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Full text of "An essay on "The preservation of roadside trees, and the improvement of public grounds.""

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SB 436 
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Massachusetts Society for Promoting Agriculture 



^be preservation of 1Roab0i^e Zvccs anb tbe 
llmprovement of public (Brounbe/' 




" Woodman, spare that tree ; 

Touch not a single bough ; 
In youth it sheltered me, 

And I'll protect it now. 
'Twas my forefather's hand 

That placed it near his cot; 
There, Woodman, let it stand, 

Thy axe shall harm it not." 

The incident that gave thovight to the poem of which the above 
is the opening stanza is familiar to many ; yet in a word I will al- 
lude to it as emphasizing the importance of considering and acting 
upon the problem suggested as the topic of our discussion, " The 
Preservation of Road-side Trees," etc. 

In the year 1837 George P. Morris, of New York, while driving 
with a friend along the lane that led to his early home in that por- 
tion of New York City know as Bloomingdale, discovered a man 
with axe in hand, about to fell to the ground an aged and noble oak 
that had been planted by his grandfather, before he was born, and 
under whose shade, for many years, with parents and sisters, he 
had spent many happy hours. 

Touched to the heart at the thought of the demolition of this 
historic tree, he first tried to persuade the owner to desist from his 
purpose, without avail, and then he negotiated with him, on the 
payment of a sum equal in value to the wood and timber the tree 
would make, and going into the old homestead, he took paper, drew 
up a bond for him to sign, stipulating that as long as the property 
remained in his possession, or that of his family, that "old oak" 
should never be disturbed. 

That this feeling of veneration for these noble roadside trees has 
not died out is evinced by the interest taken by those lovers of trees 
who have been instrumental in securing a legislative enactment for 
the preservation of roadside trees in this state. 

The law as it now stands is as follows : 

"Chapter 196 of the Acts of 1890, as amended by chapter 49 of 
the Acts of 1891 and chapter 147 of the Acts of 1892. 

"Section 1. The mayor and aldermen of ^cities and the select- 
men of towns within the Commonwealth are hereby authorized to 
designate and preserve, as hereinafter provided in this act, trees 
within the limits of the highways for the purposes of ornament and 
shade ; and to so designate not less than one such tree in every ) 
thirty -three feet where such trees are growing and are of a diameter 
of one inch or more. 

<'Sect. 2. Said mayor and aldermen and selectmen shall, at such 
seasons of the year as they deem proper, designate such trees as are 
selected by them for the purposes set forth in this act, by driving 
into the same, at a point not less than four nor more than six feet 
from the ground and on the side towards the centre of the highway, 
a nail or spike with a head with the letter M plainly impressed 
upon it ; said nails and spikes to be procured and furnished by the 
secretary of the state board of agriculture to said mayor and alder- 
men and selectmen as required by them for the purposes of this act. 
Said mayor and aldermen and selectmen, at such seasons of the 
year as they deem proper, shall renew such of said nails and spikes 
as shall have been destroyed or defaced ; and shall also designate, 
in the same manner as hereinbefore stated, such other trees as in 
their judgment should be so designated to carry out the require- 
ments of this act. 

"Sect. 3. Whoever wantonly injures, defaces or destroys any 
tree thus designated, or any of said nails or spikes affixed to such 
trees, shall forfeit not less than five nor more than one hundred 
dollars, to be recovered by complaint, one-half to the complainant 
and one-half to the use of the town wherein the offence was com- 

"Sect, 4. This act shall not apply to ornamental or shade trees 
whose preservation is now provided for by chapter fifty-four of the 
Public Statutes and the acts amendatory thereof." 

The requisite nails or spikes have been procured by the secretary 
of the Board of Agriculture, and he is now prepared to furnish 
them, on request of selectmen of towns or mayor and aldermen of 
cities, for the purposes set forth in the act above mentioned. 

I am aware that action has been taken but in a very few instances 
as yet by the town or city officials in carrying out the provisons of 
this act. It seems to me that it is of the highest importance that 
the initative steps in this work be taken at once by defining some 
uniform method of procedure and to designate what varieties of 
trees it is most desirable to have preserved, and where, within these 
roadside limits, the same will be best protected from injury. 

The new law clearly defines the proper authorities entrusted with 
this work. The Board of Selectmen in the several towns, and in 
the case of our cities tlie Parks Commission, would seem to me to 
be the proper authorities. 


The white oak, American white beech, rock or sugar maples, 
American white elm (when space is ample), and American white 
ash seem to me to be the most desirable. 


The objection to the red oak and basswood or linden is their sus- 
ceptibility to the attack of the borer ; the poplars and white or red 
maples, their liability to injury or wreckage by ice storms. The 
red or slippery elm, if discovered by traveling man or boy will not 
escape the robbing of its bark, and the chestnut and walnut become 
the victims of severe clubbing and injury to their trunks, by pound- 
ing without mercy to induce a few stray nuts to leave their snug 
quarters before being ordered out by the autumnal frosts. 


But two positions can safely be agreed upon in the roadside pres- 
ervation of trees. Either they must be in close proximity to the 
boundary wall or fence, or far enough distant therefrom to allow a 
foot-walk six or more feet between the trees selected and the boun- 
dary line. 

While this should apply to the trees of smaller dimensions which 
are to be designated for preservation, in the instance of an occasional 
tree which may be found between these lines, that have reached 
nearly to their maximum height and breadth, the owners of adja- 
cent land would do honor to themselves and confer blessings upon 
posterity by giving to the highway sufficient land to allow a foot- 
walk on one side and an ample road-bed in the line of travel on the 
other, so that these noble "sons of the forest" may be fully pre- 

Whenever the tree to be preserved can be found standing close 
to the boundary lines, the chances of its being left undisturbed are 
far greater than those six feet or more distant therefrom when they 
so often become hitching-posts for careless and thoughtless drivers, 
or the victims of barbarous treatment at the hands of road repairers 
with their death-dealing road machines or ploughs or scrapers. 

While we have alluded thus far only to such roadside trees as 
have sprung up as by chance, and have now reached sufficient size 
to be designated for permanent preservation, it may not be out of 
place to note the plans adopted by the Worcester Parks Commission 
in the planting of shade trees on the city thoroughfares or highways 
in the suburbs. 

In the city proper no trees are planted until the grades of the 
streets have been permanently established by the city engineer and 
the curbstones placed in their permanent position. 

They are planted eight inches inside the curb, und distant from 
each other from thirty-five to forty feet. 

Where trees have been planted under these directions outside the 
curbstone limit by private individuals, they recommend a distance 
of forty to fifty feet, and within one foot of the wall or fence, or 
either six or seven feet distant therefrom, being governed some- 
what by the width of the highway where the trees are planted. 

While this work of planting shade trees has been carried on very 
successfully by the Commission for many years, and over ten thou- 
sand trees are now growing in a thriving condition, their greatest 
care and anxiety now is their preservation from injury by reckless 
drivers of all kinds of vehicles, and their utilization as hitching-posts 
Cor horses by those of whom better things should be expected. 

To the credit of the irrepressible small boy who has to bear such 
a liberal share of denunciation in these matters, be it said, that the 
iniurv from sharp-edged tools in their hands is very meagre m com- 
parison with the destruction wrought by the teeth of hungry 
horses. Tree-guards of the strongest construction which are from 
seven to eight feet in height are found of little avail where a hungry 
horse is bent on a meal of the tender growth of a thrifty sugar or 

Norway maple. , ■, , -, j. -4. 

While the destruction of the more recently planted trees is try- 
ing in the extreme, the reckless mutilation of road-side trees outside 
the city limits by the employes of the several telegraph and tele- 
phone companies overshadows every other line of destruction 

Some of the finest oaks, elms and maples, along the routes occu- 
pied by these corporations' wires have been mutilated and disfigured 
bevond measure, while some specimens have been so nearly ruined 
that they can never be restored to any degree of symmetry. And 
what is the remedy ? These companies have acqmred their fran- 
chise without cost, by the simple application to City Council or 
Board of Selectmen, for leave to locate their poles along certain 
thoroughfares. This privilege does not carry with it the right to 
destroy a single tree that may come in their way, yet the employes 
invariably get in their deathly work before they are discovered, and 
their would be prosecutors are unable to bring them to justice. 

There is room enough in the world both for the trees and the 
wires ; but as trees do not root in the air, they must take the lower 
strata in the premises, while the telegraph companies oy using fifty 
and sixty feet poles instead of those only thirty to thirty-five feet 
in height, can carry their wires well above the tops of the avei-age 
shade or roadside trees without injury. Any branches to the tree 
that will interfere with the wire of that height can safely be re- 
moved without any injury to the tree or disfigurement to their 
symmetrical proportions, excepting, however, the gigantic elms and 
oaks, when it would be impracticable. In such cases the use of 
insulated wires will overcome the difficulty. United and decisive 
action on the part of the city and town officials demanding the re- 
construction of their lines on higher poles, alone will prove the 

"^^ While much has been done of late in this embellishment of our 
streets and roadsides with shade trees, we have but comparatively 
few drives of any great length that have become prominent f oi their 
shade attractiveness, that are the results of the labor of our public- 
spirited and tree-loving citizens, thirty or forty years ago. 

In my own city, and I refer to it as some of you iire familiar with 
the situation, I recall nothing more beautiful and effective in the 
way of roadside ornamentation than the double rows of magnificent 
Norway maples that over-arch Lovell street southerly from May 
street, which were planted by our esteemed fellow-citizen B 
Hadwen. A short section of May street west of June street speaks 
words of living praise for the labor of the Hartshorn fami y in the 
planting of sujar maples, while a long stretch on the Gratton road 
planted with the American white ash, perpetuates the memory ot 
the late Darius Rice. 


We take much pride in many small groups of trees and some 
magnificent single specimens that adorn the homes and roadsides of 
our rural citizens, but we cannot point to a single mile of continu- 
ous shade upon any suburban road, from trees of twenty-five or 
more years of age. It is to encourage this roadside embellishment 
by the preservation and planting of suitable shade trees upon the 
treeless roads that has prompted the consideration of this subject 

to-day. J u 

While I have been greatly impressed with the grandeur and sub- 
limity of the natural scenery of the country that it has been my 
privilege to visit and gaze upon, I still hold in high veneration 
those marked features of the landscape where the work of nature 
has been supplemented by the hand of man in the laying out of 
broad avenues and the planting of roadside trees. 

What is it that most impresses the visitor to our rural town of 
Lancaster ? Nothing more nor less than its broad central avenues 
overarched with stately elms, planted early in the present century 

The town of Shrewsbury will ever revere the name of Harlow and 
Hapgood, who, when in the prime of life, erected their own monu- 
ment by the planting of those rows of sugar maples that now at- 
tract the attention of every lover of nature. "Yea, verily they 
cease from their labors but their works do follow them." 

While our State has many towns whose shade trees have made 
them famous and attractive, the work of street embellishment m 
Washington City, is not only of special interest but of great magni- 
tude. During a period of ten years, over 20,000 shade trees were 
planted on the streets and avenues, and as many more m the parks 
and reservations. What impresses one most m their method of 
planting is the large variety of trees that have been utilized. 
The climate in that locality allows the utilization of many trees 
that are not indigenous to this New England climate. Certain ave- 
nues are planted exclusively with one variety of trees, and the ef- 
fect is most pleasing. The perfectly formed and evenly rounded 
head of the sugar or Norway maples on certain avenues while the 
more spreading silver maple type characterizes another. Ihe 
American linden furnishers another type of symmetrical and finely 
formed trees. The tulip or white wood is clean and shapely while 
the gingko or maiden hair, furnishes a peculiarly striking foliage 
that attracts much attention. The elms are used in some cases 
where space will allow. The Carolina poplar and Negundo maples 
were planted largely at first, but proved very unsatisfactory after a 
few years ; the Negundo becoming badly infested with insects, and 
the poplar becoming sadly disfigured by breakage. 

The city of Boston has completed a broad avenue several miles 
in length from the city proper to "Chestnut Hill Reservoir 'in 
Brookline, that is unequalled by any drive in tnis section of the 
country. Its distinctive features are its generous width iOO feet 
most of the distance, the location of the double tracks of the elec- 
tric railroad system in the center of the avenue and on either side 
of these tracks rows of shade trees are planted, while the surface 
of the ground is well turfed with grass. An equestrian drive comes 
next to the railroad location, while a broad, thoroughly constructed 

roadbed is located on each side of the avenue for carriages. Broad 
sidewalks are located between the carriage drives and the boundary 
line, and here again rows of trees are planted, the whole forming a 
grand colonnade with four rows of trees the entire length. 

This is Boston's great pleasure drive of which she feels justly 

Cannot other cities hope to possess even in a small measure such 
grand features in their system of roads or pleasure drives? 

In ray journey through California a few years ago I was impressed 
with the interest taken there in this roadside tree planting. We 
found at San Jose a broad avenue called the " Alameda," leading to 
Santa Clara three miles distant, with a double row of poplars and 
willows. These were planted by Jesuit missionaries over one hun- 
dred years ago, and, although we cannot approve the selection of 
trees for durability, they are entitled to the honor of being the pio- 
neers in tree planting on the Pacific Coast. At Riverside in South- 
ern California may be found one avenue, the Magnolia, which is 
nine miles in length, and planted the entire distance with huge 
palm trees on each side, and a row of pepper trees in the centre. 

In another town, Pomona by name, the leading attraction is a 
broad avenue planted with two rows of cypress trees, and two of 
the Eucalyptus, which make a most charming effect. 

These are but a few of many illustrations ; time will not allow 
the mentioning of more. 

In considering the question of the improvement of public grounds, 
it is not my purpose to touch upon the work of the landscape gar- 
dener or the laying out and embellishment of public parks, but to 
advocate a certain line of improvement that would not come under 
their province. I refer to the land, coming within the boundary 
limits of our highway as well as that of school-house grounds. It 
was my privilege a few years ago, as the executive officer of the 
Massachusetts State Grange, to recommend the observance, by 
the subordinate granges of the state, of a fixed day in the early 
part of the month of May as Arbor Day ; and in addition to the 
planting of fruit and ornamental trees around the home, and trees 
for shade and shelter along the roadsides, I urged the importance of 
cleaning the grounds around the buildings and along the roadsides 
of all useless underbrush, stones, stumps or any other unsightly ob- 
jects, and then grade the same and seed it down to grass. It is 
gratifying to note how much interest was manifested in this work 
in many towns, and what great improvements were made through 
this vmited, as well as individual, effort. 

I am aware that many will assert that this kind of work does 
not pay or that the activities of farming life will not allow time 
for any such improvements. No one would urge any neglect of 
their duties that at many seasons of the year become imperative, 
but there are many broken days or partially rainy days in the course 
of the year, and even between the busy seasons, that can be de- 
voted to this work if one is so disposed. 

Have this roadside improvement as one object in view that shall 
have a few days' attention every year, and in ten years from now 
the suburban roads of this state would show a most wonderful and 
pleasing transformation. 

"Will this Work be appreciated?" may be asked. There cer- 
tainly is no negative answer to this question. The number of 
owners of teams for pleasure driving is increasing largely every 
year. This driving is not confined to our busy thoroughfares, or the 
main roads that have been sacrificed to the traffic of the horse or 
electric railway systems. These are being largely avoided and re- 
sort is taken to the rural drives, of which no state can boast of 
more charming ones, or a grander or more diversified landscape. 

It appears from the early records of my native city of Worcester, 
that in the year 1783 an ordinance was passed by the town as fol- 
lows : — 

"Whereas, a number of persons have manifested a disposition to 
set out trees for shade, near the meeting house and elsewhere about 
the town, and the town being very desirous of encouraging such a 
measure, which will be beneficial as well as ornamental, voted — 
that any person being an inhabitant of this town who shall injure 
or destroy such trees so set out shall pay a tine not exceeding twenty 
shillings for every offense, to the use of the poor." 

The attention given to street ornamentation, inaugurated over a 
century ago, continued in later years by men who were the founders 
and promoters of the Worcester County Horticultural Society, the 
Lincoln family for three generations most prominent of all, has 
given us for enjoyment the refreshing shade of our Common and 
the streets in the immediate vicinity. 

The authorities in charge of the highways in the cities and 
towns are doing more each year to improve the roadbeds in every di- 
rection. It now remains for the owners of land bordering on these 
highways to supplement this work by improvement of the roadside, 
the planting and preservation of our shade-trees, and thus add to 
the attractiveness, enjoyment and general prosperity of an appre- 
ciative community. 

Some of our railroad corporations are setting us a good example 
in the way they are utilizing the vacant land around the stations by 
planting trees, vines and shrubs in a most attractive manner, and 
the travelling public are certainly enjoying the grand improvement. 

In the matter of — 


a few suggestions may be offered, as it comes within the pi'ovince 
of the question under consideration. 

The suggestions made for Arbor Day observance, already al- 
luded to, while intended more especially for the towns in the State 
where Granges were organized, found no heartier support than in 
my own city. It was very gratifying to me to be invited to ad- 
dress a meeting of the school teachers of Worcester upon this sub- 
ject, giving hints and suggestions that might aid them in their 
work. It was still more pleasing to note the interest taken by so 
many of the teachers and scholars in the initiative work of plant- 
ing the shade-trees, vines and shrubs within so many of the school- 
yard enclosures in this city. 

The predictions of those who doubted the expediency of sueh au 

000 925 707 fl 

undertaking, and predicted the certain demolition of every vestige 
of plant-life, the first season, have not proved true, but on the 
other hand, those trees and shrubs that the pupils had planted with 
their own hands, or had secured by their own efforts either by pur- 
chase, solicitation or contribution, were guarded with a care and in- 
terest that has been most commendable. The class-tree that adorns 
the grounds of nearly every one of our colleges and other institu- 
tions of learning, some that have stood for half a century or more, 
are held in sacred veneration by the graduates of those institutions 
ever afterwards. 

Who shall say that the boys and girls of the primary and inter- 
mediate schools who have aided in the planting of their class-trees 
will not ever after cherish pleasant recollections of this chapter of 
their school-day life, and also that these early impressions will lead 
to higher appreciation of the value of trees for shade or shelter, and 
closer acquaintance with the numberless varieties of plants, shrubs, 
vines or flowers that are adding so much to the pleasure and com- 
fort of mankind, whether planted in garden or park, or growing in 
their natural wildness and beauty on roadside or in woodland or 

We are cognizant of the fact that our school-yards are limited in 
space and but little can be spared for this work, but is it asking too 
much that one-tenth of the area be appropriated to this work ?• 
And all this space can be taken in the borders or in the corners so 
as not to interfere with the playground, for no one would interfere 
with all that is necessary to develop the physical nature and the 
enjoyment of our outdoor games and pastimes. The open space 
allowed for this exercise and pleasure can be made much more en- 
joyable if protected by suitable shade which can be secured in a 
large measure by planting trees around and near the border-line of 
the enclosure ; and as these trees will take room above the heads of 
the children, their available area for sport is not diminished in the 
least. If a strip varying in width from five to ten feet along the 
borders, or in close proximity to the building, can be taken for the 
dwarf growing trees and flowering shrubs, a most pleasing effect 
can be produced and the large variety to select from that are indig- 
enous to this climate will afford a choice assortment of color in 
flower and leaf and continual bloom during the season. 

We have reason to take pride in our finely constructed school- 
buildings, their pleasing architectural design and effect, their loca- 
tion and adaptability for instructive purposes. 

Let us hope that the work so happily inaugurated in our State 
Normal Schools of embellishing the grounds around them may con- 
tinue, and that the inspiration of their Arbor Day observance may 
prove lasting, so that teachers who graduate therefrom, as well as 
those now in the service, may be earnestly devoted to their noble 
work till every schoolyard shall be made to possess, in small meas- 
ure at least, these attractive surroundings that conduce to the 
greater refinement and higher moral sentiment of our children. 

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