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The Greening of the South

The Greening of the South: The Recovery of Land and Forest

Copyright Date: 1984
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    The Greening of the South
    Book Description:

    In the early 1920s, in many a sawmill town across the South, the last quitting-time whistle signaled the cutting of the last log of a company's timber holdings and the end of an era in southern lumbering. It marked the end as well of the great primeval forest that covered most of the South when Europeans first invaded it.

    Much of the first forest, despite the labors of pioneer loggers, remained intact after the Civil War. But after the restrictions of the Southern Homestead Act were removed in 1876, lumbermen and speculators rushed in to acquire millions of acres of virgin woodland for minimal outlays. The frantic harvest of the South's first forest began; it was not to end until thousands of square miles lay denuded and desolate, their fragile soils -- like those of the abandoned cotton lands -- exposed to rapid destruction by the elements. With the end of the sawmill era and the collapse of the southern farm economy, the emigration routes from the South to the industrial cities of the North and Midwest were thronged with people forced from the land.

    Yet in the first quarter of this century, even as the destruction of forest and land continued, a day of renewal was dawning. The rise of the conservation movement, the beginnings of the national forests, the development of scientific forestry and establishment of forest schools, the advance of chemical research into the use of wood pulp -- all converged even as the 1930s brought to the South the sweeping reclamation programs of the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Tennessee Valley Authority; in their wake came a new generation of wood-using industries concerned not so much with the immediate exploitation of timber as with the maintenance of a renewable resource.

    InThe Greening of the South, this dramatic story is told by one of the participants in the renewal of the forest. Thomas D. Clark, author of many books about southern history, is also an active timber producer on lands in both Kentucky and South Carolina

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5807-5
    Subjects: History, Botany & Plant Sciences, Environmental Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Editor’s Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
    Charles P. Roland
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. 1. Land of Tall Timber
    (pp. 1-13)

    As a youth I rode many times with my family past a worn and eroded cotton patch in central Mississippi. My mother said the land was snatched away from the pines a second time by our neighbor Tom Crow. As a sergeant in the 15th Mississippi Regiment he was badly wounded in the Battle of Shiloh Church. Three years later he lost a leg in the great military debacle at Franklin, Tennessee. In the end Sergeant Crow, like Margaret Mitchell’s Will Benteen, hobbled home on a wooden peg leg he had fashioned from a black-gum bolt. For the rest of...

  6. 2. Carpetbaggers of the Woods
    (pp. 14-25)

    During the blustery winter of 1888 the ambitious young Chicago author William H. Harrison looked out upon the harsh Great Lakes surroundings and dreamed of escape. He wanted to depopulate the city and get rich by doing so. His thoughts dwelt upon the South where, he said in his bookHow to Get Rich in the South, one could raise everything from goats to castor beans while basking in eternal sunshine. “The South,” he said, “possesses greater natural wealth than all the balance of the Union.” There were other and more down-to-earth adventurers who cast their nets in the southern...

  7. 3. Nesting Birds and Wooden Ships
    (pp. 26-35)

    From the outset of the big mill operations in the South lumbermen sought to open and supply the European and British markets for lumber and specialized wood products. Many of the companies, like the hardwood producers Burt and Brabbs of Ford, Kentucky, maintained foreign sales and market survey offices. With the expansion of the foreign trade after 1908, it is reasonable to believe lumbermen would have leveled most of the South’s stand of virgin timber in supplying the demands of foreign and domestic consumers. After 1914, however, the harvest and wastage of southern timber was hastened. American involvement in World...

  8. 4. Dawning of the Age of Scientific Forestry
    (pp. 36-53)

    During the most intensive years of the exploitation of the first American forests there were not more than a dozen Americans who had any working knowledge of the science of silviculture or sound economic management of timberlands. Along with the rest of the country the South remained burdened with the frontier myth of the inexhaustibility of natural resources, a myth carried over into and abetted by the laissez faire pillaging of the first forest. In the half century from 1870 to 1920, there emerged a trace of alarm if not guilt on the part of some sawmill operators and concerned...

  9. 5. Inception of the South’s Second Forest
    (pp. 54-72)

    Lumber operations in the great southern coastal pine belt at the turn of the century were controlled largely by hard-fisted and myopic men who, if they ever thought in terms other than producing the greatest amount of lumber in the shortest possible time, kept their thoughts to themselves. They focused strictly on hauling logs from the woods and delivering lumber to purchasers wherever on the globe they could be found. There was no time in this competitive and frenetic drive to plan for the future, which they would not be around to greet anyway.

    One in this throng of lumbermen,...

  10. 6. The CCC Boys
    (pp. 73-85)

    At mid-decade of the 1920s the South had arrived at a major crossroads in its history. This was the point of no return to the days of reckless agricultural practices or the slashing away of the magnificient first forest. Gone were the days when furnishing merchants supplied the region’s agrarian credit needs at ruinous rates of interest and prices for goods. If there was any hope left for little cotton farmers it was too dim to illumine the future; the simple truth was that both tenant farming and the old style sawmill and timberman had outlived their time. No longer...

  11. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  12. 7. The Tennessee Valley Experiment
    (pp. 86-101)

    There may never have been another time in the South’s history, before or since 1933, when so many compromises as to land utilization and the conservation of resources could be made among governments, private landowners, and industries. Just as the chemical crisis of World War I had brought about the development of Muscle Shoals on the Tennessee River, the stifling depression of the early 1930s all but enforced common efforts at conservation.

    Fortunately, the law creating the Tennessee Valley Authority gave its managers broad powers of direction and control. The mission of the Authority, freed of bureaucratic interference from Washington...

  13. 8. Charles Herty’s Legacy
    (pp. 102-113)

    Slowly but certainly the application of chemistry in industry brought about a revolution in many phases of southern economic life, and especially in the management of the South’s second and third forests. During the crucial post–World War I years, 1920-1936, scientists began looking at southern woods from a new perspective. In the early twenties lumbering had been sharply reduced, southern farming generally was in a state of doldrums, and vast areas of submarginal cotton lands were being reclaimed by old-field pines and trash shrubbery. The wood harvesting industry, like southern farming, lacked diversity. Though the art of manufacturing kraft...

  14. 9. The Grand March South
    (pp. 114-132)

    A forlorn note was sounded in 1923 by R.D. Forbes, who as the first director of the newly authorized Southern Forest Experiment Station had visited large areas of cutover lands. He wrote, “there was quite a ceremony at a southern pine sawmill town the other day, according to the papers. The occasion was the cutting of the last log of the company’s timber holdings. When the whistle blew for quitting time, if it was an average Louisiana mill, 77 men were forthwith out of a job. If the output of southern pine drops to eight billion board feet in the...

  15. 10. Rearranging the Land
    (pp. 133-148)

    Daily in the modern South an economic and social conflict continues that has greater impact than any armed conflict that ever occurred in the land. This quiet but powerful force is steadily revising much of the foundation of southern culture and human relationships with the land. The daily struggle is not between political, racial, or social groups, but between competitors who contend for access to the land for forest and nonforest uses. If large landholds in parts of the antebellum South represented wealth, power, and social leadership, big landholding in the present South represents a tremendous base of both private...

  16. Bibliographical Essay
    (pp. 149-158)
  17. Index
    (pp. 159-170)