THE VIRGIN FOREST ANDTHE BACKCOUNTY ECONOMY
To the early pioneers, the trackless American wilderness elicited emotions of awe and foreboding which had deep cultural roots. The millennium-long struggle to domesticate nature had spawned a mythology among Europeans that associated the forest with a dark, evil, and forbidding land alien to human habitation, whereas towns and cleared areas came to be regarded as suitable for civilized life. The American wilderness provided ample opportunity for the earliest settlers to expand on this cultural preconditioning. At an immediate physical level, they saw the American wilderness as a direct threat to their survival. The primeval forests harbored wild animals, hostile natives, and a dark immensity in which one might get lost and never be found. To succeed in clearing the land was a triumph of human control over the wild randomness of nature. Failure was awful to contemplate for it meant human beings would become less civilized and even revert to an original state of savagery. For the pioneers, the forest was, as the nineteenth-century frontier historian Francis Parkman observed, "an enemy to be overcome by any means, fair or foul." 1 His assessment was remarkably
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Publication information: Book title: Transforming the Appalachian Countryside:Railroads, Deforestation, and Social Change in West Virginia, 1880-1920. Contributors: Ronald L. Lewis - Author. Publisher: University of North Carolina Press. Place of publication: Chapel Hill, NC. Publication year: 1998. Page number: 15.
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