One of the things I love about trees is that many live longer than humans so when I plant one, I’m planting it for my grandchildren or great-grandchildren. When I look at an old tree, I can reach back in time before I was alive. Trees help me remember my true place in the world.
Hubbard Park, a lush, heavily wooded gem right in the middle of Montpelier, is a place many of us walk (or snowshoe or XC ski) often but it rarely feels crowded. The trees there are fabulous. Photographs from as late as 1900 show it, however, still a sheep pasture lined with stone walls and bare of all trees except a few “fence-row trees” the animals couldn’t eat.
Many of the stone walls are still visible today though now surrounded by trees. I marvel at the thought of who moved them so long ago, and how! For years I have enjoyed studying a row of large, old Sugar Maples that grew along one of these walls, the last of them having finally died a few years ago, leaving a tall stump to “live” on.
Last year I realized there was another fence row visible in an old photograph that I’d never tracked down. It did not take long to find what was left of it, a few stones marked by two old living Sugar Maples and several stump remains. Here is the photograph (1874) with the red line showing the fence row.
And here is another photograph, made from the park, of one the two trees remaining that mark the line; the city can be seen below in the background.
Many of the land surveys in this part of the country, of course, cited trees as markers. While most of those are probably long gone, it is a treat to track down old trees and listen to what they can still tell me.