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First American Settlers

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Autor: 24  •  December 21, 2010  •  2,065 Words (9 Pages)  •  719 Views

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When settlers first came to the New World forests covered ____ per cent of the land. The forests all had a wide range of trees and bushes in them. The "primeval forest" or the first forest Europeans came into contact with had been changed by many acts of nature such as floods, hurricanes, and flood. Actions of Native Americans also had a hand in changing forests. Such forests included redwood forests, which were home to huge redwood trees, mossy forests, and swamp forests.

To many European settlers, these forests represented a wild and evil area. Many feared the forests and wilderness as the antithesis of civilization, community, and religion. One group in particular, the Puritans, viewed the forests not as an abundance of natural resources but as an impediment to settlement.

Once forests began to be viewed as beneficial, it opened up a whole new lifestyle. The forests and nature might have been an evil and scary place, but it was a place filled with resources and opportunity. Settlers began using trees and wood in a plethora of ways. Not only was it used for families own use, many began logging forests as a business; a very profitable business at that. Once wood started being used for beneficial purposes, a snowball effect occurred by the settlers to cut down every tree in sight and turn it into a profit.

Logging was the process of cutting down numerous amounts of trees to use wood in a capitalist way or to clear land for agricultural purposes. Two main techniques were used by the settlers to clear away these large forests. One technique was called girdling. Girdling is the process of cutting a strip of bark off of the circumference of the tree which eventually killed it. Another technique used for deforestation is the "cut and burn" method. This method was the process of cutting down many of the trees and burning the rest of the brush and plants to clear land.

Cutting down these massive amounts of forest proved to be a very difficult task. On average it took about 10-15 years for a family to clear 100 acres of land to make a comfortable living. Most of the logging was done in the winter months. Placing large amounts of logs on sleds and moving them on snow proved to be far easier then trying to move them in the rainy, muddy spring and summer months. Horses were used to haul such sleds but each horse had its limit. Another way in which to move logs was done by floating them down rivers. By shipping logs this way it allowed settlers to move lumber in any month. The only problem of this method was that logs were sometimes left in the middle of rivers turning into treacherous obstacles for tugboats. Quite often tugboats would be seen zigzagging across a river just to avoid hitting a log and sinking the ship.

There were many reasons logging became such a profitable business. Wood was used around the house and property in numerous ways in the 1600's, 1700's, and 1800's. Settlers began building log homes. These homes were relatively simple to build, only taking a few weeks, with the right equipment, to build and provided exceptional protection from the elements. If settlers had a tool for paining logs into boards then this allowed for a superior home, but most were just constructed from shaped logs. These homes were very basic in structure usually having only one large room, a few windows, and a door. Crude gaps between the logs had to be filled in with a mud and straw mixture to keep the houses as insulated as possible. Also, before metals and plastics were used, wood was used for cooking purposes, cups, dishes, pots, and even utensils. Leftover wood and stumps were burned and the remaining ashes were used to make potash. This material became very popular, profitable, and could be used in many different ways. Potash was the leftover ash after burning these wood pieces that could be made into lye and soaps.

Outside of the house were many other uses of wood. Barns were also constructed using logs and boards. Fences were also built using this natural resource. Three main types of fences were being constructed. One type of fence was the double post-hole fence. This fence was the least popular type of fence in America because it took the most amount of effort to construct even though it required a small amount of wood. Post holes had to be dug as well as drilling holes through the uprights had to occur before fitting the pieces together. Then the rails had to be slotted between the posts in alternate layers. A second type of fence used was the single post-hole fence. This fence was constructed in relatively the same way but used much less timber and were located in places where wood was scarce. This was the second most popular fence. The most popular type of fence was the worm or zigzag fence. This fence required an immense amount of lumber but was relatively easy to construct. Six to ten slender 12-foot-long poles were laid horizontally and interlocked in a zigzag patter with another layer of 12-foot-long poles. Heavy bracing logs were used to lock the intersecting angles. Almost 80% of all fences in the United States were constructed using the zigzag method in the 1850's. Also, wood was used for railroad ties. These new railroads began to stretch across America so increasing amounts of ties were used.

Along with these uses of wood, many other uses were common. Settlers were able to create or turn wood into numerous profitable items. Naval stores were set up next to rivers to sell such items and also build and repair ships. Leftover wood stumps and scraps could be used to make a wide range of products such as resin, turpentine or tar. Each of these substances comes from the saps of pine trees and was used to caulk the seams of wooden ships. Potash products were also sold at naval stores such as lye, soaps, and paints. Naval stores also stored the wood in which tugboats traveling on the rivers would buy. Burning this wood fueled the ships and a single boat would have to stop many times during one trip to "re-fuel."

Cutting down forest proved to be a constant struggle for Americans. A typical family would begin to plant crops as soon as they settled on a piece of land. These crops included corn and tobacco. After years of growing the same crops year after year, the soil became exhausted. This exhausted soil proved no good for planting additional crops so after 5-10 years the settlers would move on leaving land only partially cleared. But once a family settled on a piece of land it was only natural that they wanted to acquire more and more land. Land was a symbol of power and importance to the settlers.

Nearly all of the land at this time


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