That Great Fir Tree

Part 14 of 14: Memories of Long Ago

by Hiram Ellsworth Pearsall

My memory returns to many years ago. I see a great fir tree standing all alone where once there was a great forest. That great fir tree was well over six feet in diameter. That was proof enough that it was in its prime when George Washington was fighting for our freedom. That great fir for many years had scattered its seeds to the four winds to reseed a new forest. As I viewed that great tree, it was standing all alone; its mates had all been gathered and carried to the mill. Why was it left alone? From an unknown cause it died many years ago. The wind in time had stripped its body of all bark. The few remaining limbs were bare. The wind had carried its great top to Mother Earth from whence it came. That left a great snag 80 to 90 feet high standing alone.

In memory I see a little town being built. I see that great tree standing in the main street of that little town not far from where Monroe Junior High School [now Monroe Elementary at 639 West Main Street] now stands.

Mr. Grimes took a contract to clear Main Street of all trees, stumps and brush. He, with his two sons and a team of horses, worked long and hard and in time the street was pretty well cleared, but that great fir still stood. He would have to cut it down, but how?

He had come from the prairies of Kansas and didn’t know very much about the great timber of the west. But that great fir had to come down. Mr. Grimes offered George Meloy $5 to fell that big tree. George was about 40 years old and was used to the big timber of the west. He said $5 was too cheap, but if Mr. Grimes would throw in a quart of whiskey, he would fell the tree.

They all took a big drink and started to put an undercut on that tree. They worked between drinks, but by noon, the quart was all gone. George had to walk to Park Place to get another quart. Then between drinks they finished the undercut that day.

The next day they were on the job with another quart. They took another drink and started to saw but were soon stuck. The tree was full of windshakes [cracks in wood caused by the strain of force of wind] which were full of pitch, and when the saw got covered with pitch, they kept it off with coal oil. They kept that up between drinks until their coal oil was all gone.

They couldn’t work without coal oil so they walked to Park Place to get some more. Then by going across the street, they got another quart of whiskey. That night the great fir still stood. The next day by working between drinks, it went down, never to rise again.

George said he took the job too cheap. He had to pay his helper for three days’ work, had bought a gallon of coal oil, and $10 worth of whiskey. But he said he had a h___ of a good time and that great fir tree was down after standing for 300 years of life.

Memories of Long Ago were partly taken from history and part was told by me by my father, but were mostly taken from memories and observations of over 80 years of life.


–transcribed from the 1944 Monroe Monitor by Nellie Robertson

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