Where Found, and Uses to which Put.—Its Present Preserved Condition and Sacred History.—The Ancient Trees of America, Where Found.—Petrified Relics.—Evidences of Ancient Tree-growth in Nevada.—Indian Tradition on the Tree-growth of Nevada.—Carbonized Tree-trunks.
Pbobably the oldest timber in the world, which has been subjected to the use of man, is that found in the ancient temple of Egypt in connection with stone-work, which is known to be at least four thousand years old. This, the only wood used in the construction of the temple, is in the form of ties, holding the end of one stone to another at its upper surface. AYhen two blocks were laid in place an excavation about an inch deep was made in each block, in which a tie shaped like an hour-glass was driven. It is, therefore, very difficult to force any stone from its position. The ties appear to have been of the timarisk or Shittim wood, of which the ark was constructed—a sacred tree in ancient Egypt, and now very seldom found in the valley of the Nile. The dovetail ties are just as sound now as in the days of their insertion. Although fuel is extremely scarce in the country, these bits of wood are not large enough to make it an object with the Arabs to heave off layer after layer of heavy stone to obtain them. Had they been of bronze, half of the old temple would have been destroyed years ago, so precious would they have been for various purposes.
The oldest timber in America undoubtedly existed in Nevada and California. That in California has happily been preserved, but the ancient trees of Nevada have long since disappeared. There are, however, still to be seen many petrifactions of these ancient giants, which tell us what these forests once were, long before the landing of Columbus on our shores.
In the bottom of the main shaft of the Virginia City Coal Company, Eldorado Canon, Lyon County, Nevada, was encountered the trunk of a tree four feet in diameter, a lone relic of an ancient and extinct forest. Where cut through by the shaft, this old tree was found to be perfectly carbonized—turned into coal; outside the old log was completely crusted over with iron pyrites, many of which were so bright that the crystals shone like diamonds. These pyrites also extend into the body of the log, fUling what were apparently once cracks of wind-shakes, and even forming clusters about what was once the heart of the tree. This relic of an old time lay far below the two veins of coal. The finding of this old trunk is evidence that the country ages and ages ago was covered by a forest of large trees; though the native timber growth, when the country was first visited by the whites, and as far back as the traditions of the Indians extend, was but a scrubby species of nut-pine. A few miles from the shaft in which this carbonized tree was found, are to be seen on the surface the petrified remains of many large trees. In the early days of Washoe, before the prospector had broken them up for specimens, pieces of tree-trunks two and three feet in diameter, and twenty or thirty feet in length, were to be seen lying upon the surface of the ground.