After researching the archives from the early Moravian settlers upon arrival to the 100,000 acre Wachovia tract, now the city of Winston-Salem, NC, it is evident to me that there would have been a second “lost colony” were it not for the diverse hardwood forests of the piedmont region. Virtually, every natural resource the early frontiersmen needed was found in our Tar Heel state.
This early colony founded Bethabara and later Salem in the 1750′s and soon realized they needed a forester for sustainability and good stewardship of their woodland acquisition. Christian Reuter was not only America’s first forester but was a skilled surveyor and botanist. I find it intriguing that he busied himself with his job and proclaimed that it was his calling to serve God through his profession. How inspiring!
The finest lumber for construction was found in Wachovia: yellow poplar, white and red oaks, hickory (the most abundant tree) and walnuts (the most valuable tree). The forests provided nuts and berries; cedar and locust for fencing livestock; streams for water which was pumped through bored-out shortleaf pine logs to the town square, still operational today. No doubt the sourwood, red maple and gum trees supported a fledgling beekeeping industry in the colony. Peach and cherry trees were cultivated for winter fruit and myriad deserts. The hard wood found in dogwood and hornbeam trees was a constant source of handles and crude tools in the wilderness. Even the unsightly sassafras offered a “cure for what ails you.”
As autumn approaches I have a renewed appreciation for our forests and the natural resources we often take for granted. With every colorful leaf that falls, I remember the settlers and their quest to etch out a place in the backwoods to build a nation and serve their God.