Forest Primeval

This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks,

Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight,

Stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic,

Stand like harpers hoar, with beards that rest on their bosoms.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie [1]


Unbroken Forest

The Forest Primeval [2]

When I was a lad, every spring, I would hunt for arrowheads at my grandparents’ farm in Fairfield Township of the Firelands. As I walked up and down the rows that Grandpa had recently plowed, I would imagine what the open fields had looked like back when Indians had hunted there.

Or, rather, I tried to imagine. I had never seen a Forest Primeval, and I would not until I was a college senior when, as a student teacher, I accompanied a high school class on a field trip to Goll Woods [3], an old growth forest west of Toledo. The only forests I had seen as a young boy consisted of younger, smaller trees, and were choked with underbrush.

The Forest Primeval “is a forest that has attained great age without significant disturbance and thereby exhibits unique ecological features and might be classified as a climax community.” [4] It has a lot of very old, very big trees.

When the earliest settlers arrived in the Firelands, most of the land was covered in old-growth forests, with enormous trees and a forest floor generally clear of underbrush. But it was not only the shade of the forest canopy that kept the forest clear of brush. It was the frequent occurrence of fires. Not naturally occurring fires, but fires set by man. Every autumn, Native Americans crossed Lake Erie from their homes in Canada and set fire to the forests. [5]

Why did they do this? I’ll explain in my next post.



[1] Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie, David Bogue, 1850; p. 2.

[2] Rusler, William, “Illustration: An Unbroken Allen County Forest,” A Standard History of Allen County, Volume I; The American Historical Society, Chicago, IL and New York, NY; 1921; page 227.

[3] “Goll Woods State Natural Preserve,” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 4 December, 2017. Web. 29 April, 2018,

[4] “Old-growth Forests,” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 9 April, 2018. Web. 29 April, 2018,

[3] Marcus E. Mead, “Memoirs of Greenwich,” The Firelands Pioneer, Old Series, Volume V; The Firelands Historical Society, June 1864; p. 75.



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14 Responses

  1. “Why did they do this? I’ll explain in my next post.” – Looking forward to it!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The inclusion of part of Wordsworth’s poem captures the mood of a primeval forest so well. I immediately got the sense of the mysticaland awesomeness such a place evokes in a person. I’m looking forward to finding out why the Indians started the fires…

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Thanks for your comment. I hope you like the next post.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The poem is a perfect setting to your story, enjoyed your post, as usual informative and entertaining. Our Aboriginals used to burn certain areas when moving on, this allowed for regrowth and provided new breeding grounds for the animals that formed part of their staple diet, be interesting to read your version of why burning was practiced.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Thanks for your comment and your kind words. And thanks for the information about Australian Aboriginal practices.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Fascinating.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Between the poem and your words I imagined it well … so sad that these settlers/invaders cut too many such old growth areas! As Emu said our First Australians also did their controlled burn offs.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thanks for your comment. It is sad that those old forests are gone. Only ten percent remain in the “lower 48” and most of those are in the Pacific northwest.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. extremely sad as they are magical to walk through!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I wonder if students still get Longfellow in school. I can understand it if he seems dated and out of context to 21st century kids, but it would be a loss not to have some him, at least, in the old word hoard. An excellent introduction to your subject, and a perfect illustration of how our world differs from that of Evangeline, Simon Kenton or the first settlers. I didn’t know about Goll Woods. I rather assumed the only place in the state one might find surviving old growth forests would be in southeastern Ohio (although I know most of that area, itself is second or third growth). Sorry I never got there.


  13. Very interesting! I don’t believe there’s many of these left..

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Thanks for your comment. Yes, sadly, most are gone.


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