Magazine article American Forests

One Man's Preserve

Magazine article American Forests

One Man's Preserve

Article excerpt

Soon after you swing off Route 95 in central Maine and head east across the Stillwater River, you'll see a sign on your right that reads: "Welcome to Old Town-Est. 1840."

Four years before Old Town's founding, Joseph Sewall's great-grandfather built his home where the road begins its gentle slide down to the town's main street. The 2,000-acre Sewall farm was a mixture of cleared fields and a vigorous forest of hardwoods and conifers.

Joe Sewall lives in that large, sturdy home and cares for it with the same reverential sense of place that he gives to the farm. But Sewall is a farmer only for those few hours when he finds time away from his responsibilities as chairman of the Sewall Company, one of New England's leading forestry consulting firms. A flier during World War II, Sewall pioneered many of the aerial photography techniques that have kept the company among the best in its field.

Because the firm's offices are just down the hill from his great-grandfather's house, Joe Sewall finds more time than many chief executives would to oversee the stewardship of his family land. In the 1930s, some 1,500 acres were transferred to the federal government, which leased them to the University of Maine. Now known as the University Forest, the former Sewall's Woods have become a training ground for the nation's future foresters.

Some 15 acres of Sewall's Woods remain, standing tall and strong as one of the few privately owned woods in Maine with hardwoods and conifers dating back before 1840. "When I was about 10 years old," says Sewall, who is also the only person who has ever served four terms as president of the Maine Senate, "my father hitched one of the horses to a sleigh and took me with him to get fireplace logs from a big white birch that had come down in a storm. These trees have given a lot to our family, for more than 150 years," he adds. …

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