Wooded road, Cornwall Bridge, unknown date
Collection of Cornwall Historical Society

The concept of protecting forests emerged after the Civil War. A new movement saw forests not only as a resource for timber, but also as a retreat from the modern world and a place to commune with God. Advocates saw forests as a vital part of Nature, connecting the loss of forests to harder winters, increased flooding, and a decrease in the bird population. Proponents of “muscular Christianity” believed that vigorous physical activity in a forest setting was good for the soul.

The movement met some resistance, as others saw forest preservation, and the planting of trees, as a waste of resources. National and state forests were eventually created, with logging permitted on a limited basis.

Portable sawmill, with cleared hillside in distance, Cream Hill, late 19th century
Collection of Cornwall Historical Society

Pelletier portable sawmill, late 19th century
Collection of Cornwall Historical Society

“By denuding the hills of their forests the soil has been washed from many of our hill towns into the valleys, and with the soil men have also departed, so that they appear to be deserted by God and man, given up to desolation.”

Alexander Hyde, “A Model Mountain Farm,” in The New-York Weekly, August 7, 1878
(Hyde was reporting on a visit to T.S. Gold’s Cream Hill farm)

“In the woods, we return to reason and faith. There I feel that nothing can befall me in life… which nature cannot repair.”

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson,
Nature; Addresses and Lectures, 1849

State Forester Austin Hawes, July 1931
Collection of The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station