Thank God for noble trees,
How stately, strong, and grand These bannered giants lift their crests O'er all this beauteous land."
The sight of a forest in the early morning, when the dew is on the grass and leaves, is at all times beautiful. Even those who have been used all their lives to such magnificent scenes are startled occasionally into an appreciation of their beauty; how then to us who had not seen for years a great tree seemed the forest! It was beautiful beyond description, and even the children clapped their little hands and cried out, " Oh, mamma, see the pretty trees!" I saw a squirrel leap from the grass and run up the trunk of a gnarled oak that perhaps kept silent watch over the grave of some savage warrior, who in his day had been a mighty man. There were great gothic forest aisles, and through the grained and graceful roof of leaves millions of sunbeams shimmered down, lighting up the dark recesses of the woods until the whole resembled some vast cathedral pile.
I compared this scene with those which I had witnessed a thousand times in my boyhood and yet thought nothing of them. It was then I realized fully, possibly for the first time, the beauty and value of woods and mountains. Ever since then I have been pleading,
" Oh, woodman, spare that tree. Touch not a single bough; In youth it sheltered me, And I'll protect it now."
Not only did I determine to become the friend of the bannered giants that lift their heads to the sky, but to urge the planting of new forests everywhere, and, if possible, cover the barren plains of the "West with woods.
Many writers had preceded me, but they all seemed defective in not pointing out how forest-trees could be reproduced. These writers were eloquent in their denunciation of forest destruction, but pointed out no remedy for the evil. I said I will study the lives of the trees, and take up the subject where others have laid it down, showing how to cultivate and grow forest-trees as fruit-trees are now grown.
I soon found the task I had set myself was a most difficult one, for there were no forest-tree nurserymen, and no one willing to become such. They only laughed at the idea of planting oaks, elms, pines, and such " wild trees " as they called them. When the facts were sought to be laid before the people they too laughed at me, and the newspapers called me an alarmist, and scoffed at the idea of our forests giving out, or new ones being planted. I was recommended to sow the Alleghany Mountains with clover-seed, and plant the fence corners with sassafras for old women's tea. My articles were denounced as the impracticable vaporings of a madman, and I was even refused a hearing by such respectable journalists as J.W. Forney and Morton McMichael. A few thinking men, however, saw in the subject more than was indicated on the surface, and they slowly came to the support of our projects. One of the earliest to take up his pen and help was the late Wilham Cullen Bryant, the greatest of our American poets. Then came his amiable and able nephew, Charles Bryant, with his excellent book on " Forest Trees," and Browne, with his elaborate work on " Trees of America.' George Pinney of Wisconsin followed, establishing his " Tree Grower," and later, James T. Allen wrote and published his pamphlet on " Forest Growing in Nebraska," and then came J. F. Tallant of Iowa, George W. Minor of Illinois, Herman Trott of Minnesota, K. S. Ellicott of Missouri, Daniel Milliken of Ohio, Honorable Calvin Chambers of Maine, J. Sterling Morton of Nebraska, and others. This able corps of writers and workers soon silenced the scoffers at American forestry, and awakened an interest among the people in the subject of tree-growing. The newspapers were slow to advocate it, but at last, when the New Tork World led off, it was followed by hundreds of papers all over the country.
The pioneer state in the great work of forest-tree planting was Nebraska, and this state, once called " the treeless state," is now nearly covered over with young forests. It will soon be as well timbered as any state from Maine to California. Last year the Nebraskians set out fifteen millions of forest-trees, this year eighteen millions, and next year they will plant over twenty millions. Such enormous plantings cannot but be productive of great results to the state, and already a change has taken place in the climate and rainfall. Mr. J. Sterling Morton invented what he called " Arbor Day," and had it legalized as a holiday. Every year, about the middle of April, the governor of the state issues a proclamation announcing the day, and on its recurrence the entire population cease from their labor and engage in planting trees. This custom is not new. The Germans have a pretty habit of eaeh member of a family living in the rural districts planting a tree at "Wissuntide, which comes forty days after Easter. Also at early dawn on the same day their singing societies march to the top of the nearest hill or mountain, and hail the rising sun with songs and pasans of praise for the glory of its warmth and blessing to Ceres and Flora. The old Mexican Indians also plant trees on certain days of the year when the moon is full, and name them after their children. The Aztecs used to plant a tree every time a child was born, and it bore the name of the child. In the State of Nebraska the governor each year offers a large reward to the family that will set out the greatest number of forest - trees. When I was there it was $500 for the first premium, $400 for the second, and so on down to $25. Even the women and children could earn premiums, medals, and diplomas, and great was the competition for these rewards of the state. The results of all have been wonderful. Patches of timber have sprung up everywhere, and where a few years ago only the naked plain was seen, now waves a goodly forest. Trees ten and twelve years old are thirty feet high, and eight to ten inches in diameter. It may be remarked that forest-trees grow in the West with wonderful rapidity, and if care were taken in planting them, all the vast flats from the Missouri River to the Eocky Mountains would soon be covered with forests and farms. It has been demonstrated in Utah and other places that sage-brush land, when irrigated, produces twenty-five, thirty, and even forty bushels of wheat per acre. In Colorado I have seen fifty bushels of wheat per acre cut from land which, before it was irrigated, looked like a worthless gravel-heap.
As an evidence of the rapidity with which trees grow, Mr. James T. Allen of Nebraska says: William Hollen-beck has two hundred acres of timber, mostly ash, planted from seedlings in 1861, and the trees now measure thirty-five inches in circumference, and are over forty feet high. Mr. Hollenbeck also has forty acres of black walnut planted in 1865, and many of the trees now measure thirty-five inches in circumference, and are forty-five feet high. Some of them bore nuts four years from the planting.
There are soft maples growing in Omaha, Nebraska, which at fourteen years of age were forty-three inches in circumference, and forty-five feet high. Two specimens of elms in Douglas County, planted in 1859, were six years ago thirty-eight inches in circumference four feet from the ground, and over thirty feet high. A honey locust planted at Omaha, at thirteen years old was thirty-four feet high, and measured thirty-five inches in circumference four feet from the ground. Cotton-woods in Douglas County, Nebraska, thirteen years old measured twenty-two inches in diameter, and were forty-five feet high. A box elder, growing in my yard at Omaha Barracks, shot up in a single season seven feet. Judge Crounse had a tree that grew seven feet for three consecutive years. All the trees about Omaha Barracks while I was stationed there grew from five to seven feet annually. Many more instances of the rapid growth of trees might be given for the encouragement of tree-planting, but these will suffice here, and those who are curious to learn can read, further on in the pages of this book, hundreds of instances.
What comes of tree-planting is profit, honor, health, and wealth. The progress made by the friends of forestry in America during the past few years is a matter of great congratulation to them. This year we have had a Forestry Congress well attended; Honorable John Sherman of Ohio has brought forward a healthy forest bill, which will be sure to pass at the next meeting of Congress, and the people of the country everywhere are awakening to the importance of both forest-saving and forest-planting. To aid in a humble way this good work the following pages are written, and if they shall make for the trees one true friend I shall esteem myself repaid for writing them. In closing this part of my work it will only be proper for me to make my most humble acknowledgment to Charles Bryant,
D. J. Browne, Andrew S. Fuller, James T. Allen, and others for valuable assistance. "Without the aid of their works this book could not have been prepared.
James S. Beisbin,
U. S. Army.
Fort Keoqh, Montana.