Many times when Independence Day rolls around, I stop and think about the beginning…a nation that craved freedom and how our forefathers fought long and hard for it. So many things grew and shaped our great nation, but how often do we think about the building materials that actually built our cities and towns? Where would we be today if it wasn’t for our dense forests and the invaluable resource wood provided to craft a new nation?
Trees were critically important for survival as the colonies were settled. If it wasn’t for the shelter and warmth provided from the first trees hewn down, the settlers would have never survived the bitter cold of New England’s winters.
As the colonies grew and towns were being established, often times one of the first commercial structures to go up was a saw mill. Still used for structure and warmth in the winter, wood also was an extremely practical material to work with and so many everyday items were made from it. Not only was timber harvested from American forests, but also tar and pitch.
During the Industrial Revolution iron, steam, and coal became widely used, but wood remained a valuable resource. Pioneers traveled West in wooden Conestogas and built cabins from logs they harvested by hand. Wooden railroad ties supported the miles of iron tracks that played a part in shuttling people and livestock into new frontiers.
As our nation has grown over the years, wood never disappeared as building staple. Thanks to sustainable forestry, we are still enjoying these benefits. Now that we have entered an age of technology, artificial composites, and plastics, wood is still the preferred building material for renewable and timeless design.
This Forth of July as we celebrate freedom and the amazing country we live in, don’t forget about the humble resource that helped us grow as a country and continues to be a material and symbol of strength and beauty.