> >I must disagree at least partially with this view, even though I realize
> >your knowledge in Adirondack land use is vast. At least on the edges of the
> >mountains, the advent of the sulfide process for making paper from
> >cellulose (wood) meant that trees of all sizes right down to saplings were
> >marketable. One of the practices that led Teddy Roosevelt and company to
> >lobby for the establishment of the Park and Preserve was the practise of
> >the State swapping nasty old forest land with land that the
> >lumbering/pulping interests had thoughtfully deforested so it was then
> >useful for farming and other activities. This activity combined with
> >explosive growth in NYC and other costal cities that needed raw materials
> >and food, and the peak of development of the railroads to transport
> >products, spurred the agricultural development of areas like central
> >Franklin County. Not a particularly mountainous part of the Park, hundreds
> >of thousands of acres were, none the less, farmed for a generation or two
> >after the civil war until about WWI. These were mixed farms, small, and, if
> >one was lucky, subsistence. The soil was thin, the growing season short,
> >and the tillable plots small in comparison central New York and the
> >midwest. But even in the middle of the mountains, such as around Lake
> >Placid, farming was viable well into this century. Not only did John Brown
> >and Garrison believe this when they started their 'free' community there in
> >the 1850's, but the Lake Placid Club maintained a farming operation that
> >produced much of the fresh fruits, vegetable, and dairy products consumed
> >by its members until, roughly, WWII.
> >
> >Wayne Miller
> >
> >
> >Philip Terrie writes:
> >
> >> >In a message dated Wed, 17 Nov 1999 10:28:33 AM Eastern Standard Time,
> >> >[log in to unmask] writes:
> >> >
> >> >> Am I to read this right.  The amount of Forest Land is increasing in NYS?
> >> >>
> >> >> Jim Maguire
> >> >> [log in to unmask]
> >> >
> >> >This makes sense.  The Adirondacks and Catskills were more or less clear
> >> >cut in the 1800's.  Both have since gone back to forest.  And probably,
> >> >like the New England states, much marginal farmland was cleared by the
> >> >first settlers only to be abandoned after the Erie Canal helped to settle
> >> >the midwest.  So New York's greatest achievement of the 19th century
> >> >helped put many of its farmers out of business.
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >> This posting repeats a commonly held misperception: the Adirondacks, as a
> >> region,  were never close to being "clear cut."  There have, of course,
> >> been examples of cutting all the standing timber on patches of a few acres
> >> here and there (especially for making charcoal in the immediate vicinity of
> >> the Champlain Valley iron mines), but even dutring the height of Adirondack
> >> lumbering (1890-1910) clear cutting was not practiced.  For one thing, in
> >> those days the only trees wortth cutting were softwoods, for either lumber
> >> or pulpwood, and the Adirondacks have always been a mix of hardwoods and
> >> softwoods. Before the days of gasoline-powered trucks, there was never any
> >> economically sound reason for harvesting hardwoods, which didn't float well
> >> on river drives and were thus hard to get to mill or market.  Barbara
> >> McMartin has written an excellent, prodigiously researched history of the
> >> Adirondack forest (The Great Forest, 1994) that thoroughly studies and
> >> rejects the notion of wide-spread clear cutting in the Adirondacks.
> >>
> >> cheers,
> >> phil
> >>
> >> Philip G. Terrie, Director
> >> American Culture Studies
> >> Bowling Green State University
> >> Bowling Green, OH 43403
> >> (419) 372-8886 (phone)
> >> (419) 372-7537 (fax)
> >> [log in to unmask]