Other logging operations became infamous. In the 1880s, J.E. [James Everell] Henry & Sons controlled and devastated a 10,000 acre tract in the Zealand Valley. They created a logging town in the early 1880s which included not only a mill and railroad (to get the logs to the mill) but also workers’ housing, a post office, a store, a school, a depot, and even charcoal kilns—used to gain the last full measure of value from the timber of Zealand Valley.
The beautiful Zealand Valley is one vast scene of waste and desolation; immense heaps of sawdust roll down the slopes to choke the stream and, by the destructive acids distilled from their decaying substance, to poison the fish; smoke rises night and day from fires which are maintained to destroy the still accumulating piles of slabs and other mill debris.
“The Trail of the Sawmill,” editorial, Boston Transcript, Wednesday, July 20, 1892
By the late 1890s, J.E. Henry & Sons had taken all available timber from the valley and the town disappeared. The company moved next to Lincoln and repeated the process, moving deeper into the forest and higher into the mountains.
In the wake of such extensive cutting, forest fires were inevitable. The mountain forests appeared in danger of annihilation. What could be done to save them? How could the seemingly competing goals of logging interests and conservationists be reconciled? As New England essayist Bradford Torrey asked, “Who thinks of sympathizing with a tree?”