These trees once covered much of the Meadowlands. How did they meet their demise?
We suggested that many had been felled to build Paterson Plank Road, as we posted on this blog here. A member of the audience pooh-poohed that theory. No, he insisted, the White Cedars were burned in the late 1700s to drive out early pirates who hid there.
Alas, we had heard that theory pooh-poohed earlier in the week by historian Kevin Wright, who told us that they were used "to make water-proof shingles, pails, churns, firkins, etc."
Who's right? And what's a firkin?
Click "Continue reading…" for more about the mystery of the White Cedars.
"The Meadowlands Commission's Web site says of Mill Creek Marsh (pictured above): A unique feature of the Mill Creek Marsh is the remnant White Cedar Forest. The mosquito ditches that had been dug around the site seem to stop where the cedar trees were reported to have been.
"During the marsh enhancement work excavating machinery hit the layer of buried old cedar stumps. Cedar Trees were reported to have existed throughout the Meadowlands when there was less tidal influence and more freshwater flowing, before the Oradell Dam was built. Cedar is resistant to decay and was used mainly for houses, plank roads, barrels, canoes and other durable goods."
But a Stockton University professor weighs in in favor of the pirates:
"In Massachusetts and New Jersey, many cranberry bogs were once cedar swamps (Korstian, 1931); and in the latter state, 5,500 acres of cedar swamps in the Hackensack Meadowlands were burned in 1791 to eliminate hiding places for pirates who preyed on shipping in Newark Bay (Kantor & Pierson, 1985; Schmid, 1987)."
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Glad we straightened that out!