Night Comes to the Cumberlands: A Biography of a Depressed Area

By Harry M. Caudill | Go to book overview

CHAPTER THREE
The War

TOWARD the end of this first quarter of the nineteenth century the people in the fast-filling Bluegrass region began to take interest in one part of the plateau's great tangible wealth -- its trees. The rolling hillocks of central Kentucky were originally dotted with splendid hardwoods, but these were too few to meet the needs of the growing towns and cities and at the same time to provide fuel against the cold winters. Besides, these trees, growing in relatively open country, were not the pencil-straight giants found in the mountains, and carpenters preferred the matured tulip poplar above all others. These were rare in the Bluegrass.

So timber buyers began to reach the tiny, widely scattered county seat villages on the edge of the plateau, looking for the best of the trees and tempting the mountaineer with the glint of gold. The mountaineer responded by chopping down some of the great yellow poplars and white oaks growing close to his creek banks. During spring "tides" or freshets he rolled them into the stream and let them ride the flood crests to the downriver markets. They were caught, most of them at Frankfort, in booms stretched across the river. Each mountaineer marked his logs with a distinguishing brand so they could be identified.

Sometimes the great logs were bound together in rafts and the mountaineer, with his sons and sons-in-law, rode them down to Frankfort or Louisville to revel in the fleshpots of those roaring towns.

-35-

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