Out of the Woods: The Story of Cornwall's Forests

Land to be Improved


West Cornwall, circa 1870. This view cannot be reproduced today, as there are too many trees in the way.

Pease Brothers, West Cornwall, 1868.
Collection of Cornwall Historical Society.

This view cannot be reproduced today,
as there are too many trees in the way.


When Cornwall was incorporated as a town in 1740, the landscape was comprised of woodlands. Cornwall’s first settlers were each required to clear and fence six acres of land within two years. Forests were thought of as land to be “improved” by cutting down the trees, clearing out the bushes, and removing large rocks. Trees were valued as lumber, used in constructing buildings and bridges, and sold for ship building in coastal towns.










West Cornwall, circa 1870

West Cornwall, circa 1870
Collection of Cornwall Historical Society


The early settlers cut down large swaths of forest to create pastures for grazing and fields for grain and hay. They also allowed the forest to grow back in certain areas in order to replenish their supply of lumber. The second growth forests tended to be primarily walnut, while beech trees grew “but thinly” compared to other trees.


Cornwall Plain was a white pine forest before the 1740s. The trees were old, some as large as five feet in diameter. Mast Swamp was reputedly named for its tall white pines which were cut down and sold for ship masts in coastal towns.






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