During the construction for the new Hall School, they have cut down acres of trees. It truly breaks my heart. Especially when I saw a stack of huge pines from the front of the school. This one I measured at about 33 inches in diameter–just about the same as our beloved old white pine in our yard, though I didn’t have a way to tell how high up on the trunk it would have been. Why do people cut down the old ones?
I tried to count the rings using my photos–and determined that it was at least 120-125 years old, if not more. That means that this tree was around back in 1897, when my grandmother Yvonne was born. It also might mean that our white pine, if it isn’t 162 years old as we estimated by circumference is likely at least 122 years old. I would guess that there were similar circumstances for all of these pines in the neighborhood.
You see, I have been walking around the neighborhood looking for any other large pines I can find, and measuring them. I haven’t found one larger than ours yet. Yesterday near the brook and the school, I found one that measured 102″ in circumference–just like ours. It was wrapped in caution tape–does that mean leave it alone? It is right next to an access drive of some kind next to the school. I hope the tape means leave it alone.
There are two more white pines in yards at the crossroads of our street that I want to measure when I get a chance, plus one right next door that rises a few feet away from our garage. I think these might be similar in age to ours. It would be easier to measure with two people doing it, plus I feel a bit awkward about going into people’s yards without a conversation.
What the close-by pines say to me is that when someone was building houses in this neighborhood in 1967 or so, they decided not to cut down these special old trees. I am grateful for that. But are they the remnants of a much larger family?
[1870 Westbrook & Deering Map Detail]
Old maps can be another useful tool for looking at the story of the land. I was lucky to find a map of Westbrook & Deering
from 1870, just before they were divided into those two towns in 1871. On the detail picture above, Westbrook is pink and Deering is golden. At that time, the land where we live was a blank space on the map in Deering, underneath the Portland and Rochester Railroad (the tracks are still there, but not the trains), to the right of the road that would later be Riverside Street, and north of the road that would later be Brighton Avenue, above the designation “Nasons Corner.”
And from Wikipedia: (italics and links added)
The area around outer Brighton Avenue is Nasons Corner. While part of the independent town of Deering in the 1890s, the area was primarily agricultural, with acres of strawberries and fields of hay. Capisic Brook runs through part of the neighborhood, and its banks were home to the Lucas and Hamblet family-run brickyards, which were sold throughout New England. In 1898, Nasons Corner and the rest of Deering was annexed by the City of Portland. The earliest housing developments in the neighborhood were built beginning around that time and were called Brighton Avenue Terrace and Portland Garden (now Holm Street and Taft Street). The Glenwood project was underway by 1900. It included affordable bungalow style homes named for English counties (Devon, Dorset, Essex and Warwick).
(The annexation of Deering, by the way, was apparently against the will of its inhabitants.)
So perhaps for a long while, the place where the white pine tree grew was a strawberry field or hay field. Or maybe it was the place behind those fields where the people didn’t get to, just birds and other animals doing their own thing. Learning these stories changes the way I feel as I walk around my neighborhood. I think about a land with no concrete on it, no roads, no buildings.