Monday, November 12, 2018

White Pine by Andrew Vietze

Image result for white pine vietze
Why I Read It: The perfect blend of history and nature. I stand at that intersection, constantly looking around for new information.

Summary: The story of the "King's Pines" and the impact they had on American history, mostly in New England.

My Thoughts: I know that our elementary and secondary school history books simplify the stories for us, and as we march forward in time, more will be left out; the history I learned in school will not be the same as even my own sons learn. And that's just a page count synopsis, having nothing to do with political influences as to what "should" be learned, and what shouldn't.

I've long known about the "King's Pines," that prior to the Revolution the King of England claimed the tallest, straightest white pine trees in New England for his own, for "mastidge" for Royal Navy ships. Yet, I did not know how deeply the story ran.

As with anything else in colonial times, there was a price to be paid for making such claims. The King believed the trees belonged to him. The colonists believed that they had their right to lands granted to them and that no trees should be exempted from that. There was too much to be lost. A mast for a Royal Navy ship might be more valuable (in sale price) as a mast on a merchant vessel. The colonials rebelled, as early as the 1600s and right on through the Revolution.

Vietze brings us through a multi-century journey with the White Pine as the focal point. He explains how and when violence erupted in the conflict between crown and colony over the trees, why logging communities came and went, and how the industry shaped - literally, on maps - our oldest towns in New Hampshire and Maine. And he explains how the White Pine became the symbol of New England, even flying on a flag that was supposedly flown at the Battle of Bunker Hill.

He brings the story up to the modern day, tracing how one company is even fishing old logged trees out of river bottoms for reuse today.

I wonder if any of the old signs exist today, if a tree struck with the King's marker, a three-ax-chop arrow, still stands today? I'm willing to walk the woods of New England to find out.


  1. This book sounds like it is right up my alley, too! I had heard about a company fishing old logs out of the river and would love to read more about that. (I'll check the white pines that surround my house for the mark).

    1. That part is very interesting, with the notion that those logs were fought over two-and-a-half centuries ago in life and death conflicts and now are just being recycled by anyone who can get to them. And you're right - this one does sound like you!