Quotable Pennsylvania: Forests

Pennsylvania’s name derives from its woods. The forests and the life in them have shaped every facet of its history and continue to benefit its people to this day.

Though Pennsylvania’s forests were decimated in the 19th and early 20th centuries, some of the ancient woods did survive in places like Cook Forest State Park and are absolutely worth a visit. Many other woodlands have been restored in the past century and about 60% of Pennsylvania is covered in forests.

If you want to go beyond these quotes about Pennsylvania forests, I recommend reading these two articles about deforestation and historical perceptions of Pennsylvania forests, and about children in Penn’s Woods. Historical publications like “Forest Leaves” are also troves of information about Pennsylvania forest history.

Recommended listening: The Acadian Flycatcher, recorded in Westmoreland County. Instead of a song, I suggest listening to the sounds of an actual Pennsylvania forest!

Norwich Original Forest
Pennsylvania State Archives, Record Group 6.20.

“We observed the tops of the trees to be so close to one another for many miles together, that there is no feeling which way the clouds drive, nor which way the wind sets: and it seems almost as if the sun had never shone on the ground, since the creation.”

-John Bartram, 1751
“Observations on the Inhabitants, Climate, Soil, Rivers, Productions, Animals, and other Matters Worthy of Notice Made by Mr. John Bartram, in his Travels from Pennsylvania to Onondago,” page 37

“I can smile today at the remembrance of the calm, superior way in which the old hunters of that day would look down on me, as from the upper branches of a tall hemlock, when I ventured to suggest that a better fire could be made with half the fuel and less than half the labor. They would kindly remark, ‘Oh, you are a Boston boy. You are used to paying $8.00 a cord for wood. We have no call to save wood here. We can afford to burn it by the acre.’ Which was more true than logical. Most of these men had commenced life with a stern declaration of war against the forest; and, although the men usually won at last, the battle was a long and hard one. Small wonder that they came to look upon a forest tree as a natural enemy.”

-George Washington Sears (Nessmuk), 1884
“Woodcraft,” page 44

Pennsylvania State Archives, Record Group 6.20.

“The entire region has been deforested. Save for a scrub thicket and immature trees, which may at some distant date produce timber, the hills are bare. There are few places in the East where the natural beauties of mountain scenery and the natural resources of timber lands have been destroyed to the extent that has taken place in northern Pennsylvania.”

-U.S. Geological Survey, 1904
“Quality of Water in the Susquehanna River Drainage Basin,” page 35

“Wading,” Hammersley Region, Clinton County, W.T. Clarke. Pennsylvania State Archives, Record Group 6.20.

“Why not restore Penn’s Woods? Why not let these mountains contribute once more as they have done in the past to the wealth, prosperity, and beauty of Pennsylvania?”

-Governor William Sproul, 1921
“Governor Sproul Outlines his Forest Policy,” page 1


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