Southern United States: An Environmental History 1851097805, 9781851097807

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Southern United States: An Environmental History
 1851097805, 9781851097807

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SOUTHERN UNITED STATES

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ABC-CLIO’S NATURE AND HUMAN SOCIETIES SERIES The Mediterranean: An Environmental History, J. Donald Hughes Northeast and Midwest United States: An Environmental History, John T. Cumbler Northern Europe: An Environmental History, Tamara L. Whited, Jens I. Engels, Richard C. Hoffmann, Hilde Ibsen, and Wybren Verstegen Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific: An Environmental History, Donald S. Garden

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N AT U R E A N D H U M A N S O C I E T I E S

SOUTHERN UNITED STATES An Environmental History Donald E. Davis Craig E. Colten Megan Kate Nelson Barbara L. Allen Mikko Saikku

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© 2006 by ABC-CLIO All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review, without prior permission in writing from the publishers. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Southern United States : an environmental history / Donald E. Davis . . . [et al.]. p. cm. — (Nature and human societies) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 1-85109-780-5 (hard cover : alk. paper) — ISBN 1-85109-785-6 (ebook) 1. Human ecology—Southern States—History. 2. Nature—Effect of human beings on—Southern States—History. 3. Paleo-Indians—Southern States. 4. Indians of North America—Southern States—History. 5. Southern States— Environmental conditions. I. Davis, Donald E. II. Series. GF13.3.S6S68 2006 304.20975—dc22 2005035482 This book is also available on the World Wide Web as an eBook. Visit abc-clio.com for details. Acquisitions Editor: Steven Danver Production Editor: Laura Esterman Editorial Assistant: Alisha Martinez Media Editor: Ellen Rasmussen Production Manager: Don Schmidt Manufacturing Coordinator: George Smyser ABC-CLIO, Inc. 130 Cremona Drive, P.O. Box 1911 Santa Barbara, California 93116–1911 This book is printed on acid-free paper. Manufactured in the United States of America

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CONTENTS

Series Foreword Acknowledgments Preface xv

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PLEISTOCENE: THE BIG CHILL, Donald E. Davis

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Ecological Impact of the Ice Age 1 Importance of Climate Change in the Pleistocene Plant Migration and the Warming Trend 3 Animal Populations of the Pleistocene 4 Effects of the Glacial Retreat 7 Appearance of Humans in the American South 11 Theories of Pleistocene Mammal Extinction 16 Paleoindian Survival 18 The Younger Dryas and the End of the Pleistocene Era

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HOLOCENE: MELTDOWN, Donald E. Davis

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Early Archaic Human Habitats and Culture Effects of the Hypsithermal 29 Middle Archaic Human Culture 30 Climate Changes in the Middle Archaic Period Late Archaic Culture 33 Woodland Period 37 Middle Woodland Culture 41 Late Woodland Culture 45 Mississippian Culture 51

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MOUNDVILLE: ENTER ZEA MAYS, Donald E. Davis

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Spread of Mississippian Culture 55 Maize Cultivation among the Mississippians

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Contents Beans and Squash 62 Additional Dietary Elements 63 Consequences of a Mixed Subsistence Economy 65 Timber and River Cane Use in Mississippian Settlements Plant and Animal Depletions in the Mississippean Period Climate and Mississippian Survival 75

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COLONY: THE COAST IS CLEARED, Donald E. Davis Beginnings of the Spanish Colonies 81 Cabeza de Vaca’s Travails 83 De Soto’s Conquests 85 Early French Settlements in the American South Continued Spanish Dominance 92 The Columbian Exchange 95 British Arrivals 96

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PLANTATION: SEEDS OF CHANGE, Donald E. Davis Rice 109 Indigo 115 Sugarcane 118 Cotton 121 Effect of Cotton Crops on Soil The Effect of Slaves on the Environment Other Crops 129

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UPLAND: GROWING PAINS, Donald E. Davis

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Hunting and the Fur Trade 134 White Settlers, Population Increases, and Changes to the Landscape 138 Livestock and the Environment 140 Corn and Livestock 143 Bluegrass, Hemp, and Other Crops 146 Ores, Mining, and Environmental Effects 150

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METROPOLIS: PARADISE LOST, Donald E. Davis Railroads and Lumber

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Contents Spanish Moss and Medicinal Herbs 166 Turpentine 168 Commercial Ports and the Rivers 171 Levee Construction 172 Dams and Electricity 174 The Tennessee Valley Authority and the River Ecology Dams and Marine Life 178 Electricity and Industry 180

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PARADISE LOST? Craig E. Colten

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A Century of Transformation 183 Conserving the Wild 183 Transforming the Agricultural Landscape 192 Planting a New Agriculture 197 Managing Hazards in the Landscape 200 Growing Cities 210 Enjoying Nature 214 Conclusions: The Transformation Continues 216 Epilogue 218

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CASE STUDIES

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The Okefenokee Swamp (Georgia/Florida), Megan Kate Nelson 221 A Marginalized Landscape 222 Exploration and Extraction 224 Scientific Inquiry, Preservation, and Tourism 230 The Making of Cancer Alley: A Historical View of Louisiana’s Chemical Corridor, Barbara L. Allen 235 From Plantations to Petrochemical Corporations 235 Attempt at Regulation 238 Further Expansion of the Chemical Industry 240 From “Environmental” to “Environmental Justice” Movement 242 Corporate Versus Human Welfare 245 Conclusion 246 Imperiled and Extinct Birds of the South, Mikko Saikku 247

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Contents Important People, Events, and Concepts Chronology 273 Documents 279 References and Bibliography 335 Index 381

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SERIES FOREWORD

Long ago, only time and the elements shaped the face of the earth, the black abysses of the oceans, and the winds and blue welkin of heaven. As continents floated on the mantle, they collided and threw up mountains or drifted apart and made seas. Volcanoes built mountains out of fiery material from deep within the earth. Mountains and rivers of ice ground and gorged. Winds and waters sculpted and razed. Erosion buffered and salted the seas. The concert of living things created and balanced the gases of the air and moderated the earth’s temperature. The world is very different now. From the moment our ancestors emerged from the southern forests and grasslands to follow the melting glaciers or to cross the seas, all has changed. Today the universal force transforming the earth, the seas, and the air is for the first time a single form of life: we humans. We shape the world, sometimes for our purposes and often by accident. Where forests once towered, fertile fields or barren deserts or crowded cities now lie. Where the sun once warmed the heather, forests now shade the land. One creature we exterminate only to bring another from across the globe to take its place. We pull down mountains and excavate craters and caverns, drain swamps and make lakes, divert, straighten, and stop rivers. From the highest winds to the deepest currents, the world teems with chemical concoctions only we can brew. Even the very climate warms from our activity. And as we work our will upon the land, as we grasp the things around us to fashion into instruments of our survival, our social relations, and our creativity, we find in turn our lives and even our individual and collective destinies shaped and given direction by natural forces, some controlled, some uncontrolled, and some unleashed. What is more, uniquely among the creatures, we come to know and love the places where we live. For us, the world has always abounded with unseen life and manifest meaning. Invisible beings have hidden in springs, in mountains, in groves, in the quiet sky and in the thunder of the clouds, and in the deep waters. Places of beauty, from magnificent mountains to small, winding brooks captured our imaginations and our affections. We have perceived

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Series Foreword a mind like our own, but greater, designing, creating, and guiding the universe around us. The authors of the books in this series endeavor to tell the remarkable epic of the intertwined fates of humanity and the natural world. It is a story only now coming to be fully known. Although traditional historians told the drama of men and women of the past, for more than three decades now many have added the natural world as a third actor. Environmental history by that name emerged in the 1970s in the United States. Historians quickly took an interest and created a professional society, the American Society for Environmental History, and a professional journal, now called Environmental History. American environmental history flourished and attracted foreign scholars. By 1990 the international dimensions were clear; European scholars joined together to create the European Society for Environmental History in 2001, with its journal, Environment and History. A Latin American and Caribbean Society for Environmental History should not be far behind. With an abundant and growing literature of world environmental history now available, a true world environmental history can appear. This series is organized geographically into regions determined as much as possible by environmental and ecological factors, and secondarily by historical and historiographical boundaries. Befitting the vast environmental historical literature on the United States, four volumes tell the stories of the North, the South, the Plains and Mountain West, and the Pacific Coast. Other volumes trace the environmental histories of Canada and Alaska, Latin America and the Caribbean, Northern Europe, the Mediterranean region, sub-Saharan Africa, Russia and the former Soviet Union, South Asia, Southeast Asia, East Asia, and Australia and Oceania. Authors from around the globe, experts in the various regions, have written the volumes, almost all of which are the first to convey the complete environmental history of their subjects. Each author has, as much as possible, written the twin stories of the human influence on the land and of the land’s manifold influence on its human occupants. Every volume contains a narrative analysis of a region along with a body of reference material. This series constitutes the most complete environmental history of the globe ever assembled, chronicling the astonishing tragedies and triumphs of the human transformation of the earth. The process of creating the series, recruiting the authors from around the world, and editing their manuscripts has been an immensely rewarding experience for me. I cannot thank the authors enough for all of their effort in realizing these volumes. I owe a great debt, too, to my editors at ABC-CLIO: Kevin Downing (now with Greenwood Publishing Group), who first approached me

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Series Foreword about the series; and Steven Danver, who has shepherded the volumes through delays and crises to publication. Their unfaltering support for and belief in the series were essential to its successful completion. —Mark Stoll Department of History, Texas Tech University Lubbock, Texas

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

This volume would not have been possible without the collaboration of several scholars—experts in their fields—and I gratefully acknowledge the contribution of each of them. First of all, thanks are especially due to Donald Davis, associate professor of sociology, Dalton State University, and author of Where There Are Mountains: An Environmental History of the Southern Appalachians (University of Georgia Press, 2000), who wrote the bulk of this history in his clear, graceful, and knowledgeable prose. When Don was unable to complete the volume, four scholars most graciously took time from their busy schedules to step in at short notice and complete the manuscript. Craig E. Colton, Carl O. Sauer Professor of Geography at Louisiana State University, and most recently author of An Unnatural Metropolis: Wresting New Orleans from Nature (Louisiana State University Press, 2005), wrote the concluding chapter. Three scholars wrote the case studies. Author of the case study on “Cancer Alley,” Barbara L. Allen is associate professor and director of the graduate program in Science and Technology Studies at Virginia Tech’s National Capitol Region Campus, and author of Uneasy Alchemy: Citizens and Experts in Louisiana’s Chemical Corridor Disputes (MIT Press, 2003). The case study on the Okefenokee Swamp is by Megan Nelson, assistant professor in the Texas Tech University Honors College, who has published Trembling Earth: A Cultural History of the Okefenokee Swamp (University of Georgia Press, 2005). Mikko Saikku, who wrote the case study on Southern avian extinctions, is university lecturer in North American Studies at the University of Helsinki, Finland, and author of This Delta, This Land: An Environmental History of the Yazoo-Mississippi Floodplain (University of Georgia Press, 2005), as well as “‘Home in the Big Forest’: Decline of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker and Its Habitat in the United States,” in Encountering the Past in Nature: Essays in Environmental History, edited by Timo Myllyntaus and Mikko Saikku (Ohio University Press, 2001). I contributed the Chronology, Documents, and Important People, Events, and Concepts sections, with some additions from Don Davis. The realization of this volume is due to a very successful collaboration of all these excellent authors.

—Mark Stoll Lubbock, Texas

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PREFACE

THE AMERICAN SOUTH: PARADISE FOUND When noted historian Carl N. Degler published a collection of essays on the identity American South, he chose the title Place Over Time: The Continuity of Southern Distinctiveness (1977). In the book’s first chapter, written more than thirty years ago, Degler wondered aloud about the role of the southern landscape in shaping southern history, stating that southern distinctiveness might have something to do with the region’s rural character and subtropical climate. Believing that environmental variables have shaped everything from architecture and agriculture, to the social health and individual temperament of the populace, Degler unfortunately did little to advance his argument in the short volume: the text is more social history and polemic than a true exploration of how place influenced the region’s past. Interestingly, Degler concludes the final essay by stating that the region’s primary appeal has always been “its landscape of wooded mountains, red clay hills, harsh sand barrens, lush forests, and watery wastes,” suggesting the American South will remain distinctive only by avoiding urbanization (Degler 1977, 131). Professor Degler, perhaps without knowing it, forced many historians of the region to ask another important question of their work: What is the primary role of the environment in shaping southern history? If by environment one means climate, then historians might begin with the writings of U. B. Phillips, the author of Life and Labor in the Old South (1929). Phillips opened his classic work with the statement: “Let us begin by discussing the weather, for that has been the chief agency in making the South distinctive.” Unfortunately Phillips, like Degler, never fully expounded on the relationship between environmental forces and southern history, but did provide several examples of how the interaction of weather, local terrain, and staple crops influenced, over time, human agency in the South. Recognizing that rice was grown primarily in the Lowlands, apples in the hill country, horses in the Kentucky Bluegrass, and Indian corn wherever there was flat and tillable soil, Phillips believed that the American South possessed a

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Preface diverse range of agricultural economies. In his view, the southern region was not comprised of a single climate or geography, but many (Phillips 1929, 4). A similar conclusion was also drawn by A. Cash Koeniger, whose article, “Climate and Southern Distinctiveness,” was published in the Journal of Southern History in 1988. After surveying an impressive literature, Koeniger concluded that weather was indeed an important variable in understanding the history of the American South. Unlike Phillips, Koeniger saw climate as only one of several ecological factors influencing southern history. In his own words: “Climate does not determine culture or other forms of human behavior, but historically it has influenced them, predisposing persons affected toward certain patterns . . . It is, to be sure, only one component of a highly complex matrix” (Koeniger 1988, 44). While Koeniger saw social, cultural, and economic factors as important variables in telling the full story of the South, he ultimately believed that historians who fail to include natural forces such as climate or weather in their historiographic mix are doomed to fail. The “happenstance of nature,” as he called it, has always had a profound impact on human behavior in the region, particularly in agricultural areas where so much of human life was dependent on the out-of-doors (Koeniger 1988, 44). So perhaps the bigger task confronting the environmental historian is the creation of a more inclusive definition of what is meant by the natural environment. Is the southern environment climate, topographic landforms, or soils? Is it a combination of all three? Do we include specific plants and animals, accounting for both domesticated and wild species in our historical narratives? Perhaps the first to tackle the question head-on was Albert E. Cowdrey, a physician and military historian who, more than twenty years ago, wrote the first comprehensive environmental history of the American South. In executing his ground-breaking study, This Land, This South: An Environmental History (1983), Cowdrey answered all of the above questions in the affirmative, giving perhaps more weight to southern climate, crops, and soils than to specific plants and animals. The work was extremely important as it not only gave numerous examples of how southern society was directly influenced by the natural environment, but also how humans, over time, interacted with and often changed that environment. Today, the book has become an important standard of both southern and environmental history, even though Cowdrey’s approach was very broad in both execution and scope, and avoided prehistory altogether. His work also relied heavily on secondary sources and focused a great deal on “the disease environment,” an understandable shortcoming given Cowdrey’s medical background and the important role of illnesses such as malaria in shaping southern history. This volume tries not only to fill obvious gaps in Cowdrey’s work, but also attempts to tell the story of southern prehistory, extending as far back as the Ice

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Preface Age of the late Pleistocene. My definition of nature and natural forces is even more inclusive than Cowdrey’s, as nature is defined here as not only the physical geography and climate of the area, but also the many plants, animals, and minerals found across the southern region. Of course, to know those things well requires the environmental historian to become intimately familiar with the botany, geology, and hydrology of the American South, a difficult task to be sure since the study area chosen here encompasses more than 360 million acres of land in fourteen states. Of course, one must also focus attention on the interchanges between humans and the plants, animals, and ecosystems of the southern region, a methodological problem that also forces one to become proficient in archaeology, ethnobotany, and agricultural history. Although the learning curve was, at times, overwhelming, I used a similar approach in my earlier book, Where There Are Mountains (2000), a study covering five centuries of environmental and cultural change in an important subregion of the American South—the southern Appalachians. Defining the American South, in purely geographic terms, was also difficult. As early as 1936, sociologist Howard Odum pointed out in his important work Southern Regions of the United States (1936) that there was “no longer in the United States any single entity which can be designated as ‘the South.’” In Odum’s view, because numerous government agencies had already laid important political claims to different parts of the region, their influence was already having an impact on the hearts and minds of southerners. There was not one “South,” but many. In his own mind, Odum solved the plurality problem by lumping eleven southern states together and calling them “the Southeast,” a core geographic area that includes the states of Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Louisiana (Odum 1936, 5). This South, stated Odum, coincides most closely with the “Old South,” meaning that slavery, and those agricultural practices generally associated with the institution, were more prevalent in those states. The study area for this volume combines Odum’s Southeast core along with the eastern portions of Texas and Oklahoma. These geographically related areas, possessing similar agricultural and forest ecosystems, make them both physically and historically connected to the rest of the southern region (Healy 1985, 10). The study area also contains the Missouri Ozarks as well as the Maryland portion of the Chesapeake Bay, areas that extend beyond longobserved state boundaries. This American South also corresponds closely with that region commonly used by cultural anthropologist Charles Hudson, whose study The Southeastern Indians (1976) was consulted on more than one occasion. This core southern region is also represented in the Southern Forest Resource Assessment (Wear and Greis 2002), a massive study commissioned by

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Preface the USDA Forest Service, Environmental Protection Agency, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and the Southeastern Associations of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. The Southern Forest Resource Assessment was used not only because of its expansive coverage of southern land use history, but also because of its presentation of previously unpublished data, especially regarding twentieth-century preservation efforts in the larger region. From a cultural standpoint, this American South is much harder to define, as its social character has always been more multicultural than not. However, one does find consensus among cultural geographers who have similarly defined the American South as that territory of land extending from the Gulf of Mexico northward to the Potomac and Ohio Rivers (Zelinsky 1973). When the two editors of the Encyclopedia of Southern Culture (1989), were given the task of drawing specific boundaries for their volume’s coverage area, they conceded that even though the geographic and cultural focus of the Encyclopedia was the eleven states of the former Confederacy, that single definition failed to “confront the complexities of studying the region.” Curiously, in the end, the editors of the Encyclopedia defined the American South as “wherever southern culture is found,” even if it meant its investigating cultural practices formally outside the region (Wilson and Ferris 1989). Whenever possible, I have tried to honor, throughout the entire volume, the regional boundaries drawn in the map on page xxi. References to places or events outside that specified region are invoked only to extract relevant data or to provide necessary anecdotal asides. However, as an environmental historian, I am well aware that historical events seldom happen in physical isolation, so even hard-and-fast geographic boundaries must sometimes be relaxed. I sometimes divided the American South into numerous physiographic subregions, referencing them throughout the narrative using standard geographic nomenclature. When discussing the southern landscape in more general terms, however, I often use the geographic descriptors found in Robert G. Healy’s Competition for Land in the American South (1985), an important study funded by the Conservation Foundation of Washington, D.C. In this study, Coastal Plain refers to the broad band of territory paralleling the seacoast from Virginia to Texas, whereas the Upland South generally refers to the Appalachians, the Ozarks, and the Ouachita Mountains. The Piedmont, literally land “at the foot of the mountains,” is that hilly area of the southeast below the fall line, a territory extending roughly from Washington, D.C., to Montgomery, Alabama. And finally, The Delta, or Yazoo-Mississippi floodplain, is the area of rich “loess” spoils, where cotton and other staple crops have been successfully grown (Fenneman 1938; Healy 1985; Miller and Robinson 1995).

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Preface In the pages that follow, I have gone to great lengths to document the most important environmental and cultural changes that have occurred in the region over the past 15,000 years, realizing, of course, that not all time periods or geographic locales could receive exact and equal treatment. At the same time, I did try to tell the story of the American South with a favored ear toward the most tenured southern inhabitants, that is, those individuals who maintained the longest and most intimate relationships with the natural environment. This caveat explains why so much of the text deals directly with southern prehistory and early Native American subsistence practices. By book’s end, the reader should also be aware of the contributions that a new generation of scholars is making to both southern environmental history and the environmental history discipline itself. This work has most certainly benefited from Timothy Silver’s A New Face on the Countryside (1990); James J. Miller’s An Environmental History of Northeast Florida (1998); Mikko Saikku’s The Evolution of a Place (2001); Margaret Brown’s Wild East: A Biography of the Great Smoky Mountains (2001); Mart Stewart’s What Nature Suffers to Groe (2002); and Chad Montrie’s To Save the Land and People (2003). Discussions regarding both the late Pleistocene and Holocene periods in southern environmental history were influenced by the writings of Neil Roberts, in particular his The Holocene: An Environmental History (1998), a study that contains considerable material on the southeastern United States. Materials in the concluding chapter found significant inspiration from John R. McNeill’s environmental history of the twentieth century, Something New Under the Sun (2000), which certainly helped to guide the discussions of urbanization in the twentieth-century South. Finally, a word about the chosen title, Paradise Found. The term “paradise” will most certainly catch the immediate notice of seasoned environmental historians, many who will no doubt, at first glance, label the following narrative a “declensionist” one. For the uninitiated, declensionism involves the telling of history in such a way that portrays each successive generation of humans—usually as the result of their adopting increasingly sophisticated technologies—as getting further and further away from an earlier, and more idyllic, human existence. Many environmental historians believe that telling the story of our past in this way is not only bad historiography, but the more linear approach also perpetuates the common myth that preindustrial humans had little or no impact on nature. In my view, however, all historical narratives that deal directly with issues of modernity or modernization cannot entirely avoid some aspects of the declensionist argument. As environmental historian Carolyn Merchant has emphasized in her numerous writings, the widespread proliferation of capitalism in the

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Preface Western world signaled the triumph of an economic system that does more destruction to the natural environment than earlier, precapitalist modes of production (Merchant 1989; Merchant 1992; Merchant 2004). Native American communities, whose comparatively smaller human populations possessed no bulldozers or earthmovers, clearly did not alter the landscape in the same fashion that twenty-first century coal companies or chip-mill operators do (Krech 1999; Davis 2000). At the same time, over the very longue durée, one does not find the evolution of human-nature relationships in the American South following a strictly linear or universal path, nor do those who inhabit the region always use or abuse the landscape in the same way. Nearly all who have entered the region— from the Pleistocene hunter to the university graduate student studying sea turtles along the Atlantic coast—have witnessed a landscape of possibility, a biological paradise promising a hopeful future for a successive generation of inhabitants. This perhaps explains why for more than two centuries, the American South has remained an important laboratory for naturalists from around the world, individuals who came to the region seeking to catalog its vast flora and fauna. From John Lawson’s first encounters with native birds in eighteenth-century coastal North Carolina, to Francis Harper’s photographic mapping of the Okefenokee swamp during the early twentieth century, naturalists and natural historians have been drawn again and again to the lush environment of the southern region. For those few of the past who honored and respected the incredible biological diversity of the American South, human life was largely sustained. For those many who indiscriminately violated or destroyed the landscape, a paradise was indeed lost. —Donald Edward Davis Dalton, Georgia

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1 PLEISTOCENE: THE BIG CHILL Donald E. Davis

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wenty thousand years ago, the American South was a very cold place. At that time, the Ice Age of the Pleistocene geologic epoch was near its apogee, making winters longer, colder, and drier, causing snow and ice to fall to the earth for much of the year in all but the southernmost latitudes. Looming high above the southern landscape to the north was the enormous Laurentide ice sheet, a frozen glacier covering half the continent from Maine to Montana. Extending from southern Ohio to the Arctic Circle, the glacier ice covered more than 5 million square miles of North American landmass and was, in many areas, 3 miles thick. At its maximum peak, the glacier trapped almost all available atmospheric moisture within its frozen borders, the ultimate effect being a tremendous drop in global sea levels. According to the majority of North American paleoecologists, the continent’s oceans had dropped by some 400 feet during this time, a phenomenon that exposed a much wider shoreline along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, making the Florida peninsula nearly twice its present width (Edwards and Merrill 1977; Watts 1983; Miller 1998; Flannery 2001).

ECOLOGICAL IMPACT OF THE ICE AGE Although the massive glacier never made it as far south as this volume’s study area, the ecological impact of the Ice Age on the American South cannot be understated. Most residents living in the region today would scarcely recognize the landscape of the late Pleistocene era. Below the leading edge of the ice sheet lay a narrow tundra plain, a 60-mile-deep band of treeless plain that extended well into central Kentucky and northern Virginia. Massive snowfields, krummholz, and Alpine tundra could be found atop the highest Appalachian peaks as far south as north Georgia. Beyond the band of permafrost and tundra grew a vast boreal forest of spruce, fir, and jack pine, tree species that had migrated slowly

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Southern United States: An Environmental History southward, well ahead of the enormous glacier. Below the boreal forest, at a latitude that today corresponds closely with the latitude of the current TennesseeGeorgia border, grew a mixed forest of conifers and northern hardwoods, a narrow strip of trees and lush understory that abruptly turned into a contiguous oak-hickory and southern evergreen forest. The evergreen forest, a vast woodland broken only by the Mississippi River floodplain, stretched from the Atlantic Coast westward into eastern Texas and southward to northern Florida. The lower Florida peninsula was almost entirely a dry savanna of scrub and sanddune vegetation, although vast salt marshes and partially submerged wetlands could be found along the western shore and northward along the Gulf Coast (Wright 1983; Delcourt and Delcourt 1987; Flannery 2001). Of course microclimates and variations in local topography meant that other forest types were predominant in many areas of the American South. According to Hazel and Paul Delcourt, paleoecologists who have spent a lifetime studying the long-term evolution of southern forests, the region’s main river courses once served as “archipelagoes” for associations of trees that today would be classified as mixed-mesophytic forests. Here, particularly along the Blufflands of the Mississippi River, one would find a diversity of hardwood tree species coexisting in relatively large, undisturbed stands, including beech, yellow-buckeye, chestnut, tulip tree, sugar maple, flowering dogwood, and several deciduous magnolias. West of the Mississippi River, from Louisiana to western Kentucky, grew a narrow band of white spruce and larch, while much of the area that is today Arkansas would have been a largely unbroken forest of spruce and Jack pine (Delcourt and Delcourt 1979, 1987; Delcourt 2002). William A. Watts even found evidence that boreal species such as spruce inhabited certain portions of coastal South Carolina and north-central Florida during the full glaciation period (Watts 1980, 1983).

Importance of Climate Change in the Pleistocene About 16,000 years ago, most paleoclimatologists now agree, the Laurentide ice sheet began slowly retreating, reversing direction in erratic starts and stops. Ultimately, the warming trend was due to a minute shift in the earth’s orbit around the sun, a phenomenon causing relatively predictable meteorological patterns every 100,000, 41,000, and 21,000 years (Milankovitch 1941). As the melting ice pack moved gradually northward, southern forests also went through important evolutionary changes, some shrinking, some expanding, and others disappearing entirely from the southern region (Wear and Greis 2002). Because of the important work of palynologists over the past two decades, we now know that climate change was perhaps the single most important factor in shaping the environmen-

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Pleistocene: The Big Chill tal history of the American South during the late-Pleistocene era. Palynologists— individuals who study the distribution of fossilized pollen grains collected from the bottoms of undisturbed peat bogs and freshwater ponds—are now able to map extant tree species in late Pleistocene forests with relative certainty. Moreover, by incrementally carbon-dating materials uncovered with the excavated pollen grains, palynologists can also determine the numbers of tree species in the southern forest environment longitudinally, over many millennia (Watts 1980, 1983; Delcourt and Delcourt 1987; Delcourt 2002). Though it is likely that the boreal forest also began following the shrinking glacier northward, the climate across the American South did not start warming to any discernible degree for another millennium. In fact, it would take nearly 3,000 years of climate change to make any appreciable difference in the overall forest composition of the American South, although individual tree species were clearly expanding and decreasing their range as early as 15,000 years ago. At the time of the glacial maximum, most large stands of American beech, for example, were located primarily along the Gulf Coast or within the northern half of the Florida peninsula. Significant beech populations could be found well into middle Tennessee and southwestern Virginia 14,000 years ago, suggesting a steady march northward as the frozen southland thawed. The climate, though considerably drier, was also much cooler, meaning that the precipitation that did fall tended to stay in the soil much longer, much as it does today in the northern woods of Maine and Minnesota. Because those conditions favored mesic or moisture-loving tree species over dry or xeric ones, hardwoods began to dominate the forest canopy across much of the southern region after that time (Delcourt and Delcourt 1987; Delcourt 2002; Owen 2002).

Plant Migration and the Warming Trend Of course, the rate and direction of plant migrations across the American South was influenced by a number of environmental factors, including weather patterns and continental wind flows, local temperature fluctuations, the presence or absence of rain and snow, the migration patterns of birds and mammals, variable soil types, and the seed dispersal mechanisms of individual tree species. While the general trend of most tree species was to move gradually northward, some plant species migrated easterly or westerly, while others expanded their range in all directions. Sugar maples, for example, which made up less than 5 percent of any forested area in the region 18,000 years ago, dominated almost 10 percent of the forest from western Kentucky south to the Gulf of Mexico 2,000 years later. Fourteen thousand years ago, large maple stands could be found from north-

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Southern United States: An Environmental History central Louisiana to northern Arkansas, where they often comprised more than 20 percent of the surrounding forest. Two millennia later, maples had extended not only into the central Appalachians, but also could be found in large contiguous stands as far west as Oklahoma (Watts 1980; Delcourt and Delcourt 1984, 1987). Although it is now clear that the southern forest was in transition for much of the late Pleistocene, spruce, Jack pine, fir, and other boreal species maintained their dominance in the forests of the northern half of the region for more than three millennia after the ice sheet began its slow retreat. Much of the southland was still a very cool place 14,000 thousand years ago, although it should be noted that the Gulf Coast and Florida peninsula probably never experienced the very dramatic drops in temperatures such as those witnessed in the more northerly regions of the South during full glaciation. Because of this fact, the lowest latitudes of the region also experienced the least environmental change during much of the Ice Age, with some inland coastal areas maintaining relative ecological stability for more than 50,000 years (Miller 1998; Delcourt and Delcourt 1987; Owen 2002).

ANIMAL POPULATIONS OF THE PLEISTOCENE The ecosystems of the Pleistocene South were, of course, populated with both plants and animals, including large mammals such as the woolly and Columbian mammoths, American mastodon, saber-toothed tiger, ground sloth, giant armadillo, and the woodland musk-ox, to name but a few of the largest and most well-known species. Accumulated fossil evidence suggests that during full glaciation, the colder boreal forest of the upper latitudes provided ideal habitats for woolly mammoths, caribou, horses, bison, stag moose, black and short-faced bears, porcupine, and several species of musk oxen. The more temperate southern forests harbored significant populations of mastodons, elk, white-tailed deer, sloths, llamas, peccaries, the enormous Columbian mammoth, bison, and several species of horses. Along the wide subtropical coastline lived large alligators, small elephants known as gomphotheres, peccaries, tapirs, capybaras, and giant tortoises. The jaguar would have likely made its home in portions of all three habitats as did other more adaptive North American mammal species such as the opossum, muskrat, and beaver (Graham 2001; Carroll et al. 2002). According to the noted and now-deceased archaeologist John Guilday, no fewer than seventy-five mammal species inhabited the American South at this time, including twenty-six species of animals that could be classified as megafauna, that is, mammal species weighing 100 pounds or more (Guilday 1982).

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Pleistocene: The Big Chill

Mastodons roaming near the end of the Pleistocene. (North Wind Picture Archive)

The presence of mammoths, mastodons, caribou and giant bison in the southern landscape suggests that open woodlands and even large treeless savannas were also present during the end-Pleistocene era. Clearly the forests of the Ice Age South were frequently broken by dense copses, wide grasslands, and other early succession environments. Where soils were thin, trees and shrubs would have grown in extremely low densities, particularly around limestone glades like those found today in central Kentucky and middle Tennessee. Just south of the frozen tundra, the boreal forest would have been much more open, providing a perfect habitat for the woolly mammoth, a species that presumably traveled in large herds. In this woodland-steppe, the mammoths themselves would have been partly responsible for the deforestation there, as a single individual could eat more than 600 pounds of vegetation per day. Feeding on tundra plants and grasses in summer and occasionally spruce boughs or cones in winter, mammoths roaming the upper South would have greatly reduced the number of trees and shrubs in the boreal forest. The result would have been a more open, thinly wooded, parklike landscape, especially where the largest mammoth herds were most common (Flannery 2001; Putshkov 2001; Mammothsite. com 2004) Southward, and especially along the Atlantic Coast, where spruce and fir mixed with deciduous hardwoods, the American mastodon roamed the ancient

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Southern United States: An Environmental History forest and adjoining grasslands, altering the ecosystem in similar ways. Apparently larger and more solitary animals than the hairier mammoths, southern mastodons preferred more open woodlands to deep forests, sharing habitats with other browsing mammals like the giant beaver, stag moose, and musk ox. Like its distant mammoth cousin, the mastodon used its enormous tusks to uproot saplings or to remove the outer bark from very large trees, a practice that eventually killed the tree. Fossilized remains of a mastodon found in central Louisiana provide sound evidence that the mastodon also ate black walnuts, suggesting that their diet was more diverse than that of the woolly mammoth (Delcourt 2002). True, mammoths were more grazers than browsers, whereas mastodons— who possessed teeth better designed for grinding woody vegetation—ate the leaves and twigs of both evergreen and deciduous trees (Kurten and Anderson 1980; Putshkov 2001). In late Pleistocene Florida, significant populations of the Columbian mammoth are thought to have existed along with several elephant-like gomphotheres, smaller proboscideans with long spiral tusks. Both animals likely shared habitats with llamas, horses, bison, and other grazing mammals preferring a steppe or savanna environment. This lusher and more temperate ecotone, where open woodlands adjoin coastal marsh and shrub, would have been an ideal location for Columbian mammoths during the end-Pleistocene era. Fauna remains of the Columbian mammoth have been uncovered beneath the Aucilla River along the Florida panhandle as well as in parts of central Florida, a geographic area still possessing incredible plant and animal diversity. Archaeological remains at the Texas City dike near Galveston Bay indicate not only numerous mammoth and mastodon, but also prehistoric camels, armadillos, and giant sloths (Galveston Bay Estuary Program 2000). Throughout eastern Texas and western Louisiana, lion-sized scimitar-toothed cats also roamed the surrounding forest and savannas, stalking large megafauna, including young mammoths and mastodons. At Friesenhahn Cave in central Texas, 300 mammoth milk teeth were found among adult scimitar-cat skeletal remains, suggesting the young animals were dragged into the cave by the largest felines (Miller 1998; Graham 2001; Texas Memorial Museum 2003). Despite possessing much colder temperatures, the Pleistocene South was among the most ecologically diverse regions in North America, home to not only to enormous beasts and truly gargantuan birds of prey, but to a wide array of now-extinct flora and fauna. Not since the Miocene geologic period, some 15 million years ago, had the region witnessed as much animal and plant diversity (Flannery 2001). Animals both great and small foraged in the expansive fields and forests of the entire region, living and dying in both cooperative associations and classic predator-prey relationships. However, around 12,000 years ago, the

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Pleistocene: The Big Chill sun was about to set for many of those animals of the late Pleistocene, especially species inhabiting the much cooler boreal forest/steppe ecosystem. Although it would take several more millennia for many Pleistocene-era species to vanish entirely from North America, some plants and animals would make their final exit from the American South within just a few short centuries (Guilday 1982).

EFFECTS OF THE GLACIAL RETREAT Eleven thousand years ago, the glacial retreat was having a measurable and very real effect on both the distribution and composition of southern vegetation. At that time, paleoclimatologists place the leading edge of the Wisconsinian glacier well into the Great Lakes region. The peak of the Laurentide ice sheet’s great dome had also considerably dropped in size, thereby causing it to lose much of its formidable power as a continental cooling agent (Barry 1983). The tundra and mammoth steppe just below the glacier had also retreated northward, although the highest peaks of the central Appalachians would remain harbingers of the unique ecosystem for several more millennia (Delcourt and Delcourt 1984; Hughes 1987). Moisture in the form of snow and ice also became more prevalent during this time, although annual precipitation rates most likely remained well below modern levels. Spruce and fir trees also began shifting their range northward; so much so in fact, that within a single millennium there was not a single area in the entire South—with perhaps the exception of the highest peaks of the Appalachians—where either of these two tree species comprised more than 20 percent of the total forest (Delcourt and Delcourt 1987; Delcourt 2002). The woolly mammoth would have followed the tundra and treeless steppe’s movement northward, which perhaps explains why so many of their fauna remains have been uncovered in the Great Lakes region (Saunders 1992). Dependent largely on native grasses and shrubs that grow as the result of colder temperatures and drier climates, their steady migration northward was imperative for the species to survive. The Columbian mammoth, not as dependent on such a specific ecological niche, would have lingered much longer in some parts of the American South, especially in eastern forests where the effects of glaciation lingered the longest. Of course, large carnivores like the dire wolf and saber-toothed tiger that were partially dependent on the woolly mammoth for food would have followed some of the herds northward, although doing so might have ultimately meant their demise as the flatter terrain probably provided fewer denning sites for these largest of predators. And although overall mean temperatures were warming across much of the South, gradual increases in atmospheric moisture likely produced more unpredictable—and at times even deeper—winter snows.

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Southern United States: An Environmental History So, for boreal species like the woolly mammoth, the meteorological conditions of the near end-Pleistocene era were both inhospitable and life-threatening (Owen-Smith 1988; Flannery 2001). Southward, along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, sea levels also began rising at this time, gradually flooding low-lying estuaries and coastal savannas that had been prime habitat for species requiring more open, treeless terrain. Although environmental historian James Miller argues that in northeast Florida “dramatic environmental changes arising from the inundation of coastal areas did not begin to occur until 12,000 years ago,” clearly this was not the case in coastal areas where the continental shelf was not as steep or as far from the present-day shoreline. Some 13,000 years ago, increasing precipitation and glacier runoff flowing down the Mississippi River and its major tributaries would have significantly raised water levels along much of the Delta, increasing streamflows into the Gulf of Mexico and fully submerging more open, savanna-like terrain along much of the Gulf Coast. Even environmental historian James Miller admits that in the Florida interior at this earlier date, the warmer climate, increasing precipitation, and rising water tables caused moisture-loving trees like American beech to increase at “the expense of prairies,” causing great ecological instability in the coastal savannas. Quite simply, concludes Miller, as these coastal habitats disappeared, “species that had adapted to cold, dry climates became extinct” (Miller 1998, 50). Nearly three decades of research by noted palynologists clearly demonstrates that by 10,000 B.C., 12,000 years ago, both the forests and forest dwellers of the American South had indeed witnessed dramatic ecological changes. Their collective research clearly demonstrates that nearly every trees species inhabiting the eastern half of the North American continent had already made dramatic shifts in their former, peak-glaciation, ranges. Whereas species generally associated with drier or warmer climes moved southward or westward, others continued their steady, if not sometimes dramatic, march northward. Hardwood and other broad-leafed tree species, which for much of the Ice Age could be found only along the Gulf Coast or along the riverine valleys of the Atlantic Piedmont and Yazoo-Mississippi Delta, began occupying forests in nearly all cardinal directions, taking advantage of increasing moisture found even in dry upland environments (Edwards and Merrill 1977; Delcourt and Delcourt 1979; Watts 1980; Holloway and Valastro 1983; Watts 1983; Jacobson et al. 1987; Delcourt 2002). The western portions of the South were probably affected first, as the ice dome continued to cover eastern and middle Canada, keeping the warmest air currents from entering large areas of the central Appalachians and mid-Atlantic Coast. As a result, boreal species like spruce continued to thrive in Virginia and parts of the Appalachians for at least another millennium,

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Pleistocene: The Big Chill whereas in the Ozarks, oaks began replacing spruce at a much earlier date (Wright 1987; Carroll et al. 2002). In fact, it was oak species, the standard-bearer of contemporary deciduous hardwood forests, that exhibited perhaps the greatest movement during the latePleistocene period, shifting their range from the Deep South around 16,000 years ago to the Piedmont and upland South some 14,000 years ago. Twelve thousand years ago, not only were one or more species of oak found in nearly every physiographic locale in the region, various oak species now dominated entire forest ecosystems, comprising nearly half of all woodland environments where they routinely occurred. Only along the Gulf and Atlantic coastal plains did oaks diminish in abundance, and even there, they still comprised somewhere between “20% and 40% of the forests” (Delcourt and Delcourt 1987, 246, 253). The widespread appearance of oak species across the American South also provides ample evidence that formerly treeless plains were being colonized, perhaps for the first time in millennia, by the prolific hardwood species. Because some oak

An oak forest in the South. (Owaki-Kulla/Corbis)

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Southern United States: An Environmental History species are “shade-intolerant,” meaning they, like most pine species, only reproduce in direct, full sunlight, they would have needed open treeless plains to have fully developed into mature, self-reproducing stands. However, some southern oak species do require shade to successfully reproduce and thus are only found in woodland environments possessing semi-closed canopies and relatively moist soils (Clinton et al. 1994; Jackson 2002; USDA Forest Service 2004). For those reasons, it is likely that during the late-Pleistocene, oak species colonized both wooded and formerly treeless areas. Several noted paleoecologists have suggested that 12,000 years ago, the most common forest type of the American South was the mesophytic hardwood forest; that is, an association of trees comprised of a diverse mixture of shadetolerant and share-intolerant species, namely oaks, maples, beech, basswood, tuliptree, ash, and ironwood (Watts 1980; Delcourt 1984; Delcourt and Delcourt 2004). This was most certainly the case north of the 34-degree latitude, although in the Deep South, pines, oaks, and hickories continued to dominate much of the wooded landscape, evidence that warmer temperatures were also helping to maintain more xeric-like conditions along large portions of the Atlantic and Gulf coastal plains. In areas located away from major water sources,

A wild turkey tom in a mixed mesophytic forest in South Carolina. (Raymond Gehman/Corbis)

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Pleistocene: The Big Chill such as southeastern Texas, forests became much thinner or disappeared entirely, allowing prairie vegetation to dominate vast expanses of the coastal landscape (Edwards and Merrill 1977; Jacobson 1987; Delcourt and Delcourt 1987). Nowhere in the American South does one find very large concentrations of walnut, hackberry, beech, tupelo, willow, basswood, or elm, although the bald cypress appears to have comprised nearly half of all forest species along portions of the North Carolina coast, especially in the area that comprises the Dismal Swamp area of today (Delcourt and Delcourt 1987).

APPEARANCE OF HUMANS IN THE AMERICAN SOUTH The year 10,000 B.C. is an extremely important date in the environmental history of the American South, as the majority of the region now possessed a cool to warm temperate—rather than mostly boreal—climate. Twelve thousand years ago, the combination of warmer temperatures and increasing moisture certainly favored the growth of mesic vegetation and would have dramatically increased both tree size and diversity in most southern forests. And although the southern landscape would continue evolving for several more millennia, with some plant and animal species adapting to the new meteorological conditions and others dying off entirely, a new and important agent of environmental change was about to enter the southern landscape. The year 10,000 B.C. also marks the approximate period in which human beings perhaps entered the region for the first time, setting the stage for even greater environmental changes. While growing archaeological evidence suggests that humans first entered the southern region more than 14,000 years ago, it is not likely that any viable human communities were present in the South until around 12,000 years ago, some 2,000 years later (Anderson and Sassaman 1996; Anderson and Gillam 2000; Roosevelt 2000). Archaeological finds at Cactus Hill in northern Virginia and beneath the Aucilla River in northern Florida, do place humans in the region at this very early date, meaning that those individuals were certainly firsthand witnesses to the end-Pleistocene era. Other archaeological discoveries in the region clearly place humans and Pleistocene fauna together in the same context; for example, at the noted Wakulla Springs Lodge archaeological site in northwest Florida, where more than 600 bone pins, including the remains of mastodon, tapir, giant armadillo, camel, and horses were uncovered along with several Clovis spear-points, the Paleoindian’s weapon of choice (Daniel and Wisenbaker 1988; Dillehay 2000; Anderson and Gillam 2000). Across the state, at the Little Salt Spring archaeological site in Sarasota County, a giant tortoise shell was uncovered with a wooden stake driven directly through its center,

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Southern United States: An Environmental History suggesting it was killed and eaten by the local human inhabitants. The site, which provides among the oldest radiocarbon dates in the United States for undisputed human occupation, also provides evidence that prehistoric residents of the American South were eating mammoths, bison, and even ground sloths (Milanich 1998a; Miller 1998). The first human arrivals to the region probably came from the west, small hunting bands seeking large game and possibly refuge from the deep snows and the colder climate of the Rocky Mountains and northern plains. These largely nomadic people were likely the descendants of the first humans to cross the Siberian/Alaskan land bridge around 16,000 years ago, via the large territory of land commonly referred to as Beringia by paleogeographers. Apparently the great land mass had become fully exposed as the oceans lowered during the peak of the Ice Age, becoming passable by humans only as the ice melted during deglaciation. The very first human arrivals to enter the American South, most likely scouting parties comprised of adult men, probably returned to their base camps with favorable reports of game and shelter before migrating en masse to future homesites in the study area. As weather and climate allowed, these small bands

Paleoindians listening to a storyteller. (Painting by Martin Pate, Newnan, GA. Courtesy Southeast Archaeological Center, National Park Service)

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Pleistocene: The Big Chill of hunters and their extended families continued their steady migration eastward and southward, remaining more stationary as they encountered large caves, rock shelters, and mineral springs (Hudson 1976; Anderson and Sassaman 1996; Anderson 2001; SEAC 2004). Traveling by foot along low or almost dry river beds, great distances could be covered in a matter of weeks. In warmer summer months, these watercourse routes would have also provided the wandering migrants with bounties of fish, freshwater mussels, and crayfish, as well as the opportunity to kill the large game animals that came to drink at the water’s edge. For the very first arrivals to the region, the southern landscape offered a promising future, and, in many ways, was indeed a paradise found. Having inhabited or traversed the frozen north, the warming climate and greater biodiversity offered by the lush ecosystem must have been extremely comforting to the very first Paleoindians to settle the southern environs. As their neighbors to the north and northwest continued struggling in a harsh and icy world, southern migrants pushed steadily toward the southern oceans, following major drainages as far as the coastal plains. Stopping at times to temporarily settle and explore the landscape, Paleoindians could more easily reap the benefits of the region’s greater biological diversity. As National Park archaeologist David Anderson has aptly put it, in contrast to the Paleoindians of the Midwest and Northeast, the South’s first people clearly walked where food, material for tools, shelter, and clothing were most plentiful. Then, as the climate warmed and biological diversity increased even more, southern Paleoindians could learn new ways of hunting big game and trapping native kinds of fish, as well as testing techniques for making canoes by burning and scraping logs. These acquired skills allowed successive generations of Paleoindians to create more permanent camps, giving them a deeper sense of place and awareness of their home environments (SEAC 2004). One of the earliest known areas to have been occupied by Paleoindians in the American South is the Saltville archeological site in southwest Virginia. Recent archaeological evidence suggests that humans were living there as early as 14,000 years ago, a date that challenges conventional wisdom about when the region was first settled by humans. The date also suggests that the first North Americans may have crossed the Beringia land bridge at a much earlier date, an unlikely possibility since the glacier mass would have been virtually impassable at that time. In fact, some paleoarchaeologists are suggesting that the artifacts uncovered at Saltville and other Virginia sites are evidence that North America was settled by humans even earlier, possibly by maritime travelers who came across the North Atlantic from the European continent by boat. Of course, the first humans could have also arrived by watercraft from the Pacific Northwest, deliberately following the shoreline along what is now the Alaska

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Southern United States: An Environmental History coast. Critics say both theories need much more scrutiny, especially since archeological contamination at the Saltville site could be the main reason for the earlier carbon-dating of excavated materials there (McAvoy et al. 2000; Roosevelt 2000; Parfit 2000). Regardless if one believes the South was first occupied 14,000 or 12,000 years ago, it is evident that whoever lived in the region at that time was likely engaged in hunting large Pleistocene mammals, a practice that would have no doubt had an important impact on the local environment. Archaeological evidence places humans and megafauna together in nearly every subregion of the American South, with the possible exception of the lower Mississippi Valley. At Saltville, Virginia, numerous mastodon and musk ox bones have been recently uncovered, including a musk ox tibia that had apparently been fashioned into a primitive tool. At the Coats-Hines archaeological site in Middle Tennessee, the tip of a bone projectile was found between the two ribs of a large mastodon. In Caddo County, Oklahoma, a Clovis spear point (the term Clovis is derived from the small town in New Mexico where the large spear-points were first discovered) was found near a pair of mammoth vertebrae, along with portions of a mammoth skull and tusk. In northwest Florida, beneath the swift-moving Wacissa River, the skull of an extinct giant bison was found with a broken stone point embedded in its forehead. While these isolated finds tell us that early hunters most certainly encountered these unique animals in their seasonal rounds, there is very little convincing evidence that southern Paleoindians actually caused their extinction (Milanich 1998a; Roosevelt 2000; McClung Museum 2004; SEAC 2004). The debate surrounding megafauna extinctions and the role that Pleistocene humans played in them go back to at least 1967, when palynologist and noted author Paul Martin first introduced his now widely debated “overkill hypothesis.” Martin’s thesis promoted the idea that the large Pleistocene mammals like mammoths and mastodons were killed in just a few centuries by the newly arriving Paleoindians who used newly designed Clovis spear-points to fatally wound the animals. Martin maintained that Paleoindians were able to take advantage of the animal’s unfamiliarity with humans, killing them in surprise group attacks or by simply cornering solitary individuals after dark. Following Martin’s theory, southern Paleoindians would have concentrated almost entirely on hunting mammoth, mastodon, giant bison and ground sloths, as these animals provided the largest quantities of meat and protein for their families. Martin also believes that by exclusively killing megafauna species, Pleistocene hunters were able to multiply and expand their populations across the continent at the greatest maximum rates (Martin 1967; Pielou 1991; Carroll et al. 2002).

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Pleistocene: The Big Chill Without question, southern Paleoindians were responsible for killing the last individuals of some megafauna species. If, however, the first major groups of Paleoindians arrived in the region after 10,000 B.C., they would have certainly had a minor impact on megafauna populations as these animals were already in fast decline because of the rapidly changing environmental conditions. As noted earlier, many megafauna species had already exited the region by this time, migrating to areas outside the South in order to inhabit more familiar ecological terrain. The fact that several southeastern mammal species would later be discovered in Central and South America is evidence of the early outmigration of megafauna (Flannery 2001). If, on the other hand, Paleoindians came to the region much earlier, say 14,000 years ago, then it stands to reason that archaeologists would find at least one site possessing associated megafauna remains, since the largest animals would have been much more prevalent at that time. To date, not only have none been discovered, there are fewer than a dozen sites in the entire southern United States that place megafauna and Paleoindians together in the same context. And those very rare archeological sites that are considered to be pre-Clovis—those dating prior to 10,000 B.C.—not only do not have any megafauna remains associated with them, but they are almost always identified by the presence of smaller spear points and blades, meaning that the earliest Paleoindians would have been less, rather than more, likely to have hunted biggame animals. Nor does the presence of Clovis points, by themselves, mean that Paleoindians were hunting the very largest megafauna, as the large spear-point could have been employed on animals ranging from 200-pound peccaries to 10ton mammoths. It is my own view that we can no longer say with confidence that Paleoindians were solely responsible for the extinction of Pleistocene megafauna. Not only because of the vast accumulated evidence regarding dramatic environmental changes during the period in question, but because most researchers now know that Pleistocene peoples employed many different kinds of subsistence strategies, as evidenced by the number of charred fish bones, nut shells, and other small animal bones uncovered at various prehistoric camp sites (McDonald 2000; SEAC 2004). Found among the earliest archaeological assemblages at Catus Hill, for example, are freshwater clam shells and over 500 pieces of small vertebrate teeth and bones, suggesting the residents were “harvesting shellfish and small animals from the lake during periods of low water” (SEAC 2004, 4). So it is much more likely, as anthropologist Shepard Krech III has recently argued, that Paleoindians hunted and fished for a wide variety of animals and thus possessed hunting and gathering technologies far more varied than Clovis spear points. “Collectively,” writes Krech, “Paleoindians probably hunted not just now-extinct megafauna but caribou, deer, beaver, tortoises, birds, and other

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Southern United States: An Environmental History small animals.” Krech also rightly points out that “Paleoindians were not just hunters but collectors of seeds, roots, shellfish, and fish.” People who hunt and gather for their livelihood seldom restrict their hunting to single classes of large mammals, instead focusing their subsistence efforts on a variety of plants and animals. “There is little reason to believe,” concludes Krech, “that Paleoindians were any different” (Krech 2003, 2). Paleoindians of the Pleistocene South were certainly opportunistic hunters, so when the rare opportunity did arise to take down a large mammoth or mastodon, they most certainly did so. Hunting these animals was not an easy task and presented numerous logistical problems both before and after the kill. The skin of these enormous animals was nearly 2 inches thick, meaning they would have been extremely difficult to butcher using conventional stone axes or knives. Moreover, in the warming southern climate, the meat would have also been difficult to preserve for any length of time, especially during summer months when the carcass would have rapidly decomposed or, if abandoned for any length of time, would have been quickly consumed by predator and scavenger alike. The fact that Paleoindians apparently developed ingenious ways of preserving the meat of these large animals in colder parts of North America is perhaps further evidence that the animals had already become scarce throughout their range during the late Pleistocene era. In Michigan, for example, it is believed that Paleoindians ingeniously submerged mastodon carcasses in coldwater lakes so they could be eaten later, a good sign that meat was already extremely difficult to come by and so should not be wasted (Flannery 2001). A similar site has also been found in northern Kentucky, but only a few cut marks on bones and the presence of limestone rocks near the remains suggest the meat was being stored in this way (Walters 1988).

THEORIES OF PLEISTOCENE MAMMAL EXTINCTION To more fully understand the relationship of the Paleoindian to Pleistocene megafauna, one might first ask the question: Would the largest mammals of the Pleistocene have become extinct had the Paleoindians arrived in America two or three millennia later? After looking at the considerable evidence compiled by numerous palynologists over the last three decades, I believe that most Pleistocene megafauna species would have perished anyway, even without the help of the newly arriving Paleoindians, who most certainly killed the large animals when the chance arose. Not only were the environmental conditions rapidly changing as the first human arrived in North America, they continued to do so even as the Paleoindian was becoming established across the entire continent.

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Pleistocene: The Big Chill In the American South, we now have considerable evidence to demonstrate that as early as 11,000 years ago: deciduous trees and woodlands had replaced large treeless expanses across much of the region; millions of acres of coastal environments had been flooded by rising oceans; and swamps and major waterways, due to glacier runoff and increased precipitation, had submerged or irreversibly altered the habitats of most Pleistocene megafauna species. The increase in the numbers of water-loving cypress trees across much of Louisiana and what is today the Okefenokee swamp during that period, is sound evidence that wetlands and swamps were submerging plains and woodland environments before Paleoindians had even entered the region (Delcourt and Delcourt 1987; Miller 1998; Delcourt 2002). Certainly horses, camels, llamas, bison, mammoths, giant armadillos, and tortoises—all plains dwellers—would have been direct victims of Pleistocene-era global warming (Flannery 2001). One can also make the argument that the American mastodon, which consumed tree leaves and woody vegetation, should have been able to survive the climate changes brought about by the end-Pleistocene era. In theory at least, these large mammals would have been much more resilient to environmental changes, and their more enterprising and diverse eating habits would have helped produce the very kinds of habitats that are preferable to large proboscideans. It also seems likely that the mastodon could have always found higher ground, even as woodlands, miry swamps, and marshy wetlands invaded large areas of the animal’s preferred niche. However, a study of a single mastodon that perished around 11,000 years ago found that the animal was consuming very large quantities of less-than-nutritious grasses, implying that both the quality and quantity of available foliage was less than ideal for the animal’s survival. The recent discovery of isotope traces of granite in a Florida mastodon tusk indicates that the animals were extremely migratory, traveling as far north as present-day Atlanta, Georgia, to find preferred food sources. If the mastodon, in ideal climate conditions, routinely traveled hundreds of miles to locate viable habitat, then severe climate change would have certainly disrupted the animals’ ability to find food, thus driving populations well below their viable limits, as is often the case with African elephants in modern times (Leakey and Lewin 1995). While some scholars will no doubt continue to insist that humans were most responsible for the demise of the region’s megafauna species during the Ice Age, it might be more instructive to quote Richard Leakey and Roger Lewin, who stated in their important book The Sixth Extinction (1995) that it would be “folly to suggest that hunting alone was the culprit” (Leakey and Lewin 1995, 180). While it is certainly possible to visualize Paleoindian hunting practices that “could result in the extinction of [megafauna] species,” one can only rightly do so, as John Guilday argued more than two decades ago, if one sees

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Southern United States: An Environmental History Pleistocene extinctions as “not directly related to hunting pressure per se, but rather to the overall ecological health of that [megafauna] species.” In other words, during the late Ice Age, large mammals were under enormous stress to successfully reproduce, while at the same time having to make significant adjustments in their feeding strategies. For this reason, concludes Guilday, “large mammal taxa did not simply vanish from a scene of ecological composure, but instead disappeared during a time of great ecological ferment when biotas were adjusting, dissolving, and reforming under new climatic parameters” (Guilday 1984, 250, 254). Whereas hunting by Pleistocene humans may have been enough to finish some species off entirely, Guilday strongly believes that most megafauna mammals would have vanished from the region whether or not humans had entered the southern landscape. It is also entirely possible that after 10,000 B.C., the majority of Pleistocene megafauna had vanished across much of the region, leaving the late-Pleistocene peoples of the American South to focus on survival strategies other than biggame hunting. Environmental historian James Miller believes that Florida Paleoindians had, from their first arrival, consumed native plants, small animals, and shellfish, so it is reasonable to assume that subsistence activities involving more traditional hunting and gathering pursuits remained important as the Ice Age came to a close (Miller 1998; Anderson 2001). Following the disappearance of the mastodon, mammoth, ground sloth, and stag moose, the largest mammals that would have been available to the southern Paleoindian would have been elk and white-tailed deer. Not surprising, projectile points become smaller over much of the American South at this very time, with the slightly smaller Dalton spear-point replacing Clovis lithics as the Paleoindian weapon of choice (Anderson 1990; SEAC 2004). And, as a result of the disappearance of large herding mammals, new dietary sources of protein like freshwater fish and shellfish became more important to southern Paleoindians. The remaining smaller—and more solitary—game animals also had an enormous influence on the development of late Paleoindian hunting techniques, and would influence settlement and habitation patterns for millennia to come.

PALEOINDIAN SURVIVAL Around 9,500 years ago, many archaeologists now believe, southern Paleoindians numbered in the several thousands, and were comprised of nomadic bands of four or five extended families who occupied seasonal base camps located near primary freshwater sources and stone quarries. Here small groups of thirty to fifty individuals processed meat and hides, made stone tools such as knives and

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Pleistocene: The Big Chill scrapers from locally mined chert, and gathered nuts, berries, and wild plums in season. Hunting camps, generally occupied by much smaller groups of men, were generally located on crests of narrow valleys overlooking game trails or in valleys where herds of game might pass en route to seasonal feeding grounds. When open caves or rock shelters were not available, the southern Paleoindian constructed weatherproof dwellings by stretching large animal hides over tree limbs or poles. Animal hides were also used for everyday clothing, which in the colder areas of the upland South would have been made from mammals possessing the thickest or most waterproof fur. Bones from a variety of animals would have been used to make needles and spear points, or perhaps primitive fish hooks, a technology most certainly employed by Archaic Indians in the region a millennium later (Hudson 1976; Anderson 1990; Parfit 2000; National Park Service 2002; Delcourt and Delcourt 2004). While we will never know the details regarding the Paleoindian social order or their specific religious beliefs, most anthropologists who have studied such hunting and gathering societies would conjecture that the small bands were most likely egalitarian in social organization. With their small numbers and a normal life-expectancy of less than forty-five years, it would have been very difficult for these nomadic groups to develop more complex social or political structures. Southern Paleoindians would have also been highly mobile, moving two or three times per year as dictated by the seasonal availability of native plants and animals. In fall and winter, their living quarters would be situated nearest game and other late-season fruit and nut crops; in spring and summer, near major watercourses that supplied their families with fish, waterfowl, freshwater mussels, and numerous edible plants and berries (Hudson 1976; Anderson and Sassaman 1996; Flannery 2001; Delcourt and Delcourt 2004). While some contemporary land managers have suggested that fire was routinely used by southern Paleoindians during the late Pleistocene era, this author has found little hard evidence that this was indeed the case. Pollen records do not corroborate such activities during the period, with most palynological data suggesting that fire-intolerant species actually began flourishing at this time. Indeed, Paul and Hazel Delcourt found that southern pine species shrank to as little as 20 percent of the total forest along much of the Gulf coastal plain between 12,000 and 10,000 years ago, clearly demonstrating that moisture levels were continuing to rise across much of the Lower South. Long-leaf pine—a firedependent species associated with more xeric soil conditions—would have comprised less than 5 percent of the total forested area within the southern coastal ecosystem at this time, as wildfires probably did not become annual ecological events in that area until about 7,000 years ago, when modern climate patterns were more firmly established (Delcourt and Delcourt 1987). While there is

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Southern United States: An Environmental History some evidence to suggest that humans used fire to hunt game or to clear woodlands in parts of Europe at this early date, there is great difficulty in proving with any certainty that southern Paleoindians were using fire for anything other than campfires or torchlights. If they had adopted the widespread use of fire to hunt game or encourage the growth of preferred vegetation, pines and other fire-tolerant tree species would have noticeably flourished around human settlement areas, which does not seem to be the case for several more millennia. In fact, Hazel Delcourt believes that Indians of the Gulf Coast became “an important ecological factor” only about 6,000 years ago, after which time they “may have set ground fires to drive game and to increase the line of sight through pine forests for hunting” (Delcourt 2002, 142). Of course, southern Paleoindians were far from living in complete and total harmony with their natural surroundings. Campfires and rich-pine torches did occasionally start unintended wildfires near settlements, and wild game populations across the entire region were most certainly negatively impacted by their seasonal presence. Nevertheless, because their regional numbers were relatively small and their settlements widely dispersed, Paleoindians would have been responsible for very few long-lasting landscape or wildlife modifications during the late Ice Age. And if one believes that most megafauna extinctions occurred prior to their arrival, then it stands to reason that Paleoindians had a limited, if not negligible, impact on the overall landscape of the prehistoric South. From the very long view, it seems that Mother Nature herself, and not human beings, was responsible for the most significant environmental changes to the region during the late Pleistocene era.

THE YOUNGER DRYAS AND THE END OF THE PLEISTOCENE ERA In fact, it was also around 11,000 years ago that the climate period known as the Younger Dryas began to have an important impact on the ecology of the American South. Named after the dryas plant, the Younger Dryas climate event put much of North America into a mini Ice Age, allowing the small plant, a tundra species, to reinhabit areas of its former range. The prevailing theory maintains that the Younger Dryas was caused by the virtual stoppage of the northerly flow of the Gulf Stream due to the billions of gallons of freshwater pouring into the Gulf of Mexico from melting glaciers. As the flow of warmer water to the North Atlantic stopped, less heat could be absorbed by the atmosphere, resulting in a prolonged cooling of the entire northern hemisphere (Barry 1983; Fagan 2001). Although the Younger Dryas had its greatest ecologi-

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Pleistocene: The Big Chill cal effects in Europe, the American South experienced cooler temperatures for nearly a millennium (Johnsen 1989; Carroll et al. 2002). As a result, meteorological conditions were also relatively drier during the era, with some xeric tree species replacing mesic ones, especially in parts of the Lower South (Delcourt and Delcourt 1987). At the same time, snow and ice would have probably increased in the Ozarks and central Appalachians, making it virtually impossible for any surviving groups of megafauna to locate viable habitat. By most accounts, the Younger Dryas was over around 9,000 years ago, the date that also represents the official close of the Pleistocene era. At that time, the southern climate would have continued to greatly favor deciduous hardwood species over evergreen ones. Oak species still dominated southern forests, comprising as much as 90 percent of entire stands in isolated parts of central and southern Florida. In northeast Florida, some southern pine species returned to comprise as much as 40 percent of the forested woodlands, whereas northern pine species, such as white pine, nearly vanished from the northern latitudes.

Cumberland Mountains xeric Virginia pine woodland. (Marc Evans, Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission)

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Southern United States: An Environmental History Hickories could be found in great numbers in northern Louisiana and much of the Mississippi River valley, including a wide band extending into western Tennessee and southwest Kentucky, where they often comprised 20 percent of the forest canopy. Maples, which had become a much more dominant species in eastern Oklahoma and the southern Ozarks 10,000 years ago, had greatly diminished their dominance in those areas 2,000 years later, while at the same time moving their range as far eastward as the Atlantic Coastal Plain (Delcourt and Delcourt 1987, 129). Large stands of American chestnut trees also begin appearing sporadically in southern forests at this time, although nowhere were they very plentiful in the American South, including the woodlands of southern Appalachia, the forest ecosystem they would eventually dominate (Delcourt and Delcourt 1988; Miller 1998; Davis 2000; Paillet 2002). While megafauna species had disappeared from the region entirely, some species adjusted fairly well to the changing habitat, including elk, moose, and grizzly bear, but even these species began shifting their range significantly northward. Other boreal-type species such as porcupine and fishers maintained significant populations in the American South, especially in the Appalachian highlands, where forest conditions remained cooler for a much longer period. A few researchers even believe that some Pleistocene megafauna species did not actually become extinct during the late Pleistocene, but simply dwarfed in size. Dwarfing is also supported by the ecological principle known as Bergmann’s Rule, a theory that states that “body size among animals tends to be larger in cold regions than in warmer ones” (Quammen 2003, 59). There is, in fact, some evidence to suggest that today’s beaver, black bear, American bison, and armadillo are simply “mini-versions” of their much larger late-Pleistocene cousins. Dwarfing is also believed to be an evolutionary defense mechanism that allows species to survive in the face of reproductive stress and the loss of essential food nutrients. Paleontologist Dale Guthrie postulated that because mesic plants are much less nutritious—or even toxic—their newfound abundance in the South’s ecosystem would have been directly responsible for the decreasing size of surviving mammal species. Of course, some megafauna continued to exist outside the South proper for thousands of years, including the caribou, jaguar and flat-headed peccary (Guthrie 1990; Flannery 2001; Carroll et al. 2002). As the Pleistocene Ice Age came to a close and the climate once again warmed, the humans of the American South were much better positioned to perfect subsistence techniques, to explore and settle other areas of the region, and to develop more advanced hunting and gathering technologies. Despite the significant loss of several species of very large mammals, the ending of the Ice Age set the stage for a post-glacial human existence that would allow Paleoindians to become much more sedentary, as well as increase their population and

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Pleistocene: The Big Chill social complexity. In ecological terms, nearly all the boreal indicator species of the late Pleistocene had vanished, leaving much of the region a mixture of hardwood forests, wooded swamps, wide salt marshes, treeless limestone glades, and occasional dry prairies. While the meteorological effects of Ice Age glaciation persisted for another 500 years or more, southern oceans and temperatures continued rising during this time, setting the stage for even greater environmental and cultural changes. As a result, Paleoindian subsistence practices would soon be replaced by “Archaic” ones, beginning a cultural tradition that would last, in some areas of the American South, for more than 8,000 years.

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Newark KANSA

CONOY

Adena

NANTICOKE

MISSOURI

Cahokia

N

POWHATAN

TUTELO

KIOWA APACHE

SHAWNEE

KIOWA

TUSCARORA

Icehouse Bottom OSAGE

CATAWBA

YUCHI CHEROKEE

QUAPAW

Toltec Mounds

Sara s Ridge Sara’s Rucker s Bottom Rucker’s

CHICKASAW Russell Cave

Poverty Point

TUSKEGEE

WICHITA

MUSKOGEE

Moundville CADDO

CHAKCHIUMA TUNICA OFO

NATCHEZ COMANCHE

HITCHITI

CHOCTAW HOUMA

TONKAWA

CUSABO ALABAMA

NANIABA

CHATOT

GUALE

Kolomoki

AT L A N T I C OCEAN

APALACHEE

ATAKAPA CHITIMACHA

LIPAN

BILOXI

TIMUCUA

Windover KARANKAWA

GULF OF MEXICO DESERT

0 0

100 100

200

200 Mi. 300 Km.

Tribal boundaries Indian sites Adena Hopewell Mississippian sites Caddoan Mississippian Archaic

AIS MAYAIMI CALUSA

TETESKA

Southern Indian archeological sites and historical tribal boundaries.

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2 HOLOCENE: MELTDOWN Donald E. Davis

T

he Holocene Period in southern environmental history begins some 9,000 years ago as the Ice Age came to a relatively abrupt end. The onset of the Holocene was characterized by an accelerated warming across the entire region, marking the beginning of an interglacial climate period that continues even today. At that time, the glacier’s edge had retreated well above the Great Lakes region, allowing warmer air to penetrate into northern Canada. Sea levels also continued rising, although ocean tides would remain below modern levels for several more millennia. In the early Holocene, the southern evergreen forest expanded both northward and southward, but in the extreme west was replaced by prairie vegetation that continued to dominate larger expanses of eastern Texas and southern Oklahoma. The deciduous forests of the mid-latitude and upland South also remained largely intact, although warm-temperate species such as sweetgum, ash, and American chestnut were becoming more common in isolated areas (Watts 1983; Roberts 1998; Flannery 2001; Carroll et al. 2002). Maples seemed to have greatly benefited the most from the warmer and wetter climate, thriving in the largely closed canopies of the early Holocene southern forest. Palynological records show that some 8,000 years ago, maples comprised as much as 30 percent of the forest in many areas of the Upper South, especially atop the Cumberland Plateau in eastern Kentucky. Oaks also increased considerably in numbers, as that species now comprised more than 60 percent of the forest in three geographic areas: coastal Virginia, the Ozarks, and the central Gulf coastal plain. Species of trees not normally associated with the South also began to have an important impact on local forest ecosystems, including white birch and hemlock in the Appalachian highlands, and elm and aspen in parts of the Middle and Upper South (Delcourt and Delcourt 1987).

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Southern United States: An Environmental History

EARLY ARCHAIC HUMAN HABITATS AND CULTURE Human habitation patterns obviously changed during the early Holocene, as Archaic cultural traditions were being firmly established at that time. Eight thousand years ago, much larger human populations were also present across much of the American South, as evidenced by the large number of lithic artifacts and habitation sites from the period. Hundreds of band-level groups of thirty-five to fifty persons are assumed to have been present, made up of individuals who made use of the southern ecosystem in a number of resourceful ways. Like their Paleoindian ancestors, Early Archaic peoples relied on a variety of large and small game, fish, and native plants, and used simple woodworking adzes and stone devices. Some archaeologists believe their largest stone adzes may have been used to hollow out logs for use as primitive canoes, although that seems an unlikely possibility for most Archaic residents, since river levels across much of the Upper South and Piedmont remained extremely low for much of the year. The various styles of spear-point manufacture found across the entire region

Archaic Indians at Sara’s Ridge, along the Savannah River, Georgia. (Painting by Martin Pate, Newnan, GA. Courtesy Southeast Archaeological Center, National Park Service)

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Holocene: Meltdown demonstrate that very distinct subregional cultural traditions were already developing by this time. The atlatl, an ingenuous spear-throwing device, was also being more commonly used across the southern region, a technology that gave the thrower increased speed and power as well as the ability to kill larger game from greater distances (Hudson 1976; Daniel 1997; Anderson 1991; Jones 2001). While the total number of known Archaic sites is much greater than Paleoindian sites, knowledge of Early Archaic peoples is somewhat limited because of the paucity of important diagnostic artifacts such as woven textiles, wooden objects, and plant and animal remains in the archaeological record. Nonetheless, inferences can be made about their subsistence practices from their excavated tools, which are clearly more numerous and much more substantial than those possessed by Paleoindians. Environmental historian James Miller believes that the widespread presence of heavier tools is an indication that Early Archaic peoples of the American South were more sedentary or “lived at least part of the year in permanent villages” (Miller 1998, 61). The fact that some Early Archaic villages are sometimes found considerable distances from chert quarries also suggests that many Archaic people had extended their occupation sites to other southern environments, including smaller inland tributaries and interior uplands. Freshwater remained a valuable resource during the entire Archaic period, especially southern streams and rivers, which became the favored location for their semipermanent settlements. One of the most well-known and richly studied Archaic sites in the American South is found at the Russell Cave National Monument in northeast Alabama. Excavated by the Tennessee Archaeological Society in 1953 and decades later by the Smithsonian Institution and National Geographic Society, Russell Cave National Monument provides one of the longest and most complete archaeological records of human settlement in the United States. Evidence from the initial excavations revealed that the cave was first occupied about 9,000 years ago, meaning the cave’s very first residents were likely late-Paleoindians. The archaeological record there clearly establishes that Early Archaic peoples inhabiting the immediate area were hunting deer, turkey, peccary, porcupine, and squirrel in the surrounding forests and were catching large numbers of fish, shellfish, and turtles in nearby streams. Bone and deer antlers were shaped into a vast array of implements by the inhabitants, including hand-tools used to scrape or punch small holes in deer hides that could be worn or made into primitive shelters. While the very first arrivals probably lived year-round in the open cave, the later Archaic inhabitants seemed to have only used the location as a winter quarters (National Park Service 2002; SEAC 2004). Archaeological finds in other parts of the American South suggest that Early Archaic people were practicing a form of weaving, as well as making mats or

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Southern United States: An Environmental History small bags from locally collected plant fibers. The greater variety of spear and dart points found by archaeologists suggests that the Early Archaic Indian was also becoming more aware of native bird and mammal behaviors, which would have also included some rudimentary knowledge of their preferred habitats. Gathering nut meats likely became a preoccupation of Early Archaic peoples because nut-bearing trees like oaks, chestnuts, and hickories were becoming much more dominant in the surrounding forests. Clothes and bedding were probably made from deer skins defleshed using large stone scrapers, and then softened by continuous chewing or perhaps by soaking the hide in the animal’s brains. Claylined hearths were deliberately built near flood-plain settlements on level riverbanks, further suggesting that riverine environments were playing an increasingly greater role in the lives of Early Archaic peoples (Hudson 1976; Anderson and Sassaman 1996; Jones 2001; Delcourt 2002; State of Virginia 2004). One of the most well-known and celebrated sites dating to the Early Archaic is the Windover archaeological site in east-central Florida, where 168 individuals were found buried in a largely undisturbed peat bog. While the first burials probably took place there more than 8,000 years ago, the interments continued there for almost 1,000 years. The Windover site provides archaeologists with as many as eighty-seven samples of weaving, basketry, woodworking, and clothing—the most extensive collection of perishable artifacts from the Archaic period. Several kinds of close cording, one kind of more open weaving, and one type of complex braiding can be seen in the many woven mats, bags, and basketry miraculously recovered from the site. One excavated piece of cloth fabric was even made with no less than twenty-five strands of threading materials to the linear inch. A few recovered pieces were woven by the inhabitants on primitive looms, including hoods and burial shrouds, as well as some fitted clothing and rectangular shaped articles of coarse fabric. The fabrics are among the oldest textile materials found in the United States, and together they greatly broaden our understanding of Early Archaic life in the American South (Milanich 1998a; Doran 2002). The presence of well-woven fabrics at the Windover site is not only evidence of an expert craft tradition, but also demonstrates that Archaic people were becoming much more cognizant of native plant ecology. Materials used for the construction of the various woven items included sabal palms, saw palmettos, and other fibrous plants indigenous to the local area. The list of animal bones found among the burial debris also suggests that the Florida Indians were consuming a greater range of foods than Archaic peoples living in other parts of the region, although it is certainly possible that some of these animals died naturally in the peat bog and were not necessarily eaten by the natives. Nevertheless, the list is still powerful testament to the diversity of animals present on

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Holocene: Meltdown the Florida peninsula at the time, as all were likely species living in the vicinity of the Windover settlement. Mammals represented in the archaeological record include river otter, three species of indigenous rats, squirrel, rabbit, and opossum; bird species include thrush, American coot, great blue heron, cormorants, and pied-billed grebe; reptiles include, among others, five species of freshwater turtles, snakes, frogs, and alligators. Fish are also well-represented as numerous small bones from Largemouth bass, Redear sunfish, bowfin, catfish, and Florida gar were collected at the excavation site (Milanich 1998a; Doran 2002).

EFFECTS OF THE HYPSITHERMAL Around the time of the last Windover burials, temperatures began rising even more dramatically across the region, contributing to a specific climate event known by climatologists as a Hypsithermal. The Hypsithermal caused temperatures to rise considerably for more than a millennium, peaking across the region about 7,000 years ago. The Hypsithermal brought southern temperatures above present ones, inducing the formation of hurricanes in the Caribbean for perhaps the first time in more than a hundred millennia. Also associated with the heat was severe drought, which increased the likelihood of natural fires, especially in the Deep South where pollen samples show a marked increase in the distribution of all southern pine species. It was also during the Hypsithermal period that large stands of long-leaf pine were first established in the American South, a fire-dependent species requiring periodic fires to regenerate in large stands. Indeed, a millennium after the peak of the Hypsithermal, southern pines could be found along the Atlantic Coast as far north as New Jersey. In central Florida, especially along the Gulf Coast, southern pines increased to values of nearly 40 percent, although it is not certain from the recovered pollen samples exactly which pine species were present. Prairie species also increased west of the Mississippi River during this time, occupying large areas of Arkansas and northwest Louisiana (Watts 1983; Delcourt and Delcourt 1987; Roberts 1998). While one can generalize that the southern climate was certainly hotter and drier at this time, precipitation was not entirely absent from the region. Some data suggest that drier conditions were often interrupted by very wet intervals, causing isolated flooding, soil erosion, and sedimentation in many areas. Environmental historian Mikko Saikku postulates that this was the time in which the Mississippi River turned into the more meandering river system known today, a watercourse possessing many oxbow lakes and deep adjoining sloughs (Saikku 2001). Thunderstorms would have been much more prevalent

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Southern United States: An Environmental History in the region, and the increased lightning would have sparked occasional fires in drier areas. The presence of charcoal particles in pollen studies from the period does suggest that fires were becoming much more common in the Deep South, perhaps the very first evidence that humans were burning local stream bottoms or clearing patches of land around their living quarters (Watts 1980; Carroll et al. 2002; Delcourt 2002). However, because Archaic settlements were generally small and widely dispersed, the intentional burning of low-lying floodplains, if and when it did occur, would have had a minor effect on early Holocene landscape changes, unless, of course, those unattended brush fires sometimes became uncontrollable wildfires.

MIDDLE ARCHAIC HUMAN CULTURE The peak of the Hypsithermal climate change also corresponds closely with the onset of the Middle Archaic culture period, which began replacing the Early Archaic period around 6,000 years ago. This period is characterized by the further regionalization of southern prehistoric cultures, the introduction of new kinds of stone projectile points, and the increased use of edible plants in native subsistence strategies. By the Middle Archaic period, Indians had become very adept at exploiting resources from the surrounding forests and streams, perfecting their hunting and fishing, fiber weaving, and tool making. In north Florida and south Georgia, the cultural period is often characterized by the presence of a new projectile point, the Newnan point—an arrowhead possessing a peculiar and distinct bell shape. Fish hooks were commonly crafted from the bones of birds and mammals; and in Virginia, notched stones believed to be net sinkers have been found by archaeologists, indicating that the people in the southern interior had greatly intensified their quest for freshwater fish and mussels. Highly worked mortars and pestles are also commonly found in Middle Archaic sites throughout the region as these tools were commonly used to mill nuts, seeds, and fibrous plants during daily food preparation activities (Hudson 1976; Milanich 1998a; Virginia Department of Historical Resources 2004). Paleoecological research at the “Icebottom” archaeological site in east Tennessee clearly reveals that plants were also becoming much more important in the diets of Middle Archaic people, especially those living in the Upper South. According to paleoecologist Patricia Cridlebaugh, broken hulls from hickory nuts, walnuts, butternuts, and acorns, as well as the carbonized fruits and seeds of pokeweed and wild grapes are among the plant matter remains commonly found in fire hearths dating from the Middle Archaic period. By analyzing dozens of wood charcoal samples in those same cooking hearths, Cridlebaugh

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Holocene: Meltdown was able to determine the exact kinds of tree species growing in the forest around their encampments, assuming, of course, that Middle Archaic people would have preferred to first use the downed branches nearest their camp sites. Tree species identified in her study include ash, elm, and red maple, three species that would have clearly benefited from the warming southern climate (Cridlebaugh 1984; Delcourt and Delcourt 1988; Delcourt 2002). Native river cane also appears to be used more frequently by the people of the Middle Archaic, who used green splits from the narrow stalks of the plant to make basketry or floor mats. Given the importance of river cane in the material culture of later southern Indians, it is likely that Middle Archaic Indians nearly everywhere in the American South were constructing or using cane basketry by this time. This was certainly the case in many parts of the southern Appalachians, where cane baskets were apparently used to carry the heavy clay used for lining fire hearths around settlements. Archaeological investigations at Russell Cave in northwest Alabama provide direct evidence that Middle Archaic Indians living there wove simple cane baskets that were used to gather nuts and seeds, including chenopodium and wild grapes. Not surprisingly, this is also the period that the very first food storage pits occur across the region, another sign that Middle Archaic Indians were becoming a much more sedentary people (National Park Service 2002; Delcourt 2002). The increasingly sedentary lifestyle provided by Middle Archaic culture would have also allowed residents to better exploit floodplain environments. Indeed, there is considerable evidence that in the interior, freshwater shellfish were being gathered from nearby rivers and streams in significant numbers by the Middle Archaic period. Along the Gulf and Atlantic shorelines, oysters and coquina shells were being consumed by the coastal inhabitants, although in northern Florida it appears that the fluctuating coastlines generally impeded the heavy use of marine fisheries for another millennium or two (National Park Service 2002; Miller 1998; Delcourt 2002). The importance of shellfish consumption becomes even more apparent when one considers that the very first human conflicts among Middle Archaic peoples probably occurred as a direct result of territorial disputes over shellfish collecting sites. These disputes are perhaps an indication of both a growing population and a potentially diminishing resource, which up to that point in time had not been scarce (Hudson 1976; Wathall 1980; Carroll et al. 2002). New tools and tool-making technologies were no doubt a major factor in the cultural success of Middle Archaic people, as each new innovation made their lives more efficient and freer from constant toil. And by possessing more discretionary time, Middle Archaic peoples were thus able to engage themselves in even more craft and technological experimentation, including the

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Southern United States: An Environmental History manufacture of primitive artwork and small toys. Not surprisingly, one also finds during this period the first atlatl weights, small carved stones that gave additional thrust and power to the spear-thrower’s arm. The polished weights were placed near the tip of the short spear-throwing device, providing balance and an all-important center of gravity, thereby improving velocity and accuracy at greater distances. Other similarly polished stones known as plummets also date to the Middle Archaic period, although their teardrop shape and strategically placed single opening suggests they were more likely used as bolos to snare birds (Neuman and Hawkins 1987; Saikku 2001). Along much of the coastal South, similar stone plummets were tied to casting nets, allowing the thrower to toss the handwoven net over a larger circular area. Large numbers of much more substantial stone axes also appear across much of the American South around 5,000 years ago, a technology that allowed Middle Archaic people to more easily cut firewood, make fires, and build more permanent shelters—as well as make more visible changes to the southern environment (Hudson 1976; Walthall 1980; Jones 2001; Museum of the Cherokee Indian 2004).

CLIMATE CHANGES IN THE MIDDLE ARCHAIC PERIOD While many have argued that a warmer and drier climate prevailed during much of the Middle Archaic period, some archaeologists have suggested that in the eastern United States, especially along the Atlantic Coast, wetter and more humid weather predominated. According to archaeologist Scott Jones, this is perhaps why we see a general migration trend from the Atlantic coastal plain to the Appalachian uplands during the period. In fact, the mountains of western North Carolina appear to have been first settled at this time, largely by individuals who crafted a specific spear point that is commonly referred to as Morrow Mountain, a lithic artifact sometimes used by archaeologists to more precisely date stone projectiles found elsewhere in the southern region (Wathall 1980; Jones 2001; Carroll et al. 2002). The continuing warming climate of the mid-Holocene had an important impact on the southern landscape and associated forest regimes, in general pushing the southern evergreen forest northward, especially in those areas west of the Mississippi River. Rising sea levels also brought high tides to near modern levels, as the very last fragments of the Laurentide ice sheet disappeared from Northern Canada at this time. By the end of the Hypsithermal, around 5,000 years ago, maple stands had become more fragmented in the forests of the South Atlantic and Gulf coastal plains, but increased slightly in numbers in west Tennessee, Kentucky, and northwest Alabama. Bald cypress began to dominate

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Holocene: Meltdown larger areas of what is today the Okefenokee Swamp of southeastern Georgia and the Great Dismal Swamp of Virginia and North Carolina, thriving in the almost fully submerged coastal lowlands (Watts 1971; Delcourt and Delcourt 1987; Miller 1998). In the southern interior, tupelo or black gum trees benefited from the increasing moisture, becoming a dominant species in low-lying areas such as the Tombigee River valley of central Alabama and around numerous low-lying sag ponds found in northwest Georgia (Greear 1967; Watts 1980). Perhaps the most visible changes to southern forest ecosystems occurred after 5,000 years ago, when numerous pine species began to rapidly invade the upper Coastal Plain and lower Piedmont. A thousand years later, especially in south Georgia and the Lower Mississippi Valley, pine trees comprised more than 60 percent of all forest species (Delcourt and Delcourt 1987). The dominance of pines in those areas suggests a drier and hotter climate or perhaps intentional burning by the local inhabitants. Not surprisingly, the abundance of oaks, maples, and other hardwoods also declined along the South Atlantic and Gulf coasts at that time. Even in some parts of the southern Appalachians, pines became the dominant tree species, especially on more fire-prone leeward facing slopes. While oaks remained no more than half of all forest species as far south as North Georgia 5,000 years ago, oak species rose to more than 60 percent dominance in two areas of the American South 1,000 years later: the Ozark Plateau and central Appalachian Mountains (Delcourt and Delcourt 1987). Hickories also lost their once prominence in the Lower Mississippi Valley during the period, declining to less than 20 percent of all forest species (Delcourt and Delcourt 1987). Hemlocks appear to have left the southern landscape entirely, including the Appalachian peaks, possibly due to a naturally occurring pathogen (Davis 1981; Foster 1999; Davis 2000). The American chestnut also likely became a much more dominant species in the upland forest during this period, as the ecological niche left by the vanishing hemlock would have been ideal for that tree species.

LATE ARCHAIC CULTURE The warming climate, increasing moisture, and growing diversity of tree species in the expanding southern forest also had a positive impact on human populations. Forty-five hundred years ago also marks the beginning of the Late Archaic cultural period, when the number of human settlements in the region had reached, perhaps for the first time, the many thousands. Also at this time, weather patterns were nearing their modern configurations, and coastal shorelines had more closely approximated their current geographic positions—

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Southern United States: An Environmental History though by no means were all coastal water levels at their modern-day highs (Miller 1998). In eastern Texas and Oklahoma, prairie grasslands gave way to more deciduous forests, an ecosystem more favorable to native game populations and many edible wild plants. In Florida, the consistently warmer weather pattern helped to stabilize literally hundreds of human settlements, allowing them to better exploit marine resources along the now more slowly shrinking coastline (Delcourt and Delcourt 1987). Further inland, riverine ecosystems also maintained more seasonal stability, making alluvial floodplains more attractive for longer periods of human settlement. As a result, Late Archaic peoples were much more capable of exploiting available plant and animal resources, which created even further regional differences among native groups. Large quantities of freshwater mussels from the Green River in western Kentucky, for example, allowed Archaic Indians there to more quickly expand their diet to include both seed crops and native and tropical cultigens such as squash and gourds. At the same time, Late Archaic cultures along the South Atlantic coast were soon able to develop larger and more sedentary settlements based on the continued use of the saltwater oyster beds. In northern Louisiana, members of the Late Archaic Poverty Point culture were able to develop more permanent towns with numerous satellite communities, due partly to their trade in exotic raw materials as well as in the production and trade of finished goods (Russo 1996; Gibson 2001). The number and size of Late Archaic sites in the American South is sound evidence of lengthier human occupation, although most Late Archaic peoples remained essentially nomadic, moving at least one time during the course of the year. Most large family groups, which would have included both small children and the elderly, moved seasonally to be near important natural resources, a practice that no doubt kept their material possessions to a minimum. Fall and winter hunting continued to provide Archaic Indians with significant quantities of meat and protein, although in spring and summer, freshwater fish were often added to their diet. This was most certainly the case on the southwest coast of Florida, where bottom-dwelling fish species such as catfish and sheepshead were commonly caught on hand-lines. Other fish species were likely netted or captured by spearing, or shot with bow-and-arrow. In some parts of the American South, fish were even smoked and dried, to be eaten during the winter months or in early spring (Hudson 1976; Russo 1996; Florida Division of Historical Resources 2004). It is also during the onset of the Late Archaic Period, sometime around 3,800 years ago, that clay-fired ceramics first appear in the American South. First documented along the South Atlantic coast of Georgia and South Carolina, ceramic manufacture quickly spread westward to the coastal plains of Alabama and Mississippi, to the Poverty Point culture area of Louisiana, southward into

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Holocene: Meltdown the Florida panhandle, and eventually across the entire United States. The often highly decorated ceramics were usually tempered with various plant fibers, which completely burned away during the firing process, yielding a sturdy vessel that often bore the impressions of the chosen plant. Along the Savannah River of Georgia, for example, Late Archaic peoples tempered their pottery with various indigenous grasses as well as locally collected strands of Spanish moss. Later, other fiber-tempered style wares, such as Orangeware from sites in northeast Florida and southeast coastal Georgia, appear to have spread throughout much of the Deep South. It was also during this latter period that simple fibertempered urns and bowls were replaced by fabric-impressed vessels, and, even later, by sand-tempered ceramics marked by very visible corded designs (Hudson 1976; Jeffries 1996). Almost simultaneously, skillfully carved soapstone bowls also appear in the archaeological record of the American South, especially in the southern Appalachians and more upland Coastal Piedmont. These stone vessels and clay ceramics mark the beginning of the end of a hunting and gathering way of life that persisted in the region for more than eight centuries, as the new technologies are also indicative of a more sedentary lifestyle based, at least to a small degree, on primitive horticulture. However, in some areas of the American South, prehistoric cultural groups were apparently making pottery without necessarily cultivating domesticated crops, so the two phenomena are not always related (Jones 2001; Miller 1998; Fritz 2000). Even in areas that did adopt the use of clay ceramics, hunting and gathering likely continued as the basic subsistence economy for a thousand or more years. But for those who did adopt the use of pottery in the southern region, they did so to great advantage. Ceramic and stone vessels not only allowed the storage of seeds and nut crops, but also gave Native Americans the ability to boil water and thoroughly cook food, practices that would have also helped to lower the occurrence of food-borne illnesses and debilitating parasites (Crosby 1972; Cowdrey 1983). Probably the first plants that Late Archaic Indians grew intentionally in the American South were squash, chenopodium, sunflower, sumpweed, and several varieties of native gourds. The bottle gourd was among the first plants widely grown across the entire region, as water storage presented a unique problem for nearly all Archaic Indians. Native squash soon followed, a plant that some archaeologists believe was grown as much for its oily and nutritious seeds as for its edible flesh (Nabhan 1989; Fritz 2000). Other cultigens like sunflowers and chenopodium were probably not so much planted in small plots as simply broadcast near village homesites to be harvested later in a semi-wild state. Of course, by hand-selecting the largest seeds for each successive sowing, the Late Archaic Indian was also domesticating plant species, a process that for some

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Southern United States: An Environmental History cultigens may have taken only a few centuries of intentional crop selection. Wild plants such as river cane, nettle, and Indian hemp—all plant species used in craft production—were also selectively harvested by Archaic Native Americans, which in some cases may have actually encouraged their regeneration. River cane, for example, sends out numerous new shoots each time a single stalk is cut, so by annually harvesting select plants, the river canebrake gradually expands. Therefore, in terms of plant diversity, one could say that the Archaic Indian’s turn to horticulture may have actually had a positive, rather than a negative, effect on some local ecosystems, especially those biologically rich riparian areas nearest village settlements (Smith 1992; Hatley 1995; Delcourt and Delcourt 2004). Of course, horticulture evolved across the southern region at many different times and places, eventually touching all native groups by the end of the Archaic era. The Poverty Point peoples of northern Louisiana seem to have been the first to domesticate native squash and bottle gourds, whereas sunflower domestication seems to have first occurred in Middle Tennessee around 3,500 years ago. Chenopodium was probably first domesticated by Middle Archaic Indians in southern Ohio and eastern Kentucky; maygrass appears to have been intentionally sown by natives from the Ozarks to central Kentucky as late as 2,500 years ago (Chapman 1985; Kennedy and Watson 1997). While most of these horticultural practices eventually spread across the entire region, they appeared to have the least impact on the Florida peninsula and lower Mississippi Delta, where environmental historian James Miller and others find little evidence for widespread domesticated plant use until about 2,000 years ago, well after the end of the Late Archaic period elsewhere in the southern region (Milanich 1998a; Miller 1998; Milanich 1998; Saikku 2001; Owen 2002). The appearance of horticulture is also seen as the beginning of the end of Late Archaic subsistence culture in the American South, as what followed was truly a lifestyle much more dependent on agriculture and less on hunting and gathering. Innovations other than horticultural practices are responsible for this cultural transition, however, including the more streamlined hafting axe, a tool far superior to the stone axes of earlier periods. The newer axe head was made by carving a smooth narrow groove in the center of the stone, which allowed it to be more securely attached to the wooden handle. The new innovation allowed the bearer of the tool to produce harder and more effective blows, giving Late Archaic Indians the ability to build larger and more substantial dwellings, the latter a critical component in developing a truly sedentary lifestyle (Jones 2001; Saikku 2001; Museum of the Cherokee Indian 2004). Even hunting techniques became more efficient which, in turn, created even more surplus food supplies and more free time to pursue other subsistence activities. In northeast

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Holocene: Meltdown Louisiana, for example, the Poverty Point people perfected the plummet bola by linking two weighted stones to a single leather thong, creating a device that could be thrown at large flocks of migrating birds. On initial contact, the two stones and leather stripping wound tightly around the birds’ legs or neck, effectively immobilizing it. According to environmental historian Mikko Saikku, the weapon was apparently used for snaring large wetland birds migrating along Mississippi or Atlantic flyways (Saikku 2001). Finally, it was also during the Late Archaic period that more hierarchically organized tribal societies developed in many parts of the southern region. Most anthropologists now agree that population increases and cultural attachments to specific geographic areas—which also caused more frequent territorial disputes—necessitated the development of more complex sociopolitical organizations during this period. The larger collections of family bands, they argue, were better able to deal with the growing complexities of social and spiritual life. The widespread adoption of more complex funeral rites, and in a few places even the practice of funerary mound building, is a clear sign that religious cosmologies were becoming much more sophisticated. The natural world also took on new levels of religious significance, as evidenced by the growing number of animal effigies interred at Native American burial sites. Far from isolationists, Late Archaic tribes also traded goods with Indians living as far north as Canada and as far south as southern Mexico. And with the dugout canoe firmly part of the archaeological record 2,500 years ago, it was now possible for nearly all Native Americans in the region to travel much greater distances, allowing them to explore their southern environs on a much more routine basis (Hudson 1976; University of Memphis 2004; SEAC 2004).

WOODLAND PERIOD Soon, Native American peoples of the South would enter into a new cultural phase, one that is clearly differentiated from earlier cultural periods by the important role that both horticulture and pottery-making would play in their daily lives. The Woodland Period, an archaeological designation that began in some parts of the American South around 3,000 years ago, is perhaps a misnomer, since in many ways Native Americans were becoming less dependent on woodland forest ecosystems at this time. It should be noted that there was considerable continuity in the development of Late Archaic and Early Woodland culture, especially seen in the hand-tools used for preparing animal and plant foods, leather working, textile manufacture, and shelter construction. By the Early Woodland period, however, Native Americans were growing various indigenous

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Southern United States: An Environmental History plants in small garden plots from the Ozark Highlands to the Appalachians and from coastal Georgia to southeast Texas. The practice apparently provided the Woodland Indians with levels of social stability never seen before as they were largely able to solve the problem of seasonal food scarcity. As David Hurst Thomas of the American Museum of Natural History has stated, when Woodland peoples of the South were able to create more permanent residencies, they were also able to intensify their food-collecting strategies, increase economic exchanges with others, and improve their ability to store food. “In this way,” adds Thomas, “even as their food-producing economy escalated, they learned to protect themselves against year-to-year resource fluctuations” (Thomas 1996). By convention, Woodland Indian sites are generally identified by archaeologists as belonging to those Native Americans of the period who regularly produced tempered pottery or constructed burial mounds containing well-crafted grave goods. Generally, it is also assumed that these early burial mounds indicate the presence of an agricultural-based economy that supported the construction of large labor-intensive earthworks. In more recent years, however, archaeologists and several environmental historians have perhaps more adequately addressed the

Carolina potters of the Woodland period. (Painting by Martin Pate, Newnan, GA. Courtesy Southeast Archaeological Center, National Park Service)

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Holocene: Meltdown issue of the relative nature of agricultural development by carefully investigating the evolution of subsistence patterns at several regionally-specific sites. This has led to establishing more precise cultural chronologies that perhaps more accurately separate Late Archaic from Woodland culture groups as well as better document important environmental changes in the surrounding landscape (Bullen and Sleight 1959; Hudson 1976; Miller 1998; Saikku 2001). Many of these so-called transitional societies often defy hard-and-fast categorization, as they often exhibit cultural traits of both Archaic and Woodland peoples. By far the most impressive and important of all the transitional societies in the American South is the Poverty Point settlement in northeast Louisiana, a UNESCO Heritage Site at the confluence of the Arkansas and Mississippi rivers. The Poverty Point settlement and its satellite village clusters probably reached their cultural zenith around 3,600 years ago, when as many as 2,000 people lived within a 25-mile radius of the central township. At that time, individual family living areas varied from less than an acre to more than 100 acres as one left the village proper. Several temple mounds were built on the site, including a very large central mound in the shape of a flying bird standing more than 70 feet high. A central plaza covering about 37 acres, ringed with concentric embankments and several smaller mounds, completed the central plan of the semicircular village. The Poverty Point site is the most remarkable feat of landscape engineering in prehistoric America, and perhaps can only be fully appreciated from an aerial vantage point far above the site. Even more remarkable is that the township existed without the aid of extensive agriculture, as maize would not be introduced to the region until well after the collapse of the Poverty Point culture, which, according to recent evidence, probably occurred around 3,000 years ago (Hudson 1976; Gibson 2001). Archaeologist Gayle Fritz, like many others who have studied the area, believes that “evidence for early farming” at Poverty Point is extremely limited, with chenopodium being the only dominate horticultural crop (Fritz 2000, 237). According to archaeologist Jon L. Gibson, the predominance of fish and reptile bones at the Poverty Point site suggests that most of their foods came from the “slow-moving water” of the two adjoining rivers. Fish species consumed on a regular basis included gar, bowfin, catfish, bass, sunfish, and several other freshwater species. Professor Gibson also believes that most Poverty Point fishermen used gill nets weighted with stone plummets to catch the fish, a technology that allowed the large, albeit intricately woven nets to sink fully to the bottom of the river. By using net and other trapping methods that permitted the fishermen to return at much later intervals, individuals could spend more time mound-building, hunting, gathering nuts, or harvesting seeds and wild plants. The result was a kind of absentee work system that, according to Gibson, “put

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Southern United States: An Environmental History a lot of food in their larders” (Gibson 1996). The archaeological record also reveals that reptiles, including a number of species of turtles, were also caught, especially snapping, mud-musk, red-eared, and soft-shelled species. Water, king, and rat snakes, and black racers were also eaten, as were alligators and frogs. Having perfected a food gathering system that insured a large and almost perpetual harvest, Poverty Point settlements were able to sustain remarkably large populations, making them the dominant cultural center of the American South for more than three centuries (Gibson 2001). In northeast Florida, what one might classify as Early Woodland culture did not become visibly apparent until sometime after 500 B.C. and even then, not everywhere at the same time, or in some biologically benign areas, not at all. Many native groups of Florida gravitated toward riverbank locations where they continued their large consumption of freshwater mussels and snails, such as the apple snail that was once common in northwest Florida. In the St. John’s River valley, wild foods continued to make up a significant part of their diet, although it is apparent that some domesticated plants were being eaten after that time. Unfortunately, because of the scarcity of the archaeological record, village site location and burial practices are the only reliable markers available for those of us wanting to more fully ascertain the social, political, and ecological practices of the resident tribes. An analysis of their village site locations places the vast majority of individuals of northeast Florida in local environments that would suggest that neither gardening nor raising crops was important to them, a fact that would take more than 500 years of social and technological development to fully change. Mound burial practices clearly place the Indians of northeast Florida in the Woodland cultural tradition, however, although it would take yet another five centuries for significant grave offerings to be included in all human graves there (Thunen and Ashley 1995; Milanich 1994; Miller 1998). In the southern Appalachians, Woodland Indians continued to locate their settlements on level floodplains, although campsites in more upland locations were being used during the new culture period (Silver 2003). The early Lake Cormorant peoples of the upper Yazoo-Mississippi Delta also diversified their village sites to include both riverine and upland environments, although in both cases small-scale horticulture was likely only practiced near adjacent homesites. Around 700 B.C., the Late Archaic Poverty Point culture was replaced by the Tchula or Tchefuncte Early Woodland cultures, which gradually expanded into western Tennessee, southern Arkansas, western Mississippi, and even southern coastal Alabama. In the lower Mississippi River valley, Woodland Indian subsistence practices continued to consist of the intensive collection of wild plants and animals, as with the preceding Poverty Point culture, but for the first time in the area large quantities of tempered pottery were produced by

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Holocene: Meltdown the local natives. The Manasota culture of the Gulf Coast of Florida also subsisted by collecting plant-food, fishing, hunting, and gathering shellfish and appeared to have evolved in situ, from the Late Archaic culture already present in the area at the time (Luer and Almy 1982; Milanich et al. 1984; Saikku 2001; Florida Division of Historical Resources 2004).

Middle Woodland Culture By most estimates, it was during Middle Woodland culture, generally sometime after 300 B.C., more than 2,000 years ago, that the most recognizable cultural and environmental changes took place in the American South. By the Middle Woodland period, settlements across the entire southern region often contained more than several hundred people, individuals living in stationary dwellings practically year-round. One of the main characteristics that distinguishes both Early and Middle Woodland cultural practices from Late Archaic traditions is the presence of much larger burial sites, which helped intensify interregional trade in exotic materials. Archaeologists have long regarded as archetypal those Middle Woodland sites with extensive ceremonial mound earthworks, most of which contained the graves of elite individuals buried with exotic mortuary gifts. Obtained through an extensive trade network covering most of the United States, many of these material goods came from the area north of the Ohio River, where Early Woodland Adena culture gradually evolved into the Middle Woodland Hopewell culture sometime after 200 A.D. The most infamous Hopewell site, the Newark Earthworks on the Licking River, covers no fewer than 4 square miles, and includes a 200-yard-long, 5-foot-high serpent mound. Hopewell cultural traditions would dominate the southern region for many centuries, influencing everything from subsistence activities and settlement patterns to funerary practices and pan-religious beliefs (Hudson 1976; Woodward and McDonald 2002; SEAC 2004). Corn or maize, originally a tropical cultigen, is also believed to have been first introduced as an agricultural crop during the Middle Woodland period. Possibly first acquired from Mexico or the American southwest via native trade routes, the earliest documented evidence of maize in the American South comes from maize pollen recovered in southern Alabama from the sediments of Lake Shelby. The pollen was radiocarbon-dated to be roughly 3,500 years old, making it the earliest confirmed report of maize in the southern region. It would be difficult to know exactly from which corn variety the pollen originated, however, as the wild maize commonly known as teosinte could have also been the source. By the Middle Woodland Period, the extant corn variety

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Southern United States: An Environmental History was, more accurately, a hard flint one, characterized by a smaller ear and numerous rows of round kernels. Resembling today’s popcorn, maize of this sort was never grown extensively during the Middle Woodland period, disappearing almost entirely from the archaeological record after 400 A.D. According to archaeologist Gayle Fritz, Middle Woodland farmers apparently did not consider maize an important food, “since they ate very little of it and continued to produce their native seed crops instead” (Fritz 2000, 233). Because maize cultivation generally requires clearing land for sowing, its introduction is important ecologically. Native Americans who grew it even sporadically would have intentionally cleared larger areas of their garden plots, a process that also likely involved preparing the soil in early spring by intentionally burning the land. In some areas of the American South, we do begin to see much larger areas surrounding major village sites being altered more by humans, a process that would have likely involved the local use of anthropogenic fire (Hudson 1976; Wear and Greis 2002; Delcourt 2002). It is also during the Middle Woodland period, more than 2,000 years ago, that bow-and-arrow technology was first introduced to the region. Obviously no one knows exactly where and when the new weapon was first used, but sometime after 200 B.C., Woodland peoples of the United States were experimenting with propelling arrows using long bent-wood bows outfitted with carefully braided bow-string. Obviously the revolutionary invention was not perfected overnight, as carrying a nonfunctional bowstave would have been a challenging proposition for serious hunters on the move. Because effective bow-making first requires a well-seasoned bowstave, it was only the more sedentary craftsman who could find time to both cure a wooden bow and then perfect the highly skilled art of archery. Once perfected, however, the advent of bow technology gave Native Americans of the American South the ability to hunt game with much greater efficiency, allowing them to dispatch a larger variety of mammal species from much greater distances. Some game populations obviously suffered more than others after the introduction of the bow-and-arrow, with white-tailed deer and wild turkey probably becoming the Woodland archer’s most soughtafter targets (Hudson 1976; Jones 2001; SEAC 2004). While the “Neolithic revolution” had given birth to the bow-and-arrow and other tools and weapons that would more permanently alter the southern landscape, one could argue that some of the accompanying environmental changes to the southern landscape were more social in origin; that is, they stemmed from the adoption of a more hierarchical political order in which elites were becoming important to larger numbers of human groups. The growing cultural importance of village “big-men” is reflected in the more exotic burial ceremonies involving single grave sites and increasingly larger earthworks. Many

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Holocene: Meltdown

Hopewell Indians gather maize and squash. (North Wind Picture Archive)

believe that the adoption of this new cultural system helped to decrease social and economic instability between adjoining clans participating in reciprocal trade, thus making the allocation of food and other important natural resources much more efficient. Whatever the reason for the important shift in village

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Southern United States: An Environmental History polity, Native Americans of the American South began embracing a much more sedentary and agricultural lifestyle at this time, which, in turn, yielded food surpluses and increases in local populations. First begun in the Early Woodland period, reciprocal trade also served as a valuable cultural mechanism to spread Hopewell-style earthworks and specialized burial artifacts across much of the southern region. So with the spread of Hopewell culture also came the clearance of more hectares for primitive agriculture, as well as the widespread manipulation of the growing village commons for ritualistic purposes. In Mississippi, Middle Woodland peoples built burial mounds that were dome-shaped structures generally ranging from about 3- to 18-feet high, with diameters of 50 to 100 feet. However, the Lake Cormorant culture of the Delta, during the so-called Marksville culture period, constructed a mound over 38 feet in height and more than 150 feet in diameter. Cypress logs more than 2 feet in diameter were used in the Lake Cormorant burial chambers, which were often lined with elaborate ceremonial artifacts and trade goods (Saikku 2001). The Lake Okeechobee area of south-central Florida also witnessed the construction of major earthworks between 1000 B.C. and 200 A.D., but these mounds were apparently used for horticultural purposes and were seldom used as burial sites. In some parts of the American South, stone structures replaced earthen ones, although the stone mounds were not always associated with elite burials. In the northern Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, for example, Stone Mound people placed hundreds of low stones in round clusters along high river terraces overlooking the nearby floodplain, for reasons that remain a mystery. At the Rock Eagle archaeology site in middle Georgia, thousands of stones were piled in the shape of a flying bird, an effigy representing perhaps an eagle or vulture. Charles C. Jones, the archeologist who documented the Rock Eagle mound in 1877, found the effigy 120 feet from head to toe and 102 feet from wingtip to wingtip. Amazingly, the rock image cannot be seen in its entirety from ground level, as if the design was made to be seen from above, by circling birds or perhaps by the bird-gods themselves (Hudson 1976; Milanich 1998a; Virginia Department of Historical Resources 2004). By 100 A.D., almost no one in the American South had escaped the cultural influence of the Hopewell people of the Middle Woodland period, most especially those southern Indians living nearest the Ohio River valley. In fact, Native Americans of the central Kentucky and western Tennessee Woodland cultures were fully participating in the Hopewellian trading network well before that period, exhibiting earthwork construction and similar burial practices by 100 B.C. Indeed, excavations throughout Kentucky and Tennessee have recovered numerous Hopewell-decorated ceramics, projectile points, and elaborate effigy items. On the other hand, western Georgia and eastern Alabama settlements were incorporated into the Hopewellian sphere of trade and cultural

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Holocene: Meltdown influence much later, so burial mounds generally appeared in those areas sometime after 200 A.D. Along the Gulf Coast, the local natives continued their more autonomous existence throughout the entire Middle Woodland culture period, participating in the Hopewellian trading network to a limited extent, but still constructing numerous low-lying burial mounds made of enormous quantities of sand and soil (Hudson 1976; Miller 1998; Jones 2001; SEAC 2004). Hopewell trading networks may have also been responsible for the first introduction of tobacco (Nicotiana rustica L.) to the region, a plant that many biologists now consider to be native to the Andes of South America. Although paleoecologist Tim Flannery believes that the plant migrated north during the Pleistocene with sloths and other megafauna, it is more likely that the seeds first entered the region as a result of trade with Native Americans in Mesoamerica, as Mayans had clearly adopted tobacco-smoking by that time (Flannery 2001). Archaeologist Gayle Fritz believes that the first tobacco varieties in the American South may have even been brought there from the western United States, a hypothesis largely corroborated when seeds are subjected to high-tech electron microscopy and compared to varieties commonly found in California and Oregon archaeological records. Seeds excavated in Ohio and Illinois date the plant in that region as early as 100 A.D., although most archaeological excavations suggest that tobacco was not more commonly grown in the American South for several more centuries. When tobacco was commonly smoked by Middle Woodland Indians, it was done so in clay pipes made specifically for the purpose, and appeared to have more ritualistic, as opposed to merely recreational, significance (Hudson 1976; Brown 1997; Fritz 2000). Regardless of its exact origins, planting and harvesting small plots of tobacco would have become a much more common cultural practice during the Middle Woodland period, requiring some isolated soil disturbance on the part of those individuals growing the plant.

Late Woodland Culture By 300 A.D., many Middle Woodland Indians of the American South could claim to be among the most skilled and successful hunters, fishermen, and gardeners on the North American continent. They had conquered nature to a very large degree, and were now living in material conditions that would suggest a much more promising future. Strangely, the sun was about set on the Middle Woodland culture, because many Native American communities began declining in social and political importance, starting a nearly region-wide trend that would last for several centuries. Although the reasons for the cultural decline are generally not well documented, a 1996 report by the Southeast Archeological Center

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Southern United States: An Environmental History presents three possible explanations: “First,” states the report, “populations increased beyond the point of carrying capacity of the land, and, as the trade system broke down, clans resorted to raiding rather than trading with other territories to acquire important resources.” Another possibility, say the authors, is “the rapid replacement” of the Late Archaic spear and atlatl with the newer bow-andarrow technology, which would have “decimated the large game animals, interrupting the hunting component of food procurement and resulting in settlements breaking down into smaller units to subsist on local resources.” Finally, Middle Woodland horticulture may have become so successful that “agricultural production may have reduced variation in food resource availability between differing areas.” Their over-reliance on horticulture, concludes the report, “would have carried with it a risk where variations in rainfall or climate could cause famine or shortages” (SEAC 1996). Cooler weather may have also been the culprit, as temperatures across the American South dropped considerably after 400 A.D., which would have made horticulture more difficult as well as affected both small and large game populations (Carroll et al. 2002). Whatever the real reasons for the cultural impoverishment of the period, after 500 A.D. the archeological record reveals a sharp decline in the construction of Middle Woodland burial mounds in both the Ohio River valley and Upper South. Predictably, the decline in the construction of burial mounds was also accompanied by a disruption in the trade of exotic materials and effigy goods over much of the southern region. Some settlements in the region were abandoned entirely; others possibly sought recruits from other tribes, or perhaps engaged in direct warfare with them. By 600 A.D., some Native American groups of the now Late Woodland culture had partially recovered from the social decline, perhaps even benefiting from newer varieties of maize, beans, and squash that were gaining economic importance in the region. There also appears to be a noticeable increase in the total number of Late Woodland village sites across the American South, indicating an overall population increase. These factors alone tell us that for some areas, the Late Woodland period was also an expansive one, especially in the Deep South where several communities seemed to have been largely unaffected by the Hopewellian cultural collapse (Hudson 1976; Kane and Keeton 1998; Pluckhahn 2003). One of the most successful Late Woodland communities in the southern region was the Kolomoki settlement in southwest Georgia, today one of the oldest Indian mound sites in the state. Here, sometime after 250 A.D., Woodland Indians began constructing large earthworks, the largest a formidable structure 56 feet tall and 325 feet wide. Probably built to house a small temple, the primary mound is so large that archaeologists once believed the site to be Mississippian in origin, attributing the mound to those Native Americans who would, centuries later,

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Three carved effigy pipes left by the Moundbuilder culture. (MPI/Getty Images)

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Southern United States: An Environmental History replace the Woodland peoples of the southern region (Sears 1973). Located on Kolomoki Creek, about 6 miles from its confluence with the much larger Chattahoochee River, the site proper features some nine mounds, two of which served as burial grounds, on more than 300 acres. Several of the more recently excavated burial mounds contained specially made funeral pottery, shell beads from the Gulf of Mexico, and other ceremonial objects including many artfully crafted animal effigies. At Kolomoki’s peak around 700 A.D., perhaps more than 2,000 people lived in and around the central township (Hudson 1976; Kane and Keeton 1998; Pluckhahn 2003). The archaeological record also reveals that Kolomoki peoples frequently used the surrounding uplands, including forested areas far away from the slower moving Chattahoochee River. In fact, the Late Archaic and Early Woodland inhabitants of southwest Georgia may have used nonriverine environments more often and productively than any other group in North American prehistory, suggests archaeologist Thomas H. Gresham, who carefully reviewed four archaeological surveys encompassing more than 8,000 acres in and around the Kolomoki area (Gresham and Ethridge 1989). The Baytown peoples of the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta are another important Late Woodland culture group of the American South, but they, unlike those Indians living at Kolomoki, remained much more dependent on meandering river ecosystems. According to environmental historian Mikko Saikku, the Baytown culture did become increasingly dependent on horticulture, but still relied heavily on native plants, as the remnants of hickory shells, acorns, walnuts, grapes, and persimmons are commonly found at numerous archaeological sites in the area. Baytown villages housed upwards of fifty individuals, the general population threshold for many Late Woodland settlements along the southern Mississippi river at the time. Their settlements were also much more dispersed and earthwork centers were largely nonexistent. After 400 A.D., the so-called Troyville peoples became dominant in northern Louisiana, southern Arkansas, and areas of the lower Mississippi River valley, a Woodland culture that continued the tradition of mound building, but only for ceremonial centers and generally not for burial purposes (Saikku 2001). Finally, both the Baytown and Troyville cultures were eclipsed by the Coles Creek society, a people who dominated the entire lower Mississippi River valley after 700 A.D., and who constructed and maintained impressive temple mound complexes with surrounding open plazas. Coles Creek peoples also located their settlements along major waterways, which seemed to reflect a renewed interest in establishing interregional trade networks (Cowdrey 1983; SEAC 2004). By the Late Woodland era, most southern natives had clearly mastered most hunting and gathering practices, recognizing which indigenous plants they could eat without fear of poisoning, and when and where to hunt and capture a range

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Holocene: Meltdown of mammals, birds, and reptiles. Their arrowheads and arrow shafts became much more refined, as was their ability to launch them at targets from greater distances. Native Americans of the American South intimately understood animals and animal behavior—their daily comings and goings—because not acquiring those important skills might mean the difference between a successful hunt and going without food for several days. They also continued selecting plant seeds for propagation, adding cultigens such as maygrass, knotweed, squash, and goosefoot to their diets as deemed necessary. Corn was still not commonplace in many parts of the American South, but would become much more so after 700 A.D., as it does throughout much of the eastern United States. Wooden hoes with large stone blades, as well as digging and planting sticks were also becoming part of their daily technological tool chest. The stone celt, an improved axe first introduced sometime during the Middle Woodland period, also became much more widespread at this time, giving the Late Woodland Indian the ability to clear much larger areas of the local landscape (Virginia Department of Historic Resources 2004). One of the very first peoples to fully incorporate maize into their horticultural and dietary regimen were the Plum Bayou people who inhabited the lower Arkansas River valley near the modern city of Little Rock, Arkansas. Around 700 A.D., the Plum Bayou people, like many natives across the American South, had developed a culture based on temple mound ceremonialism that was supported almost entirely by hunting and the cultivation of native crops. According to evidence gleaned from the archaeological record, sometime after 700 A.D., natives at the Tolmec Mounds site left behind numerous corncobs laden with kernels and even more corn kernels at a nearby midden mound. According to anthropologist Gayle Fritz, the fact the kernels were found with large numbers of deer bones suggests the corn was eaten at an important feasting event, linking its early use to important social and ritual developments of the Late Woodland Period. Fritz finds it curious, however, that Coles Creek peoples further south in northern Louisiana, who were culturally related to their Plum Bayou neighbors, did not apparently sow maize for several more centuries, instead relying on “acorns, pecans, persimmons, and Chenopodium for most of their plant-food intake.” True, after about 750 A.D. the use of corn does increase at most archeological sites, but there is little indication that maize, at least in the American South, played anything but a minor role in the subsistence practices of Late Woodland populations (Fritz 2000, 239). The Weeden Island peoples of northern Florida are perhaps the one exception, although here we are clearly talking about a transitional culture that could be classified more properly as proto-Mississippian. Developed out of the Swift Creek and St. John’s cultures of the Late Woodland period, Weeden Island culture

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Platform mound (39 feet high) of the Plum Bayou people (a Woodlands culture), Toltec Mounds Archaeological State Park, Arkansas. (North Wind Picture Archive)

quickly spread throughout much of the eastern Gulf Coast and northern interior of Florida, including the area now contained in the Gulf Islands National Seashore (SEAC 2004). Weeden Island culture was characterized by the construction of large burial mounds often containing funerary goods interred with the dead in the very same manner practiced by Middle and Late Woodland cultures. The subsistence strategies of the Weeden Island cultures included hunting, fishing, and collecting wild plant foods and shellfish. After 800 A.D., maize horticulture appears to account for a good portion of their annual food supply. In fact, corn and squash motifs were even incorporated into their material culture, as clay and stone effigies from local burial sites commonly bear representations of both crops. As a display of their political power, the Weeden Island culture also undertook the construction of some of the largest flat-topped platform mounds in the entire region, several rivaling those at Kolomoki in southeast Georgia. Weeden Island mounds served mostly as large burial complexes, although some of the largest structures served as the principle homesites for village leaders (Milanich 1994; Miller 1998).

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Holocene: Meltdown

MISSISSIPPIAN CULTURE Around 800 A.D., a new cultural tradition was spreading across much of the American South, one that would also manifest itself environmentally. Known by archaeologists and anthropologists as Mississippian, the new social order was based partly on larger and more prolific strains of corn arriving from the Southwest and partly on the widespread acceptance of a more centralized political authority. These cultural and social changes would, once again, not happen universally, with some areas of the American South experiencing the transition well before others. In fact, some Late Woodland cultures such as the Colington (historic Algonkian) and Cashie (historic Tuscarora), in areas of coastal North Carolina and Virginia, did not fully adopt Mississippian cultural practices until well after 900 A.D. Those more isolated cultural groups remained essentially unchanged until 1520 A.D., at the time of the first European arrivals to the southern region. In the southern Appalachians, the Late Woodland phenomenon involving a more sedentary lifestyle and reliance on horticulture was largely invisible, as natives of the mountains apparently made the transition directly from Middle Woodland to Mississippi subsistence culture in a matter of a few centuries (Hudson 1997; Benyshek 2002; Silver 2003). In some areas of the American South, Archaic and Woodland cultural practices continued for yet another millennia, even extending well into the historic period. The Tequesta peoples of the southeast Coast of Florida, for example, continued to subsist by plant-food collecting, fishing, hunting, and shellfish gathering into the early seventeenth century (McGoun 2002). Globally speaking, the environmental change that occurred during the Holocene period was significant, yet hardly irreversible from an ecological perspective. As during the Pleistocene, most changes in the southern landscape were induced by nature, not humankind. Locally, however, Woodland Indians did move tons of earth and stone to construct their many ceremonial and burial complexes, and many of those structures are still visible today. Thus most human-induced environmental changes during the Holocene were restricted to those areas immediately surrounding village settlements. Besides ceremonial mounds and dwellings, gardens and fields account for the most obvious anthropogenically caused landscape changes for the entire period. Due to the lack of intensive maize cultivation throughout the Holocene, it is doubtful that one could find any fields larger than several acres intentionally sown or cultivated with native plants. Isolated burning likely occurred after 500 B.C., but under highly controlled conditions to avoid damaging homes, villages, and important wildlife habitat. Anthropogenically caused wildfires certainly may have altered the landscape in some

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Southern United States: An Environmental History areas, however, and may account for some increases in certain pine species during the Late Archaic period. The hotter and drier climate was an important factor in altering forest composition in the Deep South, as naturally occurring wildfires most certainly escalated during the last Hypsithermal climate event. Paleoecologist Patricia Cridlebaugh believes that there is enough archaeological evidence to demonstrate the use of human-caused fire in the Tennessee Valley during the Late Woodland era, an argument based on the large numbers of disturbance plant species showing up in the archaeological record. At Tuskegee Pond near the Little Tennessee River, for example, ragweed comprised as much as 30 percent of the species growing near the village site at Icehouse Bottoms, indicating a very open landscape—as ragweed is a very shade intolerant species. At a location 4 miles away, in the higher uplands, ragweed comprised only 4 percent of the pollen remains, suggesting that the clearings nearer the river were done by humans. In my view, the increase of disturbance species at Tuskegee does not in itself suggest burning, but rather clearing that could have also been done naturally by spring flooding or simply accomplished with the human hand without the use of fire. Nevertheless, the evidence is irrefutable when it comes to the presence of disturbance weed and tree species in Late Woodland villages, suggesting that Native Americans across the American South were indeed altering local ecosystems in important ways (Cridlebaugh 1984; Davis 2000; Delcourt 2002). Late Woodland Indians perhaps also altered their surrounding environment by creating semi-domesticated tree orchards, particularly given the importance of nut and fruit trees in their diet. Managed groves of hickory, butternut, walnut, chestnut, pecan, plums, and mulberries were likely “located within several kilometers of villages and towns” and were enhanced by optimal spacing or removing saplings and poor producers (Fritz 2000, 242). This phenomenon was clearly observed by the first Europeans to explore the region, and is discussed in greater detail in Chapter 3. Freshwater shellfishing perhaps did the most damage to the environment of the American South, as the resource must have appeared inexhaustible to both the Archaic and Woodland peoples. It is not surprising that shellfishing rights may have been the cause of the first major disputes among the natives of the region, perhaps initiating long-term conflicts, as suggested by anthropologist Charles Hudson. Of course, the annual catch would have been somewhat controlled by greatly fluctuating populations, which probably never exceeded more than 250,000 individuals for the entire southern region (Fritz 2000). After the bow-and-arrow was first introduced during the Middle Woodland period, deer and small mammal populations were also likely affected, but could have rebounded in some areas such as the Tennessee

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Holocene: Meltdown Valley, where the American chestnut was becoming a much more important tree in the upland forest ecosystem. As chestnuts multiplied in the surrounding woodlands, deer and elk would have also likely increased in numbers, due to the incredible amounts of masts the prolific trees produce. The American chestnut would have also provided humans with an additional source of protein and calories, making hunting less of a necessity in places where large quantities of the nuts could be stored for winter. Rivers, and certainly freshwater, played a major role in the development of the prehistoric American South, as those settlements located near large bodies of freshwater seemed to flourish. It appears that the fish and shellfish served as an important alternative to agriculture, with settlements such as those at Poverty Point rising to great heights during the Late Archaic period, remarkably without the assistance of maize cultivation. Later, the southern region’s largest rivers would become less important as village sites, because the locations for many settlements shifted to secondary tributaries such as Kolomoki Creek, where the Kolomoki township rose to great cultural importance. Caves and rock shelters also became much less significant by the Middle Woodland period, with places like Russell Cave in northeast Alabama being used almost exclusively as a winter hunting camp. As human populations increased over the Late Woodland period, settlements also became more permanent, causing the interaction between people and plants to greatly intensify. Soon, one plant in particular—maize— would become the single most important crop in the American South. This single plant would usher in a new era of human interactions with nature in the region, a period that would be marked by both intensive corn cultivation and the widespread construction of large earthen temple mounds. In retrospect, the development of human subsistence strategies and the subsequent landscape changes during the Holocene epoch were much more fluid in the region than perhaps archaeologists and anthropologists would have us believe. Over the millennium, Archaic and Woodland hunters became increasingly cognizant of the habits of game animals, developing, in erratic fits and starts, new and improved technologies and strategies to hunt, trap, spear, and shoot their intended prey. They ate increasingly larger quantities of indigenous fruit, nuts, and berries, and learned and marked the location of edible species in both their daily and seasonal travels. Later, Woodland agriculturalists carefully sowed the best seeds from a diverse range of crops, a practice leading, over time, to the domestication of several important plant species. Both peoples seasonally occupied campsites and left behind organically rich trash middens, areas that, in turn, provided ideal habitats for both wild plants and domesticates alike. Perennially drawn to the major river valleys of the region, Native American people of the

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Southern United States: An Environmental History American South returned again and again to those areas they considered key locations, taking advantage of the great biological diversity that was, and still is, the southern landscape. Having chosen a more sedentary lifestyle, many Woodland Indians in the region were now ready to call a single territory home and defend it against their enemies with great will and conviction.

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3 MOUNDVILLE: ENTER ZEA MAYS Donald E. Davis

B

y 900 A.D., much of the southern region had fully entered a new period of environmental history, an era commonly referred to as Mississippian by cultural anthropologists. Distinguished by the prevalence of large pyramidal earthen mounds and paramount chiefs who ruled over large areas of the American South, the seven-century reign of the Mississippian Indians is one of the most fascinating periods chronicled in this volume. The Mississippian period is so-called because its cultural center was located along the wide bottomlands of the Mississippi River at Cahokia, near present-day St. Louis, Missouri. Cahokia was a vast complex of large earthen mounds and agricultural terraces that may have supported as many as 30,000 individuals at its peak. Around 1200 A.D., at its cultural zenith, the city covered nearly 6 square miles and featured hundreds of small houses arranged in neat rows around large open plazas. Monk’s Mound, the tallest earthwork at Cahokia, had a rectangular base of some 15 acres and stood nearly 100 feet tall at it summit. Its construction no doubt required an obedient labor force and highly centralized political authority unlike that seen anywhere else in North America. Astronomical, mathematical, and engineering knowledge were obviously used in the planning and construction of Cahokia, as the city’s remarkable geometric plan is recognizable by even the most casual observer visiting the site today (Young and Fowler 1999; Chappell 2002; Pauketat 2005).

SPREAD OF MISSISSIPPIAN CULTURE While some scholars speak of a cultural “big bang” emanating from Cahokia around 1050 A.D., Mississippian cultural practices had already begun to spread southward and eastward more than two centuries earlier (Hudson 1976; Delcourt 1993; Pauketat and Emerson 1997; Pauketat 2005). Moreover, many

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Southern United States: An Environmental History native townships across the American South in the Late Woodland period were already politically centralized, as many were controlled by a single chief or clan. By the early Mississippian period, however, hundreds of large mounds were being constructed across the entire region, from Louisiana to northern Arkansas and from central Florida to southwest Virginia. More and more native settlements were also beginning to be organized like true chiefdoms, that is, centralized city-states reigning over large territories encompassing many towns and villages (Smith 1978; Widmer 1994; Anderson 1994; King 2004). And although large temple mounds were not unheard of in earlier periods of Native American history, by the Mississippian period the earthen structures had become truly enormous monuments requiring moving literally thousands of tons of earth. Indeed, Mississippian temple-mound pyramids were generally much larger than most earlier mound structures in the region, many covering 4 or 5 acres and measuring more than 60 feet in height. Mississippian temple mounds were also perfectly level atop their wide summits and possessed broad pyramidal bases aligned exactly toward the four cardinal directions (Anderson 1994; King 2003; Kane and Keeton 2003). Around 1000 A.D., along the Black Warrior River near present-day Tuscaloosa, Alabama, arose what would become one of the most impressive Mississippian settlements in the American South. Known commonly today as Moundville, by 1200 A.D. the Mississippian township was second only to Cahokia in size and complexity, and featured a central plaza containing several large mounds, including a pyramid known today as Mound B, which rises to 60 feet in height. By modern estimates, 4 million cubic feet of earth was used to construct the gigantic mound, a structure that, after the cultural collapse of Cahokia around 1300 A.D., could claim to be the architectural centerpiece of North America’s largest city

The Cahokia Mounds at their height, located in present-day Illinois near St. Louis. (Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, painting by Michael Hampshire)

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Moundville: Enter Zea Mays (Anderson 1994; Knight et al. 1998). Surrounding the main plaza were numerous other paired mounds, including ones used for burials or as the residences of village elites. Together, the 300-acre community was home to a population of around 1,000 people, although another 9,000 individuals lived in the surrounding valley outside the main village walls (Anderson 1994; Hudson 1997; Knight 2004). Archaeological evidence reveals that white-tailed deer was the most commonly consumed meat at the Moundville site, although turkey, beaver, and raccoon were eaten in large quantities as well (Welch 1991). Atop Mississippian temple mounds lived the principal ruler or chief, an individual who was believed to have been “descended from the solar deity via a line of past rulers” (Korp 1990, 26). Ordained with sacred priestly powers, most Mississippian chiefs were not true despots, although they sometimes unleashed harsh and cruel punishment on anyone challenging their political or religious authority. At Moundville, about 5 percent of the total population were considered elite, which likely meant that they were directly related to the chief and his immediate family. All were given special social privileges, including being interred on death with lavishly crafted mortuary goods. In fact, the presence of exotic burial items at Moundville and other population centers in the American South provides ample evidence of the important role that skilled artisans played in Mississippian culture. To be sure, the presence of skilled artisans specializing in craft production demonstrates how the hierarchical polity of the Mississippian chiefdom had become much more influential in restructuring daily life. Some scholars, in fact, believe that the political power of the chief was actually derived from his control over the trade and manufacture of these so-called prestige goods (Widmer 1994; Hudson 1997; Davis 2000). At Moundville, like at most other emerging Mississippian townships in the region, principal chiefs demanded tribute from their own and surrounding villages, offerings usually payable in agricultural products such as maize. In return for large quantities of corn, the chief would offer protection to the villagers from enemy invaders or just simply allow them to live in relative peace until the following year (Hudson 1976; Anderson 1994; Knight et al. 1998; Smith 2000). As an easily stored tribute offering, corn gradually became the most important agricultural crop of the Mississippian, especially in areas where fish and game were much scarcer commodities. Indeed, adopting more intensive maize cultivation helped establish much larger human populations in the region and thus a much greater need for a larger and more continuous food supply—which apparently only domesticated tropical corn could provide. By most estimates, however, populations in the region did grow very rapidly during this period, exceeding earlier human carrying capacities in some areas by several fold (Smith 1978; Dobyns 1983; Anderson 1994; Hudson 1997). The intensification of corn

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Southern United States: An Environmental History cultivation across the region may have been ultimately responsible for creating the larger and more centralized Mississippian chiefdom, as opposed to being merely an agricultural by-product of the newly emerging social order. This is largely the thinking of archaeologist David G. Anderson, who has argued that “Mississippian culture failed to spread everywhere across the East . . . because it was an ideology tied to an organizational form—the chiefdom—and an economic foundation—intensive maize agriculture” (Anderson 1994, 288–289).

Maize Cultivation among the Mississippians Regardless of the main reason for corn’s ascendancy in the lives of Mississippians, by 900 A.D. maize cultivation had spread across the American South, becoming an agricultural mainstay in most parts of the region. After 1000 A.D., virtually every human being living in the southern United States would touch their lips to a cob of corn at some time in their lives. Corn varieties had changed dra-

A Mississippian village located at Rucker’s Bottom, on the Savannah River in South Carolina. (Painting by Martin Pate, Newnan, GA. Courtesy Southeast Archaeological Center, National Park Service)

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Moundville: Enter Zea Mays matically since the plant was first introduced to the region a millennia earlier, so the maize of the early Mississippian era was vastly different from that grown and consumed during the Late Woodland archaeological period. According to several noted ethnobotanists, around 800 A.D. tropical flint corn was largely replaced by a variety known today as eastern flint corn, a more highly developed maize that germinates in cooler and moister conditions and produces much greater yields. Northern flint corn was introduced or developed a century or two later, an even larger corn variety possessing ears and kernels not unlike those of modern type cultivars having eight to ten rows of large round kernels (Nabhan 1989; Hudson 1997; Fritz 2000). Even though they might produce smaller yields, many Mississippians continued to grow earlier adopted corn varieties, as they matured at different times of the year and provided different uses such as for roasting or grinding into meal. While it is not known if the Mississippians consciously attempted to aggressively maintain pure strains of corn, the presence of different colored kernels in the archaeological record suggests that genetic mixing occurred even when varieties were planted separately. Without question, the widespread adoption of corn cultivation not only influenced the social and political order of the region, it would also help change the southern environment in new and unique ways (Hudson 1976, 1997; Davis 1993; Delcourt 2002; Delcourt and Delcourt 2004). In fact, widespread maize cultivation was responsible for perhaps the greatest environmental changes to the region since the end of the Hypsithermal 4,000 years earlier. In some parts of the American South, to feed 1,000 Mississippians each year required planting nearly 1,000 acres of corn (a square mile equals 640 acres). In the Tennessee Valley, where corn yields sometimes rose to as high as 30 bushels per acre, less land was needed, but still roughly nine-tenths of an acre of corn might still be annually planted for each member of the village community (Baden 1987; Davis 2000). This kind of intensive corn cultivation also required the land to be completely free of weeds and underbrush. And because corn seed must be sown in relatively barren soil to effectively germinate, the ground would have to be prepared in late winter or early spring by intentional burning. Repeated sowing and burning meant that for several miles upstream and downstream from many Mississippian settlements, the river-bottom landscape had become a treeless plain broken only by wide and imposing canebrakes and occasional fruit and nut trees. Periodic burning also fertilized the soil, thereby increasing nitrogen levels and improving yields. John Brickell, the author of The Natural History of North Carolina, observed that Indians in the Carolinas “never Dung their Land, but set fire to their weeds, which makes very good manure” (Brickell 1968, 273). Those Apalachees who inhabited the area near present-day Tallahassee, Florida, provide additional evidence of the importance of intentionally set fires in southern corn

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Southern United States: An Environmental History cultivation. Unlike those Mississippian Indians who exclusively farmed the easily worked alluvial soils along major river bottoms, Apalachees farmed the drier hilltops high above the rivers and swamps of the Gulf coastal plain. According to anthropologist Charles Hudson, Apalachees burned their cornfields each January, principally to “clear away brush and weeds” (Hudson 1997, 123). Sixteenthcentury eyewitness accounts even associate the burn with a particular kind of hunt, an annual event referred to by the Spanish conquistador Hernando de Soto as a hurimelas or junemelas. According to de Soto, the cornfield that was to be burned was first surrounded by men and women, both the young and the old. After the field was set ablaze, the small mammals running from the smoke and flames would become easy targets for the many waiting marksmen who used everything from stones to bows-and-arrows to capture the fleeing quarry. Once the ashes had sufficiently cooled, the men would then prepare the communal fields for spring planting, leaving the women and children to tend the maize as it grew and ripened. Later in the summer, the corn would be worked with hoe or hand, a process that also involved raking small mounds of earth around the many hills of corn (Hann 1988; Davis 1993; Hudson 1997). Of course, the growing season influenced the timing of the corn planting during the Mississippian period, which in more northern latitudes did not occur until after the last frost in April or May. Only after the threat of frost clearly passed were villagers collectively summoned by the paramount chief or principal overseer, who in some parts of the American South gathered the workers together by blowing into a large conch shell. Ethnologist John Swanton actually observed this cultural practice among the Creeks of the early Creek Confederacy, a people who maintained many Mississippian cultural practices well into the historic period. According to Swanton, the care of the fields was under the charge of an elected overseer, “who called the men to the square by going through the village blowing upon a conch shell and then marched in order to the field as if they were going to battle, headed by that over seer.” The women, whose participation was central to the successful completion of the planting, apparently “followed in detached parties bearing the provisions of the day” (Swanton 1928, 436). Before the Natchez people (also of the historic period) planted their maize seed, it was first sanctified by the paramount chief, a ritual that was likely common in the southern region prior to European contact (Swanton 1928; Hudson 1976). For all Mississippians, the planting of maize was an important annual event requiring the coordination of hundreds of laborers; for some, the ritual possessed even quasi-religious overtones. Once the maize crop was harvested, Mississippians had many uses for corn, including treating it with lye made from water-soaked wood ashes to make a form of hominy. Using large wooden mortars and pestles, the hominy was then

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ground into a moist gruel that was similar to modern grits. Early corn—there were often two plantings—was most often eaten green, or roasted slowly in the husks over hot coals. Late corn, which was eaten through the winter in the form of meal or bread, comprised the bulk of the maize crop and received considerable care until it was placed in final storage in the autumn (Dobyns 1983; Hudson 1990, 1997; Fussell 1992). After the ears of maize were gathered and dried, they were then carefully placed in large granaries, elevated corn cribs that kept the maize from being eaten by mice and other vermin. In fact, the four posts supporting the granary were often rubbed so smooth by the Mississippians that rats and mice could not climb them. English naturalist John Lawson, who traveled through the Carolinas during the early eighteenth century, provided one of the first written descriptions of the elevated storage bins. According to Lawson, the granaries were supported “with eight feet of posts, about seven feet high from the ground, well daub’d within and without upon laths, with loom or clay, which makes them tight, and fit to keep out the smallest insect, there being a

Theodor de Bry’s 1591 engraving of Florida Indians delivering corn to a storage granary. (Stapleton Collection/Corbis)

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Southern United States: An Environmental History small door at the gable end, which is made from the same composition” (Lefler 1967, 23–24).

Beans and Squash Despite its significance to Mississippian life, corn was certainly not the only agricultural crop widely grown in the region. Common varieties of beans were also planted in large quantities after being first introduced into the region sometime after the end of the twelfth century. Proof of elaborate Mississippian trade networks, most pole and common beans have their agricultural origins in Mexico or in the Central American highlands, where many varieties were domesticated prior to 5000 B.C. (Heiser 1973; Cridlebaugh 1984; Nabhan 1989; Davis 1993; Fritz 2000). Most Mississippians simply planted pole beans directly in cornfields, encouraging the plants to climb randomly among the stalks of corn. Those bean varieties that were not planted among the corn hillocks could be planted beneath stalks of river cane or in separate garden plots near their homes. Pole and bush beans not only complemented the lysine-poor diet of the Mississippian, but also helped to fix nitrogen in southern soils. However they were planted, pole and bush beans would soon dominate the agricultural landscape of the Mississippians, especially those groups living in the Tennessee and Coosa river valleys. In July of 1540, the Gentleman of Elvas of the de Soto expedition reported seeing growing in the fields of northwest Georgia “a great quantity of maize and beans” that completely stretched “from one town to the other” (Gentleman of Elvas 1933, 116). The third most important crops of southern Indians were squashes. In many parts of the American South, squash and pumpkins were sliced into thin sections after they were harvested, and then strung on long cords to dry in the warm autumn sun. The seeds of both plants were also eaten regularly, not only because they possessed important nutritional value, but also because they were thought to eliminate harmful parasites from the body. Squashes took several forms, the most common being the ordinary field pumpkin, a much smaller and paler variety than what is commonly grown for commercial markets today. Wild gourds, which apparently first appeared in North America around 1000 B.C., were also grown as were several squash varieties resembling today’s cushaws (Carrier 1923; Delcourt 2002; Flannery 2001; Fritz 2000). In fact, there is ample archaeological evidence to show that nearly all squash and pumpkin varieties originated from wild cucurbita gourds. According to archaeologist Bruce Smith, a wild gourd native to the Ozark region of Arkansas and Missouri is the living ancestor of most modern varieties of summer squash (Smith 1997, 932).

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Moundville: Enter Zea Mays Additional Dietary Elements Taken together, corn, beans, and squash comprised the so-called agricultural trinity of Mississippian subsistence culture. Consequently, the increased emphasis on growing those crops during the eleventh and twelfth centuries certainly meant that Mississippians spent less time in surrounding forests than did earlier native peoples of the American South, though clearly traditional hunting and gathering practices were still important events in their lives. Mississippians’ diets did remain relatively varied for more than three centuries, however, as individuals across much of the region consumed everything from fish and turtles to whitetailed deer and turkeys. Nor were indigenous weed crops entirely abandoned by the Mississippians; seeds from sunflowers, chenopodium, knotweed, and sumpweed or marsh elder continued to be commonly consumed, though increasingly as seasonal dietary supplements (Hudson 1976; Nabhan 1989; Delcourt 2002). Of these, the sunflower was perhaps most important, as it had become nearly a fully domesticated crop by the late Mississippian period. Today, the common sunflower appears in three forms: wild, weed, and cultigen, the latter being the popular variety grown in home gardens. The sunflower grown by the Mississippians of the American South more closely resembled the first two forms, having seeds about half the size of today’s commercially grown sunflowers. In 1585, Thomas Harriot wrote of sunflowers he observed on Roanoke Island, Virginia: “There is another great herb, in the form of a marigold, about six foot in height, the head of the flower is a span of nine inches in breadth. Some take it to be planta solis: Of the seeds hereof they make both a kinde of bread and broth” (Harriot 1972, 60). The showy flower heads quickly attracted the attention of the first English settlers, who began to relate numerous tales about the ability of the flower to directly face the sun at all hours of the day. Indigenous plants were also extremely important to the Mississippians of the American South, as they continued harvesting foods growing naturally in abandoned old fields or along the disturbed edges of the surrounding woodlands. When in season, passion flower, morning-glory roots, and the wild fruits of the honey locust, persimmon, chickasaw plum, red mulberry, wild cherry, and the muscadine grape were taken in great quantities. Mississippians were also more fully involved in what agriculturalists refer to today as permaculture, the selective cultivation of fruit-bearing trees and shrubs. At the village known as Conasaga, for example, a Mississippian town located in the vicinity of Hot Springs, North Carolina, the Gentleman of Elvas noted an abundant supply of mulberries, walnuts, and plums as well as the many trees on which these native fruits grow. As de Soto and his army of 600 men approached the town, “twenty Indians came out to meet him carrying baskets of mulberries which grow in abundance . . . from Cofitachequi

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Southern United States: An Environmental History [near present-day Camden, South Carolina] thither and also onto other provinces, as well as walnuts and plums . . . as large and as vigorous as if they were cultivated in gardens” (Gentleman of Elvas 1933, 103). Not an isolated event, such trees were seen on many occasions in the southern interior, including along the St. Francis River near Memphis, where Garcilaso de la Vega, also of the de Soto expedition, observed mulberry and persimmon trees “scattered about as if tended in orchards”(de la Vega 1951, 430; Hudson 1997). Later eyewitness accounts also suggest that the shell- and shag-bark hickory was another tree commonly grown in orchard-like settings during the late Mississippian period. William Bartram observed such trees in the eighteenth century at an abandoned Mississippian village site along the Savannah River, where he saw numerous Creek Indians collecting and storing great quantities of the nuts. “Though these are native [trees] of the forest,” wrote Bartram, “they thrive better, and are more fruitful, in cultivated plantations.” Bartram added that he had “seen above a hundred pounds of these nuts belonging to one family,” individuals who apparently prepared the nut meats by pounding them to pieces and then casting them into boiling water. Afterwards, recounts Bartram, the mixture was passed through fine strainers, which separated “the most oily part of the liquid: this they call by a name which signifies hiccory milk; it is sweet and rich as fresh cream, and it is an ingredient in most of their cookery” (Bartram 1928, 57). According to Charles Hudson, one hundred pounds of hickory nuts produced “one gallon of hickory milk,” signifying the need to gather vast quantities of the nuts (Hudson 1976, 301). Of course, Mississippians prepared and ate nut meats of all kinds, including black walnuts, butternuts, chinkapins, and chestnuts. In general, however, nut meats became less and less important with the rise of corn consumption in the America South, although chestnuts remained an important food source in the Appalachian uplands well into historic times, as did hickory nuts and walnuts in the Piedmont and pecans in the Mississippi Delta. Because of the cultural importance of nut and fruit trees, Mississippians would have not likely have been engaged in the indiscriminate cutting of bottomland hardwood forests, especially the largest nut and oak trees which generally produce the largest quantities of mast. Cutting the biggest trees would have been physically difficult anyway, although Mississippians had probably learned from beavers how to quickly kill even big trees by simply girdling the bark. As John Lawson observed in North Carolina, agricultural Indians there did not clear and cultivate the most fertile lands along major rivers, as the removal of bottomland hardwoods “presented too great an inconvenience” (Lawson 1960; White 1983; Saikku 2001, 105). Low-lying areas that often flooded would have certainly remained untouched, as would bottomlands along secondary rivers

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Moundville: Enter Zea Mays and smaller streams far from human settlements. So outside of those immediate areas where intensive corn cultivation was practiced, old-growth forests predominated. An important exception was, of course, those immediate areas around beaver ponds, a riverine ecosystem that was much more common in the American South prior to European settlement (Silver 1990; Cowdrey 1983).

CONSEQUENCES OF A MIXED SUBSISTENCE ECONOMY In sum, one could say that Mississippians practiced what most environmental historians would call a mixed subsistence economy; they combined intensive agriculture with hunting-and-gathering practices as seasonal dictates allowed. However, in some areas of the American South, neither intensive agriculture nor the Mississippian way of life had a major influence on native subsistence strategies, including large areas of eastern Texas and some parts of coastal North Carolina and Virginia. In northeast Louisiana, Mississippians there seemed to resist intensive corn cultivation until sometime after 1200 A.D., relying up to that point in time on those fishing-hunting-gathering economies that had served them so well in the past (Saikku 2001; Fritz 2000). Nor can we assume that the Mississippian way of life was a vast improvement over earlier periods of human history in the region. The adoption of maize as a principle crop had numerous drawbacks, including the likelihood of mass famines, lowered life expectancy, increased malnutrition, and dental problems such as cavities. Because of northern flint corn’s much higher yields, when the crop was successful over a number of seasons, there was generally a marked and sustained increase in human populations. However, if inclement weather or some other natural disaster caused the entire corn crop to unexpectedly fail, the result could be serious famine (Holly et al. 1991; Anderson 1994). Prior to maize cultivation, shortages in foodstuffs were largely minimized, since the greater diversity of indigenous cultigens provided a much more predictable harvest over the calendar year. Increased sedentary behavior, along with placing all of ones hope in a single crop, in the long run actually restricted the subsistence possibilities of the Mississippians. This perhaps explains why nearly every major settlement in the region was unable to sustain continuous occupation for more than a century, as the Mississippian boom-or-bust existence required frequent migrations to new areas or periodic returns to previously occupied settlements (Anderson 1994; Smith 2000; Hall 2001; King 2003). Not only did the risk of famine rise with the increase in corn yields, so did the possibility for malnutrition, a nutritional paradox that haunts modern civilization today. When physical anthropologists have studied the remains of individuals living in post-maize communities with those of pre-maize ones, they

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Southern United States: An Environmental History generally find “a fifty percent increase in enamel effects, a four-fold increase in iron-deficiency anemia, and a threefold rise in bone lesions reflecting infectious diseases in general and an increase in degenerative conditions of the spine” (Diamond 1987, 65). While some of those symptoms may be attributable to more intense and continuous physical labor, others are clearly the result of a rapidly changing diet. We now know, for example, that individuals who eat large quantities of corn are also prone to contracting pellagra, a disease sometimes associated with poor southerners during the early twentieth century. We also know that the high starch content of corn also greatly increased the likelihood of cavities among Mississippian natives. When anthropologist C. Margaret Scarry studied the skeletal remains of individuals from early Mississippian sites in Missouri and Arkansas, she found that the number of dental caries clearly increased with the introduction of flint corn (Scarry 1993b). Storing large quantities of corn in a single location, usually near the chiefly residence, also made it more likely that the settlement would be attacked by neighboring communities, especially if they were suffering from acute food shortages. To protect their valuable larders, Mississippian chiefs erected impos-

Pomelock, a Native American village enclosed with palisades, Virginia/Carolina Colony, 1585. John White drawing. (National Archives)

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Moundville: Enter Zea Mays ing wooden palisades around, or nearly around, their central township plan. Although palisade construction had its origins in the Late Woodland period, it became an important part of Mississippian architecture after 1100 A.D. The palisade walls were generally made from local timbers, straight trees 8 to 12 inches in diameter at their base. Placed deep in the ground at a slightly outward slant, the opposite ends of the long poles were sharpened to help keep intruders from scaling over them. At Moundville, the 10,000 foot-long palisade was made with 10-inch diameter logs placed at roughly 1 to 2 feet intervals. Interrupted every 15 feet by horizontal log bastions, the vertical posts were also interwoven with river cane lathing and plastered with clay daub (Welch 1991; Scarry 1995). At Ulibahali, a Mississippian township located near present day Rome, Georgia, the palisade was also fortified with poles tied crosswise and then heavily plastered with thick clay on both sides. At some Mississippian settlements, invaders were impeded by wide moats dug around the entire palisade, making it virtually impenetrable from foot or even horseback (Davis 1993; Hudson 1997; Smith 2000).

TIMBER AND RIVER CANE USE IN MISSISSIPPIAN SETTLEMENTS At Toqua, a Mississippian town located on the Little Tennessee River in southeastern Tennessee, the palisade walls encircled the entire village, a distance of more than 5,000 feet (Lewis and Kneberg 1956; Davis 2000). According to Patricia Cridlebaugh, the vertical poles were set at intervals ranging from 6 to 12 inches, meaning that no fewer than 7,000 trees were cut to make the finished structure. During the entire Mississippian occupation at Toqua, apparently three separate palisade walls were constructed or rebuilt, meaning that over several centuries, more than 20,000 trees were removed from the surrounding woodlands. In addition, as many as 10,000 trees were cut to construct the more than 100 roofed dwellings found within the village walls. And even though timbers used for dwelling construction were much smaller than those used for palisade construction, the average Mississippian village in the American South required, over several centuries, the removal of more than 30,000 small trees (Cridlebaugh 1984). Moreover, additional timber would have been needed for ceremonial and home hearth fires, especially in winter months, when temperatures dropped well below freezing. In sum, the use of local timber by Mississippians of the American South was much more intensive than once believed, and is now even thought to be one of the major causes for the collapse of Cahokia sometime after 1250 A.D. (Lopinot and Woods 1993; Chappell 2002).

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Southern United States: An Environmental History In addition to cutting timber, Mississippians would have also routinely removed large quantities of native river cane from the surrounding bottomland environment. Prior to European contact, river cane dominated bottom-land ecosystems, providing important habitats for a unique variety of birds, mammals, and reptiles. In some areas, this bamboo-like reed sometimes grew 30 feet in height and reached diameters of 2 inches or more at ground level. Growing in thick, almost impenetrable stands, these vast canebrakes were extremely common near Native American townships, which perhaps explains their frequent mention by early Europeans travelers. In 1724, for example, when British naturalist Mark Catesby encountered river bottoms along the Carolina Piedmont, he discovered many “spacious tracts of cane” (Catesby 1974, 11). Four years later, as William Byrd surveyed the dividing line between Virginia and Carolina, his horse was slowed by a “Forest of Tall canes, that grow more than a furlong [220 yards] in depth.” A plant associated with the southern landscape for centuries, Byrd rightly believed that the northern range of the reed did not reach above “38 Degrees of Latitude,” or somewhere around the border of the Ohio River (Boyd 1929, 192). Andre Michaux, the French botanist who traveled across the American South three-quarters of a century later, similarly believed the plant to be a southern endemic. “This grass,” he wrote in his well-known travel memoir, “is found in the southern and maritime portion of Virginia, in the Carolinas, in the Floridas and in lower Louisiana” (Michaux 1857, 94–95). Mississippians had many uses for river cane, which explains why they very often lived very near the largest canebrakes. Mississippian women were accomplished weavers, using the flexible but strong cane splits to make elaborate mats, bedding, basketry, and wall hangings. Men regularly turned cane reeds into arrow shafts, flutes, hair ornaments, blowguns, spears, fishing poles, and dart shafts (Hudson 1976; Davis 1993; Hill 1997). Children sometimes threw short pieces of cane into fires to create a loud report much like that of modernday firecrackers, as the green stalks explode when exposed to great heat. Leaves of cane also provided thatching for roof construction and the poles themselves were often woven into the walls of palisades. In fact, the use of river cane, for both lathing and thatching, was essential to the structural integrity of Mississippian homes, providing much needed insulation and added protection from torrential rains. The Gentleman of Elvas, who accompanied Hernando de Soto on his march across the South, noticed the increasing use of river cane (gradually replacing palmetto) as his expedition moved northward away from north Florida. In the central Georgia town of Toa, he noted that “the houses of this town are different from those behind. [These] are roofed with cane after the fashion of tiles” (Nabokov 1989, 93). Because of its many functional uses, river cane was perhaps the single most important item in Mississippian material cul-

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Moundville: Enter Zea Mays ture, so its continued harvest would have been necessary for sustaining life. And if historian Sarah Hill’s estimates regarding the use of river cane among eighteenth-century Cherokees are both transferable and accurate [three baskets per household per year; twenty stalks per basket], we can assume that a Mississippian village of 1,000 annually used more than 5,000 stalks of river cane for basketry materials alone (Hill 1996). While the potential for over-harvesting river cane remained high throughout the Mississippian period, the natives were more likely responsible for the proliferation of canebrakes in the southern ecosystem. As noted in Chapter 2, river cane propagates itself with protected underground shoots, so the periodic cutting or burning of the canebrake would have actually encouraged the plants to grow to enormous heights and to spread across the width of entire floodplains. Aided by the release of nitrogen, phosphorous, and other essential nutrients from the accumulating ashes, river cane would have soon dominated riparian bottomlands. In fact, without periodic burning, ecologists now tell us, canebrakes simply mature, quickly go to seed, and then die. As eighteenth-century naturalist John Brickell later described it, “they grow old [and] bear an Ear like Oats . . . soon after which they decay both Root and Branch” (Brickell 1968, 84). Of course, repeated cutting and burning of the same canebrake would have had a similar effect—no river cane—as European settlers discovered later on the southern frontier. Mississippians, perhaps realizing this fact after repeated experience and careful observation, most likely periodically alternated among river cane collection sites, allowing the plants to flourish in some areas while razing them completely to the ground in others. Nevertheless, the result would have likely meant more, not less, river cane, a fact certainly corroborated by later eyewitness accounts (Silver 1990; Hill 1997; Davis 2000). The spread of the river cane ecosystem across the American South would have also been beneficial to several native species, including the enormous swamp rabbit that routinely fed on young river cane stalks and the colorful Carolina parakeet, the now extinct bird that ate the oat-like seeds of maturing plants. Indeed, some ornithologists now believe that large canebrakes periodically going to seed may have actually caused the gregarious birds to begin mating and nesting, as the vagrant species required a more predictable spring food source to stimulate reproduction. The parakeets would have also greatly benefited from the burning of bottomlands around Mississippian village sites as incendiary fires would have greatly increased the number of cocklebur plants in the floodplain ecosystem. One of the favorite foods of the Carolina parakeet, the seeds of cockleburs, sustained large flocks of the birds through harsh winters (Saikku 1990; Cokinos 2000). As John James Audubon observed early in the nineteenth century, Carolina parakeets would hungrily appear at sites containing cockleburs,

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Southern United States: An Environmental History “returning to the place day after day until hardly any are left.” Knowing that the bird had already gained a reputation as a wanton destroyer of agricultural crops in the American South, Audubon argued that if the cocklebur was left to the parakeet, the horrible plant—whose sharp burs clung to sheep, cotton, and even human clothing—“might thus be extirpated”(Audubon 1981, pl. 223; Audubon 1999, 233–234).

PLANT AND ANIMAL DEPLETIONS IN THE MISSISSIPPEAN PERIOD If Mississippians were responsible for increasing the number of some plant and animal species in the region, they were certainly responsible for depleting others. Populations of large game animals—especially white-tailed deer, black bear, and American elk—generally suffered as Mississippian populations rose across the much of the region during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Mississippians were skilled hunters who needed deer, elk, and bear not only for meat, but also for clothing and bed coverings. There is evidence, however, that some Mississippians of the pre-contact South restricted the deer hunting season to late fall and winter months, which would have eased the blow to the herds somewhat, as young fawns would have been old enough to survive the death of their mothers (White 1983; Hudson 1997; Saikku 2001). Large stands of mature oaks and chestnuts also ensured very large mast crops, so even with heavier hunting pressures, deer and bear populations were probably near or at modern-day levels (Krech 1999; Davis 2000). After 1200 A.D., when apparently American bison became much more common in the grasslands of eastern Oklahoma, southwestern Arkansas, and northeastern Texas, they too were slaughtered in large numbers by Mississippian groups (Perttula 1992). Numerous eyewitness accounts also place American elk in the southern ecosystem during the early sixteenth century, including areas along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts thought to be outside the native historic range of the animal. The eastern subspecies were the giants of the southern forest, as the largest bull stags stood 5 feet at the shoulder and weighed nearly 1,000 pounds. At maturity, the antlers of this formidable animal spread 5 feet from tip to tip with single antlers growing as long as 5 feet. Elk were probably most common in the uplands, however, thriving among the higher peaks of the Appalachians and Ozarks far from human settlement. In 1670 John Lederer wrote that when his scouting party came to “the promontaries or spurs of the Appalachian Mountains,” they began to see vast herds of “fallow deer,” referring of course to the American elk (Murie 1951, 39–40). John Lawson, who once referred to the American elk as the

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Moundville: Enter Zea Mays

Le Page du Pratz depicts Natchez Indians hunting deer. (Library of Congress)

“Monster of the Venison sort,” also documented their presence in the region when he wrote in 1700 that “the Stags of Carolina are lodged in the mountains” (Johnson 1905, 506). A migratory animal, elk require a large extended range that includes both wooded forests and open pastures. During winter months when browse was scarce, elk probably ventured close to Mississippian towns, where

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Southern United States: An Environmental History they were certain to find large expanses of overgrown fields and grassy meadows. Although the numbers of elk herds in the American South were probably minimal, they undoubtedly had an important impact on the both ecology and subsistence culture of the uplands. Some even speculate that the grassy balds on the highest summits of the southern Appalachians were likely maintained by the presence of perennially returning elk herds (Davis 2000). The great oak, beech, and chestnut forests produced not only food beneficial to elk and deer herds, but also to wild turkeys. Archaeological evidence reveals that Mississippians annually took turkeys in large numbers, making the turkey one of the most valuable birds in the southern forest (Schorger 1966; Hudson 1976; Anderson 1994). While passenger pigeons were no doubt eaten in very large numbers during their seasonal migrations to the South, wild turkeys were year-round targets. Flocks of 200 birds were not uncommon and individual birds might routinely exceed 30 pounds (Lawson 1960; Schorger 1966; Cowdrey 1983). In the Appalachians, the wary birds fed largely on chestnut and beech mast; atop the Ozark Plateau, acorns and other native nuts. Along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, wild turkeys inhabited the maritime woods and forests of long-leaf pine, where nut masts were much scarcer. In Florida, a smaller version of the eastern wild turkey became the more dominant species, due perhaps to the perennial lack of abundant masts. The great number of turkeys across the entire region may have led to their domestication by the Mississippians, as reports of early European explorers in Texas, Alabama, and Arkansas confirm that the eastern wild turkey was sometimes kept by Southern Indians in enclosed pens. Certainly more plentiful during the pre-Columbian era, one historian estimated the turkey population in the United States at around 10 million birds (Schorger 1966). Fishery stocks would have also been greatly depleted, as Mississippians, like their Late Woodland ancestors, seasonally fished local streams, rivers, and coastal estuaries. Fish, mussels, turtles, crayfish, and migratory waterfowl were important to their subsistence base and in some areas of the region may have contributed to more than half of the Mississippians’ yearly protein intake. Catfish, one of the most common of southern fish species, in fact has the highest caloric content of any freshwater fish in North America except possibly salmon. Most fish were taken by cane spears or hand lines, or caught by using a variety of ingeniously designed traps, the largest and most productive being the Vshaped weir dam built across streams and rivers (Cowdrey 1983; Davis 2000). Along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, men often left their villages in the spring to trap large numbers of fish behind specially designed wooden dams constructed across tidal pools and coastal inlets. Made with small poles woven together with marsh reeds or oak splits, these strategically placed weir dams allowed migrating fish to enter but not to escape. At low tide the men were able to club,

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John White’s painting of Indians fishing from a canoe while others stand in the river and spear fish. (Library of Congress)

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Southern United States: An Environmental History catch, or spear their quarry, usually sturgeon, herring, eels, alewives and other migratory species swimming together in large schools. In deeper water, a single line could be stretched across a bay or inlet and outfitted with additional shorter lines and hooks baited with shellfish or cut-bait. During summer months the men might daily inspect these “trot” lines by canoe, gathering their catch and rebaiting hooks as needed (Lawson 1960; Hudson 1976). Of course, the many streams and rivers of the American South generally flowed much clearer and shallower prior to European contact, creating ideal habitats for freshwater mussels and clams. Not surprisingly, Mississippians across the South consumed mollusks in great quantities, which undoubtedly had an impact on their numbers. Whereas oysters and clams were preferred near coastal areas, unios or quahogs—large freshwater mussels that commonly reach six inches or more in length—were more readily consumed farther inland (Kunz 1890). Oysters, clams, and mussels were not only important sources of protein, they also yielded pearls of varying degrees of smoothness and luster. For Mississippians, both the pearl and the “mother-of-pearl” mantles of clam and mussel shells were also considered prestige goods, socioreligious commodities commonly fashioned into decorative gorgets, ear ornaments, and necklace beads. At Cofitachequi, a Mississippian village near Camden, South Carolina, de Soto saw as much as 150 pounds of freshwater pearls stored inside the village temple. Later, when the chieftainess of Cofitachequi escaped from de Soto in the mountains of North Carolina, she carried with her a box of canes filled with raw pearls thought extremely valuable by the Spaniards (Robertson 1932; Hudson 1997). Ironically, the mussel’s social and cultural importance may have, in some areas, precipitated their overuse and depletion, which, in turn, would have increased Mississippian dependence on other staples such as flint corn and beans. Although corn, shellfish, river cane, deer, and turkeys were consumed in large quantities by most Mississippians, these plants and animals were also a part of a dynamic natural cosmology that often imbued them with special mythical powers. For this reason, their overuse was often minimized, if not in some cases socially discouraged. Indeed, very little taken from the natural world was carelessly used or discarded by the Mississippian. The excess fat of the black bear was melted into butter or grease, the sinews of the deer and elk became bowstrings, surplus river cane was made into intricately woven baskets, and the mantles of freshwater mussels were carved into sacred religious objects. In fact, the natural world would not have been considered a “resource” to be “exploited,” to use the modern vernacular, as most Mississippians were unable to fully conceive themselves as being entirely separate from the larger ecosystem. As environmental historian Albert Cowdrey stated, Southern Indians “appear to have dealt directly with their environment, in which animals and

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Moundville: Enter Zea Mays natural forces were selves, exerted power, and demanded respect. They did not have the luxury of regarding the natural world as a thing” (Cowdrey 1983, 17).

CLIMATE AND MISSISSIPPIAN SURVIVAL Mississippians nearly everywhere in the region did follow a similar subsistence pattern that included spring planting; the ceremonial harvest of the green corn in summer; the gathering of late corn in August or September; the collecting of nuts and acorns in the fall; and the hunting of game and gathering of firewood in winter. Patterning their lives around the rhythms of the physical environment also meant that Mississippian civilization was extremely vulnerable to dramatic changes in climate, particularly drought or floods. Dendroclimatology studies—which carefully analyze the growth rings of ancient or fossilized trees—clearly demonstrate that Mississippians suffered through both years of

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Southern United States: An Environmental History severe drought as well as numerous periods of very heavy rainfall. For example, in northern Arkansas during the thirteenth century, rainfall amounts might be as high as 27 inches one growing season and as little as 6 inches the following year (Cleaveland 2000, 2001). Similarly, a dendroclimatological study of the Savannah River Basin, found that from 1124 to 1152, there were seventeen years of below-average rainfall, including the spring of 1150 when less than 10 inches of moisture fell in that area (15 inches is the 1,000-year mean). Conversely, in 1159 more than 22 inches of rain fell between March and June, no doubt causing widespread flooding in low-lying areas. These kinds of droughts and floods, if severe enough, would have also directly impacted crop yields, which in turn would have allowed some chiefdoms in the region to flourish while causing other communities to collapse entirely. In fact, archaeologist David G. Anderson, based on a close reading of the climatic data for the period, believes there is a very direct relationship between rainfall amounts and the social and political health of Mississippian chiefdoms (Anderson 1994). Probably those natives most affected by dramatic declines in annual rainfall were the Caddoan peoples of southwestern Arkansas, northwestern Louisiana, eastern Oklahoma, and northeastern Texas, a forested area increasingly interspersed with prairies and treeless savannahs moving west from the Mississippi River. Most Caddoan peoples practiced a regional variant of the Mississippian way of life, even though they grew plenty of corn and possessed a fairly complex social order (Perttula 1992). Their earthen mounds were used primarily as meeting places, however, and were not generally the location for resident population centers like elsewhere in the American South. The houses of the Caddoans were very similar to other Mississippian dwellings elsewhere in the region, except grass was used for roof thatching as opposed to river cane leaves or tree bark. The Caddoans also lived in an area rich in saline waters, making them well-known salt traders. The local presence of Osage orange trees also gave the Caddoans ready access to the best bow-making material in the entire region, as the “bois d’arc” was widely known for both its flexibility and strength. Caddoans probably traded the much sought-after wood to Mississippians living outside the area, including Indians inhabiting the far southwest who regularly came in contact with the group (Perttulla 1992; Hudson 1997). Beyond the western edge of the Caddoan area, the landscape was even drier, with annual rainfall often falling below the threshold amounts for corn cultivation. Here, other foods were substituted for corn, including the fruit of the prickly pear cactus. The Spaniard Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, who lived for many years among the Capoques who inhabited the Texas coastline near Galveston, observed that they preferred a more fishing-and-gathering lifestyle. Because of this, the subsistence practices of the Capoques were also much more tied to

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Moundville: Enter Zea Mays changes in local seasons, meaning that as cold weather approached, all outdoor activities became restricted or ceased altogether. De Vaca himself notes that in mid-November some fish were still being caught and consumed as were the large and small tubers of the arrowhead plant. As the weather got colder, however, sometimes touching the freezing mark at night, all fishing ceased as did the gathering of native roots. On those days and nights, the Capoques simply huddled tightly in their fire-warmed lodges until the cold front passed and the temperatures warmed again. According to de Vaca, the Capoques remained on Galveston Island from October to February, living almost exclusively on arrowhead tubers the last month. After leaving the island in February, bay oysters taken from the waters along the mainland kept the natives alive. In April, the group shifted almost exclusively to the consumption of blackberries, initiating a feast that included much dancing and other celebratory activities. De Vaca reported that it was not so unusual for the Capoques to go three days without eating anything during the winter and early spring, a fact that seemed at least partly due to “constant warfare” that apparently afforded them “neither travel nor barter in the land” (Cabeza de Vaca 1982). In one of the very first written accounts of the Texas interior landscape, de Vaca borrows observations from another Spaniard named Figueroa (who also survived the shipwreck), who had also seen, at least on three occasions, large herds of American bison. According to Figueroa, the animals “are about the size of those of Spain. They have small horns, like Moorish cattle; and very long hair, woolly like a rug. Some are dark brown and others black and in my opinion they have better and richer flesh than those from here . . . These [bison] come from towards the north through the land as far as the coast of Florida, and they stretch through all the land for more than four hundred leagues (1200 miles)” (Krieger 2002, 35). The presence of American bison in the Texas Hill country clearly demonstrates that the region had experienced more xeric weather conditions during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, a fact now corroborated by several climate studies of the area. In fact, environmental historian Dan Flores believes that it was this two-century drying trend that “opened up the Hill Country and shortened the grasses, and bison responded to this favorable situation by spreading their range eastward and southward” (Flores 2004, 6). Beyond the Sabine River, the sixteenth-century Texas landscape would have increasingly given way to post-oak savannahs, a terrain that would have also yielded little corn. In that expansive territory, which stretched as far west as the Brazos River, large population centers were few if nonexistent, reminding scholars once again of the relationship between intensive corn cultivation and the Mississippian way of life. Thus it appears that in those areas in the American

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Southern United States: An Environmental History South where corn could not be grown in large quantities, subsistence strategies (and thus the landscape) changed relatively little during the Mississippian era. And in those locales where drought or floods regularly destroyed vast amounts of maize, Mississippian peoples floundered (Anderson 1994; Hall 2001). The evidence suggests that well before the arrival of the first Europeans, Mississippian civilization had, in fact, peaked, and was in many places in decline as the direct result of weather-induced famines or epidemic illnesses—or both. At the same time, it appears that some Mississippians had witnessed nearly a century of relative meteorological stability and were on the social and cultural rebound as a result. In fact, historical evidence suggests that several communities in the American South had stabilized or were even flourishing by the midsixteenth century. The main villages of the chiefdom of Coosa, in northwest Georgia, for example, seemed to be undergoing expansion, with the population of the central township and nearby villages exceeding nearly 5,000 individuals (Hally et al. 1990; Smith 2000). Moreover, the population of the larger paramount chiefdom of Coosa is estimated to have been somewhere between 30,000 and 50,000, with the average town containing no fewer than 600 individuals. Archaeologist Jerald T. Milanich believes that the Timucuans living in northern Florida and southeast Georgia—an area encompassing nearly 20,000 square miles—maintained a population of 200,000 prior to European contact, making it one of the most populated areas of the larger region. Comprised of more than 500 villages, it is doubtful, however, that any single Timucuan community contained more than 1,000 individuals (Milanich 1998b; Miller 1998). At the beginning of the sixteenth century, perhaps as many as 50,000 natives lived along the Atlantic coasts from Maryland to Savannah, and nearly that many again further inland along the Carolina Piedmont and in the Appalachian foothills (Fausz 1985; Turner 1985; Silver 1990). No more than 150,000 Mississippians inhabited the Tennessee Valley and southern Appalachians, which includes the Cumberland Plateau (Davis 1993, 2000; Hudson 1997). Historian John Hann, who agrees that “protohistoric Florida possessed a much larger population than traditional authorities have accorded it,” places the population of the Apalachee Indians of the Florida panhandle at around 25,000 (Hann 1988, 161–162). On the eve of European contact, the once large population centers at Moundville (Alabama), Lake George (Louisiana), and Spiro (Oklahoma) had also partially collapsed, creating a much more decentralized settlement pattern across much of the western third of the region (Hudson 1997; Saikku 2001). Today there are few reliable archaeological reconstructions of those settlements, so population figures must be based partly on conjecture and partly on numbers derived from seventeenth-century estimates. Using that data and his calculations, the leading authority on Southern Indians, Charles Hud-

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Moundville: Enter Zea Mays son, places the population of the American South at the time of initial European contact at 1,300,000 individuals (Hudson 1997). The lives of those more than one million native inhabitants would soon change, however, as Europeans would, well before the end of the sixteenth century, begin arriving by the thousands to the reap the bounty of the southern landscape and its biological riches. While the actual “discovery” of the North American mainland is now attributed to Leif Ericsson, who apparently landed in Newfoundland during the mid-fourteenth century, it was the Spaniards who first arrived along the Florida coast in the early 1500s, as evidenced by the famous Cantino map of 1502 and Juan Ponce de Leon’s documented offshore battles with Calusa Indians. Of course, Ponce de Leon did not actually set foot on the Florida peninsula until the spring of 1513, after he sailed from Puerto Rico with three ships and enough provisions for nearly 200 men. After stops at Grand Turk Island and San Salvador, Ponce de Leon reached the beaches of St. Augustine on April 2, 1513—Palm Sunday. Accordingly, de Leon immediately named the peninsula “Pascua de Florida” (feast of flowers), as Easter Sunday in Spanish is la pascua florida, literally “the flowerly passover” (Sauer 1971, 27; Miller 1998). Ponce de Leon was certainly aware that La Florida might also be the location of the legendary Fountain of Youth as he had no doubt learned of the popular tale from Arawak Indians after sailing with Columbus on his second voyage to the Caribbean in 1493. The fable was probably not new to him, however, and Ponce de Leon certainly had knowledge that such healthful waters had been mentioned by medieval writers (Sauer 1966; Richards 2003). As described to the Spanish by the Arawak, the land of the Fountain not only contained a spring of perpetual youth but also possessed all sorts of valuable riches, including gold and silver. Although he himself apparently did not entirely believe the legend, Pietro Martire d’Anghiera (1472–1528), an Italian geographer and historian who moved to Spain in 1487, wrote to Pope Leo X in 1513: “Among the islands of the north side of Hispaniola, there is about 325 leagues distant, as they say who have searched the same, in which is a continual spring of running water, of such marvelous virtue that the water thereof being drunk, perhaps with some diet, maketh old men young again” (Menzies 2003, 200). While Ponce de Leon might have had some minor motivations for finding a mythical fountain that would restore his health and make him younger, the fifty-three-year-old Ponce de Leon, like other Spanish explorers and conquerors, was primarily looking for gold, slaves, and precious gems. So while it is not likely that Ponce de Leon put much stock in the Fountain fable, he was looking for a paradise nonetheless, and dearly hoped that La Florida would be that very place.

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N

AT L A N T I C OCEAN

GULF OF MEXICO

Town, camp, or post Fort Missions Indian village Urban center, 1700 Extent of Settled area, 1700

Explorers Ponce de Leon, 1513 De Vaca, 1528–1526 De Soto, 1539–1542 William Bartram, 1773–1777

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100 100

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200 Mi. 300 Km.

Early European exploration in the South.

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4 COLONY: THE COAST IS CLEARED Donald E. Davis

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hile the Spaniard Ponce de Leon had certainly found a landscape rich in natural resources, it would take several decades for the Spanish crown to learn the true wealth of the North American continent. As James J. Miller writes in his environmental history of Northeast Florida, between the “discovery” of the peninsula in 1513 and the entrada of Hernando de Soto in 1539, “at least seven episodes of European contact with the natives of La Florida are recorded, including Ponce’s attempted return to Charlotte Harbor in 1521 to establish a permanent colony” (Miller 1998, 94). Most of these episodes were little more than hostile skirmishes between Spaniards and the native population, leaving the interior of the American South a truly terra incognita to most Europeans. The situation changed greatly after 1521, when Pedro de Quejo captured and enslaved sixty Indians along the South Carolina coast, among them a Mississippian named Francisco of Chicora, a slave who would later become the personal servant and interpreter to the governor of Hispaniola. Chicora, who accompanied the governor, Lucas Vazquez de Ayllon, to Spain, told the court of Charles V that La Florida was indeed an earthly paradise, a land rich in pearls, gold, and precious gems (Milanich and Hudson 1993; Hudson 1997; Miller 1998; Milanich 1998b).

BEGINNINGS OF THE SPANISH COLONIES After returning to Santo Domingo with Chicora, Vazquez de Ayllon began planning to establish a permanent Spanish colony near what today is the mouth of the South Santee River along the South Carolina coast. After recruiting 600 men, women, children from both Spain and the West Indies, Vazquez de Ayllon and his small fleet of ships left Santo Domingo with the hopes of permanently inhabiting his newly proclaimed paradise. On August 9, 1526, as the fleet came

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Southern United States: An Environmental History

Hernando de Soto’s contact with the Indians, as depicted in Histoire de la conquête de la Floride, 1731. (Hernando De Soto, Histoire de la conquête de la Floride, 1731. Niedersächsische Staats und Universitätsbibliothek, Göttingen)

ashore, the main ship ran aground and quickly sank, destroying much of their food, including a large number of sheep, pigs, and horses. After soon learning the area was less than ideal for growing crops, the group discovered a new location near Sapelo Island, Georgia, and begin constructing a town there they called San Miguel de Gualape. Already short on food and other essential provisions, most of the colonists fell severely ill after several months and died, including Vazquez de Ayllon himself. Upon his death, the colony officially collapsed, and the remaining 150 survivors sailed back to the relative safety of the Caribbean Islands (De Vorsey and Cook 1992; Hudson 1997; Milanich 1998b). A second attempt to establish a temporary colony on the mainland was led by Panfilo de Narvaez, who secured the right from the Spanish crown to colonize the entire Gulf Coast and interior hinterlands, from northern Mexico to the tip of the Florida peninsula. In April 1528, de Narvaez landed on the west coast of Florida after a violent spring storm forced him to take refuge near today’s St.

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Colony: The Coast Is Cleared Petersburg, somewhere north of today’s Charlotte Harbor. After coming ashore with 40 horsemen and 260 foot soldiers, de Narvaez and his entourage began marching inland and then northward along the coast without a translator or direct knowledge of the interior landscape. After encountering many Indians likely belonging to the Safety Harbor culture, a group not considered fully Mississippian by most archaeologists, the men crossed shallow wetlands filled with oysters and several fields containing large quantities of nearly ripe corn. In one village, de Narvaez found large cargo boxes originating from Spain that were apparently being used as burial coffins by the local Indians, as well as fine pieces of linen and cloth from Mexico. These unexpected discoveries clearly show that the Spanish were already having an important impact on the natives of La Florida, without even having set foot in the newly claimed territory (Bandelier 1905; Hann 1988; Hudson 1997; Krieger 2002).

Cabeza De Vaca’s Travails Accompanying de Narvaez on the excursion was the royal treasurer, Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, a Spaniard mentioned briefly in Chapter 3. De Vaca’s well-known recounting of de Narvaez’s failed attempt at colonizing the American South, The Journey of Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, was first published in 1542 and provides some of the very first written accounts of the sixteenth century southern landscape, including important observations of the Texas coastline—an area largely underrepresented in the archaeological and early historical record. According to Cabeza de Vaca, as the group continued northward from Charlotte Bay, their food rations of bacon and ship-biscuits dwindled, forcing them to eat nothing but native palmetto leaves. After nearly two weeks of steady marching, they crossed the Suwannee River and then traveled through wide flatwoods of fire-dependent long-leaf pine and wiregrass (Bandelier 1905; Hudson 1997). Quickly approaching the Aucilla River, Cabeza de Vaca recalled that they passed through old-growth stands of “wondrously tall trees, and there are so many of them fallen to the ground that they obstructed our way in such a manner that we could not pass without long detours and much trouble.” Signs of naturally occurring forest fires were also present, as Cabeza de Vaca observed that the largest trees were “split from top to bottom by lightning bolts that fall in that land, where there are always great storms and tempests” (Krieger 2002, 165). Arriving at the Aucilla River near present-day St. Marks, de Narvaez and Cabeza de Vaca encountered a group of Apalachee Indians who possessed considerable maize ready for harvest. These Indians were true Mississippians, even though their village did not possess temple mounds like those found at Lake

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Southern United States: An Environmental History Jackson or other Apalachee village sites. Cabeza de Vaca describes the Apalachee as possessing “great strength and agility,” and thought them of larger stature than Indians encountered elsewhere in the region. Even Hernando de Soto would later comment on their remarkable skill as both archers and warriors. While corn was certainly abundantly grown in the area, Cabeza de Vaca learned that the Apalachee also survived by eating numerous water plants and tubers, such as the prolific arrowhead, plants that grow in freshwater streams and marshes. Impressed with the surrounding territory, de Vaca describes in detail not only the vegetation of the local area, but also some of the area’s more common birds and mammals, including “deer, rabbits and hares, bears and lions, and other wild beasts, among them one that carries its young in a pouch on its belly,” referring of course to the American opossum. Everywhere he saw very large trees, including “open thickets, where there are walnut trees and laurels and others that are called liquidambers [sweetgum], cedars, cypresses, and live oaks and pines and [other] oaks and low palmettos similar to those of Castille” (Krieger 2002, 166). Continuing westward, the group progressed toward North Bay, above Panama City, where Narvaez and several of the men fell deathly ill. The situation became even more grave when as many as a third of the group contracted an unknown illness—possibly food poisoning or dysentery—causing several of the horsemen to attempt to abandon the entire party without permission. Realizing that a march to the nearby coast would now be virtually impossible, due partly to the almost impenetrable mangrove thickets that lay before them, the men decided to build large rafts and float downstream into the North Bay and then directly out to sea. Despite the fact that the men were ill and extremely low on provisions, they chose to build the boats from local materials and salvage needed metal from stirrups and crossbows to piece the large crafts together. Within days, however, they were reduced to killing their horses for food and even raided nearby Apalachee maize fields, where they were able to secure more than 600 bushels of corn. The boat-building continued for more than a month, during which time more than forty men died from sickness and ten others were killed by skilled Apalachee archers. Finally, on September 22, in five long barges filled with roughly fifty men each, the men embarked on their seaward journey (Bandelier 1905; Krieger 2002). Passing quietly through inlets and narrow straits, the five barges drifted out beyond today’s Panama City Beach, stopping only to obtain fresh water or to ride out dangerous thunderstorms. After several weeks of navigating the visible coastline, they made their way to a village somewhere near today’s Pascagoula, Mississippi, where they encountered natives who seemed to have plenty of fresh water and smoked fish, but very little maize. De Vaca observed that the cacique serving as host wore a beautiful robe of mink, which he believed to be

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Colony: The Coast Is Cleared “the finest in the world.” At nightfall, the men were surprisingly attacked by those same Indians, leaving both Narvaez and de Vaca badly wounded. In retaliation, de Vaca destroyed thirty of their best dugout canoes the next morning, before he and the others set sail again on open water. From there, the flotilla continued slowly westward before reaching the Chandeleur Islands of Louisiana not far from the Mississippi River. At the mouth of the Mississippi, the barges abruptly separated from each other, with de Vaca’s raft and one other drifting far out to sea (Bandelier 1905, 45). Far from the coastline, the men experienced very rough seas and much colder temperatures and were soon suffering from hypothermia. Their food rations were also now down to daily handfuls of parched and raw cornmeal. After days of drifting, de Vaca’s raft crashed violently ashore, hurling both the barge and the now largely unconscious men well onto the beach sands. The raft had apparently come ashore on Galveston Island, Texas, just off the main coastline. De Vaca was only one of a dozen or so survivors. A November cold front brought even more misery to the survivors as the weather became so cold that several more died of exposure and hunger. Soon after being befriended by a group natives who seasonally occupied the island, the Capoques, de Vaca watched nearly half of them die from an illness that appeared to be dysentery, a disease that his men had apparently introduced to the group soon after coming ashore. Although this may have not been the first European disease to ravage southern Indians, its impact on the Capoques clearly shows how extensive the casualties could be from an European-introduced illness. Interestingly, the Capoques immediately blamed the illness on the Spaniards and asked de Vaca himself to cure the remaining sufferers (Bandelier 1905; Krieger 2002; Flores 2004).

De Soto’s Conquests Of course the Spaniard who would have the biggest influence on the Mississippian landscape was the conquistador Hernando de Soto. De Soto and his army of 600 men spent more than four years in the region and his chroniclers have not only given us great insight into Mississippian life and culture, but also the sixteenth-century southern landscape and its many different environs. Their eyewitness reports also help explain how de Soto and his army were largely responsible for the eventual collapse of Mississippian civilization, which further opened up the southern landscape for European settlement. Either by killing Indians directly, or by introducing deadly European diseases, or by destroying or stealing vast quantities of the very crop that sustained the Mississippian way of life—maize—de Soto’s entrada would forever change the American South. The

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Southern United States: An Environmental History expedition was also responsible for the introduction of several European plants and animals that would themselves make an impact on the southern ecosystem. Like Ponce de Leon, Vazquez de Ayllon, and de Narvaez, de Soto had come to the region to conquer La Florida territory in the name of Spain, to find gold, silver, pearls, and precious gems, and to make servile Christians of the native population. Two years earlier, de Soto had been granted the title of adelanto, which according to the official royal decree, gave him authority “to conquer, pacify, and settle whatever he wished within the ample limits of Florida.” The order also specified that de Soto could keep four-fifths of all bounty acquired “in the usual manner in battle” and half of that which was taken from “graves, sepulchres, temples, places of religious ceremonies, or buried in a public or private place” (Sauer 1971, 158). Unlike the earlier Spanish explorers, de Soto was much more prepared for the expedition and had the incredible luck of finding, almost immediately after coming ashore, a translator who not only spoke the language of the natives but knew the Florida terrain as well. This individual was Juan Ortiz, a Spaniard who had been left behind on the earlier Narvaez expedition and who had lived among the Florida Indians for nine years. Not only did de Soto have Juan Ortiz, he also commanded an army of no fewer than 600 men, all of whom who had use of more than 200 horses and mules, dozens of attack dogs, and lethal weapons that included crossbows, matchlock guns, double-edged swords, and heavy lances (Robertson 1932; Swanton 1939; de la Vega 1951). Other than maintaining a herd of pigs, de Soto needed few portable provisions, taking corn and other foodstuffs from Mississippian villages as he marched northward. Slaves—including women and children—were captured to serve as “beasts of burden” or to use as hostages should the group fall under attack. Following roughly the same route as Narvaez, de Soto and his men first arrived among the Florida Apalachee in September, but did not locate their principal town, Anhayca, until early October. De Soto and his men would spend the winter at Anhayca, near the present-day city of Tallahassee, where they would take advantage of large stores of corn, pumpkins, nutmeats, fish, and venison. Upon their arrival, all of the residents of Anhayca quickly fled, which likely meant that more than 1,000 men, women, and children had to seek shelter in the surrounding woodlands and swamps as winter approached. For several months the Apalachee used tactics of guerilla warfare in an attempt to retake their town, but they were unsuccessful as the Spaniards were able to kill hundreds of Indians. In March of 1540, de Soto and his army left Anhayca, carrying away enough maize to feed the men for several weeks, leaving little if any food for the surviving Apalachees (Clayton et al. 1993; Hudson 1997; Ewen and Hann 1998).

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Colony: The Coast Is Cleared Departing northward from Anhayca, de Soto entered truly uncharted territory, the Georgia interior, where clearly no European had set foot before. Their destination was the chiefdom of Cofitachequi, in the heart of South Carolina, where they were told a large township and many precious gems and pearls could be found. As they traveled, usually 15 miles per day, they encountered many Mississippian townships, though at one point beyond the headwaters of the Oconee River, in the Georgia and South Carolina Piedmont, they passed through a wilderness of old-growth oak-hickory and pine that was nearly 200 miles in width (Robertson 1932; Clayton et al. 1993; Hudson 1997). Arriving in Cofitachequi on May 1, de Soto met the “Lady of Cofitachequi,” who was believed to be the paramount ruler of the chiefdom. The woman openly welcomed de Soto, presenting him gifts of freshwater pearls, animal skins, and pieces of cloth. Strangely, the chieftainess also gave de Soto full access to their mortuary house, the location where they kept their most sacred possessions. There they were somewhat surprised to find numerous glass beads, several rosaries, and even kindling axes from Castille. Clearly the Mississippians had come in contact with the Ayllon colony, whose coastal location, they soon learned, had been little more than a 150 miles to the southeast. Curiously, they also noticed that many of the Indians of Cofitachequi wore black leggings and moccasins that were tied with white or colored leather as was the common custom in Spain (Clayton et al. 1993). Another sign that the people of Cofitachequi had already come in contact with Spanish people was a “pestilence” that had struck the nearby township of Talimeco two years earlier. Apparently the epidemic was so severe that the entire town had been abandoned. Even at Cofitachequi, corn rations were extremely low and the township severely depopulated as a result of the epidemic. While it is true that the Ayllon expedition had taken place twelve years earlier, coastal Indians would have very likely captured one of the Spanish colonists, as the examples of both Juan Ortiz and Cabeza de Vaca clearly demonstrate. Because they carried dangerous pathogens in their very physical bodies, a single Spaniard could have later exposed Mississippians to any number of potentially fatal illnesses—smallpox, measles, diphtheria, mumps—and simple contact meant almost certain death. As a German missionary living along the Atlantic Coast a century later put it, “the Indians die so easily that the bare look and smell of a Spaniard causes them to give up their ghost” (Crosby 1972, 37). Unfortunately for the Mississippians, de Soto’s men were not always in the best of health as they made their way slowly across the southern landscape. From Cofitachequi to northern Arkansas, there is recurrent mention of de Soto’s Christians being “sick with fever” (Robertson 1932, 101–102).

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Southern United States: An Environmental History Leaving Cofitachequi, de Soto and his men marched toward the Appalachians, destroying cornfields and taking hostages and slaves along the way. Sometimes the men even asked for women concubines, increasing the likelihood that infectious diseases were spread among the native population. Upon entering the Blue Ridge Mountains, they encountered huge stands of American chestnut trees, a native species that sometimes comprised one-third of the upland forest. “Where There Be Mountains,” wrote the Gentleman of Elvas in 1540, “There Be Chestnuts” (Robertson 1932, 311). Indeed, the chestnut tree reached its maximum size in the southern Appalachians, averaging 4 to 6 feet in diameter with heights of more than 100 feet. In 1897, Gifford Pinchot documented individual trees in the Blue Ridge that were 13 feet across with crowns spreading more than 120 feet above the forest floor, specimens certainly old enough to have witnessed the passing of de Soto and his troops. In early summer across the Appalachians, the budding chestnut trees displayed long catkins of small pungent flowers, making entire mountainsides “a sea of white blossoms” (Arnow 1984, 265). After staying with various Mississippian tribes in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Spanish entrada marched westward into the Tennessee Valley before entering the town of Chiaha in early June. From Chiaha, located on the French Broad River near present-day Dandridge, Tennessee, the party traveled steadily southward. Along the way, de Soto took prisoner any Indians who refused to pay tribute to him, or if none could be captured, destroyed their large maize fields and ransacked houses (Clayton et al. 1993; Davis 1993). In July, the army arrived in northwest Georgia, at Coosa, then perhaps the largest Mississippian chiefdom in the entire southern region. At Coosa, de Soto ordered the chief of the large township to give up his homes, which the Spaniards occupied for more than a month. They also made servants of the Indians, locking them frequently in collars and chains if they refused the conquistador’s orders. In August, after eating much of the Mississippians stores of corn, beans, and native fruit, de Soto and his army left Coosa for Alabama and the chiefdom of Tascaluza (Hudson 1997; Smith 2000). Finally, on October 9, after stopping at numerous Mississippian villages along the way, the men arrived in Tascaluza, which was then located near present-day Montgomery, Alabama. Taking the chief and dozens of other residents of Tascaluza as prisoners, the men moved on to Mabila, a township situated not more than 150 miles from the Gulf Coast (Robertson 1932; de la Vega 1951; Clayton et al. 1993). At Mabila, a large palisaded Mississippian village, the Spaniards were surprised by an attack, and suffered heavy losses in lives and important provisions. The Spanish counterattack proved even more devastating to the Mississippians, however, who by one estimate lost more than 3,000 Indians, not counting, of course, those individuals “who were wounded and later died” (Hudson 1997,

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A chestnut forest at Big Creek Gap, Tennessee. (University of Chicago Library, Special Collections Research Center)

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Southern United States: An Environmental History 244). The village itself was burned to the ground, dwellings that would have provided important shelter for the Mississippians during the coming winter months. The effects of the day-long battle were felt as far south as the Gulf Coast as many of those who died were apparently from villages along the Alabama River north of Mobile Bay. In 1560, when Tristan de Luna entered the same area in search of a location to establish a permanent Spanish colony, the natives living there explained to him that their decline had been largely caused by Spaniards who had been there only years before (Hudson et al. 1989). From Mabila, de Soto continued west, stopping in Mississippi to pass the winter among the Chicaza, and then slowly on to Arkansas where the much beleaguered men spent the winter of 1541–1542. The following spring, de Soto passed along the Mississippi River, leaving behind 4 slaves, 3 horses, and 700 hogs. De Soto’s large swine herd would also leave its mark on the southern landscape, as many of the animals had escaped along the route and likely became part of feral herds that would later populate both the Ozarks of Arkansas and the piney-woods of Florida. The hogs no doubt did great damage to the native landscape, as feral pigs consume everything from acorns to small snakes. Where the trees were abundant, longleaf pine seedlings would have also been consumed in great numbers by the pigs as their soft root system is a known favorite delicacy. Reports of a single hog eating as many as 400 pine seedlings were not uncommon in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In fact, in 1946, William Wahlenburg wrote that “the razorback hog is the arch enemy of the longleaf pine . . . Hogs break off, girdle or uproot seedlings to get the pungent phloem near the root collar” (The Longleaf Alliance 2004, 1). De Soto’s greatest legacy in the region is the impact that he and his entrada had on the native Mississippian population. De Soto’s attempt to colonize the American South initiated a demographic collapse that would last for several decades and eventually bring an end to the Mississippian way of life. Those lucky enough to survive the initial epidemics would soon be faced with others, as each wave of European exploration and settlement brought additional microbes and pathogens to the southern region. Those lucky enough to survive were often forced to relocate to other towns less affected by the epidemics, with survivors of one chiefdom banding together with survivors from another. With mortality rates as high as 90 percent in some Mississippian villages, the epidemics were nothing less than catastrophic, causing the full-scale migration of entire groups. As a direct result, Mississippian cosmological and religious beliefs underwent dramatic revisions or were perhaps lost entirely to memory. Large population losses also meant fewer artisans and craftsmen to create the important prestige goods that were so important in maintaining the authority of the paramount chief. The central architectural focus of the Mississippian village

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Colony: The Coast Is Cleared commons, the raised temple mound, quickly lost its cultural significance, becoming an archaeological enigma by the end of the eighteenth century. In sum, Mississippian peoples had devolved into smaller and less centralized social groups, many becoming, in less than a century, Native American groups of the historic period, including, among others, the Catawbas, Cherokees, Chickasaws, Choctaws, Creeks, Seminoles, Shawnees, and Seminoles (Adair 1775; Swanton 1946; Hudson 1976; Merrell 1989; Wood et al. 1989; Anderson 1994; Hudson and Tesser 1994; Usner 1998; McEwan 2000; Ethridge and Hudson 2002).

EARLY FRENCH SETTLEMENTS IN THE AMERICAN SOUTH While de Soto’s attempt at establishing a colony in the American South was largely a failure, two decades later, in 1565, the Spanish could boast that they had successfully established permanent presence in the region. Their settlement at St. Augustine was not the very first, however, as the French had finished the construction of Fort Caroline, at the mouth of the St. John’s River, a year earlier. This site was chosen due partly to the reconnaissance explorations of Jean Ribault and Jacques Le Moyne, two Frenchmen who left important written and visual records of sixteenth-century Florida. Ribault’s flowery account of the area, first published in 1563, clearly paints an earthly paradise found: [We] enterd and veued the cuntry therabowte, which is the fairest, frutefullest and pleasantest of all the worlde, habonding in honney, venson, wildfoule, forrestes, woodes of all sortes, plame trees, cipers [cypress], ceders, bayes, the hiest, greatest and fairest vynes in all the wourld with grapes accordingly, which naturally and withowt mans helpe and tryming growe to the top of okes and other trees that be of a wonderful greatnes and height. And the sight of the faire medowes is a pleasure not able to be expressed with tonge, . . . and to be shorte is a thing unspeakable, the comodities that be sene there and shalbe founde more and more in this incomperable lande, never as yet broken with plowe irons, bringing fourthe all thinges according to his first nature, whereof the enternall God endured yt. (Ribault 1927, 72–73)

Among the villages of the Timucua, Ribault saw the usual native foodstuffs, including maize, beans, and squash, but also noted both Iberian oranges and wild hogs in the immediate area, a clear sign that the Spanish were already having a major ecological effect on the Florida coast. The Timucua also appeared to have recovered from earlier epidemics—if they had suffered from them at all—as Ribault’s portrait of Timucua society is a largely flattering one. Ribault was especially impressed with their ability to catch large numbers and

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Florida Indians planting seeds, created in 1591 by Theodor de Bry. Timucua men cultivate a field and Timucua women plant corn or beans. (Library of Congress)

varieties of fish, using weir dams “so well and cunyingly sett together, after the fashion of a labirithe or maze, with so many tourns and crokes, as yt is impossible to do yt wth more cunning or industrye” (Ribault 1927, 71). Their high level of social organization is further evidence that the Timucua had not experienced dramatic population losses due to initial Spanish contact, although clearly their numbers had dwindled from 1513 levels. The French and Spanish presence in the area would soon have a major impact even on the Timucua, as those not killed by disease or direct warfare would be driven inland, far from the coast. In 1605, when Alvaro Mexia, a young Spanish soldier, visited the former territory of the Timucua, including numerous lagoons, bays, rivers, and streams, he met not a single Indian (Higgs 1951).

CONTINUED SPANISH DOMINANCE The French presence in northwest Florida was short-lived, as the Huguenot colony was completely destroyed by the Spaniard Pedro Menendez, who was also

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Colony: The Coast Is Cleared partly responsible for the eventual demise of the Timucua. However, it was his predecessor and nephew, Pedro Menendez Marquez, who would perhaps have the greatest impact on the native population of northern Florida. Declaring an allout war on the Timucuan, Marquez wrote to the Spanish crown in 1578, stating that he “should much like to break the spirit of those Indians . . . I tend to drive them from their lands, burn their villages, and teach them that we are going after them.” A year later, Marquez could boast proudly to the king that he did just that, demonstrating that the Spanish approach to warfare was as much a direct attack on the native landscape as it was on the native people: “[I]n forty-five leagues of their land which I overran, I burned nineteen villages, and some Indians were killed . . . Great was the harm I did them in their food stores, for I burned a great quantity of maize and other supplies” (Connor 1930, 225). Spanish colonies not only played an important reductive role in altering the landscape of the American South, they also pursued an additive one as well. Both Menendez and Marquez brought numerous Old World fruits and vegetables to the St. Augustine settlement, many of which were later adopted by the Timucuans themselves, including figs, pomegranates, oranges, limes, Iberian grapes, yams, sweet potatoes, watermelons, lettuce, artichokes, garlic, and onions. Herds of European livestock were also first brought to the colonial settlements in considerable numbers, including cattle, horses, mules, sheep, goats, and hogs. Those animals would themselves have an important impact on the ecology of the surrounding landscape, especially after the collapse of traditional Timucuan society which, for all intents and purposes, occurred shortly before 1590 (Hann 1988; Davis 1993; Worth 1998). As early as 1602, as environmental historian James Miller has noted, Florida Timucuans were almost exclusively settled in mission villages, had declared openly the Catholic faith, and spoke fluently the Spanish language (Miller 1998). In fact, for the first half of the seventeenth century, it was the inhabitants of Spanish missions who would make the most visible changes to the southern landscape, especially along the Florida and Georgia coasts, where the mission townships were largely concentrated. Especially important in this regard were the doctrina, permanent mission towns with a church and one or more resident clergy. Most doctrina also possessed a convento, or rectory, where the priest could both sleep and prepare his daily meals. Surrounding the convento was usually a Christian cemetery, a plaza, a council house or other Indian public structures, and several Indian dwellings arranged in a loose township pattern (Saunders 1993). A good example of such a doctrina is the Santa Catalina de Guale mission located on Amelia Island off the Georgia coast, one of more than a dozen such Spanish doctrinas found along the barrier islands during the early seventeenth century (Deagan 1985; Hann 1996; Milanich 1999; Worth 2002).

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Southern United States: An Environmental History Although Spanish missions were ostensibly established for the purpose of religious conversion and instruction in the Catholic faith, the mission system also served as the primary means of integrating Indians into the economic structure of the Spanish colonial system. This meant that the natives would have been exposed very early to European crops, fruits, stock animals, and fowl that might one day be raised for export to Hispaniola or even Iberia. One of the first crops introduced to the natives was the peach, a fruit brought to the region sometime after the mid-sixteenth century by Jesuit missionaries who undoubtedly planted peach pits or young seedlings in their mission gardens. The earliest written record of peach tees growing in North America dates to 1602, however, at a Franciscan mission near St. Augustine (Williams 1984; Hann 1988; Davis 2000). Closely resembling native Chickasaw plums, peach trees were adopted immediately by coastal Indians, especially those natives inhabiting areas nearest the Spanish doctrinas. The missionized Indians, in turn, traded both the seeds and young plants with natives living well into the southern interior. The tree’s popularity among the natives of the South is evidenced by the fact that the fruit was already found among Indians living along the Virginia coast as early as 1607, when the English first arrived at Jamestown. Indeed, archaeological evidence suggests that by the early seventeenth century, Indians nearly everywhere in the southern region were growing a Spanish variety of peach. In fact, at the Joe-Bell archaeological site in north-central Georgia, which dates to the second quarter of the seventeenth century, Mark Williams found peach pits to be the second most common plant food remains (Sheldon 1978; Williams 1984). Another introduced crop that would be important to the southern Indian was the sweet potato. In this case, the popular subsistence crop came not from Europe but from the West Indies. Both sweet potatoes and yams were important crops of sixteenth-century Caribbean sugar plantations, although the yam is distinctly an African crop that was brought to the Americas as a key provision on slave ships (McNeill 1991; Hall 1991; Richards 2003). In 1492 Christopher Columbus found Indians growing sweet potatoes on the island of Cuba, where he reportedly saw “a great deal of tilled land some sowed with these roots” and afterward claimed that the tuber was so important to the native Arawak as to call it “their life” (Carrier 1923, 60). In his classic work The Early Spanish Main, geographer Carl O. Sauer claimed that the sweet potato was the second most important crop of the Caribbean natives, as manioc or cassava could be found in slightly more abundance (Sauer 1966, 54). Curiously, in 1568, Juan Bandera of the Pardo expedition mentions being served batatas—the common Spanish word for sweet potato—at the Indian town of Aboyaca, located near present-day Orangeburg, South Carolina. According to Bandera, the Spanish were again given sweet potatoes about 30 miles south of Aboyaca, on the main

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Colony: The Coast Is Cleared route to Santa Elena, the location of an important Spanish mission (Hudson 1990; McEwan 1993). Apparently the Spanish so prized the sweet potato for its pleasant taste that they brought the tuber to their mission gardens and kitchens in both the Old and New World. Commerce between the Caribbean and Atlantic and Gulf coasts hastened the introduction of the tuber to the region, where it was soon adopted by natives and colonists alike. In fact, until the very late nineteenth century, the sweet potato was commonly referred to across much of the American South as the “Spanish Potato” (Burr 1865, 91).

THE COLUMBIAN EXCHANGE The peach, sweet potato, and yam are just three of dozens of important European and African crops brought to the Americas by the Spanish during the very first decades of what is commonly referred to by environmental historians as “The Columbian Exchange” (Crosby 1972). Lasting for more than a century, The Columbian Exchange would indeed change the course of world history, as the introduction of European plants, animals, and infectious diseases during the period brought about dramatic environmental and cultural changes to the American South, indeed the entire North American continent. Similarly, the export of New World crops to Europe and beyond would also change the subsistence practices, and thus the local environments, of millions of Europeans. As Spanish ships unloaded European livestock and crops on American shores, they took back to European ports such things as beans, tomatoes, peppers, sunflower seeds, peanuts, potatoes, and of course, maize. The latter would become an important food and feed crop from Spain to the Balkans, where it was grown in mountain valleys much like it was in the southern Appalachians during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The tomato would, of course, become central to the diets of those living near the Mediterranean, particularly for the Italians who began to use it in numerous regional dishes. The “Irish” potato, originally from the highlands of Peru, would become one of the most important food-crops of Ireland during the late 1600s; and the principal cause of mass famine there during the mid-1800s. The pepper plant that produces the spice known as paprika also made its way into Hungary from the Americas sometime during the late seventeenth century, eventually becoming one the most important seasonings in Hungarian cuisine (Crosby 1972; Hall 1991; McNeill 1991; Richards 2003). After 1492, interaction between humans and nature changed irrevocably around the globe. In northern Florida this meant that by the mid-seventeenth century, Apalachee and Timucuan Indians would be routinely cultivating European fruits and vegetables and even herding Spanish cattle (Boniface 1971; Hann

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Southern United States: An Environmental History 1988; Miller 1998). And even for those Indians who would continue growing traditional crops alongside the new arrivals, increased demands on the local ecosystem required adopting a much more intensive slash-and-burn agriculture. To more rapidly create fertile fields for cultivation, missionized Indians would first girdle large trees on forested tracts, burn them to release important nutrients, and then repeat the process again elsewhere after the soil was exhausted. According to environmental historian James Miller, the practice made it necessary for entire mission villages to relocate to areas that had not been cleared, producing, over time, a pattern of “old fields” recognizable to British surveyors a century later (Miller 1998, 122). Around St. Augustine, male Indians were even used as group labor, especially to maintain and harvest the largest maize fields operated by the Spanish missions. This system of repartimiento, at it was then known, required that hundreds of Indians be drafted into service from March to September each year. Paid only in cheap trade goods, the men were often exposed to communicable diseases and many were reported to have died as a direct result of their being overworked (Worth 1995; Hann 1996; Milanich 1999).

BRITISH ARRIVALS While the Spanish were busy securing the Florida peninsula and most of coastal Georgia, the British had their eyes on lands to the north, more specifically the coastal plain of North Carolina and Virginia. Of course the British were not the first Europeans to set foot on the Atlantic coastline, as the Spanish had gone ashore as early as 1561, when they took hostage a supposedly Indian cacique they named Don Luis de Velasco. Velasco’s return nine years later provides important eyewitness testimony to the role that virgin soil epidemics could play in “widowing” the sixteenth-century southern landscape, as he and his Jesuit captors saw a “land . . . chastised . . . with six years of famine and death” (de Quiros and de Segura 1953, 89). As a direct result of the epidemics, survivors were forced to move to “other regions to ease their hunger,” which created new and sometimes duplicitous political alliances among the surviving native populations (de Quiros and de Segura 1953, 89). Taking advantage of the situation, the British moved swiftly to set up colonies in key, strategic locations along the Atlantic Coast, including Roanoke, a barrier island off the main coast of North Carolina (Quinn 1974; Fausz 1985; Richards 2003). The first 1585 expedition to Roanoke, under the sponsorship of Sir Walter Raleigh, did not establish a permanent colony there, as the settlers abandoned the island after only a year, returning to England with Sir Francis Drake. The second attempt, in 1587, became the so-called “Lost Colony,” whose mysteri-

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Colony: The Coast Is Cleared ous collapse remains, to the present day, the subject of considerable intrigue and speculation. Fortunately, a valuable record of the coastal landscape was made in the work of author Thomas Harriot and artist John White, who, in 1588, published their first-hand observations at Roanoke and the nearby inland shores. Their book, A Brief and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia provides environmental historians with both a written and visual record of the Atlantic coastal landscape both prior to, and during, early European colonization (Harriot 1972). The Carolina Algonquins were not Mississippians, as they relied much more heavily on saltwater food sources, including oysters, and anadromous fish like the sturgeon, which, according to Harriot, were plentiful for “foure monethes of the yeere, February, March, Aprill and May” (Harriot 1972, 20). Blue crabs were also reliable food resources for the Algonquin Indians and enabled their villages to develop more fully along Tidewater rivers and creeks. Instead of burial mounds, the Algonquins created large middens of discarded oyster shells that could more easily inter their dead. The lack of workable stone and chert flint along the Atlantic Coast also caused the coastal Indians to rely more heavily on tools made from bone, shell, and wood. Continuous trade with other North American native groups brought copper to the area all the way from the Great Lakes area, as well as the numerous varieties of corn, squash, and beans from the lower South. Politically, the Algonquins of the sixteenth-century more closely resembled their Mississippian neighbors to the south and west, as smaller, militarily weaker tribes in the region regularly submitted to more dominant ones, paying as much as 80 percent of their annual wealth in exchange for peace and relative independence (Harriot 1972; Turner 1985; Wood et al. 1989). Initially, English contact with the Algonquins was relatively amicable as the local Algonquin enclave, the Roanacs, who found much to admire in the English colonists. The English possessed axes, hatchets, knives, and swords, which the Roanacs coveted dearly, as the weapons could give them a clear advantage over their neighboring enemies. Their accommodation of the English was short-lived, however, as English soldiers took large maize reserves from the Roanacs without their permission, causing a local chief to shift to a policy of hostile resistance. Afterward, for the theft by a local Roanac of a single silver cup, the English burned the entire village of Aquascogoc. Finally, British Captain Ralph Lane led his troops against the mainland village of Dasemunkepeuc and killed chief Wingina, claiming that he had grown “in contempt of us” (Lane 1955, I, 288). The true terror and misery came, however, with the rapid introduction of epidemic diseases by the English, which the Roancas began referring to as “invisible bullets” for their devastating effect on their people. These illnesses would, within a span of only two years, kill or alienate the majority of

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Colony: The Coast Is Cleared Despite Powhatan’s important status as a warrior and regional power broker, displacement of the Powhatans began immediately after the first Jamestown stockade was finished. And before the colony was even two years old, several of the principal Indian settlements had been seized, Powhatan had retreated to a more remote town on the Chickahominy River, and most of his followers were intent on seeking murderous revenge. Despite aggressive counterattacks by the Powhatans, rogue colonists continued their westward push toward the fall line, where they often “tormented” local Indians by “stealing their corne, robbing their gardens, beating them, breaking their houses and keeping some prisoners” (Smith 1624, 91). Within the stockaded fort of Jamestown, disease, famine, and attacks by the Algonquians also took a tremendous toll on the English colonists, although there were times when even the Powhatans had revived the settlers by trading them food for copper and iron implements. As was the case with the earlier Roanoke settlement, Jamestown colonists were faced with an unprecedented spring and summer drought their very first year inside the fort. In fact, according to David Stahle and Dennis Blanton, between the years 1606 and 1612, Jamestown colonists experienced the driest seven-year period in nearly 800 years (Stahle et al. 1998). If forced to drink brackish water, the settlers would have contracted salt poisoning, an illness whose symptoms match those commonly reported at Jamestown, including edema and irritability. Little wonder that the colonists experienced a “starving winter” following John Smith’s departure in 1609, after which time only 60 of the original 214 settlers had survived (Smith 1624, 85). And those who did survive the drought apparently thought the situation so hopeless that they decided to bury cannon and armor and abandon the town the following spring. Only after the arrival of the new governor, Lord De La Ware, and several supply ships did the surviving colonists return to the fort (Quinn 1955, 1974; Cowdrey 1983; Gleach 2000). In 1610, the English colonists declared all-out war on those Indian villages closest to Jamestown, initiating an intensive four-year campaign against Powhatan and his remaining tribes. Especially hard hit were the Pasbeheghs, who saw their village entirely destroyed and their local chief, his wife, and children murdered. Hostilities ceased temporarily, however, with the marriage of tobacco entrepreneur John Rolfe to Powhatan’s daughter, Pocahontas, in 1614. Despite the continued defeat, depopulation, and dispossession of their homelands, the resilient Powhatans engaged in hostile warfare with the English settlers for several more decades. The colonists were hardly deterred, however, as the Virginia Company of London was soon offering new incentives for colonial tobacco growers, making Powhatan lands an even more valuable commodity. Lethal epidemics also ravaged the Powhatan population in 1617 and 1619, although it does

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Southern United States: An Environmental History appear that some tribes had developed at least a partial immunity to some European and African illnesses by that time (Turner 1976; Wood et al. 1989; Merrell 1989; Gleach 2000). In 1622, after partially regrouping, a band of hostile and well-armed Algonquians attacked the colony’s outlying plantations, killing over 300 English settlers, or over a quarter of the colony’s population. A last minute warning spared the original Jamestown settlement, but the attack on the colony and mismanagement of the Virginia Company convinced the king that he should revoke the Virginia Company Charter. Although the Company’s interest in the Jamestown settlement was formally dissolved, the “New Town,” as it came to be called, continued to grow and prosper east of the original fort (Smith 1624, 87; Fausz 1985; Turner 1985). In direct response to the Powhatan uprising, the English conducted retaliatory raids—“harshe visitts” and “feed fights”—against hostile tribes, the latter referring to the colonists’ practice of stealing or destroying great quantities of Indian maize (Kingsbury 1935, IV, 508). This strategy not only kept the Indians on the defensive, it deprived them of vital sustenance, while at the same time giving colonists a more predictable food source. Some English commanders would even sell captured maize to their own countrymen, especially those who had begun to grow tobacco almost exclusively. In one of the fiercest engagements, the governor of Virginia, Sir Francis Wyatt, and 60 musketeers met 800 Pamunkey warriors in a two-day pitched battle near the York River. Fighting to defend their maize fields as well as their reputation “with the rest of the Salvages [sic],” the Pamunkeys were forced to withdraw after suffering many casualties, leaving behind enough ripe maize to feed 4,000 people for a year (Kingsbury 1935, IV, 508). These scorched earth tactics ensured the prosperity of the Virginia colony, although at the expense of the now largely defeated Powhatans, who increasingly sought peaceful relations with the English leadership of the growing Virginia colony. After 1630, the Powhatans as a unified group were no more, although individual tribes continued to play an important role in colonial trade and commerce for many years to come. The English now controlled much of the Virginia and Carolina coastline, having driven most of the natives farther inland, in many areas well above the fall line. In Georgia and Florida, Indians numbering in the thousands were preparing to be baptized as Christians, as Franciscan friars had well established their mission system along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Having largely subdued the surviving coastal natives of the American South, the second- and third-generation colonists were better prepared to expand their economic interests even further inland. To do so, however, would first require the establishment of larger and more permanent coastal settlements—and even more subjugation of the native landscape.

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Colony: The Coast Is Cleared At mid-century, the greatest landscape change in the British colony occurred as the direct result of tobacco growing, which started on a grand scale after 1620, the year more than 60,000 pounds of the cured leaf were shipped directly to London. Just seven years later, 500,000 pounds of the cured weed was exported from Virginia, to ports in both Europe and the West Indies (Middleton 1953; Kullikoff 1986). By that time, growing tobacco had become an all-consuming interest of the settlers, who often complained that “the only commodity for Merchandizes in booth the Plantations is at this day no other than Tobacco: whereby there apparrell, tooles, impellments & all other necessarys [except victual] are procured” (Beer 1908, 87). The lure of growing tobacco remained irresistible to the colonists even though growing the plant ultimately proved detrimental to the thin topsoils of the Atlantic Coast, wearing them out in four or five years. The cultivated tobacco plant—a variety introduced from the West Indies (Nicotiana tabacum)— grew best in the fertile leaf mold of freshly cleared forests, which ultimately meant that the minimum number of people would have the maximum impact on the southern landscape. Although the average tobacco plot was only two acres, planters with slaves could cultivate even more, especially if they had sufficient new land to clear and cultivate after wearing out old soils. The average settler grew several acres of corn in addition to tobacco, and many more acres were required for ranging livestock. Even when corn was grown on worn-out tobacco fields, the yields were not generally sufficient to stop the forest clearance process and the constant movement of settlers from old to new ground. The impermanent settlement patterns caused by growing tobacco caused even land-rich Virginians to forcefully complain of the situation: “Now the gre[e]dines[s] after great quantities of Tobacco, causeth after 5 or 6 years to continually remove and therefore neither build good Houses, fence their grounds or plant any Orchards, etc.” (Morgan 1975, 183). Although not all of the timber cutting can be directly attributed to tobacco cultivation, by the end of the seventeenth century, nearly a half-million acres were deforested in the Virginia colonies alone, and such species as “white oak, black walnut, and white cedar . . . were effectively exterminated” (Sale 1990, 291). The residual ecological effects of timber cutting were no less severe, including the deterioration of beaver dams and ponds, the lowering of water tables, increased floods and topsoil runoff, siltation, and stream bank erosion (Defebaugh 1906; Craven 1926; Williams 1989). Tobacco cultivation also pushed the English even further inland, where they could engage in other economic pursuits, including trapping fur animals for peltry. Having exhausted the supply of beaver in New England by the mid-1620s, enterprising fur-trappers now had their sights on the streams and forests west of the Chesapeake Bay, habitat that still contained large numbers of beaver, mink, and muskrat. Among the first of

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“London’s Virginia”: Colonists smoke while African slaves work in the fields beyond. (New York Public Library)

the Virginia colonists to move further inland and exploit the animal resources there were Henry Fleet and William Claiborne, both veterans of the AngloPowhatan War, and both sons of planter gentry. By the late 1620s, Fleet had employed numerous Indians in the fur trade after teaching several tribes of the lower Potomac how to better preserve beaver pelts for commercial markets. By

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Colony: The Coast Is Cleared the early 1630s, the more ambitious Claiborne, funded by London investors and supported by the fur-rich Susquehannocks, was able to incorporate the entire Chesapeake Bay region into the export fur market, including the area north of the Potomac stretching into Maryland (Fleet 1876; Herndon 1957; Silver 1990). On balance, both tobacco growing and the fur trade were extractive industries that changed the native ecosystem in powerfully debilitating ways. However, the English did add important biological elements to the southern ecosystem during the early colonial period, although the precise date of their introduction is lacking in the historical record. We do know, for example, that such plant species as jimson weed, common burdock, Bermuda grass, and several other nonnative species were introduced to the South during the seventeenth century, and numerous other such plants in the early eighteenth century. In fact, nonnative grasses were among the first European plants introduced to the American South during the colonial era, as domesticated livestock needed sufficient pasture for year-round grazing. Early colonists quickly discovered that native grasses withered away in late fall and winter, leaving cattle and sheep to forage on lifeless foliage through the colder months. In fact, as early as 1619, John Smith warned that the native grasses of Virginia were “good in summer” but will “deceive your cattle in winter” (Stilgoe 1982, 182). A London pamphlet published in 1635 went so far as to instruct prospective settlers to take “a good store of calver-grasse seed to make good meadow” (Carrier 1923, 239). Bermuda grass, a native of the tropics, probably first arrived as a bedding for slaves and livestock, coming ashore as a direct result of Spanish trade in the West Indies. Jimson weed, whose common name is simply a corruption of “Jamestownweed,” was brought directly to that British colony sometime after 1610, where it quickly spread across field and forest, eventually colonizing wastelands throughout the entire United States (Haragan 1991, 52). By 1640, Virginia colonists could claim great success in taming the southern ecosystem, having reached a total population of 8,000 individuals for the coastal plain. The Virginia government, as a direct response to the population’s rapidly growing numbers, soon began placing individual colonists along numerous inland fall-line forts, among them prominent planters like William Byrd I, Abraham Wood, and Cadwallader Jones. These individuals would become important brokers in pelts, apothecaries, and other commodities of the interior forest, bringing Indians and Englishmen together in cooperative partnerships, perhaps for the first time. As historian J. Frederick Fausz has stated it, the early trade in furs and other products of the native southern landscape “united Englishman and their Indian allies in a cooperative, symbiotic partnership of mutual benefit across a contact frontier with no cultural boundaries” (Fausz 1985, 252). The situation would soon change, however, as those very same trade relations would

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Southern United States: An Environmental History also divide people of similar culture and common origins. The Tuscarora Indians, for example, who had for decades tried to establish more direct trade relations with the colonial Virginians, now found themselves in direct competition with the Powhatans. After the final defeat of the Powhatans by the English in 1644, the Tuscaroras were thus able to expand their territory into the outer coastal plain, becoming important suppliers of pelts and deerskins to traders along the James River. The few remaining Powhatans, now officially banned from their ancestral homelands, had little choice but to fully cooperate with the English in all things related to trade and commerce (Cowdrey 1983; Merrell 1989; Sale 1990; Silver 1990). To the south, in Georgia and Florida, the fledgling fur trade had less of an impact on the native population, as beaver pelts from warmer climes were in less demand due to the fact that they were not nearly as thick or luxurious as those taken from more northern latitudes. Moreover, the Spanish were far less interested in obtaining beaver, which was used largely in the British and French hat-making trade, and much more interested in obtaining deer hides, as they could be fashioned into a number of different leather goods. Spanish Florida was also less densely populated by Europeans, although some of the environmental changes there were no less significant, especially after 1650, when cattle ranching was introduced to Florida on a larger scale. Both Florida and Georgia possessed large areas of natural savanna grasslands, especially along the coast, making it prime pasture and rangeland for prospective ranchers. Originally brought to St. Augustine from Hispaniola during the sixteenth century, cattle from these and later introduced herds gradually spread westward across the Gulf Coast. The Florida range cow, not unlike the feral European hog, was an animal well-suited for the southern climate and subtropical terrain. Castilian cattle were also quick, lean, heat-tolerant, and could find forage under the worst conditions. Spanish settlements along the Rio Grande also imported cattle into what is now Texas sometime after 1659, including herds of Longhorns that would spread slowly eastward across the state (Bennett and Hoffman 1991). It was in Florida that the range animal had its greatest impact on the southern environment, however, as not all lands of the interior were savannas or treeless plains as was the case in many parts of Texas and Oklahoma. In Florida, fire was also likely used by ranchers to produce larger areas of grassy vegetation, although reputable historical evidence for the practice during the early colonial period is relatively sparse. Even if fire was not used regularly by ranchers, the cattle would have themselves created greater expanses of treeless territory as well as helped maintain that which had already been deforested earlier by Spanish colonists or native Indians. When herds of cattle were ranged in forested areas, they would have eaten saplings and shrubs, creating a more park-

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Colony: The Coast Is Cleared like effect than had ever existed before in those areas. Thus, over time, Spanish herding practices—which also employed Indian and African labor—would have most likely created “a decrease in the diversity of hardwood forests,” and at the same time caused a noticeable increase “in the area of natural or artificial grasslands” (Miller 1998, 127). Cattle were extremely important to the colonial economy of Spanish Florida as the animal provided tallow for burning in oil lamps, leather goods for export to Mexico and Europe, hides for wrapping bundles of tobacco, and draft oxen for plows. The animals were also raised for beef, which could be dried as jerky or salted. As early as 1675, before the full arrival of civilian ranching in the Florida interior, there were already enough range cows in the province of Apalachee to provide 150 individual hides and 3,800 pounds of tallow to be sent to Havanna, Cuba. Under the control of Catholic missionaries, cattle herds in the region remained relatively small, however, or at least fewer than 1,000 head (Boniface 1971, 150). This would change significantly, as more and more civilian ranchers became involved in the practice toward the end of the seventeenth century. By the late 1680s, it was possible to see several thousand head of cattle in the open, unfenced range, which in some parts of northern Florida and south Georgia might extend for 60 square miles. In fact, it was at the Spanish hacienda where one could observe the largest numbers of non-Indian residents, including horseback-riding vaqueros who were specifically brought to the colonies to manage the growing herds. It was the vaquero who was responsible for first introducing to the American South the Moorish tradition of cattle herding from horseback, a cultural practice that would, within the next century, be adopted by the Creek Indians, who would later spread the tradition as far north as the Appalachians (Bays 1991). By the mid-1660s, the Spanish mission complex appeared poised to fully dominate the cultural landscape of the lower South, at least in the Florida peninsula and barrier islands of Georgia where it had become firmly established. This would soon change, however, as the English began pushing their economic and political interests rapidly southward, toward the mission settlements along the Georgia coast. The English expansion was aided by the deaths of literally thousands of Florida and Georgia Indians, many of whom had succumbed, in 1659, to a major measles epidemic. According to one eyewitness observer, by the 1660s, Florida was a “hollow peninsula,” an area largely void of any major Indian settlements (Bushnell 1983, 53). Moreover, in 1668, the Spanish capital of St. Augustine was raided by British privateer Robert Searles, who killed no fewer than sixty Spanish civilians, destroyed several major buildings, and plundered the city treasury. English pressure on the Spanish colonies intensified when a British military and civilian presence was officially established at Charlestown in 1670. With the

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Southern United States: An Environmental History founding of the city, the British were able to establish a major port along the south Atlantic Coast, giving them great economic and political advantage in the region. The establishment of the city, later renamed Charleston, also benefited them militarily, allowing them to launch more frequent raids on the remaining Spanish settlements. By 1690, the boundary between the British colony and the Spanish lay as far south as the St. Mary’s River, effectively putting the entire Georgia coast under British control (Worth 1995; Stewart 1996; Miller 1998; McEwan 2000). With the founding of Charleston, the English could also focus more on exporting raw materials from the southern interior, including furs and other forest products that might be procured from as far west as the Mississippi River. And with the conception of a true race-based slavery system in the 1680s, there was even more European contact with natives at the southern port, as Indians living well beyond the Piedmont might find themselves hotly traded commodities, captured and sold as slaves to planters in Virginia or the West Indies. According to one historian of the era, by 1710 more than 12,000 Southern Indians had been shipped from the South Carolina port alone, mostly to the northern colonies or to the Caribbean (Wright 1981). The Indian slave trade also exposed more and more natives to infectious diseases, making no single area in the American

Colonial Charleston, South Carolina, 1673. (Kean Collection/Getty Images)

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Colony: The Coast Is Cleared South free of such debilitating illness. As Indian populations declined even further over the next several decades, more and more African slaves were imported to the region to labor in the growing plantation system that now stretched from Maryland to Mississippi. Soon, Africans would play an even greater role in southern environmental history, changing the coastal and interior landscapes in many unique and important ways. The French, with the establishment of a strategic port at Mobile Bay in 1701, would also begin playing a more important role in the environmental history of the American South. Although France had failed on several occasions to colonize the region’s Atlantic coastline, relinquishing full control of the area to the British and Spanish for more than a century, La Salle’s descent down the Mississippi River in 1682 gave the country a renewed interest in settling the Gulf Coast, especially the area around the mouth of the Mississippi River. By that time, the French were able to explore the area with only minimal resistance from native tribes, finding only the Natchez, who were still 6,000 strong, capable opponents. Like elsewhere in the region, Indians of the Lower Mississippi Valley had been severely decimated by infectious diseases, especially smallpox, which prior to 1700 had killed literally thousands of natives along the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts (Usner 1998). Finally, in 1718, after mapping the entire area with the help of surviving Indians, including the intricate waterways of Lake Pontchartrain and Bayou Manchac, a French company under the leadership of Scottish financier John Law, formally laid out the city of New Orleans. While it would take several more decades for the city to become as bustling as Charleston, New Orleans gave the French important control over the entire river artery, commercially linking the South to the North (Meinig 1986; Ambrose 2002). Over the next decade, large tracts of land would be granted to French settlers in the Louisiana colony, mostly to émigrés from France, Canada, and the West Indies. African slaves also arrived in the French port by the thousands, individuals who would soon work the tobacco, indigo, rice, and cotton fields that were fast becoming a common feature of the southern landscape.

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5 PLANTATION: SEEDS OF CHANGE Donald E. Davis

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obacco was clearly the first crop in the American South to be grown in considerable quantities, although it was never cultivated on a large, intensive scale until after 1700, when literally thousands of slaves were imported to the region to work specifically in tobacco holdings. Prior to that time, most Virginia tobacco workers were indentured servants of various races and ethnic groups laboring to obtain their ultimate freedom. The impermanence of early tobacco cultivation also limited the extent to which a tobacco “plantation” could locally evolve and thus develop the institutional structures—large manor house, slave quarters, vast land holdings—commonly associated with the agricultural system. And when Virginia planters did attempt to grow tobacco on a large scale after 1700, seldom did the tobacco plantation exceed 250 acres, forcing one prominent historian of southern agriculture to ask whether these smaller farms “were plantations at all” (Hilliard 1994, 110). By 1830, intensive tobacco cultivation had spread to even the remotest parts of Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Maryland, where the plant was grown alongside other staples such as corn and wheat. By the late antebellum period, however, most Virginia and North Carolina district plantations growing large quantities of tobacco did possess a large manor house, including the many outbuildings and slave cabins found elsewhere in the South (Robert 1938, 1949; Arnow 1984).

RICE Among the first crops to be grown intensively in the region, with the aid of slave labor, and within the framework of what could be called a true southern plantation, was rice. Rice, a grass first domesticated in Asia more than 5,000 years ago, was grown as far west as Africa by the late seventeenth century (Rodney 1970; McNeill 1991). In the American South, profitable rice cultivation

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Southern United States: An Environmental History required a considerable amount of land and labor as well as the use of an environment that was once thought to be largely uninhabitable: the low-country tidal swamp. In the beginning most rice plantations were little more than manmade impoundments that used the natural flow of a nearby stream or river to flood the prepared field. This technique first required clearing a large area in a level floodplain, constructing a dam upstream to impound water, and building a low dike below the seaward margin of the cleared field. A primitive sluice gate controlled the direct flow of water from the impoundment to the rice field, and another gate allowed the field to be drained as needed. To be truly effective, the method first required the extensive clearing of trees and brush from the fields as the seeds of the rice plant had to be sown in well-worked bare soil (BerquinDuvallon 1806; Hilliard 1978; Hall 1992). This type of rice growing, which first began in the 1680s, continued for many decades before giving way to an even more intensive method of preparing the fields. The more technologically sophisticated method of rice cultivation, which became increasingly common after 1750, made use of the natural rise and fall of water near tidal estuaries. It also required the knowledge and labor of African slaves, many who had worked or directly seen such systems of cultivation. In fact, one study has found that those slaves brought to South Carolina rice plantations during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, “43 percent came from rice-producing regions of Africa” (Mariners’ Museum 2002). For tidal rice cultivation, a more elaborate system of dams, levees, ditches, culverts, and floodgates had to be constructed to better regulate the flow of water onto the fields. Such systems in Africa, which allowed residents there to grow larger amounts of rice in smaller areas, were already in widespread use along the Gambia River by the mid-seventeenth century (Carney 2001). After dams of earth and wood were built along the river banks, valves made of ingeniously carved tree trunks were fitted into the dikes, which allowed the water to flow only in one direction. The valves closed against Atlantic seawater on the outside and drained excess water from the rice paddies when water levels got too high. As a testament to African influence on southern rice cultivation, the elaborately made wooden culverts that controlled the flow of water between levees and rice fields in the nineteenth century were still referred to as “trunks” by both planters and slaves alike (Stewart 1996, 102). In French Louisiana, the role that African slaves played in the introduction and cultivation of rice is far more certain. The captains of the first two ships to bring African slaves to the colony in 1719 were told specifically by colonial authorities to purchase barrels of rice seed and several Africans who knew how to cultivate the crop. A year later, rice was growing in abundance along the banks of the Mississippi River and other nearby rivers and bayous in lower Louisiana.

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Plantation: Seeds of Change

Slaves unloading rice barges in South Carolina. (North Wind Picture Archive)

The production of rice quickly expanded, even allowing for the export of surplus grain to the West Indies and Spanish Pensacola. In 1721, a single plantation on the Chapitoulas coast north of New Orleans produced more than 15,000 pounds of rice from just 350 pounds of seed (Hall 1992, 123). In Louisiana, where heavy rain and floods often drowned other crops, rice became one of the most predictable staples, causing even small farmers to grow the grain for local and extra-local consumption. Because profitable rice cultivation required a very specific coastal environment and very intensive slave labor, crops like tobacco and indigo were soon preferred over rice, especially after the French Crown took control of the Louisiana colony in 1731. Moreover, the French longlot pattern of settlement, which laid out plantations in narrow four-by-forty arpents (one arpent is 0.84 acres), also restricted large-scale rice production, as these narrow but deep plots limited the amount of fertile bottomland that a single rice planter might cultivate (Gray 1958, I; Chaplin 1993; Hilliard 1994). Along the southern Atlantic, the availability of large expanses of low-lying tidal plains was much less of a problem, making the coastal low-country from the St. John’s River in northern Florida to Cape Fear in North Carolina prime rice-growing territory. Moreover, in 1691, the General Assembly of South Carolina ratified a proposal to allow Carolinians to pay their taxes in rice as well as other agricultural goods, thereby reducing the economic risks associated with growing the new crop. By 1696, rice was being grown successfully along much of the South Carolina coastline, possibly with seed-lines brought directly from

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Southern United States: An Environmental History Madagascar (Salley 1919; Hilliard 1978; Coclanis 1989). By the beginning of the eighteenth century, rice was becoming one of the most reliable cash crops, with exports from Charleston annually exceeding 10,000 pounds. By the 1730s, rice was the most dominant crop of the South Carolina low-country, with exports annually exceeding 20 million pounds. To expand and maintain the rice fields, African slaves were needed in great numbers, as the largest and most profitable plantations required no fewer than 250 field hands. As in Louisiana, South Carolina slaves were familiar with the plant and provided the planter with both their physical labor and rice-growing expertise. The expansion of South Carolina rice cultivation quickly resulted in the dramatic increase in the number of slaves in the state, who, in 1680, had made up only one-fifth of the colony’s total population. After 1720, when black slaves outnumbered white residents more than two to one, rice cultivation was not only profitable, it boomed (Gray 1958, I; Silver 1990; Coclanis 2003). In Georgia, rice became important after 1750, when the ban on slavery in the young colony was officially removed. Two years later, with the royal takeover of the colony in 1752, conditions were extremely favorable for the spread of rice growing along the Georgia coast, especially along the Savannah, Ogeeche, Altamaha, and Satilla rivers (Coclanis 2003). In the beginning, Georgia rice growing adopted the older and simpler method first used in South Carolina and Louisiana, which involved the intensive clearing of all living vegetation from the low-country swamps and wooded hammocks that stood alongside major river courses (Smith 1985; Hall 1992; Stewart 1996). An extremely arduous task, the clearing was usually done in winter, often requiring field hands to stand in cold and ankle-deep mud. Even the largest trees had to be felled in the designated fields, including ancient live oaks and cypress trees that might have been sold to local sawmills or even exported to the West Indies. Entire stands of river cane also had to be dug up by the roots, since burning the native reed generally encouraged its regrowth the following year. This more primitive method of growing rice, while relatively efficient, was eventually made less so as more and more lands upstream from the plantation were cleared for cultivation. This made the dams and levees of the early Georgia rice plantation more vulnerable to unpredictable spring and summer rains, which if heavy enough, might flood the rice fields and kill the entire crop. By the mid-1760s, most planters in the Georgia colony had shifted to the tidal method of rice-growing, which provided more security and profits to the planter. Initially, tidal flow rice cultivation required more work of the slave, as this method required a much more elaborate irrigation system of dams, levees, canals, and sluice gates. After the completion of the irrigation network, however, less labor was required of the field hands, as a controlled flow of water on the rice crop eliminated the need for summer hoe-

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Plantation: Seeds of Change ing. As environmental historian Mart Stewart has noted, tidal irrigation provided a much more efficient way of growing rice along the Georgia and South Carolina coast, increasing the amount of rice—“from three to five acres”—that each slave could cultivate (Stewart 1996, 93). As rice became the major export of the Carolinas and Georgia during the late colonial period, it turned vast areas of the coastal environs into a landscape of commercial production. For the rice planter, the inland swamp had value only if it could be made into an “improved” or “manageable,” swamp, that is, capable of growing great quantities of rice. As profits increased so did the rice planters’ desire to turn more and more of the interior swampland into profitable rice fields. At its peak just prior to the Civil War, more than 40,000 acres of land were devoted to rice production in Georgia alone, including literally hundreds of miles of ditches and canals (Smith 1985; Coclanis 1989; Stewart 1996). In South Carolina, nearly twice that amount had been cleared by the late 1840s, including more than 40,000 acres in Georgetown County, clearly the wealthiest and most influential rice growing area in the American South (Coclanis 1989, 255). By 1850, more than 215,000 acres of land had been cleared for plantation rice production in Georgia and South Carolina combined, although that figure is a conservative one since it is based on rice export figures and does not include locally or regionally consumed grain (1,000 pounds of rice equals 1 acre of cleared land) (Coclanis 2004). Either way, rice-growing on this scale had a tremendous impact on the ecology of the South Carolina and Georgia low-country, changing the coastal landscape in a number of important ways. Because rice-growing depletes soils of organic material, especially nitrogen, after a decade or so of planting, the yields would have fallen below profitable levels. The response of the planter was to allow these fields to lie fallow for several seasons, which meant that new tracts of swampland had to be logged, dug, and drained. The constant clearing of fresh ground, along with the many other landuse activities of the southern plantation, including indigo, cotton, and corn cultivation, livestock herding, and timbering, began to rid much of the southern landscape of its original maritime forests and ancillary ecosystem. Not surprisingly, as early as 1832, a writer for the American Monthly Magazine was able to observe rice crops along the Santee River, “waving over fields of thousands of acres in extent . . . upon a surface so level and unbroken.” After casting his eyes up and down the same river, the writer added that he saw “not for miles, an intervening object to obstruct the sight” (American Monthly Magazine 1836, 12). The vast expanses of standing water among the flooded rice fields would have also created the perfect habitat for breeding mosquitoes, insects that carried both malaria and yellow fever, diseases that were the plague of the south Atlantic and Gulf coasts during much of the eighteenth century. While generally

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Southern United States: An Environmental History not fatal to adults, both illnesses routinely caused death among infants, the elderly, and expectant mothers (Cowdrey 1983; Merrens and Terry 1984). They also made even healthy individuals prone to other infections, thus greatly lowering life expectancies in the colonies. Unfortunately, the exact causes for the two illnesses—which rose in prevalence as the number of African slaves and rice exports increased in the region—were not fully known until the early twentieth century. Malaria, a eukaryotic microorganism carried in the bloodstream, was first brought to the American continent by African slaves, who did not generally show symptoms of having the illness. The illness was spread to white populations by the Anopheles order of mosquito which was native to the Southeast but likely made more common after the spread of rice cultivation along the coast. Yellow fever, which was often mistaken for malaria in the English colonies, was also transferred to humans via a mosquito vector. In the case of yellow fever, the Aedes (Stegiomyia) aegypti mosquito, a species first introduced to the American South from West Africa, was the culprit and, it too, flourished in the standingwater habitats created by the ever-expanding rice plantations (Crosby 1972; Silver 1990; Stewart 1996). Although the relationship between the prevalence of these illnesses and the coastal environment was never fully understood by southern colonists, many rightly believed that the standing water was the cause of the unhealthy conditions. A Harper’s Weekly feature on rice cultivation published in 1867 noted that when the young rice plants are flooded after their second hoeing, “it is at this time that malaria is apt to rise, the water, which is only changed at internals of two weeks, getting sour and stagnant” (Harper’s Weekly 1867, 8). Although planters and slaves made many ecologically detrimental changes to the coastal landscape, both were astute observers of nature and certainly used their knowledge of the changing tides and seasons to their ultimate advantage. For example, when rice fields became unproductive, they would often be flooded for several years, becoming artificial ponds for many species of native freshwater fish. As early as 1765, naturalist John Bartram witnessed such ponds full of “pike, gar, mullet, trout [bass], mud fish, bream, carp pearch [and] silver roach” as well as a large number of “white large heron and gannets” that came to regularly feed on them (Bartram 1765–1766, 13–14). The organic waste left by both the fish and the water-birds helped to replenish the nitrogen in the soil, thus allowing the planter to replant the fields after only two or three years. The bobolink, a migratory bird that would become entirely dependent on southern rice crops, was also a seasonal problem for the coastal planters, who tried a variety of different methods to minimize the damage done by the large flocks. Early on, planters simply planted their rice crops either earlier in March or later in June, thereby eluding the “rice birds” on their annual spring migration to

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Plantation: Seeds of Change Canada. Eventually, planters learned that if they flooded the crop for several additional weeks during the summer, they could postpone, until late September, the number of rice-heads going to seed. By that time, most of the birds had made their way toward their South American wintering grounds, thus leaving the majority of the rice harvest untouched (Heyward 1937; Doar 1936; Silver 1990; Stewart 1996). Aerially, the cultivation of southern rice was an activity mostly practiced along a 400-mile stretch of the Atlantic coastline, as tidal flows 3 to 7 feet high were generally required to flood the largest fields. Although the moisture-loving plant was grown along the coastal plain as far inland as the fall-line and as far north as Arkansas in the Mississippi Valley, nearly all major landscape changes caused by nineteenth-century rice cultivation was found within 30 miles of the Atlantic ocean. However, it was the cultivation of another plant during the same period, indigo, that would insure that more of the interior southern landscape would be changed by plantation agriculture. First introduced to the region in the mid-seventeenth century, the widespread cultivation of the indigo plant would result in even greater environmental changes to the landscape of the American South.

INDIGO Today more than fifty varieties of the indigo plant are known to exist throughout the world, including several wild species that are native to the southern region. A deep blue dye is made from the plant, which historically required very careful preparation and processing. During the early colonial period indigo was generally grown for local use in small plots with little or no commercial value. In the American South, indigo was almost never grown as a single crop, as southern planters usually raised it along with other staples such as rice, corn, or wheat (Adrosko 1971). Indigo was grown commercially in the West Indies by the midseventeenth century, which is where the export market for the plant emerged. As early as 1712, settlers observed wild indigo growing in Louisiana, but quickly remarked that neither the French nor natives understood its proper preparation. Some credit the Jesuits for first introducing indigo processing techniques to Louisiana in 1727, but southern historian Gwendolyn Hall claims that experiments in processing wild indigo began there as early as 1721, two years after the first slave ships arrived from Africa (Hall 1992, 124). In fact, one of the most common skills listed on early slave inventories was indigotier or indigo maker, a profession that became increasingly important after the 1730s. Africans clearly had knowledge of cultivating and processing the plant, as Indigo tinctoria grew

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Wild indigo plant. (Kirsten Soderlind/Corbis)

wild in both Africa and India. By 1738 no fewer than fourteen plantations in the vicinity of New Orleans grew indigo directly for export, collectively producing more than 70,000 pounds of the valuable dye (Gray 1958, I, 73). The person who is generally credited with developing indigo into a more viable cash crop in the region is Eliza Lucas. The young daughter of the governor of Antigua, Lt. Colonel George Lucas, Eliza was allowed to run his South Carolina plantation during the early 1740s. Located too near the ocean, she believed, for large-scale rice or cotton production, Eliza quickly experimented with growing the West Indies indigo plant, failing after her first two tries. After producing a successful crop in 1742, Eliza also learned, through trial and error, the best methods for commercially processing the valuable dye. In 1744, she saved the seeds from the entire crop, even sharing them with her sea-island planter neighbors (Ravenel 1896). A government bounty was placed on the crop in 1745, further increasing the incentive for growing indigo in the British colonies. Two years later, exports of indigo from Charleston had already exceeded 138,000 pounds, an indication of the increasing amount of land being set aside for the cultivation of the plant. If Lewis Gray’s estimates regarding the mean yield for indigo cultivation is correct—55 pounds per acre—then Carolina planters, in just two short years, had put more than 2,500 acres of the plant directly to the plow. Two decades later, when indigo cultivation peaked in South Carolina, one million pounds of the plant were shipped from Charleston alone,

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Plantation: Seeds of Change representing no less than 20,000 acres of cleared and cultivated farmland (Gray 1958, II, 1024, Table 38). Unlike rice, indigo grew better in drier soils, allowing the southern plantation owner to move further inland, away from the coast. It also allowed the plant to be grown in many other areas of the American South, including Florida, where the plant soon became the dominant export crop. Florida also developed a reputation for growing some of the finest wild indigo, whose manufacture brought even higher prices than the import variety from the West Indies (Miller 1998). Regardless of where it was grown in the southern region, the fields were first prepared by clearing away all debris and sowing the round seeds in neat rows, directly into the bare soil. The crop was weeded during the entire growing season and then harvested with large sickles and placed in large open sheds with heavily thatched roofs. Processing the dye was labor intensive, involving a high degree of skill and technical know-how that African slaves already familiar with the plant most surely provided. After harvesting, the entire plant was placed in a series of three water-filled vats, each one collecting more and more of the plant residue containing the indigo dye. Eventually the thick substance would settle to the bottom of the vats, where it would then be cut into small cubes and later packed into barrels for shipment abroad (Adrosko 1971). Like tobacco, the environmental effects of indigo cultivation were cumulative, as both plants wore out freshly cleared soils over relatively short periods of time, requiring the constant clearing of new ground in order to meet expected profits. Very few plantations grew more than 100 acres of indigo, and collectively no more than 40,000 acres of the plant were likely grown annually across the entire region in even the most productive of years. Over time, however, indigo cultivation would have required the clearing of new lands, including those more prone to erosion, such as those found on narrow river bottoms or upcountry woodland slopes. In Louisiana, the increase in indigo production during the 1750s also saw the increased demand for cypress logs used to construct the large vats and troughs for indigo production as well as the planking for ships that would carry the large casks of the dye to the West Indies (Surrey 1916). As a result, the cypress industry there flourished, causing the felling of trees more than 1,000 years old. In 1753, an eyewitness traveler visiting from Martinique observed “valuable cypress forests from which immense revenues are derived. Some plantations have a sawmill which once started with ten or twelve slaves will result in a net revenue of ten to twelve thousand livres [French “dollars”] per year . . . Some of the cypress logs are monstrous and have to be hauled by the strength of arms, three or four pair of horses dragging them” (Hall 1992, 202). The Revolutionary War greatly reduced the amount of indigo grown on southern plantations, although by 1788, a decade later, 833,500 pounds of indigo

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Southern United States: An Environmental History were still being exported from the region. The Depression of the 1790s, insect damage, higher slave prices, and competition from Guatemala’s better-quality indigo initiated a dramatic decline in southern indigo production, so that by 1798, the plant had been virtually eliminated from the regional agricultural economy. Soil exhaustion was also a major problem, especially in Florida where planters quickly “turned their attention to more lucrative naval stores and timber products” (Miller 1998, 142). Finally, competition from two important new staples—cotton and sugarcane—struck the final death-blow to the once profitable plant, relegating it to minor crop status by the beginning of the nineteenth century. However, small amounts of indigo would continue to be produced both locally and commercially in parts of the region until at least 1897, when a synthetic substitute for the dye was developed by German chemists.

SUGARCANE In Louisiana, sugarcane replaced indigo as an important staple during the first decade of the nineteenth century, and expanded the plantation system well beyond the parishes of New Orleans. Originally domesticated in New Guinea 12,000 years ago, the plant spread slowly into Asia and the Middle East, before arriving on the European continent sometime after the ninth century (Mintz 1991). Locally grown by settlers as early as the mid-seventeenth century, the plant had little commercial value until the eighteenth century, after sugar plantations in the French West Indies began dominating world markets. Settlers soon discovered that the tall narrow canes bent well in the strong gales of late summer and early fall, thereby reducing crop damage that would have most certainly affected rice and cotton. Although Jesuits there had imported sugarcane and slaves familiar with its cultivation as early 1751, it was not until 1794 that Jean Etienne Boré produced commercial-quality sugar using the juice of the plant and the recently perfected process of dry granulation (Martin 1882). By 1802 there were seventy-five plantations engaged in the sugar industry in Louisiana alone, with a collective output of more than 5 million pounds. By the end of the second decade of the nineteenth century, the total annual output exceeded 30,000,000 pounds, a volume maintained for several decades. New cane varieties and milling processes increased production even further, bringing prosperity to New Orleans like nothing witnessed before. Many travelers to the region during the antebellum period remarked on the lavishness of the plantation properties that featured large Greek revival-style manors, extensive slave quarters, and many large sugar houses (Berquin-Duvallon 1806). Moreover, the narrow holdings created by the French arpent system did not seem to influence

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Plantation: Seeds of Change sugarcane cultivation in the same way that it did rice cultivation, as sugarcane fields did not need extensive irrigation systems. The methods for growing the two crops were still somewhat similar, however, requiring moist, level bottomlands and a network of irrigation ditches to bring fresh water to the plants. The sugar industry developed as early as 1805 in Georgia, when Thomas Spalding grew it in considerable quantities on his large Sapelo Island plantation. Producing a sugarcane crop there worth $12,000 dollars in 1814, Spaulding became one of the region’s biggest advocates of sugar cultivation (Stewart 1996). In 1828 there were 100 plantations between the Oconee and Altamaha rivers growing the tropical plant, and as many more along the Savannah River. For South Carolina planters, sugar was never seen as a primary cash crop, as it was grown largely as a supplement to rice or sea-island cotton. Sugarcane cultivation was also practiced in Mississippi and southern Alabama during the antebellum period, although many planters there also produced, from the same harvest, large amounts of syrup for local or regional consumption. By the antebellum period, a considerable sugar industry had developed along the Texas coast, becoming by 1850 the second largest producer in the southern region. The Texas epicenter for sugar cultivation was Brazoria County, where more than 16,000 hogheads, or roughly 16 million pounds, were shipped from the area in 1852 (Phillips 1946; Gray 1958, II; Sitterson 1953). Florida followed in third place, making less than 1 percent of the total yield for the entire southern region. In Florida, as in other parts of the American South, sugarcane was planted with other staple crops, sometimes even in the same field (Cleland 1836). The Joseph M. Hernandez plantation near St. Augustine was typical of Florida plantations growing sugarcane during the first three decades of the nineteenth century. Of the total cultivated acreage, 200 acres were in sugarcane, 200 acres were planted in corn intermixed with sugarcane, 80 acres were in corn only, another 80 acres were in field peas, and another 20 acres were planted in potatoes. In the areas where sugarcane was grown, the fields were intersected with both narrow ditches and large canals, some of them more than 5 feet in depth. From the nearly 1-square-mile plot of cultivated land, more than 150,000 pounds of sugar was produced on the estate, including 8,250 gallons of molasses syrup (Miller 1998). For the entire antebellum period, Louisiana was by far the largest producer of sugar in the region, outproducing all other southern states combined by more than twenty-fold. After 1834, the state perennially produced more than 100 million pounds of sugar, before peaking in 1854 at more than 495 million pounds. Such a large crop, valued then at more than $15 million dollars, would not be seen again in the state until well after the Civil War. The enormous crop also represented substantial environmental changes across the state, as each hogshead of

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Southern United States: An Environmental History sugar, weighing 1,000 pounds each, represented at least 1 acre of plowed and cleared swampland (Forstall 1845; Gray 1958; Mintz 1985). Using that estimate, by 1850 Louisiana planters had put more than 500,000 acres of their holdings into sugarcane fields, causing much of the surrounding landscape to look more like the tropical plains of the French West Indies. At perhaps the largest sugar plantation in the entire South, John Burnside grew more than 4,000 acres of sugarcane, producing there in a single year some 3,366,000 pounds of brown sugar and 300,000 gallons of molasses (Sitterson 1953). An English traveler who visited the plantation just prior to the Civil War wrote that “if an English agriculturalist could see six thousand acres of the finest land in one field, unbroken by hedge or boundary, and covered with the most magnificent crops of tasseling Indian corn and sprouting sugarcane, as level as a billard-table, he would surely doubt his senses. But here is literally such a sight—six thousand acres, better tilled than the finest patch in all of the Lothians, green as Meath pastures” (Russell 1863, 268). Widespread across southern Louisiana, sugarcane plantations were responsible for some of the largest land clearances in the southern region prior to the introduction of sea-island cotton. Comparatively speaking, however, the sugar plantation was far less harmful to southern soils than rice cultivation, since the

A sugar harvest in Louisiana, ca. 1875. (Library of Congress)

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Plantation: Seeds of Change sugar planter had numerous ways of replenishing vital nutrients, including plowing under the previous year’s stalks and leaves. Ratooning was also practiced, a replanting process that allowed a second crop of cane to grow from the previous year’s roots, thus minimizing soil disturbance and further nutrient loss. Planters also companion-planted sugarcane with field peas and corn, which slowed erosion as well as returned nitrogen to the soil. The sugarcane planter was also more likely than not to rotate crops, as historian J. Carlyle Sitterson explained in his book Sugar Country: “When the land became tired of cane, which might occur in eight or ten years, it was planted one or two years with corn and peas, which restored its fertility for several years” (Sitterson 1953, 125). In Georgia, planter Thomas Spalding went so far as to recommend a rotation scheme of “first year cane, second year ratoon cane; the cane blades dug well into the soil early in the Spring, and as they decay dressed a little up to the roots. Third year cotton, with the cane blades dug again into the soil. Forth [sic] year potatoes, corn, pease and pumkins—as many potatoes as possible. Fifth year, after the provision crop is taken off, and whatever manure the Plantation affords applied to the inferior parts of the land, it may then again be prepared for cane-plants. And with this series of crops I am satisfied no time will exhaust the lands” (Coulter 1937, 246). Spalding’s words have even more import when one considers that virtually “all the sugarcane grown in Louisiana today comes from the same fields that were used for cane in 1820 or in 1870” (Hilliard 1990, 120, his italics).

COTTON As sugarcane cultivation was rising to ascendency in Louisiana during the nineteenth century, another important staple, cotton, was doing so elsewhere in the American South. In fact, cotton would eventually become the American South’s single most important crop, and would leave its own important environmental and cultural legacy on the southern landscape. Several varieties of the plant, native to both Mexico and the Indus Valley of Pakistan, were grown locally in coastal Virginia after 1607 and in various parts of the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi prior to the Revolutionary War. Spaniards also grew small amounts of cotton in Florida as early as 1556, and Native Americans in the western United States apparently possessed Mexican varieties of the plant decades earlier (Heiser 1973; Cowdrey 1983; Hann 1988). Although some cotton was shipped overseas prior to the Revolutionary War, most of the harvest remained on colonial farms and plantations, where it was spun and woven into cloth fabric. By 1788, Thomas Jefferson could declare that in almost every home

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Southern United States: An Environmental History in the state of Virginia, “some cotton was manufactured for family use” (Jefferson 1892–1899, V, 28). Two of the biggest drawbacks to growing cotton on a large scale was not only the lack of a large export market for the crop, but also the problem of adequately removing the smooth seeds completely from the cotton without damaging the boll’s tender filaments. Roller gins had been developed long before Eli Whitney’s infamous gin of 1793, but they were generally slow and cumbersome. And even though Whitney’s original invention was capable of only ginning some 50 pounds of cotton per day, its effect on the entire region was immediately felt, doubling both production and yields in just four years (Watkins 1908). After England developed numerous mechanized spinning improvements in its textile mills and factories during the 1780s, demand for southern cotton continued to soar. By 1800, England was importing more than 58 million pounds of the raw material, with the American South supplying as much as 70 percent of its total supply. One of the biggest suppliers to this burgeoning cotton industry was the sea-island planters of South Carolina and Georgia, who, during the 1780s, had developed a “longstaple” variety of cotton whose filaments were longer, silkier, and much stronger than commonly grown varieties. Many sea-island planters grew long-staple cotton on old indigo lands and in many cases very near the shoreline where the plants were thought to benefit from the salt air. Bringing premium prices in London and Glasgow, long-staple cotton in some locales surpassed rice as the dominant cash crop. By 1801, more than 8,300,000 pounds of sea-island cotton, valued at nearly 2 million dollars, were exported from South Carolina alone. The growing cotton market also greatly increased settlement in the southern interior, allowing even yeoman farmers to successfully grow the plant. As André Michaux noted in 1805, a Tennessee family growing only four acres of the plant could net a profit of $212, not counting the value of labor, which, he believed, could be accomplished without the help of a single slave (Michaux 1805, 241). Before that time, the range of cotton growing had expanded into the Piedmont regions of Georgia and South Carolina, well beyond the coastal plain “pine-barrens” and adjacent fall line. By 1810, a cotton-growing region had clearly established itself along a 100-mile-wide band stretching from Columbia, South Carolina, to Augusta, Georgia, the farming region William Bartram once poetically described as possessing soils of “a rich and fertile mold, a mixture of Clay and sand, manured with the decayed substances of the former production of the earth”(Bartram 1773–1774, 138). While much of the Piedmont was once covered with oak-and-hickory forests, large canebrakes and natural savannas were still found in isolated portions of the foothills as late as the late eighteenth century (Juras 1997). In 1773, Bartram himself, near the fall-line west of the Oconee River, commented on how the territory presented “varying scenes of

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Plantation: Seeds of Change swelling hills and levels, affording sublime forests, contrasted by expansive illumined green fields, native meadows and Cane breaks” (Bartram 1791, 307). As cotton production flourished in the Piedmont region so did slavery: in four South Carolina counties typical of the region—Abbeville, Laurens, Edgefield, and Newberry—the percent of the slave population to the total population increased considerably each decade. In 1790, only 18 percent of the population was African American; in 1820, the percentage had increased to nearly 40 percent. By 1860, slaves were a clear majority in all four counties, making up 61 percent of the total population (U.S. Census 1790, 1820, 1860). The spread of large-scale cotton production did bring an economic vitality to the foothills, but at what social and environmental costs? As the commercial plantation gained more and more of an economic foothold on the region, the more self-sufficient southern community languished, if not ceased to exist entirely. As one agricultural historian succinctly explained: “Population flocked thither rapidly, more and more slaves were introduced, the agriculture became increasingly commercialized, and a region which had passed through all stages of economic evolution from the fur trade to the diversified economy of farming and handicrafts was gradually transformed into a

An overseer riding past cotton pickers in a field in the southern states of America, ca. 1850. (MPI/Getty images)

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Southern United States: An Environmental History regime of commercial plantations. The tobacco industry, which had supplied a market crop, gave way before the power of cotton; the small towns, which were already springing up, ceased to develop further; the ironworks and the flour mills languished; grain-raising and stock-raising became relatively less important; . . . household manufactures gave place to ‘store-bought’ goods; roads were opened to the coast, and river navigation improved; and this formerly backwoods region began to be amalgamated in social and economic interest with the older planting regions of the east coast” (Gray 1958, 685). The Lower Mississippi valley followed a similar pattern of development, but cotton growing was not received nearly as quickly or to the same degree as it was in the Piedmont. By 1807, large cotton plantations had been developed in Baton Rouge and further upriver, with individual plantations annually producing as much as 50,000 pounds of the cash crop. By 1812, especially at those sprawling plantations between New Orleans and Pointe Coupee, individual planters might produce as much as 100,000 pounds of cotton annually, a crop valued at more than $20,000 (Watkins 1908, 138, 190). The more self-sufficient Louisiana farmers, who relatively coexisted with the large planters during the early decades of nineteenth century, also raised cotton, including much of their own meat and produce. After the War of 1812, however, many of the Frenchspeaking yeomen turned their attention to planting sugarcane, many becoming increasingly absorbed into the commercial economy of the Louisiana sugar plantation. By the early 1820s, the rich alluvial soils of the Mississippi Delta began to produce large quantities of cotton, as plantations along the river were aided by their proximity to the region’s most important transportation route. By the early 1830s, Mississippi and Louisiana were fast becoming the most productive cotton-growing states in the entire southern region. Of the 362,969 bales of cotton exported from New Orleans in 1830, 179,094 bales, or 49 percent of the total crop, were credited to Louisiana and Mississippi—13,000 bales more than the states of Alabama, Tennessee, and Arkansas combined (Watkins 1908; Gray 1958; Cobb 1992). By 1840, cotton production had spread well into northern Alabama and west Tennessee, both areas benefiting from the forced removal of Native Americans. Along the upper White River in the Ozarks, where steamboat traffic had been introduced during the late 1830s, cotton production ballooned from 8 bales in 1839 to 1,100 in 1849 (Blevins 2002). By 1850, the Memphis region had more than quadrupled its cotton output to 150,000 bales, with the vast majority of the product being grown on plantations of more than 300 acres (Works Progress Administration 1939; Hilliard 1986). Everywhere cotton was grown there was also a dramatic increase in the number of people living in those areas, including both free individuals and slaves. In central Alabama, a total of seven counties

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Plantation: Seeds of Change saw the free population increase from 22,613 in 1830 to 60,514 in 1840; whereas the slave population rose from 14,427 to a majority of 65,204 that same decade. Between 1840 and 1850, significant population increases were also recorded in northeastern Mississippi, the Red River valley of Louisiana, and along the Mississippi River in Arkansas—or just about anywhere cotton was grown (U.S. Census 1840, 1850). By the late 1840s, several counties in eastern Texas could also claim to be part of the Plantation South, as the state produced more than 57,000 bales of the plant in 1849 (Watkins 1908; U.S. Census 1850). During the decade of the 1850s, nearly every southern state saw cotton production double once again, making the plant by far the single most important staple crop in the region. Cotton growing, in just half a century, had become the single most important influence on everything economic in the American South—if not the entire United States—including the banking and credit systems, shipping, labor, and manufacturing. In 1858, Senator James H. Hammond of South Carolina could claim that “cotton is king,” hardly an understatement given the fact that cotton had, by that time, become the chief United States export (Foust 1982). By 1860 the American South was annually exporting some 4.9 million bales of cotton fiber to Europe, a crop valued at more than $270 million dollars (Saikku 2001). Counting the significant amount of cotton grown at that time for domestic use, it is likely that more than 7 million acres of the southern landscape were white with cotton bolls that year. Of course, the rapid agricultural growth of the southern region—due largely to widespread cotton cultivation and the plantation institution largely associated with it—led to both financial and political tensions between the Northern and Southern states, ultimately culminating in the American Civil War. The ecological problems associated with cotton growing were an ongoing concern, however, and are worthy of further exploration, especially if one is to fully understand how the cotton plantation shaped southern environmental history.

Effect of Cotton Crops on Soil Like tobacco cultivation, cotton growing was especially injurious to southern soils, robbing them of important nutrients and generally exposing larger surface areas to the deleterious effects of erosion. Along the coastal plain, the effects of soil depletion were felt very early on, but most planters there were able to stave off the usual problems associated with soil exhaustion by using crop rotation, soil amendments, and periodically flooding fields. The sea-island planters also had the advantage of having ready access to numerous marl deposits—rich calcareous soils of nearby marshlands—that could be applied directly to the fields

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Southern United States: An Environmental History by their army of slaves. Edmund Ruffin, one of the most influential leaders of southern agriculture prior to the Civil War, had encouraged such soil-building applications as early as the 1820s (Ruffin 2000). After several decades of growing cotton in the same fields, however, even these methods appeared futile. By the mid-1830s, many of the once profitable long-strand cotton plantations had lost their ability to produce large and quality crops, causing one prominent Georgia planter to remark that cotton would be forever “a cumberer of the earth” (Stewart 1996, 168). Some of these same planters regretted not having migrated with the westerly flow of both cotton and slaves, especially after learning, in the 1840s, that their cotton lands were worth only a fraction of what they had been only a few decades earlier. James Henry Hammond of South Carolina remarked that the urge to go west had already caused the departure “of nearly every one of the young men with whom I was brought up,” causing him to seriously consider leaving as well: “I have been trying to get over my desire for a western plantation, but every time I see a man who has been there it puts me in a fever . . . I must go West and plant” (Foust 1982, 113) In the Piedmont, the situation became far worse, as the more sloping lands, thinner soils, and generally careless planting practices wore out most upland soils in less than a decade. By the 1820s, the first lands devoted to cotton agriculture there “were gullied and bare of verdure, or covered with a thin growth of broom sedge; and the evil spread over areas later occupied” (Gray 1958, II, 910). By 1825, cotton growers in the Piedmont of North Carolina were forced to occupy even the poorest ridges, those once believed to be unworthy of cultivation. The most common solution for the planter was simply to move westerly, buy a new plantation, and repeat the process again after the profits had been secured. Agricultural historian Lewis Gray went so far as to say that the plantation economy was largely based “on the deliberate exhaustion of the soil and the expectation of making from one to three moves in a single generation” (Gray 1958, I, 446). True, most studies tracking the tenure of southern cotton planters found them to be a highly mobile group: “In Jasper County, Georgia, at the heart of that state’s cotton belt and long past its frontier days, nearly sixty percent of the 1850 slaveholders were gone ten years later” (Oakes 1982, 77). Economic historian Gavin Wright also found cotton planters hardly attached to local landscapes, finding the rates of mobility for the wealthiest slaveholders “comparable to the poorest unskilled laborers in the North” (Wright 1986, 26). The widespread acceptance of these short-sighted agriculture practices meant that eventually the entire region would be affected by severe soil exhaustion any place cotton was intensively grown. Madison County, Alabama, in the northern part of the state, felt the effects by the 1850s, as one eyewitness, Alabama Con-

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Plantation: Seeds of Change gressman Clement Clay, observed during his travels: “In traversing that county one will . . . observe fields, once fertile, now unfenced, abandoned and covered with those evil harbingers, fox-tail, and broomsedge . . . Indeed, a country in its infancy, where, fifty years ago, scarce a forest tree had been felled by the axe of the pioneer, is already exhibiting the painful signs of senility and decay, apparent in Virginia and the Carolinas” (quoted in Phillips 1918, 205). Parts of north Georgia, middle Tennessee, and central Kentucky saw soil depletion as well, although the more diversified agriculture practiced in those areas reduced the amount of acres made barren by cotton cultivation. For the rest of the American South, cotton quite simply caused, during the antebellum period, the worst soil exhaustion in southern history. As geographer Stanley Trimble has aptly put it, “Planters earned well their reputation as ‘land killers’” (Trimble 1985, 175). Besides simply growing cotton, the plantation owner was involved in general clearing activities that helped change the landscape in important ways. The vast canebrakes that once had covered literally thousands of acres of southern river bottoms, were chopped down and burned by planters eager to grow the crop in the region’s best soils (Phillips 1946). Rivercane, a hindrance to rice, cotton, and corn cultivation, was an extremely good indicator of soil quality, as land was often valued by the height and width of the cane stalks growing in the field (Adair 1775; Breazeale 1842; Dick 1948; Hill 1997). Standing trees were also a great obstacle to cotton cultivation and were very often the first thing removed when planters first arrived. Along the lower Mississippi in 1842, James Paulding described in detail the cotton planters’ “antipathy” for forested landscapes, as well as their usual method for “removing” trees from the plantation environs: “Trees were the great obstacle to cultivation, and the first enemies to be conquered. It is the same with pioneers of the new settlements, whose first and dispensable object is to get rid of them in some way or another. The labor of cutting them down, and removing the growth of the gigantic trees, such as those found in primeval forests, would amount perhaps ten, or sometimes twenty times the original cost of the land itself . . . The trees are, therefore, killed by girdling and by the application of fire, and thus remain standing till time and elements prostrate them to the earth; and nothing can be more dreary or unsightly than a new plantation. Bristling all over with scraggy dead trees, like a hedgehog” (Paulding 1948, 326). The girdling techniques, copied from Native Americans—who followed the example of the native beaver—would be used across much of the American South until the early twentieth century. Unlike rice and sugar, cotton and corn could be grown within the openings of standing trees, allowing the planter to begin plowing and sowing his crops almost immediately after the initial clearing process.

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THE EFFECT OF SLAVES ON THE ENVIRONMENT Working often from daylight to dark, slaves were ordered daily by their masters to chop, cut, plow, and hoe the plantation environs. In fact, most planters employing slaves measured their individual monetary worth by the amount of change that each could make to the plantation landscape. Thus, over time, slaves would alter the southern environment in very dramatic ways; in fact, their legacy is still visible in many parts of the American South, especially where they were employed in constructing canals, ditches, and roadbeds. Thousands of slaves were also employed as master craftsmen, woodcarvers, and carpenters, so many left an indelible mark on the built environment as well. Without the help of teams of slaves, planters could have cleared only a fraction of the landscape required to grow crops on a large scale, the prerequisite for them becoming competitive in the global economy. On his or her own time, however, the African slave was much gentler to southern soils. Independent of their slave masters, Africans would leave a very different environmental and cultural legacy on the southern region. To understand how slaves might have had any free time on the southern plantation, a brief explanation of the “task” system of plantation agriculture is in order. Most prominent along the coastal plain, the task system was used elsewhere in the South, although to a lesser degree. The alternative was, of course, the gang system, which simply involved the coercive driving of “gangs” of individuals in the fields, usually by a single overseer possessing a long whip. Sometimes a combination of both systems was used on southern plantations, though the former system, where practiced at all, would have been more frequently used by the planter (Phillips 1946; Kulikoff 1978; Morgan 1982). On rice plantations, where task-work developed into a semi-cultural institution, the task system required that the overseer or driver first assign the slave to a specific area or “task-acre” where the crop was to be sown, plowed, or weeded, based, of course, on the seasonal requirements of the field. This task-acre was then subdivided into four equal quadrants, sometimes visibly lined off using wooden stakes and cotton string. On rice lands, a task-acre was a square of 220 feet; for sea-island cotton, the task plot might shrink to a single 150-foot square. Each slave was then given a daily task rating of full, three-quarters, half, or quarter based partly on his or her physical strength and partly on past performance. The expected daily duties of the slave were thus clearly defined and predictable; that is, a slave rated as “full” would have to complete all work in the entire task-acre before quitting, whereas one rated “half” would have to complete two quadrants before the end of the work day. While most planters had strict and even published guidelines on how long physical tasks should take, the result was that

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Plantation: Seeds of Change most slaves on the plantation could work at his or her chosen rate, so that jobs could be completed relatively quickly or perhaps stretched out the entire day (Strickland 1985, 145). Those hands who finished early were allowed by planters to grow their own crops, usually in small and large garden plots near the slave quarters. It is in these landscapes that slaves planted crops brought directly from Africa, including yams, okra, cowpeas, castor beans, sorghum millet, collards, and peanuts. A nineteenth-century planter along the Georgia coast once described their home gardens as landscapes “where arrowroot, long collards, sugar cane, tanniers, ground nuts, beene, gourds, and watermelons grew in co-mingled luxuriance” (Wilson 1989, 21). Planters also allowed slaves to work these garden patches on weekends, as the vegetables harvested from them would often provide slaves with a family meal. Many of these crops would later become incredibly important to southern agriculture, spreading north and westward along with the migration of African slaves and the plantation economy into the southern interior. In most cases, just a half-century after their initial introduction, African plants were being readily grown and consumed by the white population, including the planters themselves, who realized that African foodstuffs were perhaps better adapted to the South’s more nutrient-poor soils.

OTHER CROPS Peanuts, originating on the slopes of the Andes in Brazil and in Peru, were first taken to Africa by Portuguese traders during the sixteenth century, becoming widely grown across the continent by the height of the slave trade. From Africa, peanuts traveled quickly back to the New World and were widely planted by slaves across the Atlantic coastal plain, from northern Virginia to south Georgia (Hall 1991; Holloway 2004). The Popular Grove Plantation, near Wilmington, North Carolina, is reported to have had the first commercial peanut crops in the region, with the first harvest going to market as early as 1818. Peanuts were probably not consumed in great quantities in the region until the Civil War, however, when both Northern and Southern troops used the “goober pea” as an important food source during the campaign. Interestingly, the word goober is also the Bantu word for peanut, more evidence that southern agriculture has direct African roots (Arant 1951; Perry 1989). Cowpeas, observed by French botanist Le Page Du Pratz in western Mississippi and Louisiana during the early 1700s, were also first brought to the southern United States from the Africa, becoming, almost immediately, an important manure crop and widely grown southern food crop (Le Page Du Pratz 1774). By

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Southern United States: An Environmental History the mid-eighteenth century, Thomas Jefferson had become one of the region’s biggest promoters of the cowpea, writing that they were a “very productive, excellent fodder for both man and beast, awaits without loss pour leisure for gathering, and shades the ground very closely through the hottest months of the year” (Carrier 1923, 250). Watermelons also came to the American South via Africa, although the plant appears to have been first domesticated in India (Rosenberger 2000). According to African studies professor Joseph E. Holloway, enslaved field hands planted watermelons in the cultivated fields so they “could enjoy them in July and August, the two hottest months of the year, while they hoed and picked cotton.” Yams, like cowpeas, were also among the favorite foods of slaves during the “Middle Passage” as it was believed that slaves fared much better during the voyage when they were fed familiar foods. Although some provision spoilage on trans-Atlantic slave ships did occur, John Barbot, a British slave merchant, calculated that “a ship that takes in five hundred slaves must provide above a hundred thousand yams.” Recalling his own ordeal crossing the Atlantic, an African slave remembered that “we had nothing to eat but yams, which were thrown amongst us at random—and of those we had scarcely enough to support life. More than a third of us died on the passage, and when we arrived at Charleston, I was not able to stand” (Holloway 2004). The sweet potato, confused with yams even today, was a Caribbean plant also brought to the Deep South by African slaves arriving from the West Indies. Besides growing numerous edible crops, it is also near their dwellings that slaves raised considerable livestock and fowl, including pigs, goats, turkeys, chickens, ducks, and geese. Although in some states, at various times, it was prohibited for slaves to manage their own livestock, many did possess a few head of milk cows or beef cattle, and sold them in local markets whenever the opportunity arose (Bassett 1899). The guinea fowl was a direct import from the African continent where the large birds live in the wild. In Africa, guinea fowl could be hunted as needed or could be captured, caged, and eaten later. Their large eggs were also regularly consumed as they could be easily gathered by raiding nests in nearby fields during the laying season (Hall 1991; Corbier 2000). Guinea fowl were first brought to the American South during the first decade of the sixteenth century, as the birds were stocked on most Spanish ships bringing African slaves to the Caribbean islands. In fact, the birds adapted so fast to the local environment that later arrivals thought the bird to be indigenous to the West Indies. Initially released around rice and sugar plantations, the rearing and eating of the birds eventually became an important part of the subsistence culture of the entire southern region (Gaspar 1991). On the eve of the Civil War, African slaves had not only radically altered the subsistence patterns of all Southerners, they had left an imprint on the

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Plantation: Seeds of Change landscape that was not only subtractive, but additive as well. Africans slaves were either directly or indirectly responsible for introducing to the region nearly every major crop associated today with southern agriculture and domestic cuisine. Collectively, however, slaves and their slave owners razed great forests, robbed native soils of their vital nutrients, and significantly altered, in less than two centuries, the ecological composition of vast areas of the southern landscape. Although they were the numerical minority across the southern region, the landholdings of the slave-holding cotton planter were often more than twenty times that of the non-slave holding agriculturalist. By 1860, in the Black Belt regions of South Carolina and Georgia, planters owning 500 or more improved acres controlled more than 55 percent of all cropland. For that reason, almost no geographic region in the South went unchanged during the antebellum period, especially those areas where cotton and other major agricultural staples were commonly grown. By 1860, especially in the principal cotton-growing counties of Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and South Carolina, nearly half of all available farmland had been improved for either cotton or corn cultivation. Average farm sizes had risen to nearly 500 acres, with improved or cultivated land equaling more than 300 acres in most cotton-growing regions. Along much of the Mississippi Delta, slave populations had risen to more than 70 percent of the total population, as they had in several counties in Virginia, South Carolina, Texas, central Alabama, Georgia, and Kentucky (U.S. Census 1864). As a direct result of the expansion of cotton growing and slave labor, very few large contiguous forests remained south of the 34th parallel or east of the Appalachian Mountains. In fact, nearly every county in the Piedmont and Coastal Plain, from Virginia to Mississippi, had more than 80 percent of its total surface area in agricultural use (U.S. Census 1864; Hilliard 1986). The Civil War, while slowing the growth of cotton and other staple crops for nearly a decade, accelerated the cutting of timber for firewood, railroad beds, breastworks, and chevaux-de-frise, the wooden stakes used to slow the advancing charge of cavalries. Near the major campaigns, entire hillsides were denuded by the two armies, who brought with them literally thousands of horses and mules needing constant pasture. As one of General William T. Sherman’s soldiers wrote, the Union army in Georgia “destroyed all we could not eat, . . . burned their cotton & gins, spilled their sorghum, burned & twisted their R. Roads and raised Hell generally” (Catton 1967, 395). Southern estates both large and small had their fields destroyed, livestock slaughtered, and homes plundered. Soldiers from both sides tore down and burned fence rails to warm themselves during winter or to fuel their cookfires. The various munitions used during the battles also had an impact on the southern landscape, as the numerous photographs taken during the conflict vividly demonstrate. Only in those areas

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Southern United States: An Environmental History lucky enough to directly escape the major campaigns were the environmental impacts of the Civil War not as visibly severe. After the Civil War, there were still many communities in the southern region where the plantation economy had not yet fully penetrated, leaving some areas untouched by the agricultural advances of the nineteenth century. In fact, as late as 1860, the Pine Barrens of Georgia and much of the “Big Thicket” portion of western Louisiana and east Texas had populations of less than ten individuals per square mile (U.S. Census 1860). In many portions of the uplands, farmsteads of 50 acres or less still dominated the rural landscape, with some counties having as much as 80 percent of their total surface area in farms of this size (Hilliard 1986; Salstrom 1995; Davis 2000). In those areas, which included large portions of the Ozarks, the Blue Ridge, and the Cumberland Plateau, the rural countryside had escaped the environmental depredations of the saw and plow. Old-growth woodlands were still observable on ridge, knoll, and mountaintop, and freshwater streams ran swift and pure throughout much of the year. These more northerly upland regions, known as the “backcountry” or “upcountry,” were once perceived by colonial settlers as a vast desolate wilderness, a place of little or no human habitation (Owsley 1982; Hahn 1983, 1985; Aron 1996). Of course, these areas had been inhabited for thousands of years by Native Americans, individuals who would maintain an important presence there well into the frontier and antebellum periods. Obviously, as settlement populations grew and the plantation economy spread further into the southern interior, the backcountry became a more accessible and inviting place to prospective white settlers. And even though much of the region would later succumb to the forces of large-scale commercial agriculture, the settlement of the upcountry progressed at a pace and scale quite different from that witnessed elsewhere in the American South.

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6 UPLAND: GROWING PAINS Donald E. Davis

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t the very beginning of the nineteenth century, very few places beyond the Appalachian Divide could claim population densities above twenty persons per square mile. Only the immediate area surrounding Lexington, Kentucky, managed to maintain a high concentration of settlers, and even there the population density did not rise above thirty individuals per square mile. While such sparsely settled areas could still be found in the Piney Woods of east Texas, the Pine Barrens of Georgia, and much of Louisiana and Florida well into the 1840s, the entire upcountry was in many ways still an uninhabited frontier, a vast forested area far removed from the plantation economy of the Lower South (Dick 1948; Owsley 1982; Hillard 1986). And although many individuals in the upper Piedmont, Ozarks, and Appalachians would eventually adopt the ways of commercial agriculture, the hilly uplands remained, throughout much of the nineteenth century, one of the last geographic strongholds of the selfsufficient yeoman. In fact, as late as 1860, in both Appalachia and the Ozarks, slaves accounted for less than 12 percent of the total number of residents residing in those two areas (U.S. Census 1860; Salstrom 1994; Blevins 2002). Of course the first inhabitants of the upcountry were neither frontiersmen nor white yeomen farmers. After initial European contact, Native Americans continued to reside across much of the upland South, even as the coastal plain was being occupied by planter elites. Yes, disease, internal warfare, and the Indian slave trade had dramatically reduced their numbers, but the uplands also served as a refuge from European influence, a geographic barrier allowing Native American communities in the region to partially recover or even flourish. By the first decade of the eighteenth century, Cherokees could claim a population of 25,000 individuals spread over three major settlements in four states. At the same time, the Creeks, who lived mostly along the upper Piedmont, maintained a population of around 15,000 individuals; whereas the Chickasaw, Catawba, and Quapaw could claim a combined population of nearly 10,000

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Southern United States: An Environmental History (Swanton 1946; Satz 1979; Thorton 1990; Smith 2002; Ethridge 2003). These tribes not only played an influential role in slowing the frontier settlement of the upland region, they also made, during the same period, important changes to the southern landscape. By the 1760s, Indians of the uplands and their new economic ally, the European fur trader, were responsible for the removal of biggame species from much of the upcountry environs, including white-tailed deer, American elk, and American bison (Bartram 1791; Haines 1970; Belue 1996). By 1810, when small farmers claimed the southern uplands as their yeoman paradise, Native Americans had already made numerous alterations to both field and forest, including harvesting valuable forest plant species like American ginseng to the point of near extinction (Meriwether 1943; Owen 2002).

HUNTING AND THE FUR TRADE It was hunting and the fur trade that brought Anglo-Europeans and Native Americans together for first time in the uplands, as wild game was still plentiful in the backcountry prior to frontier settlement. And even those individuals who first came to the region for other reasons found that they had to literally hunt game there to survive. Dr. Thomas Walker, who performed reconnaissance in the region for the Loyal Company of Virginia in 1750, found the western ridges of central Appalachia were truly a hunter’s paradise. “We killed in the Journey 13 Buffaloes, 8 Elks, 53 Bears, 20 Deer, 4 Wild Geese, about 150 Turkeys, besides small games,” wrote Walker in his journal (Johnston 1898, 75). Nearly every frontiersman and longhunter following in Walker’s footsteps would echo those sentiments, including a Kentucky trader who remarked that such a collection of wild game “is not to be seen in any part of the known World” (Aron 1996, 7). Because of this fact, Kentucky and Tennessee became a prime destination for the likes of Daniel Boone, John Stewart, and John Findley, frontiersmen who sought to profit from the ecological bounty of the backcountry. Shawnee and other native Ohio Valley inhabitants also returned in considerable numbers, individuals who had once made their home in the area, but had left a half-century earlier after suffering the wrath of both infectious diseases and marauding Iroquois warriors (Swanton 1946; Satz 1979; Aron 1996). The trade in furs and skins did not fully emerge until the first decade of the eighteenth century in much of the uplands, after French and Scots-Irish traders had made their homes among the Cherokee, Creek, and Catawba Indians. Along the coastal plain, white-tailed deer had become extremely scarce, or even exterminated in some areas, increasing the demand for deer hides in the interior. The entrepreneurial fur trader quickly took advantage of the situation, convincing

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Upland: Growing Pains young warriors in the upcountry to exchange dressed deer hides and other peltries for valuable European commodities. Deer hides were used by Europeans to make a number of profitable leather goods, including gloves and book bindings. In 1718, a Creek hunter could trade twenty-five deer hides for a flint-lock rifle, twenty for a stroud coat, twelve for a pistol, four skins for an axe or a hoe and a single deer skin for forty bullets or one pound of gunpowder. Among the Cherokees, prices were slightly more inflationary, as the South Carolina colonial government was responsible for overseeing and regulating trade in the territory. The published schedule of prices, agreed on by all trading partners, listed the value of a single rifle at thirty-five deer skins, a yard of stroud cloth at eight skins, a broad hoe and axe at five skins, and thirty bullets for a single deer hide (Logan 1859; Rothrock 1929; Franklin 1932; McLoughlin 1986). In the beginning, both the Creeks and Cherokees were “discriminating shoppers,” carefully balancing their personal and village needs with the local availability of deer (Merrell 1989, 32). Later, as more and more hunters faced large debts and became greatly dependent on the consumption of rum, the deerskin market became a nearly all-consuming force (Mancall 1995). As Shepherd Krech has noted in his important book The Ecological Indian, “some Creeks were so interested in the market that they killed not the twenty-five to onehundred deer required for a family’s annual domestic needs in goods each year, but two hundred to four hundred to meet their expanding needs” (Krech 1999, 158). As a result, the deerskin trade was in full swing in the American South by 1740, with as many as 500,000 deer hides being shipped to Europe from southern ports (Crane 1928; Gipson 1939; Goodwin 1977; Gray 1958; Braund 1993). Although some of the deer were certainly taken from areas outside the uplands, the majority of the animals were most likely harvested from areas far above the fall line. Given the fact that additional deer also had to be slaughtered for local consumption, upcountry Indians may have annually killed as many as 600,000 deer for their domestic use and market exchange needs (Carroll 1836; Brannon 1935; Crane 1928; Dunaway 1996). Of course, deer and other big-game populations suffered greatly under such intense hunting pressures, becoming visibly scarce in many parts of the area by the 1750s. After 1760, The Creek headman of Okchai noted that deer were becoming so scarce in the upper Piedmont of Alabama that hunters were now encroaching on Cherokee territory to find animals (Braund 1993; Saunt 1999). In east Tennessee and western North Carolina the situation was no better, as Cherokees were now traveling as far as north as Kentucky and Virginia to find sufficient game. Never overly plentiful in the upcountry, American elk had all but vanished from the entire region by the 1770s. In 1773, after recalling that he had once seen many elk in the vicinity of northeast Georgia and east Tennessee,

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Southern United States: An Environmental History William Bartram surmised that “there are now but few elks and those only in the Appalachian mountains” (Bartram 1791, 280). Bison were also becoming much scarcer in the uplands by that time, although numerous large herds could still be found in the Bluegrass and Cumberland Plateau regions of Kentucky and Tennessee (Haines 1970; Belue 1996). Only after military defeats of the Shawnees by the British in 1774, which resulted in relinquishing all hunting and trapping rights in Kentucky, were lands west of the Appalachians formally open to frontier settlement. A year later, Henderson’s Purchase, which ceded all Cherokee lands between the Kentucky and Cumberland rivers, gave settlers the rights to settle across the entire Cumberland Plateau. From 1721 to 1775, the Cherokees had ceded, largely in response to military defeats, unpaid debts, and illegal white encroachment on their lands, more than 50,000 square miles of their former territory (Roosevelt 1889; Brown 1938; Corkran 1962; De Vorsey 1966). Like the Shawnees and Cherokees, the Creeks also legally conceded control of their homelands, as increasingly powerful state governments viewed them as an impediment to the expansion of plantation agriculture. Although most Creek Indians did not formally recognize those treaties, and fought against Andrew Jackson at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend as late as 1814 to save their homeland, nearly all Creek lands west of the Ocmulgee River and north to the Tennessee River had been ceded to the newly formed states before 1805 (Satz 1979; Ethridge and Hudson 2002; Piker 2004). The Caddo, Quapaw, and Osage Indians would also remain in the Ozarks until the end of the eighteenth century, but they too would move elsewhere as thousands of land-hungry white settlers continued to enter the upland interior. Without question, Kentucky’s early reputation as a hunter’s paradise influenced public opinion about all those residing in the uplands during the early settlement period. In a world that equated agricultural improvements with civilization, Native Americans living in the backcountry were seen by most AngloEuropeans as representing the lowest evolutionary stage of human development— hunter. So needing a rationale for conquering and subdividing the largely forested frontier, Kentucky and other Ohio Valley Native Americans became hunters in the minds of most Europeans, even though they were also accomplished agriculturalists. Not surprisingly, after frontier settlers had later adopted many of the same subsistence techniques and hunting practices of their Shawnee, Creek, and Cherokee neighbors, they too were ridiculed by authorities for their “backward” and “primitive” ways. The British military commander for North America, Thomas Cage, was already of the opinion in 1772 that white backcountry settlers “differ little from Indians in their manner of life” (Davies 1972–1981, V, 203). Perhaps more to the point is frontier historian Stephen Aron, who, in paraphrasing Cage’s letter to the Earl of Hillsborough, wrote that backcountry residents

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Upland: Growing Pains “dressed like Indians, comported themselves like Indians, and indiscriminately consorted with one another like Indians” (Aron 1996, 14). Hunting was blamed as the principal cause of the problem by both religious reformers and the ruling elite, who in their missionary visits and public appeals, tried to promote the latest agricultural reforms among the backwoods populace. Agreeing with the reformers, Crévecoeur, the celebrated author of Letters from an American Farmer, wrote that “as long as we keep ourselves busy tilling the earth, there is no fear of any of us becoming wild; it is the chase and the food it procures that have this strange effect” (Crevecoeur 1957, 215). Kentucky longhunters, who made their living from the deerskin and tallow trade, cared little for plowing the soil and so were able to, in little more than two decades, eliminate most of the remaining big-game species from the upland forest. Buffalo was the preferred target of their hunting sojourns, as large numbers of these formidable beasts were still found in central and northern Kentucky. As late as 1770, Daniel Boone reported seeing herds of buffaloes near the Red River, “more frequent than I have ever seen cattle in the settlements . . . browsing on the leaves of cane, or cropping the herbage of those extensive plains, fearless because . . . ignorant of man” (Haines 1970, 77). Their large numbers and apparent lack of fear encouraged the senseless slaughter of the animals,

A buffalo in the southern forest, depicted in 1745. (New York Public Library)

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Southern United States: An Environmental History as one eyewitness wrote in his diary in May of 1775: “We found it very difficult at first to stop great waste in killing meat. Some would kill three, four, five, or half a dozen buffaloes, and not take half a horse from them all” (Roe 1970, 234). Unlike their native counterparts, frontier longhunters also did not generally use the entire animal, taking only the tongues and tallow. Despite the excessive waste and widespread carnage, backcountry settlers continued to make use of the buffalo, even as the largest herds dispersed and moved westward. Buffaloes found entering a cornfield or the hamlet environs were immediately shot and served at the family dinner table for weeks. After 1800, this was not a possibility for any residents of the southern uplands, as the last buffalo on record in Kentucky—perhaps the entire American South—was killed that same year (Haines 1970; Roe 1970; Allen 1974; Arnow 1984).

WHITE SETTLERS, POPULATION INCREASES, AND CHANGES TO THE LANDSCAPE With the buffalo, elk, and Indian now removed form the countryside, it was possible for the uplands to be fully tamed and occupied by white settlers. Continuing a process that started as early as the 1720s, when the northern Shenandoah Valley of Virginia was first occupied by Europeans, settlers could now make their way down the entire Great Valley and across the Cumberland Gap. With Boone’s completion of the Wilderness Road in 1775, almost no part of the uplands was off-limits to prospective settlers. All that was needed now were armies of individuals willing to turn the landscape of canebrake, glade, and forest into a pastoral paradise. And arrive they did. By 1790, the population of the Tennessee Valley, Blue Ridge, and Cumberland Plateau had swelled to more than 100,000, including as many as 1,500 slaves. Kentucky alone could boast a population of 73,677, although the majority of residents were residing in the Bluegrass areas surrounding Lexington and Frankfort. Nearly all of these individuals were of English, Scots-Irish, and German ancestry, but even Scandinavians were included in the ethnic mix (Imlay 1797; Green and Harrington 1932; Knox 1949). A decade later, population figures for both Kentucky and Tennessee had more than doubled, as did the number of slaves, whose population exceeded 50,000 in the two states. Although most slaves resided in the Bluegrass regions of Kentucky and the Nashville Basin of Tennessee, and would continue to do so for most of the antebellum period, the slave followed the slavemaster wherever he went, including the farthest reaches of the upland South (Rossiter 1967; Rohrbough 1978; Dunaway 2003).

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Upland: Growing Pains After 1800, landscape change in the upland region intensified, due largely to subsistence practices employed by the ever-expanding frontier population. But not everyone experienced the same rate of change or followed the same path of development. The Appalachian highlands and Ozarks, for example, were settled much later than the Shenandoah Valley or the upper Piedmont, areas where local terrain types favored certain subsistence strategies over others (Salstrom 1994). Most settlers in upland communities did shape their immediate local environs in similar ways, however, especially individuals of below-average to moderate means. While the very first settlers would have gravitated to Indian oldfields, beaver pond clearings, or natural meadows, these lands were often already occupied, making it almost manadatory for most upland settlers to cut down large trees. So the majority of settlers, on first arriving, simply made a wide clearing in the forest, felling the tallest trees outward, away from their future homesites. Next, trees were selected to cut into logs that would later become their cabins or barns. Smaller trees were split into rails for fences that would temporarily pen the family livestock. The largest trees nearest the site were then girdled and left standing, becoming “deadenings” in the forest that might later serve as firewood. Corn was often the first crop sown in the deadenings, or perhaps planted in a large garden spot near the cabin door. Wheat and oats were often sown the second or third year as those grains required a more thoroughly tilled soil (McClure 1933; Peattie 1936; Dick 1948; Arnow 1984). In western Virginia, near the West Virginia border, the limestone and shale soils there allowed for the much more widespread cultivation of wheat, which would become one of the leading crops by 1800. In the northern Shenandoah Valley, wheat, rye, and corn were the three major crops, but numerous garden vegetables were also grown by most families for local consumption. Hogs, cattle, and sheep were the major livestock, the latter also supplying wool for the home spinning wheel and loom. Like elsewhere in the uplands, crops were much more diversified in the Shenandoah Valley than they were in the Lower South, with everything from hemp, flax, and buckwheat being cultivated by local growers (Hofstra 1991; Salstrom 1995). For those areas east of the Shenandoah River, Tidewater influences did have a much larger impact on both crop selection and the scale of land clearance, as agriculture surpluses, for external market exchange, were recorded there as early as the 1750s. In the western fringes of the valley, the story was much different, as farming remained smallerscale and not nearly as market driven. The relative absence of elite planters also made the life of backcountry farmers much more egalitarian, as witnessed by a traveler to western Frederick County in the 1790s: “The cultivated lands in this country are mostly parcelled out in small portions; there are no persons here, as

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Southern United States: An Environmental History on the other side of the mountains possessing large farms; nor are there any eminently distinguished by their education or knowledge from the rest of their fellow citizens. Poverty also is as much unknown in this country as great wealth. Each man owns the house he lives in and the land which he cultivates, and every one appears to be in a happy state of mediocrity, and unambitious of a more elevated situation than what he himself enjoys” (Mitchell 1991, 118).

LIVESTOCK AND THE ENVIRONMENT It was also in Virginia’s western counties where cattle herding first became prominent in the uplands. The presence of large cattle herds signifies another difference between the Lower and Upper South; raising cattle never rose to such dominance in areas where arable land was at such a high monetary premium. Texas and Louisiana would, of course, provide two exceptions, although markets in those states generally developed much later during the antebellum period. Cattle ranching west of the Blue Ridge Mountains had its origins in the colonial period, when settlers in Augusta County, Virginia, began driving large herds of cattle up the Shenandoah Valley to Philadelphia. By the 1760s, cattlemen of Ulster, Scots-Irish, and German origin were raising more than twenty head per farmstead if one includes both steers and oxen. By the 1780s, the cattle trade had moved as far south as Bath County, especially along the Cowpasture River near the West Virginia border. By 1786, Hardy County had become one of the most important beef producing areas in the entire United States, as nearly two dozen men listed on the tax rolls could claim to own more than fifty head. One rancher, Jacob Van Meter, possessed 212 cattle, suggesting a fairly large estate, or at the very least ready access to more expansive rangelands (MacMaster 1991). Prior to the Revolutionary War, most cattlemen raised their herds almost exclusively on the open range, which at that time included vast woodland tracts. According to John Craig, an upper Shenandoah Valley minister, the surrounding forests “afforded abundance of rich food for all stock almost throughout the year with a little corn fodder and straw in hard winter weather” (MacMaster 1991, 143). Only after the Revolutionary War was corn commonly used to feed or fatten cattle, and only then during the long cattle drives that took the animals as far as east as Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York. There the animals would be slaughtered and processed for local, regional, or export markets (Turner 1962; Baker 1991; Salstrom 1994; Dunaway 1996). As frontier settlers pushed westward from Virginia during the 1780s, so did cattle raising, which soon became an important vocation in both the Bluegrass and Cumberland Plateau regions of Kentucky. According to frontier historian

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Upland: Growing Pains Harriot Simpson Arnow, the Cumberland Plateau, “with its cane, wild grasses, and clovers,” was truly a cattlemen’s paradise (Arnow 1984, 214). Some prominent Virginia cattlemen actually moved their herds and families to the Bluegrass area during the late frontier period, hoping to capitalize on the growing cattle markets there. In fact, by the early nineteenth century, many upland Virginia cattle dealers were in the sole business of purchasing lean Kentucky cattle, individuals who would “drive them in droves of two to three hundred to Virginia” (Thwaites 1904, II, 245). There the animals were sold to graziers, who, in turn, drove even larger herds along the Potomac to Baltimore and Philadelphia. By the 1820s, the cattle herds were apparently enormous: one eyewitness reported seeing nearly “5,000 head going to eastern markets.” A decade later, a petition for the construction of a turnpike through Berkeley and Hampshire Counties estimated the annual flow of cattle through the Shenandoah Valley to be upwards of 25,000 animals (MacMaster 1991, 148). In southwest Virginia and east Tennessee, cattle also became an important agricultural commodity, especially with the completion of the Buncombe Turnpike in 1828. Soon more than 140,000 cattle, hogs, and horses were driven along the new route which passed through Asheville, North Carolina, a town that would become regionally known for its numerous inns and large stockstands (Turner 1962; Eller 1982; Inscoe 1989). From there, the animals were often driven to cotton and rice plantations in South Carolina and Georgia, or perhaps to ports in Charleston and Savannah where salted beef and pork was regularly shipped to sugar plantations in the West Indies. In the Georgia and Alabama upcountry, cattle herding did not become prominent until after the Civil War, with most yeomen owning, including their family milk cows and draft oxen, fewer than ten animals (U.S. Census 1850, 1864; Hahn 1983). In 1850, Northwest Georgia had among the lowest per capita averages for the entire upland area, a rate of only eighty-three head of cattle per individual, less than half the rate recorded in the Virginia highlands that same year (Gray 1958, 876). By the 1850s, there were numerous Ozark residents specializing in cattle raising, including Owen Watkins, who grew no cotton or tobacco, but claimed “cow driving” as his primary occupation (Blevins 2002, 26). A decade later, according to the 1860 census, more than 75,000 head of cattle, 190,000 hogs, 56,000 sheep, and nearly 30,000 horses and mules were grazing across ten Ozark counties (U.S. Census 1864). As in the Ozarks and elsewhere across the upland South, hogs were by far the most common of all livestock breeds, outnumbering all other animals in most locales. Hogs, like cattle, could also be turned loose in the upland forest, where abundant hardwood masts generally served as seasonal food for the hungry animals. Indeed, swine found little to dislike about the upland ecosystem,

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Southern United States: An Environmental History devouring chestnuts, hickory nuts, acorns, cane stalks, mushrooms, and even the buried roots of trees and shrubs in great quantities. Hogs were not only inexpensive to raise, they also brought owners great caloric returns for relatively little effort. Not surprisingly, pork rapidly became the most commonly eaten meat in the uplands, particularly in the upper Tennessee Valley, where pork became “the principal meat of all classes during the colonial period” (Gump 1989, 98). In fact, between 1771 and 1796, hogs already dominated the inventories of Washington County, Tennessee estates, representing the greatest percentage of all livestock breeds (Davis 1993, Figure 6-2). While most open-range swine of the frontier could be classified as semi-feral “razorbacks” or “land-pikes,” numerous improved breeds were introduced into the Bluegrass and Nashville Basin during the first half of the nineteenth century. Whatever their pedigree, pigs were so important to the upland subsistence economy that they—as bacon, lard, or salted ham—were used as a form of legal tender by the early 1800s. By 1840, not a single county in the entire upland region possessed fewer than 5,000 hogs (Hilliard 1972; Arnow 1984; Hilliard 1986). Of the two major kinds of livestock—hogs and cattle—swine were perhaps the most destructive to the upland environment, as the animals’ intensive rooting activities no doubt helped to completely extirpate some plant species from the forest floor. Clearly their larger numbers and more voracious appetites ensured that their role in shaping the southern landscape would be greater. However, both animals were responsible for the widespread reduction of forest understories, the general thinning of woodlands, and the severe compaction of forest soils. In those areas having the highest concentrations of cattle, hogs, and horses, soil erosion was a consequence of their continued presence, a problem facing land-use managers in the southern region today (Johnson 1952; Clark 1984; Healy 1985). The proliferation of cattle and hogs across the uplands also ensured the elimination of the river canebrake from much of the southern environs. In Flowering of the Cumberland, Harriot Simpson Arnow assessed that the largest canebrakes had vanished there by 1800, due largely to the many foraging hog and cattle herds during the frontier period. This also appears to be the case in the North Carolina backcountry where Moravian missionaries had seen the plant becoming scarce after “eleven years of continuous grazing” (Fries et al. 1968, II, 564). As late as 1816, Major John Norton reported seeing lush stands of the reed along the Tennessee River, “where the Cane, yet abounding, enables [Cherokees] to raise cattle with less labour than where it has been eaten up” (Norton 1979, 72). Other important groundcover plants were affected as well, including the wild pea vine, hog-peanut, and the wild strawberry. The pea vine, which often grew “as high as a horse’s back” in upland forests, was rarely seen

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Upland: Growing Pains in great profusion after 1800. Reminiscing about the South Carolina uplands of the late frontier, John Logan wrote in 1859 that “peavines and grasses” once occupied the place of “bushes and young forest growth that render the woods of the present time so gloomy and intricate” (Logan 1859, 25).

Corn and Livestock The raising of hogs and cattle also increased the amount of corn grown in the uplands, especially in Tennessee, which in 1840 became the leading corn producer in the United States. In 1839, the crop was estimated at 46,285,259 bushels, with nearly half of that amount coming from those counties south and east of Nashville (U.S. Census 1840; Works Progress Administration 1939). As corn replaced wheat as the grain of choice across much of the uplands, more and more agricultural land required tillage for that purpose—in some areas as much as ten acres for the average yeoman farmer. Wheat continued, however, to dominate the landscape of the Bluegrass and upper Shenandoah Valley throughout the antebellum period, but even there corn became an important and commonly grown staple. Because of its many important uses as fodder, animal feed, corn meal, and barter commodity, corn was given the most space on upland farms, with the possible exception being those homesteads located atop the highest mountain ranges. Those possessing the most fertile and level bottomland produced the most corn, as the grain preferred rich, alluvial soils for maximum yields. In the Georgia upcountry, a typical farmer working 65 acres would likely “give between twenty and thirty of them over to corn, another ten or fifteen to wheat and oats, and perhaps one or two to sweet potatoes” (Hahn 1983, 29). In the Ozarks, writes Brooks Blevins, the more typical yeoman farmer was Stephen McElmurray, who in 1859, without the help of slaves, raised 200 bushels of corn on about 8 planted acres, 100 pounds of tobacco, and small amounts of sweet and Irish potatoes (Blevins 2002). Similarly, Stephen Caudhill, on his Letcher County farm in eastern Kentucky, produced 150 bushels of corn on roughly 5 planted acres, including 7 bushels of wheat, and 15 bushels of sweet potatoes (U.S. Census 1850). While the majority of upland farmers produced few corn surpluses, there were many who were able to raise enough grain to sell to the ever-present hog and cattle driver. Some farmers might even time the planting of their spring corn crop to correspond with the large fall cattle drives to southern and eastern seaports (Baker 1991; Dunaway 1996). Others might use their surplus corn to fatten their own hogs and cattle that would, in turn, be sold to the livestock driver, who then delivered the animals directly to the plantation owner. These facts have caused

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Feeder pigs wandering on the bluegrass pasture. (Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)

some scholars to even question the claim that upland farmers during the antebellum period were indeed self-sufficient yeomen, growing crops and livestock only for their immediate family or community needs. Debates in the literature have even centered on the formula for calculating corn surpluses as well as the various cultural uses that one might find for corn on the farmstead (Mitchell 1977; Pudup

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Upland: Growing Pains 1990; Davis 2000). One popular study argued, for example, that those farms in eastern Kentucky producing more than 162 bushels of grain should be considered market-oriented enterprises, since that was how much corn was needed to annually feed an average family and their livestock (Billings and Blee 1995). My research has found that the majority of upland farmsteads were, in fact, not as market-driven as has been lately argued, especially if one takes into account the numerous reasons for growing “surplus” corn. In the uplands, additional corn was needed for such various and sundry things as whiskey-making, wedding doweries, poultry feed, or simply for barter at the crossroads store. A family of seven with several oxen, milk cows, mules, horses, and large flocks or hens, geese, and turkeys, who might also produce 20 gallons of homemade liquor, would require far more than 200 bushels of grain in a single year. Droughts and floods might also cause crop failures, so growing additional corn was simply a way of averting potential food shortages (Davis 2000). In February 1856, Basil Armstrong Thomasson of North Carolina, for example, wrote in his diary that he and his wife only had “nineteen bushels of corn stored away”—enough, he hoped, “to bread Mollie and me till next corn harvest, and some to spare” (Escott 1996, 123). So planting more corn than was needed for one’s own annual consumption was also a calculated way of ensuring family survival. In much of the upcountry, it was not the external marketplace, but the home and family, that were the foremost mediators of most economic relations (Eller 1982; Hahn 1985; Ford 1986; Mann 1992; Salstrom 1994; Hsiung 1997; Davis 2000). This is not to say, of course, that upcountry communities lay entirely outside the influence of the plantation economy or the institution of slavery. Nor does it imply that capitalist social relations were absent in the more northern latitudes. Indeed, the plantation system had an important influence on the upland economy from the very beginning, impacting not only social relations in certain locales, but causing important environmental changes as well. While not a predominant institutional force, plantations could be found across the entire uplands by the late antebellum period (Baker 1991; Pudup et al. 1995; Dunaway 2003). The Bluegrass region surrounding Lexington, Kentucky, was one such place, particularly after the rapidly growing city became recognized as the capital of “western” America. Possessing an agricultural economy unlike that found anywhere else in the southern region, by 1850 the Bluegrass could claim among the highest concentrations of sheep, cattle, horses, and mules in the uplands, if not the entire South. Likewise, the Kentucky Bluegrass also led the southern region in per capita hemp, wheat, corn, oats, and rye production, making it a agricultural paradise for growers and graziers alike (U.S. Census 1850, 1860; Gray 1958; Hilliard 1986).

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Southern United States: An Environmental History Bluegrass, Hemp, and Other Crops Of course the plant that gave the Bluegrass region its name was Poa pratensis, a blue-green grass species introduced from Europe sometime after 1750. Tradition has it that John Findley, in what is now Clark County, planted the first bluegrass seed, probably from hay he had brought from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. However, because of the many early references to large bluegrass meadows, it is likely that many frontier Kentucky settlers brought seeds with them or perhaps imported cattle that had eaten large quantities of bluegrass hay en route (Carrier and Bort 1916). By 1790, bluegrass pastures—and not canebrakes—were the grazing areas of choice for most livestock herdsmen. Bluegrass, an exotic species, would also eventually replace the native buffalo grass of upland prairie ecosystems. By the second decade of the nineteenth century, bluegrass was even being sown in the surrounding woodlands, largely to accommodate the vast hoards of livestock that were ranging across the central Kentucky countryside. By the 1840s, even croplands were being reduced substantially in size in the Bluegrass, as the wealthiest graziers had purchased nearly all of the surrounding parcels and had converted even wheat and tobacco fields into rangeland (Michaux 1805; Carrier 1923; Aron 1996). Henry Clay was perhaps the biggest landowner participating in such consolidation efforts, possessing nearly 6,000 acres of pasture and cattle range by that time. In 1839, the sale of cattle alone from his Fayette County estate amounted to nearly $30,000 (Gray 1958). Henry Clay and the other gentry who took advantage of the fertile and lush lands of the Bluegrass clearly modeled themselves after the Tidewater elite. They were, without question, elite plantation owners who saw the accumulation of both land and slaves as key to their prosperity. Their ties to the plantation economy of the Lower South deepened further when the rich limestone soils of the Inner Bluegrass were discovered to be ideal for growing hemp, a plant fiber historically used to make rope, twine, and other durable cordage. While there were numerous experiments during the colonial period to grow the European plant, most attempts failed, due partly to the lack of external demand and foreign competition. Thomas Jefferson’s interest in the plant is said to have reinvigorated interest in growing the staple crop, which was becoming much more commonplace in the Bluegrass by the end of the eighteenth century. In fact, as early as 1800, writes historian Stephen Aron, more than “forty thousand pounds of raw hemp fiber were annually exported from Kentucky to the Lower South” (Aron 1996, 129). A decade later, the plant was “becoming the grand staple of Kentucky,” due largely to the demand from cotton exporters, who needed strong cordage and bagging to secure cotton bales for regional and overseas shipment (Joynes 1902, 229). As cotton became the chief export of the Lower South, hemp

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Upland: Growing Pains production rose to even greater status in the Bluegrass and other upland areas, including individual counties in upper east Tennessee, northern Virginia, and the South Carolina upcountry. By 1850, there were more than 8,000 hemp plantations across the uplands, with the vast majority of those in the state of Kentucky (U.S. Census 1850; Hilliard 1986; Hopkins 1998). In 1859, on the eve of the Civil War, Kentucky and Missouri produced more than 50,000 of the 75,000 tons of hemp produced in the United States, even though many Kentucky planters had, by that time, abandoned the crop for wheat or other products (U.S. Census 1860; Aron 1996). Since the bulk of the crop was, in fact, grown in the southern states, it is possible to infer that some 300,000 acres, or more than 450 square miles of upland territory, was cultivated in hemp that year. Hemp cultivation required year-round intensive labor, work that planters allocated to slaves in great numbers. Kentucky planters believed that African slaves had an affinity for growing the plant, due partly to their knowledge of pulling, breaking, and separating the fibrous stalks before final processing. Perhaps only slaves could be compelled to perform the arduous task of pulling hemp by hand, a back-breaking job that was suitable only for the strongest individuals, even after planters had adopted the task-system of labor. A hemp hook or knife was used later for harvesting stalks, but breaking and hackling them continued to be a hand operation throughout most of the antebellum period (Hopkins 1998). Farm publications of the era claimed that a single slave could annually raise as much of ten acres of hemp, as long as other staple crops did not interfere with their duties (Gray 1958). Not surprisingly, the expansion of hemp-growing dramatically increased the number of slaves in the Bluegrass territory, especially in those counties surrounding Lexington proper. From 1800 to 1820, the number of slaves in the inner Bluegrass rose from one-quarter to onethird of the total population, increases due largely to hemp production (U.S. Census 1820; Davis 1927; Aron 1996). Smaller farmers in the uplands also grew hemp, even in extremely mountainous locations not generally considered suitable for export agriculture. In this sense, some upland farmers could not fully escape the economic pull of the plantation economic system and thus might be better classified as semi–selfsufficient yeomen. Working with one or two slaves and producing grain and livestock surpluses, these individuals might also grow small amounts of cotton to obtain hard cash, especially if they wished to purchase new tracts of arable land for themselves or their offspring. Land was nearly always at a premium in the upcountry during the antebellum period, as large holdings were often concentrated among elites or absentee land-holding companies. The Cove community of Tazewell County, Virginia, for example, possessed four farms larger than 500 acres in 1850, properties representing more than 30 percent of the total farm

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Harvesting hemp in Kentucky. (Public Records Division, Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives)

acreage (U.S. Census 1850; Bickley 1852; Pendleton 1920). In nearby Burkes Garden, one of the most prosperous farming communities in southwest Virginia, as many as twenty-three individuals, or 40 percent of the total population, were nonresident landowners, including numerous land speculators seeking to profit from future sales of property there. One-third of Burkes Garden residents owned a total of sixty-five slaves, an average of less than four slaves per owner, or about 5 percent of the total county population (Mann 1995). A greater number of individuals—white tenants owning no land—represented 35 percent of the total population in Burkes Garden, a figure corresponding closely to the average for the entire upland region, if one includes in the “tenant” category individuals who were cultivating property belonging to their direct relatives. Otherwise, tenancy comprised only one-fourth of the total upland population prior to the Civil War. After the War, however, tenancy increased greatly in the uplands and

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Upland: Growing Pains elsewhere in the South, becoming a dominant social institution in many communities (Hahn 1983; Salstrom 1994; Mann 1995; Dunaway 1996). While the plantation system was pervasive in portions of the uplands by the 1840s, it was hardly the monolithic institution outside the Black Belt or the Deep South. Even in the Bluegrass, the majority of residents became slaveholders only after 1825. And of those who did own slaves that year, the majority owned four or fewer slaves. Indeed, only 3 percent of Bluegrass planters owned twenty or more slaves, a figure that would go largely unchanged until the late 1850s. In fact, slaves never outnumbered whites in the Bluegrass until 1860, and only then in tiny Fayette County (McDougle 1918; Davis 1927; Aron 1996). The plantation system followed a similar path of development in the Nashville Basin, with cotton and corn being the dominant crops there during the late antebellum period. Not surprisingly, in both areas one finds the most improved farmlands in the upland region, again demonstrating the important relationship between environmental change and slave ownership. Of the two areas, farmers in the Kentucky Bluegrass were involved in the most intensive land clearance practices, improving more than 60 percent of their property for livestock or crop production before 1860 (U.S. Census 1850, 1860, 1864; Hilliard 1986). Outside the Bluegrass and the Nashville Basin, however, unimproved lands represented more than half of the total acreage on all farmlands, as the majority of farmers in upcountry areas left as much 70 percent of their acreage in forest, woodlands, or wetlands. These figures become even greater if one includes the large timber tracts and undeveloped parcels that were not classified as general farmlands by government census takers. Using those data, several counties in the Ozarks, eastern Kentucky, and western North Carolina had as much as 90 percent of their total surface area in various stages of forest growth (Hilliard 1986; Pudup 1991; Bolgiano 1998; Davis 2000; Blevins 2002). Yet even the most remotely settled areas of the uplands would be affected by the Civil War. Virtually no upcountry farmers—nonslaveholder and slaveholder alike—would avoid seeing their lands altered by the four-year conflict, if only from the results of simple neglect. As noted in the previous chapter, Confederate and Union armies cleared vast expanses of territory both before and during major campaigns, and several of the fiercest battles were fought on upland soils. During the most intense conflicts, crop fields, livestock fences, and sparse woodlands were almost entirely refashioned into “breastworks, trenches, tunnels, and compacted paths.” First- and second-growth forests were also affected, as soldiers on both sides were daily involved in “felling trees, stripping limbs, chaining trunks to horses and mules for snaking to campsites and fortifications” (Kirby 2001). Fire was another problem, especially during major sieges in hot weather, when

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Southern United States: An Environmental History all-consuming wildfires might burn vast acres of nearby terrain. The result was a much more disturbed and eroded landscape that, in some areas of the uplands, took more than a full century to heal. It’s no small wonder that the uplands remained in a deep economic depression five years after the official end of the War, despite population increases in some areas. In north Georgia, per capita corn and wheat production dropped by almost 40 percent between 1860 and 1870, a trend certainly observed throughout much of the upland region (Hahn 1983; Wright 1986; Billings and Blee 1995).

ORES, MINING, AND ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS During the War, the upcountry did provide important natural resources to the Confederate cause, as certain locales were also the location of profitable coal, copper, and gold-mining industries. The uplands had always been rich in mineral ores and timber; so much so, in fact, that eastern land speculators were buying up large tracts of mountain terrain as early as the eighteenth century. Among the first to capitalize on the natural resources of the uplands were wealthy iron barons, individuals who knew how to best exploit the hematite ores laying just beneath the earth’s surface (Alldredge 1937; Williams 1947; Nave 1953). From Virginia to Alabama, the iron industry would make a lasting impact on the southern landscape, rising to such great prominence that, in some isolated areas, it overshadowed the prevailing agricultural economy. Iron forges and furnaces were among the earliest industries to locate in the uplands; by the second decade of the nineteenth century, the pounding of the great iron hammers could be heard across much of the region. At that time, Tennessee was the center of iron production in the South, due not only to the availability of iron ore and cheap labor, but also to the state’s seemingly unlimited supply of hardwoods. Vast stands of maple, oak, hickory, and beech were required to make the large mounds of charcoal used in the production of iron, the only material hot enough to melt the heavy ore (Rollins 1928; Lander 1954; Delfino 1985; Davis 2004). Tennessee also possessed numerous and large free-flowing rivers, another important ingredient in the iron-making process. Not only were large amounts of water needed to power the bellows and to cool the finished product, major river courses were the only way of getting the heavy iron bars to market. Most Tennessee iron made its way downriver to Natchez or New Orleans, where it was shipped to major metropolitan areas on the East Coast or perhaps overseas. On delivery, the specially constructed keel and flatboats were broken up and sold for scrap lumber, as such craft were useless for upstream travel (Holt 1923; Delfino 1985; Baker 1991).

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Upland: Growing Pains During much of the antebellum era, iron was manufactured in the upland South in blast furnaces or smaller bloomery forges. The much more numerous bloomery forges used smaller quantities of charcoal for fuel but still required considerable amounts of fresh water. The typical forge was comprised of a large hammer and anvil, both of which were usually made of iron and each weighed as much as 750 pounds (Council et al. 1992). The fires of the forge were fueled by charcoal and continuously controlled by a stream of water that created blasts of air in the same manner as a bellows. Hardwoods such as white and red oak, maple, hickory, and beech were the preferred wood types for charcoal production, since these trees yielded the most pounds of fuel per cord. Gerard Troost, one of the first in the region to evaluate charcoal yields, found that white pine produced 455 pounds of charcoal per cord, whereas hickory yielded 1,172 pounds per cord (Troost 1840). Under normal operating conditions, at least 22 cords of wood were needed daily to make a typical charcoal mound. This figure becomes even more compelling considering that an acre of mature forest generally contains no more than 30 cords of wood (a cord of wood is a stack 4 feet high, 4 feet wide, and 8 feet long). The average nineteenth-century blast furnace, producing 2 tons of iron a day, therefore consumed about 300 acres of mature timberland a year (Williams 1994; Dunaway 1996; Davis 2000). One of the oldest and most productive of these iron establishments was Union Forge, located in Greasy Cove near present-day Unicoi, Tennessee. Owners Elihu and Elijah Embree reported using 375 tons of iron ore and 1,825 cords of wood in 1820. Before subsequent owners abandoned the site in 1852, timber cutters employed at the factory had cleared more than 2,000 acres of mountain hardwoods (Williams1947; Delfino 1985; Council et al. 1992). In 1840 one prominent Tennessee iron maker was asserting that 7,000 to 10,000 acres of mountain timberlands were needed to continuously supply charcoal fuel to his operations. The Tellico Iron Company, which laid claim to more than 30,000 acres in southeastern Tennessee, produced 800 tons of iron per year, including many of the large cannons used in the Civil War (Troost 1840; Tellico Plains Mountain Press 2004). The largest antebellum operation in the state was perhaps the Bumpass Cove mines and Embree Iron Works of Sullivan County in upper east Tennessee. The facility there encompassed more than 70,000 acres and housed an extensive complex of forges, furnaces, rolling mill, sawmill, nail factory, and charcoal and limestone kiln (Fink 1944). On the Cumberland Plateau, iron production rose to prominence in the early 1800s as part of the general westward expansion of the national iron industry. By the 1830s, Kentucky was the third largest producer of iron products in the entire United States. One of the most important operations was the Estill Furnace of Furnace, Kentucky. Built in 1829, the Estill Furnace possessed a

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Southern United States: An Environmental History stack 34 feet high and was one of the very first to use steam, rather than water power, to operate its enormous blasts. The Estill Furnace was located in the Red River Iron Region, where some of the largest iron ore and timber reserves were found in the upcountry (Coleman 1957; Moore 1991). At the nearby Red River, or Fitchburg Furnace, census enumerations for the year 1850 reveal that 150 workers turned out more than 1,500 tons of pig and bar iron and 75 tons of nails. The Hanging Rock Iron Region along the Ohio River also supplied Lexington and Frankfort—indeed the entire South—with iron products throughout the antebellum era (Coleman 1957; Moore 1991). In 1850, iron production in both Greenup and Carter counties exceeded 12,000 tons, an annual output that required the destruction of nearly 3 square miles of forests. Indeed, one survey of the Hanging Rock iron ore district found that “60 percent of the forest was cut clear between 1850 and 1860, down to four-inch diameter trees” (Williams 1994, 163). In Virginia, some fifty iron-ore facilities operated in the state prior to the Civil War, ranging from small firms to large complexes using both slave and free labor. By 1860, the largest furnaces and forges were concentrated in ten counties, establishments that collectively owned more than 145,000 acres of upland forests. Appalachianist Wilma Dunaway estimated that in the upper Shenandoah Valley alone, “32,000 acres were repeatedly cut over” by iron establishments operating there during the antebellum period (Dunaway 1996, 281). Similar holdings were found in North Carolina, especially in the western portion of the state. According to historians Tyler Blethen and Curtis Wood, more than 18,000 acres of first-growth timberlands disappeared as a direct result of North Carolina iron facilities (Blethen and Wood 1992). The Smoky Mountains of east Tennessee were also home to numerous forges and furnaces, as evidenced by the number of place names surviving in the area even today. Among the first iron operations in northwest Georgia was the Stamp Creek Furnace, erected in Bartow County in 1837 by Moses and Aaron Stroup. Others soon followed, making the area around Cartersville a major iron-producing center. Of the four furnaces erected along the Etowah River, the largest, the Etowah Furnace, employed more than five hundred hands at peak production during the 1850s (Nave 1953; Davis 2001). By the early 1850s, the iron industry was having a noticeable effect on significant portions of the upland landscape. The clear-cutting of timber left entire hills and mountainsides devoid of vegetation, making them less desirable for other agricultural pursuits. The continued use of specific sites for charcoal production drastically decreased soil fertility, creating sterile patches of ground that, for many decades, supported little or no plant life. Observing the landscape around a blast furnace in the South Carolina upcountry, a mid-nineteenth-

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Upland: Growing Pains

Tredegar Iron Works, Richmond, Virginia. (Corbis)

century traveler commented that the woodlands surrounding the establishment were cut over for many miles, leaving “a most desolate and gloomy landscape” (Lander 1954, 337). Nor were the environmental impacts limited to charcoal production and the general forge operations. Land also was cleared for hauling roads and employee housing. By the 1850s the largest iron establishments employed upward of some 500 individuals, most of whom resided close to the furnaces in crude or makeshift dwellings. On the Cumberland Plateau, historian Tyrel G. Moore found that most iron communities there were settlements of fifty to seventy-five cabins, including “a boarding house, a general store, a school, and a church” (Moore 1991, 231). Surrounding these settlements were several hundred additional acres of cultivated fields and pasture, agricultural land needed to feed hungry iron workers and their families. When not all food supplies could be produced by the owner’s estate, neighboring farmers supplied operators and their employees with corn, flour, bacon, and feed for livestock. In a single furnace community in north Georgia, as many as 2,000 individuals, including employees, laborers, farmers, and their families, were directly or indirectly dependent on the large iron facility (Cappon 1928; Nave 1953; Smith 1982). In many respects, the antebellum iron industry challenges many commonly held notions about economic development in the upland region. While still

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Southern United States: An Environmental History largely an area of yeomen farmers, by the 1840s an important part of the economy, in many locales, was directly linked to heavy manufacturing and extralocal commerce. Iron-ore mining had wrecked havoc on upland landscapes, changing ecosystems in dramatic and sometimes irreversible ways. By the late 1850s, however, the industry that had brought early economic development to parts of the upcountry was beginning to wane. Upland water routes proved insufficient for the transport of large quantities of iron to major southern river ports. Ironmasters in the northeastern United States had ready railroad access and so were by that time firing furnaces with more plentiful and cheaper coal, giving them a greater competitive edge in the national, indeed international, iron marketplace (Nave 1953; Coleman 1957; Smith 1982; Davis 2000). The general shift of the industry from charcoal to coal in the making of iron did not signal an end to the widespread cutting of upland timber, however. Despite the increase in the use of coal in the industry after the 1860s, charcoal remained an important fuel for the smaller bloomery forges until the last decade of the nineteenth century. In the Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama uplands, charcoal production even increased for short periods after the Civil War (Davis 2004). In fact, as late as 1870, the operators of the Red River Iron Works in Kentucky were producing more than 4,000 tons of iron, an output representing the annual removal of more than 600 acres of timber (U.S. Census 1870; Moore 1991). Most ironmasters of the period considered mountain timber an inexhaustible resource, and the few who saw a possible end to the region’s timber reserves believed that bituminous coal deposits would help alleviate potential shortages. Whatever the ultimate ability of the uplands to reforest themselves, by the end of the 1870s the iron industry had rendered hundreds of thousands of acres treeless, a fact that has escaped even the most observant scholars of southern history. By the early 1880s, the iron industry was highly concentrated in the uplands and elsewhere in the American South, predictably in areas where transportation was most feasible and where large stores of iron ore and coal, which replaced charcoal as the primary furnace fuel, were still readily available. This helps explain why seemingly remote areas like Birmingham, Alabama, South Pittsburgh, Tennessee, and Middlesboro, Kentucky, experienced enormous levels of economic growth during the postwar era. Lack of infrastructure, however, such as rail lines, also greatly tempered the growth of industrialization in the uplands, something that was not lost on Union troops who saw the area for the first time during the height of the conflict. In fact, a group of Union soldiers, camped at Chattanooga, Tennessee, late in the Civil War, were truly amazed at “the abundant but undeveloped coal and iron ore resources” in the nearby mountains (Wright 1986, 29). Those same individuals would bring heavy industry to the region after the Civil War, economic activities that brought even

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Upland: Growing Pains more changes to the rural and sometimes not so rural southern landscape (Govan and Livingood 1963; Cobb 1984). Although the removal of large stands of first- and second-growth forests would have been devastating to concentrated areas of the uplands, the total forest clearance would have been visibly recognizable but hardly significant considering the vast timberlands that still lay untouched after the Civil War. For the entire period, less than 400,000 thousand acres of uplands were consumed by the iron industry, especially if one considers that most iron barons cut the same stands repeatedly, on twenty-five to thirty-year cycles (Williams 1994; Dunaway 1996; Davis 2000). Since the uplands as a whole contained more than 100 million acres of timberlands, iron-ore mining had relatively little global impact on southern forests. Even if one does not allow for regrowth of the forest after cutting, the total surface area felled due to charcoal production during the nineteenth century would have been less than 1 percent. Locally, the effects were certainly prominent and led to such environmental problems as soil erosion and the silting of pristine watersheds, but other forest clearance activities had, collectively, a similar effect. Tens of thousands of acres of timber were also razed for the salt, coal, gold, and copper industries that were located in various parts of the uplands throughout the antebellum period. Additional upland forests also disappeared as the result of cutting wood for heating homes and local industry. In the colder climes, as many as ten cords of wood were needed annually to heat the typical antebellum dwelling (Perlin 1991; Brown 2001). In sum, however, it was not the industrialist, but the agriculturalist, who made the most changes to the upland landscape. For the American South as a whole, cotton growing would increase more than two-fold after the Civil War, rising to new production highs by the end of the nineteenth century. While much of the increase is explained by the regionwide shift from corn and hog production to cotton, the South remained a collection of farmers and rural farmland throughout the Reconstruction era (USDA 1918, 17). Some forested areas were no doubt reclaimed after the Civil War, but population influxes across the region during the 1870s erased those almost immediately. By the 1880s, cotton growing was affecting even upland communities, turning thousands of acres of formerly diversified agricultural lands into units of single-crop production and harvest (Hahn 1985; Wright 1986). While per capita farm size and improved acreage actually declined across the entire region for several decades after the Civil War, the total number of acres seeing the plow actually increased. By 1890, the Georgia upcountry, for example, had more than 1,810,000 acres of improved farmland, a 25 percent increase over the previous decade (Hahn 1983). While agriculture continued as the primary occupation for private landowners and tenants alike, southern farming was not without its

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Southern United States: An Environmental History serious problems. Tenancy rates increased dramatically across the entire region during and immediately after Reconstruction, rising as high as 50 percent in some states and locales (U.S. Special Committee on Farm Tenancy, 1937). Fence laws, passed now in almost every southern state, also made it increasing difficult for cattle herders to use hamlet and woodland commons. A depression during the early 1890s further hobbled the southern economy, causing many farmers in the South to lose considerable faith in agricultural pursuits (Cobb 1984; Wright 1986; Ayers 1992). At the same time, industrial enterprises, though slow in coming to the entire region, took off with great enthusiasm after the early 1870s, when the national railroad boom arrived across much of the American South. At that time, according to railroad historian John Stover, the rail recovery was already so complete in the region, that “nearly every state had new railroad projects in mind and in some cases, work had actually begun” (Stover 1955, 58). In fact, the South built railroads during this period faster than did the nation as a whole, connecting small hamlets and growing cities not only to major seaports, but also to each other. As Edward Ayers has noted, “by 1890, nine of every ten Southerners lived in a railroad county,” making economic growth a very real possibility for the majority of the population (Ayers 1992, 9). The South had retained its predominant agricultural character for much of the nineteenth century, but this changed with the coming of the railroad. By 1900, the South not only had railroad lines comparable to that of the North, but a population and urban dwellers quite unimaginable a half-century earlier. Of its 16 million or so people, 15 percent now lived in towns of 2,500 or more individuals, including thousands of villages that did not even exist two decades before. In such states as Louisiana, Florida, and Kentucky, more than 20 percent of the population could be classified as urban as early as 1900. An increasing number of southerners were also found in cities such as New Orleans, Louisville, Memphis, Atlanta, and Nashville, population centers that at the beginning of the twentieth century were collectively home to more than 800,000 people (U.S. Census 1900; Frye 1904; Cole 1964). Resulting from this population boom was a new South ready to take on the challenge of establishing even more industrial enterprises. Just as plantation life waned, if not entirely disappeared, cotton mills, coal mines, and lumber camps sprang up everywhere there were resources. Capitalists profited greatly from such activities, causing even more environmental change and degradation. Railroads would make cutting the last great forests of the Mississippi Delta, Ozarks, and Appalachians possible, including stands of virgin timber found in the deepest lowland swamps and atop the highest mountain peaks. Cotton mills now turned southern cotton fiber into fabric and cloth, employing individuals by the tens of thousands, and changing the very face of the southern village landscape.

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Upland: Growing Pains In the uplands, coal mines gave birth to coal towns, and a way of life scarcely resembling that of the nineteenth-century, self-sufficient yeoman. With the population of the American South now in the tens of millions, the southern city was now both an exporter and major consumer of the region’s vast agricultural and natural resources. After 1900, a considerable portion of the timber, cotton, tobacco, grain, and livestock making its way up and down the region’s many rail lines now stayed in southern states, transformed into value-added products by township and urban factories. Clearly, by the first decade of the twentieth century, the American South was no longer a peripheral or semi-peripheral rural colony growing and selling agricultural products solely for world export; it was now a regional core of production and consumption, an active player in the rapidly changing global economy. Although the American South had far to go to reach the manufacturing outputs enjoyed by the northern states, historical data reveal that by the end of the century, the entire region had been shaped by industrial forces and urban growth.

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AT L A N T I C OCEAN

GULF OF MEXICO

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Oak-hickory-pine forest Appalachian oak forest Mixed mesophytic forest Oak-hickory forest Palmetto prairie Everglades Southern mixed forest Southern floodplain forest Northern hardwoods Bluestem-sacahuista prairie

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200 Mi. 300 Km.

Mesquite-acacia-savanna Fayette prairie Mangrove Sub-tropical pine forest Blackland prairie Mesquite-buffalo grass Southern cordgrass prairie Bluestem-grama prairie Pocosin

Forest and vegetation types in the southern United States.

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7 METROPOLIS: PARADISE LOST Donald E. Davis

T

he metropolis of the American South was more than a century-long work-in-progress as most cities in the region did not become major urban centers until the second decade of the twentieth century. Southern seaports and river ports had always harbored relatively large populations, but none reached the 100,000 plateau until 1840, when New Orleans exceeded that number for the first time. A decade later, the Louisiana capital was one of the most populated cities in the entire United States, ranking behind only four other American cities, including Boston, Baltimore, and New York. Claiming a total of 116,375 residents in 1850, the population of New Orleans was higher than that of Chicago and St. Louis combined and very closely rivaled that of Philadelphia, the nation’s third largest city. After the Civil War, New Orleans lagged far behind most northern cities in annual population growth, however, falling from fifth to twelfth place by 1890. However, New Orleans remained the largest metropolis in the American South for nearly a century, before being officially replaced by the nation’s capital in 1920. Washington, D.C., and Louisville, Kentucky, were the second and third metropolitan areas to officially reach the 100,000 level, both doing so in 1870. Memphis followed three decades later, and Atlanta and Richmond in 1910. By 1920, there were nearly a dozen cities claiming 100,000 or more residents in the American South, including Houston, Texas, Norfolk, Virginia, Birmingham, Alabama, and Nashville, Tennessee (U.S. Census 1840, 1850, 1870, 1890, 1910, 1920).

RAILROADS AND LUMBER The growth of southern cities ensured that industrialization and heavy manufacturing would prevail across the southern landscape, including large areas of the Lower South that had historically resisted such development. As in the uplands,

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Southern United States: An Environmental History industrialization became a more dominant force in the Deep South after the Civil War, largely as the result of immigration, northern capital, and the construction of numerous railroad lines in formerly remote areas. In fact, railroads and railroad construction would help to create what would become the region’s largest manufacturing industry—lumbering—a business that would employ no fewer than 27,690 individuals in 1880 (U.S. Census 1880). Before the Civil War, the majority of southern lumbermen had simply floated logs down large streams and rivers, thus restricting their cutting to those areas immediately near major watercourses. Not only did the many miles of new railroad lines and narrow gauge rail spurs make industrial logging possible across the entire region, the railroad beds themselves required literally millions of new timbers, placing even greater demands on southern forests. In many instances, the railroad company and the timber company were one and the same, as the major railroad companies were often granted large land subsidies by the federal government to ensure their efforts would yield maximum profits (Tompkins 1901; Williams 1989; Whitney 1994). In 1881, for example, the Louisville, New Orleans & Texas Railroad, was granted 2 million acres of southern timberlands by the federal government, a vast territory that they, in turn, sold to lumbermen and land speculators alike (Saikku 2001). Sawmills and large crews of men were needed to cut the merchantable trees, which resulted in the widespread creation of logging camps, and in some instances, large lumbermill towns. Of course sawmills appeared everywhere along the major railroad lines—as many as one per five miles of track, according to a prominent southern historian (Ayers 1992). The railroad boom provided internal and external markets for southern lumber, especially cypress logs, the preferred tree of postbellum lumbermen along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Cypress timbers were perfect for the construction of railroad crossties as the wood was strong, durable, and highly rotresistant. Cypress logs could also be used in making shingles, fence posts, pier posts, wharves, docks, or any just about any wood product that came in regular contact with heavy moisture. The demand for cypress logs by railroad builders also ensured that the largest trees would be cut, as crossties were almost never sawn from trees smaller than 24 inches in diameter. In fact, a nineteenthcentury broadside printed by the Seaboard Airline Railway Company of Savannah, Georgia, announced that it would purchase cypress crossties “ten inches wide, and showing not less than eight inches of heart face,” the latter a characteristic observed on logs cut from large and mature trees. Furthermore, according to the guidelines from the company’s broadside, each crosstie also had to be from “Black or Red Cypress timber,” and should be exactly “eight feet long and the ends sawed off square” (Stewart 1996, 208).

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Workers for the Hebard Cypress Company load cypress timber from the Okefenokee Swamp, 1909. (Florida State Archives)

Even though the new railroad lines provided easy access to both pine and hardwood timber during the Reconstruction period, cypress logs continued to be drifted out of the largest swamps for several more decades, when above-water railroad trestles finally penetrated the deepest bayous and coastal marshlands. Thus until the last decade of the nineteenth century, in most areas of the American South, cypress logs were simply floated downstream before being removed at one of many sawmills in the southern region, a facility generally constructed at the mouth of a major river. High and moving water was therefore essential to cypress timbermen, as low or standing water meant that the large and heavy cypress logs could not be successfully navigated toward their destination. In fact, lack of suitable freshets might delay the cutting and drifting of cypress logs for many months or even an entire year. In 1898, a writer for the Darien Gazette, a newspaper representing the Altamaha Basin of coastal Georgia, noted that it had been “about one and a half years since there was water enough for all cypress to be gotten out of the swamps. It requires big water to do any good” (Morrison 2003, 144). Only after the appropriate freshets arrived—generally in winter or spring—could southern lumbermen clear wide paths in the swamps

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Southern United States: An Environmental History and drift out the large logs toward the main river arteries. From there, the cypress timbers would be loosely tied into large rafts and then steered downstream by skilled oarsmen to the main river port. Darien, Georgia, located near the mouth of the Altamaha River, was the location of a timber port handling cypress logs and lumber on a large scale. For the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the small but bustling town was involved in receiving and shipping southern lumber by water, and eventually, by rail transport. Darien’s several sawmills were operated by lumber barons engaged in the large-scale exportation of whole and sawn logs of cypress and yellow pine, the latter taken from the Georgia pine barrens and interior coastal plain (Sullivan 1997). Thousands of logs were moored daily in floating rafts that would extend for several miles up the Altamaha River, including individual longleaf pines considered to be the largest of their kind ever harvested. Some of the hewn timbers were said to be “seventy feet long and nineteen inches square at the small end,” trees so large that it required twenty-four yoke of oxen to move them from harbor landing to sawmill (Morrison 2003, 144). By 1877, nearly 100,000,000 board-feet of lumber were being shipped from the Darien port, a figure surpassed in 1897 and again in 1900, when 112,000,000 board-feet were loaded on wind-driven schooners and on steamships (Morrison 2003, 144). Steamships carried the most timber by far, a fact that led to the demise of the more picturesque sailing vessels. In fact, on June 14, 1902, the Savannah Morning News reported that a record 3,000,000 board-feet of merchantable timber was loaded on a single steamship, a cargo representing 1,500 acres of cleared forests (Darien Gazette 1902). Many of the trees came from the surrounding coastal counties, including nearby St. Simons Island, where as much as 300,000 acres of timberlands were owned by the Georgia Land and Lumber Company. Although the population of Darien proper would officially never exceed 2,000 individuals during the first decade of the twentieth century, a cosmopolitan atmosphere prevailed in the coastal town throughout the timber boom. Many foreign countries even maintained vice-consuls in the center of Darien, as timber buyers arrived weekly from countries as far away as Norway, Russia, Sweden, Denmark, and Brazil (Graham 1976; Green 1982; Sullivan 1997). By 1890, most of the lumber exported from Darien was actually processed by the Hilton and Dodge Lumber Company, an industrial enterprise one local historian called “the largest Southern Pine manufacturing concern that has ever existed” (Graham 1976, 52). Located on St. Simons Island, the establishment was officially established in 1888, when Thomas Hilton purchased St. Simons Mills, a lumber company owned and operated by the prominent businessman and politician William E. Dodge of New York. For more than a decade, St. Simons Mills provided the livelihood of more than 1,000 persons and remained the cen-

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Metropolis: Paradise Lost ter of all industrial activity on the island. At the time of the Dodge-Hilton merger, the facility maintained a “big mill,” “cypress mill” and “planing mill,” and various other sawing operations that turned raw logs into exportable lumber (Green 1982, 43). To support the large operation, many buildings had been constructed around the facility, including an office, boardinghouse, church, school, and various homes and cottages. In the nearby mill village, Anson Dodge, Sr. built a larger Victorian-style home named Rose Cottage, a dwelling later occupied by the mill superintendent. St. James Union Church was built in 1880, which served the worship needs of the larger community until the mill days came to an end sometime after 1910. An old barn from the antebellum period was refashioned into a general store and commissary, providing a place for the hundreds of mill employees to spend their $1.00 per day salary (Cate 1955; Graham 1976; Hull 1980). The peak capacity of the sawmill was about 150,000 board-feet per day, although that number would decline dramatically after 1905, when timber shortages across the Altamaha, Ocmulgee, and Oconee river basins caused the near collapse of the entire industry (Sullivan 1997; Morrison 2003). Although the economic downturn came as a surprise to some industry leaders, most observers were well aware that Georgia timber was an exhaustible natural resource. According to my calculations, between 1875 and 1905, as much as 1,500,000 acres (about 2,000 square miles) of southern timber was felled to supply Darien lumber barons with both their domestic and export lumber needs. In the Louisiana Delta, a considerable amount of yellow pine and cypress was also logged after the Civil War, but most of the largest stands of virgin timber did not see the commercial axe until after 1875 (Williams 1989). With the passage by Congress of the Timber Act of 1876, however, large tracts of cypress swampland were sold to lumbermen in order to raise money for New Orleans’ extensive and complex levee system. As the city grew during the postbellum period, so did its system of levees, which required large amounts of continuous capital to both build and maintain. As a direct result, levee board members sold cypress timberlands to northern investors for as little as 12.5 cents an acre, thus opening up thousands of additional acres of Louisiana swampland to industrial logging (Pabis 2000; Kelman 2000). By the end of the decade, there were literally dozens of sawmill operations in the surrounding parishes, including the Pharr and Williams Cypress Mill of Patterson, Louisiana. The growing town of Patterson would become the self-proclaimed capital of the southern cypress industry, especially after Frank B. Williams bought out Newton Pharr’s interest in his business in 1903. By 1908, the F. B. Williams Cypress Lumber Mill was being called the single largest sawmill in the world, producing 150,000 board-feet of cypress lumber per day. While the majority of cypress logs processed at the mill came from the Atchafalaya Basin and surrounding parishes, Williams’ customers hailed from

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Southern United States: An Environmental History across the American South and as far away as the East Coast and Europe (Castay 1998). The nearby Mississippi Delta also contained great stands of uncut cypress, as much as 50,000 acres in Tunica County alone. By 1879, seven counties in that core area reported having a total of thirty-six functioning sawmills, including Bolivar County, which claimed a total of eight working operations, the highest concentration in the state (Saikku 2001). Cypress logs were also floated down the Yazoo River, giving rise to considerable lumber industry in Vicksburg, a town approaching 10,000 residents in 1880. That same year, Vicksburg would become one of the state’s most important lumber yards, as its two largest sawmills were processing between 10 and 12 million feet of cypress logs. According Dr. Charles Mohr, whose 1880 account of the area was published in Charles Sargent’s Report on the Forests, the majority of wood processed at Vicksburg mills was not destined for foreign ports but was used largely in domestic home and building construction in the southern region. In Mohr’s words, “no manufactured lumber is shipped here to farther south than Baton Rouge, nearly the whole production being consumed in the erection of small dwellings in the Mississippi and Yazoo bottoms” (Sargent 1884, 534–535). The majority of logs received at Vicksburg were apparently not virgin timber—averaging 25 inches in diameter and between 30 to 70 feet in length—but were from formidable trees nonetheless, and represented thousands of acres of cleared swamplands, including known habitat of the legendary ivory-billed woodpecker, a bird species not seen in the Mississippi Delta for more than a century and, until recent hopeful sightings, feared to be extinct (Cokinos 2000). (See “Imperiled and Extinct Birds of the South” by Mikko Saikku in Chapter 9.) If the bald cypress tree was responsible for the postbellum timber boom in the Mississippi Delta, it was hardwood species in the region that soon attracted the most attention of both northern and southern lumbermen. By the late 1870s, the scarcity of high-quality hardwoods in the North opened up speculation in southern hardwoods on a scale quite unimaginable a half-century earlier. By the early 1880s, hardwood species had been virtually eliminated from New England forests, making the Mississippi Delta a prime destination for some of the nation’s most enterprising lumbermen (Cowdrey 1983; Williams 1989). By one estimate, Mississippi contained an estimated 80 percent of the nation’s remaining hardwood forests, including virgin stands of black walnut, oak, hickory, cottonwood, and ash. Northwest Mississippi was viewed as perhaps the epicenter of hardwood timber speculation in the region, especially Bolivar County, along the Mississippi River. In 1876, according to one government publication, “Bolivar County was one dense forest, with a few clearings, including immense quantities of cypress, cottonwood, ash, the gums, and all the oaks”

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A cypress swamp on Port Royal Island, South Carolina, ca. 1865. (Library of Congress)

(USDA 1878, 279). Four years later, noted forester Charles Mohr reported that the upper Mississippi Delta was still covered by “timber of the most valuable kind,” adding that “not one acre in fifty . . . of hard-wood forest has yet been stripped of its tree covering” (Sargent 1884, 535). In Memphis, enterprising businessmen quickly took advantage of the situation, developing a hardwood industry to mill, finish, and ship hardwood products

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Southern United States: An Environmental History from the Mississippi Delta and surrounding environs. Hardwood manufacturers sprang up almost overnight: “In the beginning of the 1880s,” noted environmental historian Mikko Saikku, “there had been only one sawmill in Memphis; by the end of the decade there were fifteen” (Saikku 2001, 246). In less than a decade, Memphis would gain stature as “The Hardwood Capital of the World,” providing both the American South and the entire nation with enormous quantities of rough-sawn and finished lumber, flooring, veneer, and the wood materials necessary for wheel and box manufacturing. Memphis hardwood manufacturers advertised no fewer than twenty-one varieties of hardwood among their wood products, including such “exotic” varieties as dogwood, persimmon, ironwood, tupelo, and mulberry (Kellogg 1969; Sigafoos 1979). At the beginning of the twentieth century, the lumber industry had become so important to the Memphis economy that a local newspaper editor made the statement that if cotton were removed entirely from the market, “lumber alone would support the city” (Cortese 1956, 138). In 1905, as many as forty manufacturers and wholesale dealers of hardwood products were listed in the city’s business registers, making Memphis the undisputed hardwood manufacturing center in the United States. That same year, according to the Memphis Commercial Appeal, the local hardwood industry received more than 75 million feet of hardwood logs at its main river ports and employed more than 6,000 people (Memphis Commercial Appeal 1905). By 1925, its forty lumber mills produced 300 million feet of hardwood lumber and tongue-and-groove flooring, giving Memphis the undisputed new title “Hardwood Flooring Capital of America” (Cortese 1956; Kellogg 1969).

SPANISH MOSS AND MEDICINAL HERBS The nation’s rapidly growing population created additional demands on southern forests, including enterprises not directly related to the manufacturing of wood products. In the most southerly latitudes, from Texas to South Carolina, Spanish moss was collected and sold in great quantities, largely to be used as insulation, packing material, upholstery and mattress stuffing (Ballatine 1991). In South Carolina, “moss pickers” used long poles to harvest the plant during winter months, when the plant was less subject to injury by constant handling. In southern Louisiana, Cajuns gathered the moss by boat, often navigating the swamps in specially made two-person wooden barges. A single large tree could yield as much as a ton of moss, but that weight was generally reduced by more than half during the several month-long curing process. In many parts of the American South, the harvest was hung in a “moss yard,” an open area identified by the presence of highly strung wires. Outdoor drying loosened the outer layers of the epiphytic plant,

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Metropolis: Paradise Lost thus preparing it for commercial ginning, the final stage in the curing and cleaning process (Adams 2004). Although ginning was done in numerous southern cities, New Orleans was considered the center of the moss-ginning industry, possessing as many as six large factories that dried, processed, and shipped the product. After final ginning, the moss was wrapped into large bales weighing anywhere from 125 to 150 pounds and then shipped by water and rail to commercial buyers. By the 1880s, New Orleans processed as much as 3,500 bales of Spanish moss annually, a product then valued at $315,000. By 1939, more than 10,000 tons of cured moss was ginned in southern cities across the American South, a harvest worth more than $2.5 million dollars (Sargent 1884). In the Appalachians and Ozarks, the upland forests yielded not only millions of board-feet of hardwood and softwood lumber during the late nineteenth century, but also enormous quantities of medicinal plants and herbs. In fact, root and plant digging in the upland region had been an important source of income for mountain families since at least the late 1700s, when ginseng and other native plants were purchased in great quantities by European apothecaries (Adair 1775; Pinkerton 1812; Meriwether 1943; Salstrom 1994). The Civil War actually increased the cultivation and digging of many native plants, as one of the first “crude-drug” firms, as they were then called, was established in Lincolnton, North Carolina, during the height of the conflict (Lane 1998; Davis 1999). After the Civil War, the crude-drug industry became concentrated in the southern uplands, particularly in Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, and Kentucky. By the end of the nineteenth century, the enterprise was fast becoming an important source of income, especially for individuals otherwise dependent on subsistence agriculture. In 1901, the collection of plants for medicinal use had became important enough that the United States Department of Agriculture developed the Bureau of Plant Industries, a federal agency that printed numerous publications for those directly involved in the buying or selling of medicinal herbs. The publications were designed to be guides and reference books for farmers, drug collectors, druggists, students, or any others “interested in one way or another in the collection of medicinal flora” (Lane 1998, 5). The economic importance of gathering and growing medicinal plants for commercial profit was strongly emphasized in their many publications, as plants were routinely purchased in quantities ranging from a “few tons to many tons” (USDA 1899, 4). Eventually, to ensure potency and quality, many of the larger firms claimed allegiance to provisions found in the Pure Food and Drugs Act of 1906, one of the very first American laws designed to regulate the marketing and distribution of medicinal plants in the region (Davis 1999). By that time, the Appalachians had already attracted numerous drug buyers to the region, many who soon opened processing facilities and collection points

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Southern United States: An Environmental History for growers and gatherers alike. One such collection point was the S. B. Penick & Company, which had offices located in Asheville and Boone, North Carolina, and St. Louis, Missouri. Penick and others annually contracted with enterprising small farmers and local businessmen to collect medicinal herbs ranging from goldenseal to wild sarsaparilla (Price 1960; Lane 1998). By the late 1920s, Penick was one of the major suppliers of crude drugs to the world market, a market that had become largely dependent on the upland region. In fact, in a company price list and manual published in 1929, Penick claimed that 85 percent of all American drugs gathered and prepared for the drug market were from “the Piedmont District” (read: Appalachia), and that Asheville was “the center of this collecting section” (S. B. Penick and Company 1929, 3). A close competitor to Penick was the Wilcox Drug Company, established in Boone, North Carolina, in 1900 by businessman Grant Wilcox. According to company records, the Wilcox firm purchased roots, herbs, and barks from across the entire Appalachian region, with most sales “carried out through New York brokers” (Davis 1999, 53). The extensive collecting activities of such firms and individuals may well have contributed to the decline of medicinal plants in the mountains, several of which are presently listed as endangered or threatened species. Edward Price, who published one of the first articles on the history of botanical drug gathering in the Appalachians, claimed that the urban collection centers greatly encouraged the depletion of the forests. True, in one year alone, one firm collected some 13,000 pounds of ginseng. By the late 1940s, most of the major crude-drug houses established in the mountains had, in fact, moved to other areas of the United States (Price 1960; Lane 1998). Although smaller collectors in the mountains continued to regularly trade in medicinal plants, their work became much more seasonal after World War II, providing an important, albeit largely supplemental, income for upland families.

Turpentine In the Deep South, the forest product with important medicinal and commercial value was turpentine, the resinous extraction taken directly from southern pine trees. Distilled outdoors in large copper stills, oil of turpentine was commonly used as an external astringent for wounds and as an expectorant for coughs, despite growing evidence at the time that the ingestion of the liquid caused kidney disease and other physical ailments. By the end of the nineteenth century, turpentine and its important byproduct “rosin” were also key ingredients in paints, varnishes, oils, and paper products, goods whose demand increased along with the growing American and regional population (Frye

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Metropolis: Paradise Lost 1904; Dawe 1928; Nelson’s Encyclopedia 1937). Lamps fueled with camphene—spirits of turpentine mixed with alcohol—were also the chief way homes and businesses were lit in the American South prior to the development of kerosene. Collectively, these oleoresin products were known commercially as naval stores, as they had been widely used in shipbuilding since the early colonial period. North Carolina was the first state to venture into turpentine production on a grand scale, as gangs of slaves had been used to tap literally millions of longleaf pine trees prior to the Civil War (Gray 1958; Perry 1989b). At that time, workers simply “hacked” a v-shaped cavity or “box” at the base of the tree to catch the resin that flowed from the bark above the deep gash. When the sap stopped flowing, generally after three or four weeks, another cut was made above the previous one, a process that laid bare the entire face of the tree. The long “cat-face” scar eventually killed the tree, leaving entire forests susceptible to both disease and fires (Mims 1911; Armstrong 1984). Nearly 1,000 trees were needed to make two barrels of turpentine oil and very few trees could be tapped for more than four or five consecutive years before dying as a result of the process. Wilmington, North Carolina, remained the center of naval stores exports until after the Civil War, when the lack of healthy pine

Chipping the pine tree and dipping gum on a turpentine farm, Florida, ca. 1900. (Florida State Archives)

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Southern United States: An Environmental History trees moved the industry southward and westward. By 1875, the naval stores industry stretched from South Carolina to Texas, and was even becoming economically important to such areas as Pensacola, Florida, and Mobile, Alabama (Nelson’s Encyclopedia 1937; Perry 1989a). By 1880, Florida had as many as ten naval stores plants, and rivaled Georgia as the region’s largest producer of turpentine and resin. Georgia, however, remained the largest producer of turpentine in the American South for nearly a half-century, due largely to its proximity to vast yellow-pine forests and major transportation networks. In 1887, an eyewitness floating down the Altamaha River observed no fewer than “forty firms engaged in the manufacture of turpentine along the river banks from Hawkinsville to Darien,” a distance of about 100 land miles (Hawkinsville Dispatch 1887, 2). By 1900, Georgia had more than 19,199 laborers working in the turpentine industry, 4,000 more than Florida, whose workers also included state convicts and individuals hired into debt bondage (Dawe 1928). Historian Jeffrey A. Drobney estimated that prisoners rose from 27 percent of Florida’s turpentine workforce in 1899 to nearly 90 percent between 1907 and 1909, the height of the southern turpentine boom (Drobney 1997). Turpentine workers were mostly African American men or newly arrived immigrants, individuals who no doubt experienced some of the most brutal and abusive working conditions since the days of chattel slavery. While a free-laborer might make $1 per day in a turpentine “orchard,” camp stores charged exorbitant prices for their goods, making it impossible for the worker to make a profit or escape the system. At the same time, the convictleasing system was lucrative for both industry leaders and state governments, both of whom made enormous sums of money at the expense of prisoners (Daniels 1972; Clark 1984). According to one notable source, for the thirty-twoyear period of the convict-leasing system, Florida received $2.7 million dollars for the use of convicts, the largest portion coming from monies paid directly to the state government by turpentine distillery owners (Kennedy 1940). The turpentine industry also encouraged the additional logging of southern pine forests, as the trees were relatively worthless after the thick resin stopped flowing from the injured pines. During the 1880s, distillery owners begin selling their large turpentine groves to commercial lumbermen, who clear-cut the dead and dying trees in wide swaths (Dawe 1928; Drobney 1997). By the late 1890s, it was apparent that the “bleed-and-run” method of the industry would eventually lead to an exhausted resource, as the number of large untapped pine stands in the southern region was visibly shrinking. By 1900, the turpentine industry was annually consuming 250,000 acres of new pinelands in Georgia alone, forcing agricultural researchers to investigate new and less destructive ways of extracting the resin from the trees (Dobson and Doyon 1979; Stewart 1992). In

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Metropolis: Paradise Lost 1901, the U.S. Bureau of Forestry announced that it had discovered a new method of removing the resin—the “Herty method”—a technique based on the research of University of Georgia chemist Charles Holmes Herty. Eventually finding a fairly wide application across the entire region, the new extraction method, which did not kill the tree, used a metal collection container and a single spigot not unlike that found in the maple sugar industry (Clark 1984). While literally millions of acres of southern pine forests had already been consumed by turpentine workers, loggers, and forests fires prior to 1905, pine trees were still plentiful enough across the American South to allow the oleoresin industry to remain profitable for several more decades. In fact, as late as 1931, Georgia and Florida continued to produce about 85 percent of all naval stores in the United States, including 550,000 barrels of turpentine, more than all the other southern states combined (Nelson’s Encyclopedia 1937).

COMMERCIAL PORTS AND THE RIVERS The naval stores industry was also responsible for making Savannah, Georgia, one of the largest and most important commercial ports in the southern region after 1880, when it was ranked “first in the world” in the shipment of turpentine products. In fact, Savannah would not lose control of the oleoresin industry until 1924, when Jacksonville, Florida, became the region’s principal port of naval stores. Although Savannah had only 54,244 residents in 1900 and ranked second to Atlanta in population, its cotton exports rivaled those of New Orleans and Charleston, a fact that also made it “the commercial metropolis of the state” (Frye 1904, 10). As a major seaport, Savannah’s influence on the southern environment extended well beyond its naval stores’ industry and cotton markets, however. After 1885, the U.S. Corps of Engineers began to seriously entertain the idea of altering the direction and flow of the Savannah River for the growing city to provide easy access to the world’s largest commercial ships. As the editor of the Savannah Morning News confidently stated on November 20, 1886, “Give Savannah deep water and her growth will excite the envy of her sister cities of the South” (Savannah Morning News 1886, 4). The Corps responded three years later by constructing an elaborate system of dams, spur dams, and training walls to redirect the flow of river water and then dredging out a 21-foot-deep and 300-foot-wide channel from the port to the sea. While that and later dredging efforts allowed Savannah to greatly increase its freight tonnage and total shipping exports, the deeper harbor did have a noticeable impact on the local environment. Rice planters complained of increased flooding and field maintenance caused by the ongoing dredging and damming,

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Southern United States: An Environmental History and nearby river banks also saw increased erosion as the result of the ongoing engineering projects. Local African American fishermen complained too, as not only were daily catches altered by the effects of the new channel, their access to prime fishing spots was also severely restricted by the series of dams constructed along the main river course (De Vorsey 1982; Stewart 1996). Of course, the city that did the most to alter the flow of water in the American South was New Orleans. Prone to periodic and severe flooding, the city government and surrounding parishes had been involved in levee construction along the Mississippi River well before the Civil War. By 1861, the levee system extended from New Orleans to the mouth of the Ohio River, with the most extensive earthen dikes and dams found just above and below the Crescent City. While state and federal engineers disagreed on how best to create a fail-safe flood control system along the main course of the river, all agreed at the time that the flow and direction of the Mississippi had to be completely controlled. By altering the direction and flow of the river, not only could millions of acres of highly productive agricultural land be reclaimed, river transportation could also be maximized, resulting in the additional growth of cities like Baton Rouge, Vicksburg, and Memphis (Humphreys and Abbot 1876; Clay 1986; Saikku 2001). By the 1870s, New Orleans had the most to gain from the creation of such a levee system, as the city not only possessed the region’s largest population, it was also the annual recipient of 1.6 million tons of freight, including cargo floated down the Mississippi River from as many as twenty-one states (Barry 1997).

Levee Construction With the growing importance of railroads in the American South, however, it was imperative that permanent railroad crossings also be constructed across the unpredictable Mississippi River in several locations, preferably at a location near New Orleans or Baton Rouge. All upstream railroad crossings had been completely washed away by major periodic floods and there was little hope that such structures could be built to withstand the river’s fury. Levees were seen as the ultimate answer, if only to provide a more solid base to anchor the lengthy spans. Believing that rising water was the only predictable thing about the Mississippi River, noted civil engineer Caleb Forshey stated publicly after the flood of 1871 that “railroads are impossible without levees.” Although New Orleans certainly had the potential to become a premier river port town again, Forshey believed that the permanent “habitation of the alluvion” was impossible “without railroads” (Humphreys and Abbot 1876, 40). Thus the goal of the postbellum river engineer, remarked one environmental historian, was also to construct a “properly built system of levees

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Metropolis: Paradise Lost [that] would drain neighboring swamps sufficiently so as to enable railroads to transverse them without danger” (Pabis 2000, 77). Reclamation efforts toward that end intensified after the 1880s, most notably around New Orleans, where flood and water-control measures extended beyond the city’s many levees to the deeper back swamps. In just three decades, more than fifty land reclamation efforts had transformed more than 13,800 acres around the city, allowing orange groves and rice fields to return in many floodplain areas (Davis 2000). Numerous crevasses, waterways, and canals were also built to redirect water flow during that period, increasing siltation in some locales but eliminating it entirely in others. With each major flood along the Mississippi—and there were many—levees were built higher and higher along the river’s edge, which, paradoxically, served only to narrow the flow of water and raise water levels even further. Upstream from New Orleans, natural crevasses continued to break through major levees at the high-water mark, causing severe flooding in many Delta communities. As a result, large-scale channel construction and dredging continued well into the twentieth century, engineering efforts that would ultimately change entire marsh ecosystems in and around the city (Reuss

The great Mississippi flood of 1927 inundates the street fronting the levee at Greenville, Mississippi. Refugee tents are pitched on the levee. Nearly the entire town was submerged. (Bettman/Corbis)

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Southern United States: An Environmental History 1998; Gomez 2000; Pabis 2000). The flood of 1927 hastened increased levee and dike construction along the Delta, initiating the passage of the Flood Control Act of 1928. Arguably the worst flood in American history, 28,570 square miles of land was inundated as a result of the raging torrents, an area larger than the states of Connecticut, Maryland, and Massachusetts combined. The rising water also forced more than 800,000 individuals in the region to flee their homes, many of whom were forced to live for several months in tents, warehouses, and public shelters (Barry 1997; Davis 2000). For decades, the 1927 flood was known as America’s “greatest peacetime disaster,” as the stagnant floodwaters also posed a serious health hazard to the public (Simpich 1927, 245). The 1927 Mississippi flood was largely responsible for restructuring the entire flood control system in the American South because the federal government became much more engaged in finding truly workable flood control measures. After the 1927 flood, levees alone could not be expected to protect southerners against severe flooding, so additional spillways were constructed as far north as St. Louis to divert the rising waters. In 1928, Congress instructed the U.S. Corps of Engineers to adopt the Jadwin Plan—named after Corps Chief Edgar Jadwin— who sought to solve the flooding problem along the Mississippi River by deepening water channels, establishing floodways, building stronger levees, and looking into the construction of large storage reservoirs. The latter proposal became a partial reality with the creation of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) in 1933, the federal agency that sought to manage water levels by building a series of dams and spillways upstream from the main river course. Although severe flooding along the Mississippi River was dramatically reduced by these remarkable engineering feats, many thousands of acres of sensitive Delta wetlands became threatened due to decreasing sedimentation from the improved levee and channel system. The levee network certainly protected cities and towns along the river, but the redirection of freshwater out of the marsh estuaries dramatically altered vegetation patterns, and thus large expanses of wildlife habitat in the greater Atchafalaya Basin. The environmental effects are still with us today, causing some wetland ecologists to question the long-term benefits of the current levee and crevasse system (Davis 2000, 106).

Dams and Electricity The growing southern metropolis was responsible for changing river systems in other ways, as damming water courses became a profitable method of generating electricity after the turn of the last century. Street car systems and large industrial factories required enormous amounts of energy, which forced investors to look to

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Metropolis: Paradise Lost flowing rivers as a source for their electricity needs. Hydroelectric dams became relatively inexpensive to design and build across southern rivers, as earth, wood, and concrete were both cheap and readily available construction materials. As early as 1906, the federal government granted H. T. Henderson the right to build a dam along the Little River near Blache, Alabama, ostensibly for the purpose of the generating electric power for the growing city of Birmingham. Although a dam was never built at that location, in 1926 the Alabama Power Company completed a hydroelectric facility at nearby DeSoto Falls (National Park Service n.d.). In 1912, a concrete dam was built on the Oconee River to supply power to Chattanooga, a city that would, in the near future, benefit from numerous other hydroelectric projects (TVA 1983). Seeking a more dependable power supply for Atlanta’s many streetcar lines, the Georgia Railway and Power Company began damming the Chattooga River in northeast Georgia in 1911, a project that eventually led to the demise of Tallulah Falls, one of the tallest and most scenic waterfalls east of the Mississippi River. In fact, as early as 1819 the Georgia Journal had called Tallulah Falls “one of the greatest known curiosities in the United States,” and even likened the cascades to those waterfalls found at Yosemite and Niagara (Coulter 1963a, 137). In September 1913, the water flow was virtually extinguished by the completion the 116-foot-high dam and generator, which sent “18,000 horse-power of electricity . . . out of defunct Tallulah Falls, over the wires to Atlanta” (Coulter 1963b, 261). Opposition to the hydroelectric project was led by the widow of Confederate General James Longstreet, Helen Longstreet, who was also responsible, as a direct result of her organizing efforts, for the creation of the state’s first environmental social movement. However, the Tallulah Falls Conservation Association was no match for the industrialists who purchased the land surrounding the Falls for $108,960, and then mounted a successful legal charge against Ms. Longstreet and her followers (Reynolds et al. 1993). After what one historian called “the best civil case ever tried in Georgia,” the state supreme court ruled in favor of the power company, allowing them to finish construction of the dam (Ritchie 1959, 342). The Tullalah Dam was the first in a series of six dams to be built across the Chattooga by the Georgia Railway and Power Company, which by 1927 could claim “the most completely developed continuous stretch of river in the United States” (Wright 1957, 116).

THE TENNESSEE VALLEY AUTHORITY AND THE RIVER ECOLOGY The federal agency that would perhaps do the most to change the river ecology of the American South was the TVA. The TVA was created by Congress on May

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Southern United States: An Environmental History 18, 1933, which gave the federal agency the authority to build hydroelectric dams in an area comprising more than 40,000 square miles, including portions of eight southern states. Dam construction was seen by government officials as not only a way to reduce flooding in the region but also as a way to bring electricity to an impoverished agricultural area. True, per capita income throughout the Valley was among the lowest reported in the forty-eight states, and only 4.2 percent of the farms had electricity (TVA 1983). World War I had slowed many dam-building efforts in the region, but the 1920s saw a return to large-scale dam construction, including the Wilson Dam in northern Alabama, a structure built ostensibly to solve the problem of river navigation around Muscle Shoals. As a result of the controversy surrounding the construction and ultimate ownership of Wilson Dam, the federal government became much more interested in managing the entire Tennessee Valley river system. A subsequent 1930 report drafted by the Army Corps of Engineers—a document that would later became the basis for much congressional policy in the valley—recommended the construction of no fewer than 150 hydroelectric projects, including seven major dams. The first and perhaps most celebrated TVA project was Norris Dam, a structure that rose 265 feet from the valley floor and stretched more than 1,860 feet across the Clinch River gorge. When finished, Norris Dam submerged more than 37,000 acres of Tennessee bottomland and sloping hillsides, including what regional historians have called “the best agricultural land in the state” (McDonald and Muldowny 1982, 246). Of course, Norris Dam was only the first of thirty-eight dams that TVA would build or legally acquire over the next decades. By 1948, TVA was able to raise and lower the water levels of more than 650 miles of southern rivers, from the South Holston Dam in upper east Tennessee to the Kentucky Dam near Paducah, Kentucky. TVA dams clearly helped promote the industrialization of the region, as southern factories needed a large and predictable supply of energy to effectively operate. While also helping to prevent major flooding in metropolitan areas, many rural residents suffered as a direct consequence of TVA’s reservoir policies. By their own admission, TVA was responsible for “flooding thousands of acres of river bottom land [and] in many instances some of the Valley’s most fertile acreage,” including the homes and farms of no fewer than “7,400 families” (TVA 1983, 20). The condemnation of property took thousands of acres out of the local tax base and marginalized numerous other farms not directly impacted by the rising waters. Before mid-century, TVA’s reservoir system had submerged nearly 500,000 acres of farmland, including historic archaeological sites, traditional church grounds, and family cemeteries. Though legally compensated for their property, the loss of a place of residence was extremely difficult for valley residents who had to relocate during the Great De-

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Metropolis: Paradise Lost

A simplified diagram explains the Tennessee Valley Authority’s river control projects. (Library of Congress)

pression. Glen Elliot, whose family was moved for the creation of the Watauga Dam in upper Tennessee, recalled the difficult experience of leaving his ancestral homeland: “The land was in our family for seven generations prior to TVA moving us out. We lost our homeplace. It erased us off the map, so to speak. I

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Southern United States: An Environmental History tell people that I’m from Carden’s Bluff, it is all under water now” (Whetstone 1995, 32).

Dams and Marine Life The damming of southern rivers impacted watersheds ecologically, as the many reservoirs turned, in essence, a shallow and fast moving river system into a uniform series of slack-water lakes. As a result, migratory fish species such as freshwater eels, paddlefish, sturgeon, and quillbacks saw their numbers dramatically plummet, which also had a direct impact on the livelihoods of local fishermen who had become economically dependent on such species. Dams obstructed the path of these migrating fish, which meant they could not return to their annual spawning grounds—which for the itinerant American eel was the distant Atlantic Ocean. Prior to the building of TVA dams, American eels were a common sight in the American South, and could be found as far upland as the Caney Fork on the Cumberland Plateau and the Clinch and Powell rivers in southwestern Virginia. Reservoirs also warmed lake-waters, eliminating fish species that preferred cooler and swifter waters from large areas, including redeye and smallmouth bass, chain pickerel, channel-catfish, and in some upland headwater areas, native brook trout (Jordon and Brayton 1878; Southeast Watershed Forum 2004). Native vegetation was also severely impacted, including many endangered and threatened species, whose demise went largely undocumented. Fontana Dam, in western North Carolina, for example, destroyed some of the largest specimens of the rare yellowwood tree ever observed in the uplands, a fact that did not become publicly known until several decades after the completion of the reservoir (Parris 1989). TVA dams also destroyed thousands of acres of important freshwater mollusk habitat, including a stretch of the Tennessee River that contained the North American continent’s most diverse mussel fauna. Known as Muscle Shoals, this meandering and shallow section of the Tennessee River in northern Alabama was once home to nearly 80 of the 297 mussel species that live in the United States. In fact, 90 percent of all North American mussel species currently inhabit the American South, although as many as one-fourth of those are listed as threatened or endangered species (Williams and Neves 1995). Indicators of superior water quality, freshwater mussels require relatively long stretches of undisturbed water to successfully reproduce. Needless to say, the damming of southern rivers had an enormous impact on freshwater mussel populations in the region, especially those at Muscle Shoals, where the Tennessee River was little more than a series of shallow eddies and placid pools. In 1924,

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Metropolis: Paradise Lost after seeing firsthand the permanent flooding of the area caused by the construction of Wilson Dam, Arnold E. Ortmann, one of American’s leading malacologists, wrote that “the beautiful islands, and the general feature of the river itself are gone, as well as a large portion of the fauna, chiefly that of mussels” (Stolzenburg 1992, 19). By 1940, Wheeler, Wilson, and Pickwick dams had inundated all but 12 miles of the original Muscle Shoals, completely eliminating thirty-four mussel species and one freshwater snail species from the area. In 1963, when the entire stretch of the river was formally surveyed by mussel experts, only thirty of the original species were found inhabiting the former mussel paradise (Davis 2000; McGregor and Garner 2004). Humans gathered mussels too, which no doubt had an important impact on their numbers even prior to the damming of southern streams. Southerners harvested freshwater mussels for both their pearls and luminescent mantles, as the latter were used by commercial button manufacturers well into the twentieth century. Pearling, as it was then called, was more than a casual pastime for many in the region—the very best pearls brought prices ranging anywhere from $100 to $4,000—enormous sums of money for that date. After 1896, in areas such as Clinton, Cathage, and Smithville, Tennessee, and Newport and Bald Knob, Arkansas, where pearling developed into a quasi-industry, mussels were also gathered using “crowfoot drags,” long metal contrivances armed with a series of metal hooks that were attached by a length of stout twine and then dragged slowly across the river bottom. According to George Kunz and Charles Stevenson, “when a hook or other part of the drag enters an open shell, the mollusk immediately closes firmly upon the intruding object and clings thereto long enough to be drawn up into the boat” (Kunz and Stevenson 1908, 269). Using this simple fishing technique, say the authors in their encyclopedic work The Book of the Pearl, as much as a ton of shells could be collected by an single individual per day, although the average, they added, was “probably not over four or five hundred pounds.” While the percentage of mussels that yielded valuable pearls was extremely small, the payoff could be so great that local fisherman often developed a “spirit akin to that which dominates the gambler.” In most localities, however, the pursuit yielded “far less profit than pleasure,” noted Kunz and Stevenson, as “many a man who spends a summer in pearling is in a fair way to spend winter at the expense of someone else” (Kunz and Stevenson 1908, 276). While overharvesting clearly devastated mussel populations in some areas, mussel decline in the region as a whole was caused not only by the damming of major southern rivers, but also by pollution that originated from larger southern cities. In 1908, when Kunz and Stevenson offered suggestions for stopping mussel decline in the American South, they concluded that solving the problem would entail not only restricting certain “methods of

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Southern United States: An Environmental History fishery,” but also limiting the disposal of sewage by “cities and the large factories through which great quantities of mussels have been destroyed” (Kunz and Stevenson 1908, 277). Water pollution had already become a problem in many parts of the region, especially downstream from major urban centers. In fact, as early as 1909, Arnold Ortmann observed that the worst damage to native mussel beds had been done not by overharvesting, but by “sewage . . . coal mines . . . chemical factories . . . woodpulp mills, saw mills, tanneries, etc.” (Stolzenburg 1992, 18). Of course the dramatic decline of mussels during the early twentieth century is much easier to fathom when one learns of their incredibly unique reproductive cycles. Mollusks require that specific fish inhabit their same waters, as only certain species can act as a living host for the young microscopic larvalstage mussels. These juvenile mollusks, known as glochidia, must first attach firmly to the gills of the host fish, species that may themselves be threatened by pollution and poor water quality. Because of the unique size, shape, and elastic nature of these tiny embryonic mussels, only certain kinds of fish have the appropriate gills to be the proper host environment. In three or four weeks, after developing into juvenile mollusks, the reproductive cycle is complete, allowing the mussels to finally leave the gills of the host fish and drop slowly and safely to the river streambed.

ELECTRICITY AND INDUSTRY Although TVA dams played a major role in changing the river ecology of the American South, the electricity they provided played an equally important role in changing the human subsistence patterns of the countryside. Electrification, as it did elsewhere in the United States, brought more manufacturing to rural areas, as factories no longer had to be located near major railroad lines or near a major energy source. Electricity also allowed for a much wider dispersal of settlements across the southern landscape and made it possible for residents to work in occupations not related directly to agriculture. Despite the increasing availability of twentieth-century technological advances, which for a good number of southerners included owning automobiles and home telephones, rural populations in the American South declined during the 1920s and 1930s, a trend that continued for several more decades. At the same time, urban populations rose steadily, as did the population of the region as a whole, despite the fact that literally millions of southerners had left to find work in the urban North. In fact, from 1920 to 1940, the population of eleven southern states increased from 29,516,978 to 31,832,000, or about 8 percent of the total population. At the same time, cities such as New Orleans, Memphis, Atlanta, and

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Metropolis: Paradise Lost Louisville increased their population by 40 percent or more over the same period, suggesting that the southern metropolis was also having an impact on the immediate surrounding landscape (U.S. Census 1920, 1940). Indeed, Memphis grew in size from just 19 square miles in 1910 to 104 square miles in 1950, a pattern observed in many southern cities, including Jacksonville, Florida; Nashville, Tennessee; and Houston, Texas (Jackson 1985). By the fourth decade of the twentieth century, it was obvious to many southerners that a return to a truly agricultural way of life—one dependent on the soil, weather, and honest outdoor hard work—was now impractical if not impossible. The Great Depression, combined with severe soil erosion and the relentless attack of the boll weevil on the entire cotton crop, made it increasingly unlikely that residents would fully resurrect their agrarian past. World War II further weakened the ties between the southerner and the southern landscape, as thousands of much needed farmhands were called to wage war against the enemy overseas. In Appalachia, the loss of the once dominant American chestnut threatened to end rural subsistence patterns three centuries in the making, as nearly all the largest trees were killed before 1940 by an exotic fungus. In parts of Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama, veterans of World War II recalled leaving their communities with large American chestnut stands intact

Erosion near Tupelo, Mississippi, 1936. (Library of Congress)

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Southern United States: An Environmental History and then returning from the conflict to see their homeland forests entirely transformed (Davis 2004b). For the small-scale southern lumberman who might have logged timber with draft horses or mules, much of the southern forest formerly at his disposal was now culled-over, severely burned, or held in large private holdings. In Kentucky and Tennessee, surface-mining gained ascendancy as the preferred coal-mining method, a technique that, within a single decade, would lay waste to thousands of acres of potential farmland in four states and pollute literally hundreds of miles of freshwater streams (Montrie 2003). Paradoxically, while the southern region was still perceived as an “agrarian country” by government officials and outside observers, southern farmers owned far fewer acres than those cultivating land elsewhere in the United States. As early as 1930, Howard Odum observed that the average farm in the American South was smaller than 72 acres, a figure well below the average for the even the northeastern United States, where farmers still cultivated 100 or more improved acres of their farmland. In several southern states the average farm size fell even below 65 acres, including Mississippi, Louisiana, and North Carolina. True, the American South did have more of its total surface acreage in farmland than did the Northeast or even far West states, but all other regions of the country continued to devote a greater percentage of available land to agricultural pursuits (Bruton 1934; Odum 1936). Tenancy also became a much more entrenched institution across the entire southern region, as nearly half of all cropland was now harvested by non-landowning individuals. Some individual counties saw tenancy rates as high as 80 percent, including sections of the uplands, an area long thought to be the last stronghold of yeoman self-sufficiency (USDA 1935). Southern farmers also owned the fewest tractors in the United States, as 90 percent or more of all farmers in the region continued to plow their fields with mules and draft horses. And while the southern region contained some of “the richest forest lands in the world,” including 198,000,000 acres of commercial timberlands, only 15 percent of those stands could still be classified as old growth or virgin (Odum 1936, 31). Given those rather stark economic and environmental conditions, it is little wonder that the American South was fast losing its rural character, as both yeoman farming and forestry was becoming less attractive to rural residents with each passing month. As a result, rural southerners turned increasingly to the milltown, coaltown, and urban center for economic salvation, which, in turn, ensured even more urban growth and industrial development. In fact, both Louisiana and Florida already had more urban than rural residents as early as 1940, a fact that would hold true for the region as a whole in less than two decades (U.S. Census 1940, 1950, 1960).

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8 PARADISE LOST? Craig E. Colten

A CENTURY OF TRANSFORMATION No rigid boundary separated the 1800s from the 1900s, but profound changes were in the making as the South passed into the new century. At the core of the many transformations were technological innovation and social upheaval. In some instances, southerners stemmed abuses of the past, while in other situations, they introduced previously unknown forms of environmental degradation. New management regimes introduced by federal agencies revamped many aspects of society-nature relations. A rural, agricultural region at the outset of the century, the South retained many agrarian traits, but its residents witnessed accelerating urban and industrial development, pine crops replacing cotton, and an easing of the stifling racism and subjugation of African Americans. Each transition altered how humans dealt with the environment that they lived in.

CONSERVING THE WILD One passion of the southern male has been the pursuit of wild game—whether terrestrial, avian, or aquatic. As geographer Sam Hilliard reported, game was a fundamental part of the antebellum southern diet. Venison was a common commodity at urban markets from South Carolina to New Orleans. Travelers including landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted noted the abundance of game birds, and artist John James Audubon reported participating in hunts near New Orleans. Rabbit and squirrel were also important ingredients in the southern diet, and taken by whites and blacks alike. Southerners even hunted and consumed the lowly possum, and naturalist Charles Lyell noted that African Americans relished them. In addition, turkey and waterfowl were highly sought by the southern hunters. Subsistence and market hunters along the major flyways in

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Cleanup of a sandy spit on Dixon Bay, Louisiana, following an oil spill in 1985. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

Maryland, coastal Carolina, and in the Gulf of Mexico wetlands downed sizable numbers of waterfowl for domestic consumption. Yet the expansion of agricultural land reduced wildlife habitat, and at the outset of the new century deer populations reportedly reached a low of fewer than a million animals. Commercial timber harvesting in the early twentieth century also reduced wildlife habitat, while overhunting placed serious pressure on numerous avian species and completely eliminated once prolific species such as the carrier pigeon (Hilliard 1972, 74–83; Lewis 1998, 268–269). Both freshwater and saltwater aquatic life also became the object of personal and commercial exploitation. Oyster collecting from Chesapeake Bay to Texas provided an important dietary supplement dominated by commercial gatherers. Inland waters yielded the highly desired catfish. Fishermen could use nets, trotlines, and basket traps to land the massive channel catfish. It was not uncommon for a fish weighing 30 pounds to find its way to the home of a fisherman and feed his entire family. Catfish were caught throughout the South, particularly in areas near the major rivers. Hilliard argues that there was little

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Paradise Lost? marketing of fresh fish in the nineteenth century, and this suggests many individuals, both black and white, worked the waterways for personal consumption. Even though catfish became a major component in the diet during the antebellum period and continued to constitute a favored item on the dinner table in the twentieth century, there was short-lived pressure on the supply (Hilliard 1972, 83–89). One critically important aspect of southern hunting was the acceptance of open land as a commons for hunting and fishing (Marks 1991, 32). This view was rooted in nineteenth-century practices that continued to shape attitudes toward wildlife access in more recent years. One of the most profound twentiethcentury transformations, in terms of southern hunting, was the conversion of this commons into private property. The federal government sold some 5.7 million acres of land in the late nineteenth century and the southern states alienated millions more—Texas alone transferred an estimated 32 million acres (Williams 1989, 242–243). By 1913 a relatively small number of owners controlled over 46 million acres of southern timberlands, with ownership concentrated in the states fronting the Gulf of Mexico (Williams 1989, 264). As corporations acquired huge tracts of forested land, they began an unprecedented exclusion of southern hunters. Seeking to prevent trespassing, the large timber companies posted property that had once been a common hunting ground. This literally sparked retaliation by rural residents in the Florida Parishes of Louisiana and elsewhere. In reaction to being fenced out of traditional hunting grounds, they set the woods on fire. Fires became a particularly troublesome issue during the 1930s as a government-encouraged forest expansion program was underway. Despite arguments by southerners that burning the forests served to control forest pests, such as ticks, chiggers, and snakes, and also cleaned out the underbrush for livestock and wildlife, grudge burning remained an underlying factor (Kuhlken 1999). As the timber companies reforested cut-over areas, fire control became a primary concern, and this reinforced the closing of the commons (Williams 1989, 286–287; Daniel 1985, 168). As cotton succumbed to the boll weevil in the twentieth century and plantation economies faltered (see next section), wildlife habitat expanded and reversed the nineteenth-century trend. Federal policies encouraged the conversion of former row crops into timber stands and the expansion of habitat for deer and squirrels. Conversion of farmland displaced many tenant farmers who began a northward migration, and in their absence, the pine stands rose over the gullied clay soils. The Soil Conservation Service in the 1930s promoted establishing forest cover on eroded lands (Bennett 1939), while other programs acquired “submarginal” farmland and converted it to national forests. Later, the Soil Bank program of the 1950s and 1960s encouraged the retirement of marginal

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Southern United States: An Environmental History quality agricultural lands. Ultimately, over 5 million acres of former cotton land, especially in Georgia and Alabama, became forests (Hart 1968, 427). Forest management practices discouraged fires, and toward this end, open access to hunters. Restricted access was not the exclusive domain of private landowners and large timber companies. Creation of national forests, game refuges, national parks, and also military facilities whittled away at the territory once used as a vast hunting commons (Silver 2003, 207). Creation of the Tennessee Valley Authority transferred local farms into the hands of government bodies as well. Southern congressmen with seniority located numerous military bases—such as Fort Benning, Georgia, and Fort Polk, Louisiana, and munitions plants during World War II—in their region. These operations required considerable territory surrounded by fences adorned with “posted—no trespassing” signs. Federal land ownership in the South had extracted thousands of additional acres from the commons by the 1990s. Hunting, while a pursuit of both upper and lower classes, differed considerably between wealthy and poor southerners. According to anthropologist Stuart Marks, the southern elite looked on hunting more as a leisure pursuit. Blacks relied on hunting as a vital supplement to their rations (Marks 1991, 23–28). Other poor southerners, such as hill folk in Appalachia, the Acadians in Louisiana, and upland yeomen farmers also gathered a portion of their victuals in the fields and streams. Skilled hunters reduced wildlife populations, which prompted states to create preserves and enact conservation laws that limited hunting seasons on stillplentiful species and placed prohibitions on killing those creatures that had been nearly exterminated. North Carolina, for example, created the Mount Mitchell Game Refuge and Wildlife Management Area in the late 1920s. Wardens with police powers patrolled the grounds to prevent trespassing by hunters. In addition, to speed up the recovery of depleted deer and bear populations, the state embarked on a restocking program. Such efforts helped restore numerous additional native species such as quail, pheasants, turkey, and other wildlife in western North Carolina (Silver 2003, 185–191). Other species rescued from near extermination through vigorous restoration programs include the brown pelican and alligator in Louisiana (Colten 2005). Even as states put in place conservation programs to preserve desirable species, they often encouraged the elimination of varmints. While policies to exterminate animals that preyed on livestock or scavenged crops date back to the colonial era (Hardin 1992), state-sanctioned slaughters continued into the twentieth century. West Virginia assigned value to predators such as foxes, wildcats, crows, eagles, and panthers and rewarded hunters with points in a

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The Lee family, pictured here in 1912 on the porch of their home on Billy’s Island in the Okefenokee Swamp of Georgia, were among those who drew a living from the resources of southern swamps. (Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas)

gruesome contest. In 1934–1935, hunters turned in nearly 300,000 animals in forty counties participating in the program (Davis 2000, 269). Conservation laws today offer protection even to predatory species, although states still offer bounties to hunters who help slay pests. Louisiana pays trappers for nutrias (a large wetland rodent) in an effort to stem their overconsumption of valuable coastal wetland grasses (Louisiana Department of Wild Life and Fisheries 2003). On the water there were also significant changes. Fishing shifted from subsistence to commercial, and as a result the impacts on aquatic life became more disruptive. Commercial fishing in the bayous and wetlands of south Louisiana, for example, began in earnest in the late nineteenth century. Fish dealers at the lower end of the Atchafalaya River in Morgan City began purchasing the catches of fishermen in 1873 and this led to a more systematic exploitation of wetland resources. Geographer Malcolm Comeaux reports that Cajun fishermen, in order to have ready access to fish, began moving into the wetlands and establishing camps. In the areas of greatest fishing, fishermen

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Southern United States: An Environmental History made mutually recognized claims on specific stretches of the river that differed from the terrestrial conceptualization of the forest as a commons. By staking claims to segments of the environment, fishermen created a folk means of conserving a limited resource. Yet, the fluid environment of the Atchafalaya prevented fishermen from actually managing their stretch of river. Consequently, as demand for fish rose, overexploitation of the common resource followed and the “fisherman’s problem” so common elsewhere became an issue along the Gulf Coast (McEvoy 1986). The intervention of culture and the adoption of conservation policies at the state level helped protect a declining resource once that decline was recognized. As long as the market was limited to the small settlements adjacent to the basin, fishing did not create harmful impacts on local fish populations in the Louisiana wetlands. Before train transport and ice-making equipment appeared on the scene, most fish were towed out of the swamps in “towcars”—slatted and semi-submerged boats that functioned as floating jails for live fish. Once rail lines crossed the wetlands and connected New Orleans to the Atchafalaya Basin, fishermen continued to tow fish to Morgan City, but there the catch would be placed on ice for shipment to the larger urban market by train, thereby enlarging the market. In response to a growing demand, fishermen acquired motorized boats early in the new century and quickly expanded their range and efficiency to serve metropolitan consumers. Catfish production peaked around 1917 in Louisiana at about 17 million pounds, but plummeted to below 4 million pounds per year during the late 1920s. This suggests an increased efficiency in harvesting aquatic life and also declining yields due to overfishing (Comeaux 1972, 31–40). Even the vast and fecund Atchafalaya Basin succumbed to the legions of increasingly effective commercial fishermen who extracted its aquatic wealth. As Arthur McEvoy has argued, the tragedy of the commons was not the only outcome that can result from intensive fishing (McEvoy 1986, 5–14). In Louisiana, as elsewhere, conservation policies emerged to protect and repopulate the waterways of the lower Delta, and aquaculture supplemented the declining populations of wildlife. Louisiana created a Department of Conservation in 1912. It had several duties related to fisheries that included licensing fishermen and dealers, establishing conservation policies to protect the principal money-making species, setting up hatcheries to help restock the waterways, and enforcing state laws that protected aquatic life (Louisiana Department of Conservation 1929). Other southern states established similar programs seeking to both protect and repopulate overworked waterways, and the courts backed the state’s authority to regulate and conserve this resource (Silver 2003; Doughty 1983).

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J. E. Bonin fishes with a hoop net in Louisiana’s Atchafalaya Basin. (Philip Gould/Corbis)

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Southern United States: An Environmental History In addition to public policy, aquaculture worked to overcome the tragedy of the commons in southern waterways. Catfish have been one of the prime commodities harvested from streams in Dixie and they are ideally suited to mass production in human-made lagoons. Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi have become major catfish producers as natural populations declined. Southern farmers had nearly 175,000 acres in catfish ponds in 2004 which produced more than 600 million pounds of fish flesh (U.S. Department of Agriculture 2004). In Louisiana, farm-raised catfish production topped 61 million pounds sold in 2002 compared to the nearly 6 million pounds taken from public waterways (Louisiana Agricultural Center 2003). The shift to aquaculture greatly diminished pressure on natural populations while satisfying the southern palate. Indeed, restaurants have come to prefer the delivery of precisely portioned filets that catfish farmers can produce over the somewhat erratic sized fish taken from streams. With the growth of aquaculture, small-scale commercial fishing has largely disappeared from southern streams. Aquaculture is not the sole cause for this displacement, but it effectively replaced a once thriving segment of the southern economy. Stream pollution began interfering with fisheries in the early years of the century and several southern states placed their primary pollution control responsibilities with their fish and game agencies. Oil fields’ brines released into streams in Louisiana, Arkansas, and Texas wiped out catfish from time to time. Industrial wastes also sparked complaints by fishermen who saw their livelihoods threatened. A giant fish kill on the Mississippi River in the early 1960s focused attention on chemical pollution and aquatic life (Colten 2000). As conflicts over pollution increased, frozen fish marketed by national corporations stocked the shelves of supermarkets. Such competition, along with aquaculture, caused the disappearance of small fish markets from the southern landscape. Meanwhile, conservation agencies and hatcheries had begun stocking streams with sport fish rather than commercial species. The Civilian Conservation Corps and the National Park Service, for example, stocked trout in highland streams to satisfy the growing number of sport fishermen (Brown 2001, 116–117, 134–135). In the many reservoirs and their tributaries across the coastal plain, bass have become the primary objective of anglers. Indeed, sport fishing in the South is a wildly popular pursuit that has given rise to a professional competitive bass fishing circuit. This type of fishing, in association with breeding and stocking efforts by states, maintains healthy populations, even if many of the native species are no longer a prominent part of biological communities. Southern hunters also caused population declines among avian species in the late nineteenth century. In Texas, legislators, who generally were also sport

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Paradise Lost? hunters, witnessed a decline in their wildfowl take and then took steps to reduce commercial waterfowl exploitation. The state passed its Wild Game and Birds Act in 1903 which essentially outlawed commerce in non-game species. The Audubon Society worked in concert with the state to stem what the national organization considered avian slaughter by sportsmen even after commercial hunting began to wane. In addition, the Audubon Society worked vigorously to halt depredations on birds of plume across the South. One of its key efforts led to the creation of preserves for egrets. By 1912, the Society had taken steps to set aside nineteen of the twenty-six known egret rookeries along the Gulf Coast in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and Texas. In 1921, the Texas legislature leased another important habitat for water birds to the Audubon Society which undertook steps to protect the flocks that wintered near the Gulf of Mexico (Doughty 1983, 165–175). Cooperation between the state and the national Audubon Society began a gradual shift in attitudes toward birds in Texas and also initiated the establishment of preserves for threatened species. A private citizen began a major effort to protect birds of plume and to set aside wetlands in coastal Louisiana. Tabasco tycoon E. A. McIllhenny was largely responsible for saving the snowy egret from extinction by establishing a preserve on his own property by 1910. He was also instrumental in securing the donation of several vast tracts of land to either the state or the federal government as wildlife refuges. By the 1930s, nearly 300,000 acres had been set aside as areas where hunting was not allowed in southwest Louisiana. Conservationminded agencies and not-for-profits added another 10,000 acres in the southwest Louisiana chenier plains during the 1980s, plus new federal wildlife preserves in the vicinity of New Orleans offered protected wetlands for wintering waterfowl (Gomez 1998, 120–123; Colten 2002). Such conservation efforts helped sustain waterfowl populations and thus enabled the continuation of sport hunting. Hunting and fishing are still activities pursued with passion, largely by white southern males. Sociologist John Shelton Reed notes that gun ownership and the tendency to use them for hunting was higher in the South than elsewhere in the country (Reed 1972, 51). While the commons have largely disappeared for hunters, hunting leases negotiated with private landowners allow hunters to invade the woods and wetlands in search of deer, squirrel, waterfowl, and other traditionally sought animals. With the closing of the commons, hunting has become a valuable source of income for rural landowners who lease access to hunting clubs as a predatory form of nature tourism. Southern blacks once depended on hunting and fishing for a portion of their subsistence diets, and indeed took advantage of their superior knowledge of the southern wetlands to supplement their diet (Stewart 1996; Hilliard 1972). Yet,

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Southern United States: An Environmental History post-Reconstruction racism made hunting or fishing in remote locations a precarious and dangerous activity, even though some acts of resistance occurred in the vicinity of Savannah, Georgia, where black fishermen removed river control devices placed by the Army Corps of Engineers that interfered with their pursuit of aquatic food (Stewart 1996, 234–235). Southern blacks may still have a strong urge to fish and hunt, but typically they have limited their exploits to less-isolated locations and much of their superior knowledge of the backwoods has been lost. Fears borne of Jim Crow–era lynchings deterred hunting in isolated woodlands, and the closing of the commons and the displacement of blacks from tenant farming occupations further restricted access for black hunters. Yet, African Americans work the banks of streams and lakes in visible urban locations as a means to satisfy a traditional craving for harvesting nature (Rivlin 1977).

TRANSFORMING THE AGRICULTURAL LANDSCAPE Both the image and reality of the South is tightly intertwined with agriculture. A slave-based labor system enabled the development and expansion of plantation crops intermingled with yeomen farmers scratching a living from the former piney woods soils. Indeed, regional identity became deeply entrenched after the sectional conflict known below the Mason-Dixon Line as the “war of northern aggression.” Emancipation and Reconstruction reorganized the agricultural economy and landscape, but in 1900, the South was still very much an agrarian region. Agriculture remained extremely important in 2000, although it has endured numerous environmental changes during the last century. The low-country Carolina rice planters saw their hydraulic enterprise crumble in the post–Civil War era. Already high production costs, accentuated by the need to hire laborers, imposed a low-maintenance regimen on a highmaintenance system. A series of devastating hurricanes struck the Carolina coast in the 1890s. Their destructive storm surges washed saltwater into the dyked fields destroying the crops and the embankments that surrounded them. Most Carolina rice plantations had succumbed to slow deterioration or dramatic destruction by the early twentieth century. Rice production did not disappear from the South however. Beginning in the late nineteenth century and continuing into the twentieth century, the prairie parishes of southwest Louisiana experienced an influx of midwestern grain farmers, recruited by the railroads to plant rice. Ample water and a strategic clay hardpan underlying the prairie soils enabled a rapid expansion in rice cultivation. A similar clay layer underlies floodplain land in northeast Arkansas that also experienced an expan-

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Paradise Lost? sion in rice cultivation during the early twentieth century. Climate, soil, and water supply all contributed to conditions that enabled the establishment of machine-based rice cultivation that largely supplanted the Carolina rice area. By 1929 there were over 800,000 acres planted in these two states along with southeast Texas (Vance 1932, 214–215). Following the Civil War, most cotton plantation owners retained title to their large land holdings and employed freed slaves as tenant farmers. This new arrangement enabled an expansion of acreage in cotton in the early twentieth century. In fact, many plantations abandoned sensible soil conserving practices, such as field rotation, and tenants planted the cash crop on every square inch of land. Woodland and subsistence crops disappeared in the most intensively cropped areas—most notably the Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina Piedmont (Aiken 1998). Careless cultivation, combined with more and more absentee ownership, and the arrival of the boll weevil, led to even greater intensification of cultivation as farmers tried to offset the depredations of the invading pest. With intensified cultivation, soil erosion became one of the most critical issues in marginal cotton producing regions and with it came the characterization of southern farmers as “soil miners.” Geographer Stanley Trimble reports that soil erosion peaked, particularly in the Piedmont, between 1860 and 1920. Tenant farmers, he argues, were poor stewards. Abusive cultivation accelerated erosion, which led to crop land abandonment. This sequence migrated across the cotton belt from South Carolina’s older plantation areas into Georgia and Alabama. Erosion became so severe that its impacts rippled out from the fields themselves to the river basins that they drained into. High-quality soils dislodged by rain moved downslope leaving formerly high-yielding land barren and scarred with gullies. Deposition of soils stolen from cultivated land became a problem in bottomlands and led to excessive sedimentation that transformed once tillable land into wetlands. Seeking to offset lost acreage, some farmers cleared more erodible slopes, and in doing so, contributed to additional soil erosion from Piedmont uplands (Trimble 1974, 69–93). Geographer Carville Earle adds additional temporal and spatial insight to the environmental problems of post-Reconstruction cotton planting. He notes that erosion was most pronounced in the eastern cotton belt due to the abandonment of a crop rotation system that included a nitrogen-fixing pea rotation and more intensive cultivation assisted by phosphate fertilizers. While phosphate fertilizers offered farmers a quick spike in production, they did not replace nitrogen, the key nutrient. Debt accrued as farmers expanded acreage and heaped on more fertilizer and ultimately doomed the eastern cotton belt to soil erosion. Earle also argues that the linear model of progressive “destructive occupance” of the southern soils

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Southern United States: An Environmental History is inaccurate. He claims that the period between 1880 and 1920 was one of destructive practices, bracketed between more conservation-minded periods (Earle 1988, 1996). Recognition of erosion problems prompted southern farmers to take steps to protect soil—some inadvertently, others more deliberately—after about 1920. Gullying, debt from fertilizer purchase, and poor management left many farmers unable to continue cultivation. Across the Piedmont, cotton acreage declined dramatically between 1909 and 1959 as farmers left their fields to the invasive vegetation of the subtropical climes (Hart 1977). Cleared land dropped in Georgia and South Carolina by nearly 7 million acres during that period. Invasive pines reclaimed some of this land, representing inadvertent conservation. Government programs, most notably those administered by the Soil Conservation Service, began promoting programs to reduce erosion. Retirement of eroded land was one recommendation and worked in concert with debt-related abandonment—both permitted forest restoration. Other programs that encouraged continued cultivation and soil conservation included terracing slopes, contour plowing, planting seasonal cover crops, crop rotation, and conversion of erodible lands to pasture (Bennett 1939, 622–630). One of the programs touted to stabilize eroding land contributed to the spread of an exotic vine that now has become a pest throughout much of the South. Hugh Hammond Bennett, the first director of the Soil Conservation Service, explicitly identified kudzu as one of several ground cover plants that could provide protection to severely eroded lands (Bennett 1939, 625). Introduced into the country as an ornamental vine in 1876, it spread rapidly during the 1930s through the 1950s when it was promoted as a means to control erosion. However, it quickly earned the label as a pest with growth rates of up to a foot a day and a hearty resistance to control efforts. Its vines can rapidly engulf houses, power lines, abandoned buildings, and even forests. Biologists estimate that kudzu covers up to 7 million acres of the South. Public perception of the aggressive weed has changed over time, and several communities now have kudzu festivals (Winberry and Jones 1973; Alderman 1998). Nonetheless, it exemplifies the consequences of releasing exotic species in new environments. The arrival of the boll weevil in southern Texas in 1892 ushered in a major encounter with another agricultural pest. Assisted by westerly winds and a nearly unbroken banquet of mono-cropped cotton fields, the Mexican weevil feasted its way to the Mississippi River by about 1908; it migrated to the Piedmont in Georgia by 1915; and reached the northern limit of cotton cultivation in Virginia in 1923. This voracious insect disrupted cotton production as it moved across the South. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), it accounted for a 31 percent drop in cotton production in 1921 as it ap-

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Paradise Lost? proached its geographic limit. Southern farmers, aided by government specialists, deployed a variety of means to cope with the pest and in doing so entrenched themselves in a set of new environmental relationships. Additional costs fell on farmers who chose “cultural controls” such as plowing under the crop residue after harvest to eliminate hibernation habitat. Farmers also burned surrounding fields and forests to further reduce safe harbors for the bugs. Use of these labor-intensive cultural controls was not particularly popular, and chemical controls proved more acceptable to southern farmers. Application of pesticides, such as calcium arsenate, offered some relief, but also higher costs. Nonetheless, pesticides presented a system that did not conflict with deeply entrenched customs and arsenic manufacturers were peddling over 10 million pounds of pesticide to control weevils by the late 1920s. While the weevil was not the sole cause of the South’s cotton decline, it did prove a tipping point for areas already nearing economic collapse. The high costs of applying pesticides thinned out the remaining tenant farmers and reconcentrated management in the hands of landowners. In areas where cotton survived, the reliance on agricultural chemicals for pest control became firmly entrenched. DDT replaced arsenicals after World War II, and this effective chemical significantly reduced the boll weevil’s impact. Slightly more than a century after the weevil’s arrival, the USDA is engaged in an effort to eradicate the pest from the country using chemical controls (Dunlap 1981; Aiken 1998; USDA 2002). A second invasive creature plagued southern farmers during the twentieth century and also prompted an all-out eradication program. Fire ants arrived in the South in the late nineteenth century and began to spread rapidly during the 1930s—in association with the “bulldozer revolution.” Suburbanization and attendant soil disturbance provided ideal habitat for colonies of fire ants dispersed via nursery stock. Conversion of cotton acreage to grazing land also facilitated the ant’s dispersal. From the point of introduction near Mobile, Alabama, the insects had infested Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana by the late 1950s. Opportunistic feeders, the ants began to cause considerable damage to crops by the 1940s, tormented livestock, and reduced the population of deer, quail, and snakes. While the fire ant also feeds on other agricultural pests such as the boll weevil and sugar borer, it was not a friend to the farmer and bedeviled humans with its irritating sting (Buhs 2004, 21–38). It earned the label as a fierce pest and prompted major airborne chemical assaults beginning in 1957. Under the auspices of the USDA, aerial spraying of heptachlor delivered the first blow to the pest. But, this chemical also killed livestock and wildlife and sparked considerable public debate over the unintended consequences of the program. During the early 1960s the USDA substituted the less harmful Mirex for heptachlor, but ultimately the widespread spraying campaign lost support as the

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Southern United States: An Environmental History environmental movement gained momentum and funding dried up during the late 1960s (Buhs 2004, 131–148). Current approaches to fire ant control have moved away from strict reliance on chemicals and no longer strive for complete eradication. Biological controls and coordinated neighborhood poisoning programs now seek to control the spread of fire ants. As cotton retreated from the Piedmont, it expanded elsewhere in the South, most notably on the rich alluvial floodplains of the Mississippi River. Removal of the hardwood timbers in the Mississippi Delta between the late nineteenth century and the 1920s opened much of the “alluvial empire” to cultivation. Some 2.6 million acres of hardwood forests had been transformed to row crops by the early 1930s (Saikku 2005). Not only was forest removal necessary, but drainage of the wetlands and protection from floods were of equal importance. Beginning in the late nineteenth century, the “levees-only” policy guided local and federal investment in flood protection systems. In general, higher and stronger levees shut out floods, after which local drainage districts undertook the removal of excess water captured within the levee system. These local organizations had successfully reclaimed approximately 2 million acres of Delta wetland by 1941—about the same amount of land as the foresters cleared by the 1920s (Saikku 2005, 162). With land cleared and drained, other innovations in agriculture accelerated the concentration of cotton cultivation in the alluvial floodplains. Mechanization, in combination with increasing use of agricultural chemicals, reduced the demand for human labor on farms, and enhanced the topographic qualities of the flat floodplains over the undulating Piedmont or loess bluffs south of Vicksburg, Mississippi. Taking advantage of local conditions, alluvial floodplain cotton planters led the South in adopting tractors during the 1930s and 1940s. By 1956, the percentage of cotton harvested mechanically on the alluvial lands also led the entire South (Aiken 1998, 102–106). Terracing used to control erosion on the Piedmont precluded the use of mechanical pickers and deterred mechanization of the rolling hills in favor of the major river basins (Hugill 1988). Aerial application of pesticides also favored the flat fields of the floodplain. By 1969, most measures of cotton production indicated it was firmly centered in the alluvial counties from northern Arkansas, western Tennessee, across the Mississippi Delta and into northeastern Louisiana (Daniel 1985; Hart 1977; Saikku 2005). Texas experienced an internal adjustment. Cotton production in the Brazos Valley in east Texas declined dramatically between 1900 and 1965, while a corresponding expansion took place in the semi-arid high plains. Cotton planters retreated to an area that had regular hard freezes, thought to be a barrier to the boll weevil. Irrigation technologies enabled supplemental watering of cotton on the arid Texas flatlands, and abandonment of cotton lands in the black waxy

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Paradise Lost? prairies followed adjustments to mechanization and agrichemical applications seen elsewhere across the South (Hugill 1988). In Texas, a key technological feat was not removing excess water as in the Delta, but lifting water from the Ogallala Aquifer to irrigate cotton acreage (Opie 1993).

PLANTING A NEW AGRICULTURE Abandonment of Piedmont cotton land and invasive forest species contributed to the larger shift from simple forest resource removal to industrial cultivation of fast-growing pines. As the commercial timber companies completed their depletion of coniferous forests in one region, they looked southward for new timber stock, and in the 1880s there was still ample forest land stretching across Dixie. Southern-owned and -operated naval stores industries had been tapping pines in North and South Carolina for their sap since the antebellum period. Although sustainable to a point, the scarring of the trees to release the sap eventually killed the pines and intentional fires killed saplings. By 1893, turpentiners had destroyed about 90 percent of eastern North Carolina’s longleaf forest (Outland 2004, 128). Naval stores companies turned to untapped forests in Georgia and north Florida, and then south Alabama. Aided by an expanding rail network, there was a surge in the naval stores and timber exploitation in those states in the waning years of the nineteenth century that continued into the 1900s. Florida surged to the lead of the industry with 529 establishments churning out turpentine, and naval stores became the most important industry in the state in the 1910s (Outland 2004, 132–33). African Americans, working in near slave-like conditions in remote forest camps, provided the brute labor to sustain this extractive industry. Timber removal accompanied the expansion of naval stores into the southern forests. Financed with northern capital, large timber companies began to transform southern forestry from a small-scale, local activity into full-fledged industrialized timber extraction. Federal authorities sold some 5.7 million acres in only five southern states between 1877 and 1888 (Gates 1940; Williams 1989, 242). Much of that land came to be controlled by corporate producers. In Mississippi, by 1913, a mere ten forest owners controlled nearly 25 percent of all forest land in the state (Fickle 2001, 96). Concentration of forest resources in the hands of a few capital-intensive operations that employed the latest technologies made timber harvest much more efficient. Forest Service estimates indicate that some 85 million acres in the South were cut over by 1920, and of that, over a third had been left idle (Williams 1989, 284).

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Southern United States: An Environmental History The rapid depletion of southern forests aroused concern in the early twentieth century and sparked several conservation measures. In North Carolina, Carl Schenck, with the financial backing of George Vanderbilt, initiated the Biltmore Forest School in 1898. Although it operated only until 1913, it had important impacts on southern forestry. It trained a considerable number of professional foresters who embraced concepts of scientific forest management based on conservation principles. Core concepts included selective, rather than clear-cutting, and controlling forest fires, although conservation forestry promoted wise-use principles, not forest preservation. The foresters trained at Biltmore sought to provide landowners with a sustained yield and given the generous climate of the South, these foresters demonstrated the regenerative ability of southern forests (Clark 1984, 42–44). Conservation management was an important component in the reconceptualization of trees from natural resources to crops. New technologies in the naval stores industries reduced demand on standing trees and fostered a secondary harvest of cut-over areas. In particular, techniques to distill turpentine from stumps provided a market for what had been waste. This industry grew slowly and never replaced the more lucrative timber. Nonetheless, it slowed destruction of forests for sap and in doing so served as an indirect conservation measure. The U.S. naval stores industry ultimately lost its prominence to foreign producers during World War I, particularly to the French who practiced a sustainable harvest technique (Outland 2004, 154–159). Comparable conservation measures did not find a home in southern forests. Several practical conservation efforts emerged from the private sector. The Great Southern Lumber Company, in Bogalusa, Louisiana, began an effort to eliminate waste and extend the life of its forests. It built a kraft paper mill that consumed wood products that previously had been discarded or burned. By 1915 this facility was producing 50 tons of coarse kraft paper daily. The company also encouraged landowners to replant their cut-over lands with shortleaf and slash pines to provide a long-term wood supply (Clark 1984, 32–33). By 1920 it had embarked on a planting program of its own, and in the mid-1960s the new owner, Crown Zellerbach, had 200,000 acres of planted forest (Williams 1989, 287). Railroads also supported forest conservation and had established a number of hardwood plantations, particularly in Appalachia by 1920. Wood preservation, ushered in by the railroad companies, also served to conserve forest stock by extending the life of timbers used in trestles and as telephone poles. Between 1900 and 1915 the number of creosote plants in the country rose from 14 to 102, with many concentrated in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana (Olson 1971). Additionally, Henry Hardtner of Urania, Louisiana, began a lonely mission to proselytize reforestation of longleaf stands. Advocating that timber companies should leave several “mother trees” on each cleared acre, he promoted a

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Paradise Lost? practice with virtually no cost to producers that would enable natural reseeding of cut-over lands. He also demonstrated that it was necessary to restrict traditional grazing and burning practices to assist reforestation. By 1924, Hardtner was running second-growth timber through his saw mill, dramatic evidence that his concepts of reforestation worked (Clark 1984, 55–57). It was such efforts that encouraged or allowed the remarkably resilient southern forests to regrow and thus enabled industrial cultivation to survive. Hardtner also successfully initiated government programs that encouraged additional conservation efforts. Louisiana created its forest service in 1904 and other southern states soon followed. Tax programs to encourage conservation and that funded fire protection swept across the southern states. Additionally, in 1911 the federal government began purchasing land in Appalachia to establish a forest reserve. By 1933, the Forest Service had acquired title on some 3 million acres in the southern uplands. Much of that land was either cut-over or considered “submarginal” by federal foresters. Under federal control, these lands became the object of conservation management that sought to enable a sustained yield. During the Depression, in a feverish effort to restore southern forests, the Civilian Conservation Corps planted a billion trees on approximately a million acres of damaged land. The federal Land Bank program of the 1950s also encouraged farmers to plant pines, and recent soil conservation programs tout conversion of erodible cropland to forest. These policies plus government-sponsored fire control programs and an expanding federal ownership of 24.5 million acres by 1979 helped establish the South’s “second forest” (Clark 1984, 71–85). Managed for regular harvest by timber and paper companies, pine plantations now dominate the South’s rural landscape. Loblolly pines are favored for the monoculture evergreen plantations. Planted in rows, fertilized for rapid growth, and sprayed with pesticides, these trees can produce pulp wood destined for paper mills in as little as twenty-five years. Estimates suggest that 16 percent or some 30 million acres of southern woodlands now are managed as pine plantations. Critics point out that the single-stand forests exclude other native plants, and wildlife do not find the forest a suitable habitat. In response, state and federal forestry specialists have developed recommendations to add biodiversity to pine plantations. Adoption of these practices lies in the hands of private landowners who manage the plantations. In addition, the risk of infestation by pests is an ever-present threat the foresters have to contend with. One species that grew in the wild and was much less susceptible to pests was the American chestnut. However, a fungus introduced to the American forest by the imported Japanese chestnut proved to be the bane of this important eastern tree. The chestnut blight escaped from nursery stock into the wild in

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Southern United States: An Environmental History the early 1900s and diffused from Pennsylvania through Virginia and into North Carolina by 1915. Once an important source of food for free-ranging hogs, and also for wildlife, 10 percent of the chestnuts in portions of western North Carolina were infected by 1925. Presuming the species was doomed, the Forest Service encouraged harvesting the dead and surviving trees. Salvage cutting peaked in the 1930s and the once stately chestnut has largely disappeared from Appalachia (Silver 2003, 155–160, 202–206).

MANAGING HAZARDS IN THE LANDSCAPE Urbanization and industrialization in the South created increasing confrontations between people and hazards. Some of these hazards were “acts of God”— as defined by law—others resulted from human agency. Whether arising from natural or technological genesis, they pose a continuing threat to a still growing population. Historian Ted Steinberg has examined the expanding role of the federal government’s response to natural disasters. As federal agencies have assumed a greater share of the cost of disaster response, this has, according to Steinberg, “helped to underwrite increasing development in hazardous areas” or distanced the association of risk with the hazardous places (Steinberg 2000, xxii). And as geographer Gilbert White argued a third of a century before, structural flood-protection systems offer a false sense of security and lead people to live and work in harm’s way (White 1964). While Steinberg and White generally focused on natural hazards, there have been a range of technological hazards with similar consequences. What is characterized as the most devastating natural disaster in the United States represents an early encounter between society and nature that prompted a massive government investment in flood protection. With a population of over 37,000 in 1900, Galveston, Texas, was a prosperous port city. Much of the state’s cotton left via its busy port and a steady flow of European immigrants earned the city the moniker of “Ellis Island of the South.” In September 1900 a gargantuan hurricane blew across Galveston. Winds well in excess of 100 miles per hour pushed Gulf waters across the narrow barrier island and destroyed about two-thirds of the city’s structures. Hiding from the howling winds and storm surge, some 5,000 people perished as houses collapsed and crashed into each other during the night of terror. In response to this calamity, the city embarked on a major structural flood-protection project. Using largely local funds, it began construction of a 16-foot-high seawall on the Gulf side of the island that protected more than 3 miles of shore. With subsequent extensions, it now guards 10 miles of the city’s coastline. But this was not the entire

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Paradise Lost? plan; a massive dredging operation brought over 16 million cubic feet of sand from the ocean floor to raise the grade of 500 square blocks of the city behind the concrete barrier. This entailed jacking up surviving structures well above the pre-storm grade. By 1911, contractors had raised the city to at least 10 feet above sea level and in some places as high as 26 feet (Bixel and Turner 2000). Underlying this project was the notion that engineering works could protect the city, that concrete and fill could overcome the forces of nature. Today, the Corps of Engineers maintains this seawall and associated structural protections, reflecting the eventual insertion of federal authority into hazard management. The island population has grown and commercial development crowds Seawall Drive in defiance of the next major storm. On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina pushed ashore along the LouisianaMississippi coast. Driving 140-mile-per-hour winds, this Category 4 storm forced a rapid rethinking of the flood protection system of the lower Mississippi River. A storm surge obliterated historic districts on the Mississippi shore and literally tossed the popular floating casinos across the waterfront highway. Water from the Gulf of Mexico and Lake Pontchartrain piled up against the levees surrounding New Orleans and eventually broke through in several locations. The levee failures transformed much of the city into a temporary bay of Lake Pontchartrain. While nearly a million people evacuated prior to the storm’s arrival, another 100,000 or so rode out the fierce blow. Many were trapped as waters quickly surrounded and engulfed their low-lying homes. Katrina was the third storm to hit the U.S. Gulf Coast as part of a busy hurricane season during 2005, and Florida had taken hits from several strong storms the year before. But the New Orleans disaster offered a far different situation, and this storm exposed major shortcomings of its protection system. New Orleans occupies an ill-suited site for urbanization. French officials selected it as the capital of the Louisiana Territory because of its strategic military and commercial situation. From the low ground not too far from the mouth of the river, colonists could defend the Mississippi Valley and also receive rich cargos of fur from the vast interior. Lake Pontchartrain offered an easy backdoor route to the city that negated the difficult upstream passage. As settlement clustered on the narrow natural levee, flood risks became obvious immediately, and the colonial law soon required all landowners to construct levees to fend off high river water. This policy created a long-term dependency on earthen berms to hold back floods. Regular enlargement was necessary, with massive improvements following the huge floods of 1927 and 1973. But the river levee system was not at risk during Katrina. During the early twentieth century, local officials began building levees along the lakefront on the city’s northern edge. As with the river levees, these

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A helicopter drops giant sandbags to stop the flow of water into New Orleans through a breached levee. (Department of Defense)

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Aerial view of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, August 31, 2005. (Department of Defense)

barriers were enlarged with each major storm—most recently after the devastating urban flooding caused by Hurricane Betsy in 1965. As the city was gradually encircled by levees, and with the construction of a major drainage system that drained the shallow water table, much of the city near the lakefront became residential suburbs. With drainage, the peaty soils that underlay new developments compressed and left vast parts of the city built after 1920 below sea level. When Katrina’s wind-driven waves crashed against the lakefront levees, they found weak spots, and water poured through four breaches. When the levees failed, the larger flood protection system reversed its function and held the waters within the bowl that surrounds the city. Water depths exceeded 15 feet in some places. Floods approached, but did not inundate, the highest ground, and many suburban areas, ringed by separate levees, also escaped high water. With the massive loss of power, gas, and water, the mayor ordered a total evacuation. By September 11, the city had a minimal population, and those in exile had no idea when they would be allowed to return. This massive and indefinite exodus of nearly a million people will greatly strain the economy of the city and the entire region. While Pensacola and Mobile endured repeat hurricane strikes during the 2004 and 2005 storm seasons, they were able to rebound with

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Southern United States: An Environmental History relative speed. Gravity efficiently removes excess water from those cities, and they were protected from storm surges. In a city where all water must be lifted out of the levee system, the return of New Orleans’s citizens and restoration of its economy will be much slower. Reliance on structural flood protection accepts some risks, and—while terrible—Katrina produced results that were not as extreme as a worst-case scenario. Preparations had been made for a storm of this magnitude, but they proved inadequate to the hundreds who lost their lives and the hundreds of thousands who lost their homes—temporarily or permanently. When the final grim tally is in, Katrina likely will not be responsible for as many deaths as the 1900 Galveston storm. But the epic migration of so many people following other natural disasters has been unrivaled. New Orleans has been losing population and its economic base for nearly half a century, and this event greatly accelerated ongoing processes. Perhaps the best known natural disaster in the South, although not the most deadly and one that is truly emblematic of the slavish devotion to structural solutions, was the flood of 1927 (Barry 1997; Kelman 2003). This event, which produced death and destruction throughout the lower Mississippi River valley, was the ultimate test of a long-standing “levees only” flood control policy. Failure of the overwhelmed levee system culminated from a lengthy devotion to a flawed policy that encouraged floodplain occupation. The development of the “levees only” policy arose from a pair of contested nineteenth-century enterprises. Debates over how best to protect alluvial land uses from flooding and also to determine the appropriate level of federal involvement in this endeavor shaped the public response. The first debate was hydrologic. In a great debate between prominent engineers, the levees-only strategy won out (Reuss 1985; Pabis 2000). This approach accepted the belief that a stream course, channelized between levees, would scour a deeper channel, and in doing so, improve navigation and also reduce flooding risks. Following congressional approval in 1879, the Mississippi River Commission embarked on a levees-only approach. Appropriations initially paid for surveys of river conditions, and also extensive revetment installation. Weighted willow mats placed on the bed of meanders acted to protect the levees from erosive scouring and hold the river in its course. There was also a race to build higher levees, but this competition was a never-ending chase. Contrary to the accepted notion that a channelized river would entrench itself, the leveed river raised its bed and consequently its flood stage. Thus, following each successive high water, there arose a call for taller levees. Floods in 1903 and 1913 both prompted levee-raising efforts. Despite higher levees, the 1916 flood produced a record crest and made it all too apparent that the quest for the perfect levee had not been achieved (Harrison 1961, 120–132).

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Paradise Lost? The second debate was over the federal role in levee building. The formation of the Mississippi River Commission represented something of a compromise. Northern congressmen supported the measure on the grounds that engineering works would facilitate river navigation and hence national commerce. Southern representatives recognized that levees would obviously have the auxiliary benefit of protecting alluvial agriculture. While initial appropriations focused on revetments, successive floods prompted a deeper and deeper commitment of the federal treasury to flood protection. After the record-setting 1916 flood, Congress passed the first flood-control act with the explicit purpose of preventing future destructive floods in the Mississippi River valley (Harrison 1961). This legislation accepted the levees-only approach and set the Corps of Engineers to work enlarging and strengthening the earthen barriers along the river. The improved levee system successfully withstood a 1922 flood and inspired increased optimism that the flood threat nearly had been eliminated. Indeed, the Mississippi River Commission predicted in 1926 that they had reached the end of the floodcontrol fight. Such hubris was destroyed the following year. When the mighty flood of 1927 swept down the valley it exceeded the design capacity of the channel and the levees. It broke through the levees in thirteen places and flooded some 23,000 square miles of floodplain. Once outside the levees, it drowned at least 260 individuals and forced some 700,000 residents from their homes to refugee camps atop the levees or outside the floodplain. In addition, the flood left an estimated $363 million in direct property damages along with about $200 million more in indirect damages. Levees had encouraged floodplain development and this calamity served as a prime example of Gilbert White’s observation that flood protection provides a false sense of security. At the time, it galvanized popular support for a massive infusion of federal funds into flood protection that improved structural protection and ultimately accelerated floodplain development. More extensive federal support, however, came with a revised approach—a levees and outlets strategy. The revamped scheme mimicked nature by diverting a portion of flood-stage discharge to the Gulf of Mexico via alternate routes. Prior to the levees-only projects, several natural distributaries, some only connected to the river during flood conditions, transported a portion of the flow to the sea and relieved pressure on the levees at places like New Orleans. Once closed off by levees, they ceased to provide a safety valve function. The levees and outlets strategy sought to create humanmade and managed outlets and in 1936 the Corps of Engineers completed the first of its artificial outlets. The Bonnet Carré spillway, just upstream from New Orleans, is capable of diverting up to 250,000 cubic feet per second from the river upstream from New Orleans into Lake Pontchartrain and it has been used several times since its completion. Not until 1953 did the Corps complete a pair of

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Southern United States: An Environmental History diversion structures that are capable of sending another 1.2 million cubic feet per second through the Atchafalaya Basin. Only during the flood of 1973 did the Corps open the gates to the Atchafalaya floodway. Jointly, these outlets have prevented any serious flooding on the lower river since the 1930s (Harrison 1961; Barry 1997; Reuss 1998). The levee system defies the natural tendency of the river to meander and to whip the mouth of the river across Louisiana’s deltaic plain. Over the past several millennia, the pre-levee river built a series of coalescing deltas and also raised its floodplain with annual sediment deposits. As the river-built landscapes rose in one delta, other abandoned deltas subsided, and eventually the river shifted to a lower course. The levees and revetments prevent both the tendency of the river to alter its course, and also to add fresh sediment to the floodplain and the delta. Confined between barriers, the river now dumps its massive sediment load into the deep Gulf rather than on the floodplain or the Delta. A combination of sediment starvation, subsidence of Delta soils, and coastal erosion is contributing to considerable land loss in coastal Louisiana. As much as 35 square miles per year disappear into the Gulf of Mexico. In addition, the engineering works of the Corps are preventing the Mississippi from taking the shorter course to the Gulf via the Atchafalaya River. Engineering works have caused considerable environmental change in the basin and the Corps of Engineers have had to try to satisfy multiple constituencies in managing the wetland (Reuss 1998). Another component of the structural flood control system has been the construction of upstream dams and reservoirs to help regulate stream flow. One important rationale for the massive reworking of the Tennessee River into an “organic machine” was flood protection. Born of the New Deal enthusiasm and touted as a regional-scale solution to a host of social and environmental problems, the TVA was a grand experiment in regional economic development. A centerpiece of this effort, tied to the flood protection agenda in the lower Mississippi, was the construction of twenty-nine hydroelectric generating dams and power stations. In creating these reservoirs, the TVA permanently flooded some 730,000 acres within the drainage basin—an area larger than most floods would have inundated in the Tennessee River valley. One critic of the project noted that 243,000 acres of land above Chattanooga now lie beneath reservoir waters in order to protect 8,700 acres of urban land (Chandler 1984). Nonetheless, a large share of the flood-control benefits lie in the lower Mississippi River. Of course there were numerous other justifications for this massive project. Inexpensive power generation and a navigable waterway were among the additional benefits and served to attract industry to the region. Industrial districts at Calvert City, Kentucky, Mussel Shoals, Alabama, and Chattanooga, Tennessee,

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Paradise Lost? all take advantage of TVA-created navigation and power (Droze 1965). Yet, economic benefits from manufacturing come with environmental costs. Heavy atmospheric pollution has been a problem in the valleys of the Tennessee River basin, as has water pollution and the creation of numerous land disposal sites containing hazardous wastes (Shaffer 1989). Similar costs also accrued in the lower valley. The combination of levees and outlets and other upstream flood control device outlets have protected the lower Mississippi River floodplain, including metropolitan New Orleans. In many respects, the expansion and refinement of the flood protection system has been to provide safety to the million-plus residents and the businesses in the Crescent City (Colten 2005). In addition, the massive protective barriers have encouraged the further development of the floodplain. Large petrochemical plants now occupy hundreds of acres of former sugarcane land. With ready access to crude oil from the Louisiana oil and gas fields and a hydraulic highway to the nation’s interior and foreign ports, industries now line a considerable portion of the river between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Environmental costs accompany the presence of a major manufacturing complex. Called the “chemical corridor” by state boosters, and “cancer alley” by critics, the concentration of industrial activity has challenged the dilution capabilities of even the mighty Mississippi River. As industry moved to the countryside, it discharged chemical wastes into the river and into the atmosphere. A massive fish kill in 1963–1964 left an estimated 5 million fish floating on the river’s surface and in the Gulf. Initially thought to be the result of pesticide runoff from the sugarcane fields, the U.S. Public Health Service determined it resulted from small quantities of Endrin waste leaking from the Velsicol Chemical plant in Memphis. At a time when the public was abuzz with Rachael Carson’s plea to halt careless use of chemicals in the environment, this fish kill sparked nationwide attention. Public health officials had to rethink the threats posed by small toxic discharges into large waterways. No longer were threats limited to large releases from facilities immediately upstream. Rather, modest doses from hundreds of miles away could threaten wildlife and also drinking water supplies. Officials in Tennessee forced Velsicol to go in search of the ultimate sink (Tarr 1984)—it had to divert its wastes from a water sink to a land disposal site in rural Hardeman County. Downstream, Louisiana officials during the 1960s organized an early warning system to alert water supply operators when harmful discharges were heading toward their intakes. The massive fish kill, and subsequent claims that there were higher cancer rates in New Orleans, where residents consumed river water, recast the Mississippi River from an insatiable diluting machine into a toxic waterway. During the late 1960s and early 1970s it became the poster child for polluted waterways as Congress debated the 1972 Clean Water Act and

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Southern United States: An Environmental History the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974 (Colten 2000, 2005). Technological hazards transformed even the nation’s largest waterway into a dangerous resource. Industrialization of the New South was not limited to the banks of the Mississippi River, nor were the environmental consequences. In one of the first interstate air pollution cases, Georgia landowners complained that the copper smelters in east Tennessee were damaging farmlands in the first decade of the twentieth century. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Georgia and prompted the smelters to revamp the way in which they managed their wastes (Quinn 1993). Texas fishermen and communities objected to chloride pollution from oil fields and prompted a major investment in brine reinjection technologies (Gorman 2001). When a North Carolina paper mill sent its effluent down the Pigeon River into Tennessee, another interstate confrontation ensued. For decades, Tennessee residents sought to halt the harmful discharges and not until the 1990s did they receive relief (Bartlett 1995). Florida farmers and residents fought against industrial air pollution caused by phosphate mining and chemical manufacturers during the late 1950s even when their state officials seemed disinterested (Dewey 1999). These incidents underscore the leeway granted to all-important industry in the New South. As Albert Cowdrey has asserted, southern states provided a comfortable legal climate for environmental abuses (Cowdrey 1996). But strident popular opposition reveals a fundamental displeasure with environmental damages on the part of southern citizens, even when their governments failed to intercede. Mining has had a prominent impact on southern environments. Whether strip or shaft mining, extractive activities have produced extensive transformations. In western Maryland, coal companies cut vast tracts of forest for timbers to support their mines. In the early twentieth century, soil erosion from the bare slopes contributed to stream pollution, as did acid mine drainage, and sediment washed from coal processing operations (Buckley 1998). In more recent years, mountaintop mining operations have removed huge amounts of earthen material to expose coal seams. Mining companies transfer the overburden to valleys below the extraction operations. Some of the fill is used to create flat land in the valleys, but it disrupts natural drainage and contributes to stream pollution. These efforts have caused the removal of 7 percent of Appalachia’s forests, particularly in West Virginia and Kentucky, and buried or polluted some 1,200 miles of streams. Court battles over the legality of this practice erupted in the late 1990s as opponents tried to block the filling of stream valleys with overburden. Critics charge that the practice could devastate 1.4 million acres by 2010 (Union of Concerned Scientists 2004). Proponents argue that economic benefits outweigh the costs and that overburden will be returned to restore the contour of the mined mountaintops.

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There are social costs associated with the creation of technological hazards as well. One social movement began in North Carolina, gained momentum in Houston, and now has become a national policy concern. As part of what is now referred to as the environmental justice movement, activists in the early 1980s began to mobilize African American citizens to oppose the disproportionate burden placed on their communities by waste disposal facilities and other environmentally harmful practices. Drawing on skills honed during the Civil Rights movement, protestors tried to stop the placement of a polychlorinated biphenyls waste disposal facility in rural Warren County, North Carolina (McGurty 1997). This conflict began a movement that drew African Americans and other people of color into an environmental movement that addressed their concerns—and not the leisure pursuits of national organizations such as the Audubon Society or the Sierra Club. Robert Bullard’s work on Dumping in Dixie revealed what he considered to be racism in the placement of landfills in Houston (Bullard 1990). Although recognized as a national problem, environmental justice has sparked considerable activism in the African American community in the South. Either with federal or private funds, whole neighborhoods have been bought out and residents relocated

On October 21, 1982, demonstrators marched in Afton, Warren County, North Carolina, to protest the siting of a dump for toxic wastes in their community. This was a catalyzing moment in the environmental justice movement. (Bettmann/Corbis)

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Southern United States: An Environmental History near a former creosote works in Texarkana, Arkansas, near a chemical plant in Anniston, Alabama, and near several refineries in Louisiana (Markowitz and Rosner 2002; Allen 2003)—all to address injustices. By 1994, President William Clinton issued an executive order requiring all federal agencies to take environmental justice considerations into account. While it formalized government concern, remedying the disproportionate burden is a long-term process that has just begun.

GROWING CITIES The enclosure of the southern farmland in the post-1930 South drove many African Americans from their rural homes (Daniel 1985). Some 2 million rode the rails to Chicago, Detroit, New York, or other northern cities in search of industrial jobs and freedom from racist oppression. Others drifted into cities and small towns within the region, adding to the general urbanizing trend in the South. With the massive investment of federal dollars in industrial plants in the South during World War II, urbanization accelerated during the 1940s and the pattern continued into the 1950s and 1960s. Major metropolitan centers in Atlanta, Miami, Houston, and Dallas have supplanted the small town as the dominant form of southern urbanism (Goldfield 1982, 144–145). Several fundamental adjustments in society along with technological innovations contributed to the reshaping of urban environments that made them more desirable destinations for those displaced from rural homes. Most southern states lagged behind the rest of the country in terms of the percentage of their population living in cities at the outset of the twentieth century. On average, about 15 percent of southerners lived in urban areas in 1900. In 1920, the national average of urban residents topped 50 percent for the first time, but as late at 1960, the average for southern states was only 48 percent. Florida and Texas, with their numerous large urban centers led the way and both exceeded three-quarters of its people living in urban centers by 1970, while Mississippi and South Carolina had less than half its population living in urban places at the same date. During the last quarter of the twentieth century, the South has reduced the urban gap with the rest of the country, but many of the smaller towns in the region are withering away as young people flock to the gleaming cities of Atlanta and Houston. Improving city services has played a significant role in southern urbanization. Progressive-era governments gained power in the South as elsewhere across the country. With an enthusiasm for technical solutions to urban problems such as garbage, sewerage, and public water supplies, these municipal officials began to revamp the infrastructure of the many midsize cities in Dixie.

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Paradise Lost? Technocratic solutions rejected the traditional view that black residents created the ill-drained and insalubrious conditions that characterized their neighborhoods. Instead, they offered the hope that by draining the topographically illsuited urban “bottoms,” cities would see improved public health both in black and nearby white neighborhoods. While self-interest entered into the decisionmaking process, ultimately cities like Atlanta developed city-wide financing projects to install sanitation facilities that served the entire urban area, including African American neighborhoods (Galishoff 1985). New Orleans also gradually extended drainage and water consistently throughout the city limits and progressive engineering overcame the Jim Crow policies of previous generations. By 1930, the city had eliminated fees for connections to the water system and also extended mains and drainage and sewerage lines to most of the black neighborhoods (Colten 2002). Delivery of services did not guarantee adequate maintenance or responsiveness to system failures in African American neighborhoods, but a fundamental adjustment did take place with attempts to provide basic services to all residents. Public works offered improved health conditions for urban residents but produced significant consequences downstream. Baltimore and the Chesapeake Bay illustrate this important link between city and countryside. Several efforts by Baltimore to build a sewerage system in the nineteenth century encountered stiff resistance from the Chesapeake Bay oystermen who feared urban effluent would destroy their source of livelihood. Following a large urban fire that sparked popular support for effective public works, Baltimore officials were able to push forward with a water and sewage-handling system in the early twentieth century. To overcome the objections of oystermen, the city included sewage treatment systems in its plan. Such treatment works reduced the impacts of biological wastes from city sewers, but did not eliminate the harmful impacts of urban and industrial wastes on bodies of water. Oyster production in the Chesapeake fell significantly during the twentieth century as a result of urban-industrial waste disposal (Boone 2003). Municipal and industrial waste disposal continued to flow into the Bay and shellfish production fell 51 percent between 1910 and 1931. Pollution was not the sole cause, but it was an important factor. It was not until 1940 that Maryland and Virginia formed the Interstate Commission of the Potomac River with the job of establishing water quality standards for rivers flowing into the Bay. While they had no enforcement abilities, they began chronicling the deterioration of the Bay due to effluent from cities and factories. Their record, in part, shows the continuing degradation of Bay conditions and aquatic populations. Gradually during the post–World War II era, groups managing the Chesapeake Bay environment began a shift from conservation to ecological principles. Emerging from this new orientation and mountains of studies were attacks on policies that

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Southern United States: An Environmental History benefited cities and other pollution sources. Ultimately, federal laws made it more costly to pollute, thereby forcing cities and industries to improve their waste treatments. Nonetheless, discharges continued to degrade the Bay well after passage of the 1972 Clean Water Act (Wennersten 2001). Perhaps no other invention transformed a southerner’s relationship to the environment than the air conditioner. This device accelerated industrialization and urbanization and help recast the South from the Cotton Belt into the Sun Belt. As early as the first decade of the twentieth century, textile mills and tobacco industries were installing air conditioners to provide climate control for manufacturing and storage practices. Other industries followed suit and by the 1920s, refrigerated air began offering diners and moviegoers a delicious relief from summer heat. Another technological innovation that accelerated the adoption of air-conditioning was the skyscraper. Although generally associated with the northeast, before 1920 southern cities were building skyscrapers at a faster pace then their northern counterparts (Bastian1988). The pace of skyscraper construction slowed after 1920, but government buildings, office towers, hospitals, and hotels had all joined the movement toward chilled air by the 1960s. Between 1960 and 1980, air-conditioning manufacturers made significant inroads in the housing market, with nearly three-quarters of southern homes reporting air-conditioning by the later date (Arsenault 1984). Air conditioners fend off the oppressive summer heat, but they have significantly increased the South’s energy consumption. Despite rapidly rising energy costs in the late twentieth century, dependence on air-conditioning has become irreversibly entrenched in southern society. David Goldfield describes the nineteenth-century southern cities as hybrids and the region as a place of urbanization without cities. Not only did rural institutions, such as plantations, exhibit urban characteristics, but cities retained many rural qualities. During the twentieth century, bulldozers plowed the way for suburbanization. The traditionally horizontal southern city accelerated the process of urban sprawl and conversion of former farmland to city spaces. Houston, with no planning, tripled its urban territory between 1920 and 1950, while Charlotte experienced similar expansion between 1940 and 1977 (Goldfield 1982). Tallahassee and Baton Rouge have established urban authority over the entire county/parish where they are situated, thus blurring the distinction between city and countryside. In addition, the predilection for rural living has greatly influenced the rural countryside. Rural nonfarm dwellers have created an extensive zone of exurban space throughout the southeastern United States. Characterized by individual residences on fairly large lots, these rural homes keep central city populations down, maintain fairly high rural population densities, and send long-distance commuters zipping down country roads toward ur-

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Identical tract houses line a long suburban street around 1955. (Lambert/Getty Images)

ban jobs. Between 1960 and 2000 urban land uses across the country have grown faster than population growth. Across the Piedmont fall zone and in southern Appalachia, sprawl into the countryside has been particularly pronounced (Theobald 2001). A final important factor in southern urbanization has been the arrival of recreation-seeking migrants and retirees. Balmy southern winters offer relief from snow shoveling to countless eastern seaboard retirees. Both South Carolina and Florida now have over 35 percent of their population over the age of sixty-five. Coastal areas, particularly in Florida, include sprawling condominium communities and trailer parks. Southern Appalachia has also witnessed the arrival of those seeking climatic relief from the more extreme seasons of the Snow Belt. What was once considered both the most distinctive trait, and a negative one—heat—has become a desirable condition (Koeniger 1988). Retirement-related growth has contributed to urban sprawl and has also

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Southern United States: An Environmental History placed many senior citizens in vulnerable locations—particularly along the Gulf Coast. Additionally, there has been a growing return migration of African Americans who are leaving the Snow Belt for retirement in the milder winter climates of their birthplaces.

ENJOYING NATURE Southerners may have dawdled behind other parts of the country in enthusiastically embracing the environmental movement of the post–World War II era (Stine 1993), but outdoor recreation long has been an important pursuit in the region. Beyond hunting, fishing, and team sports, natural features have impelled southerners into the countryside. Hardly unique to the South, outdoor pursuits have played as significant a role in transforming the South as any region, except perhaps the West. At the outset of the twentieth century, a set of mountain resorts and spas catering to wealthy visitors stretched from Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, to Asheville, North Carolina. Some dated back to the colonial era, but all grew during the late 1800s as railroads carried increasing numbers up the Blue Ridge. Automobile access in the twentieth century further accelerated the democratization of the upland resort communities. Springs in Virginia and Texas offered urban visitors the chance to immerse themselves in mineral waters thought to provide cures to countless ailments. Resort communities like Asheville offered residents from South Carolina and Florida relief from summer heat and illnesses. Thus, health concerns were primary factors in the development and growth of mountain resorts and spas centered on hot springs (Starnes 2003; Valenza 2000). Mountain scenery was also an important draw. Although the Appalachian Mountains were severely degraded by forest removal by the beginning of the twentieth century, creation of the Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains national parks, plus numerous state parks, provided government protection for mountain lands and also guaranteed public access. Unlike in the West, the federal government had to acquire acreage for eastern parks and this involved a considerable campaign to enlist public support and also overcome opposition from timber companies. Beginning in the 1920s a small group of outdoor enthusiasts allied with local boosters began their appeal for the establishment of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in southern Appalachia. They gained the support of the scientific community, which argued for the preservation of a small segment of nature as a sanctuary—an outdoor natural history museum. These allied groups also invoked the practical notion of watershed protection for downstream communities. Despite a wide base of support, timber compa-

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Paradise Lost? nies proved a major obstacle. Yet with a generous gift from John D. Rockefeller, Jr., acquisition of park land commenced in 1929. It took a dozen years to assemble the park lands, but ultimately the largest national park in the east, at the time, straddled the Tennessee-North Carolina border. In western Virginia a similar campaign also began in the 1920s and culminated with the National Park Service dedicating Shenandoah National Park in 1935. In both cases, acquisition of over 700,000 acres for the two parks displaced thousands of residents to make way for the surging number of tourists driving to enjoy the mountain scenery (Brown 2000, 87–98; Wilhelm 1968). In 2002, over 10 million visitors entered these two parks. Two important routes enhanced visitation to the southern mountains. Benton MacKaye advanced the idea of a hiking trail through the Appalachians in 1921 as part of an experiment in regional planning. With private and public assistance, the Appalachian Trail became a reality in 1937. This hiking trail has provided a rugged encounter with remote high country (Anderson 2002). For the auto-bound, a dramatic project began during the Great Depression that further enhanced the accessibility to the two major southern parks and also initiated a major new type of park unit. Beginning in 1935 as a make-work project with important public roads implications, construction crews began carving a route near the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains from Virginia to North Carolina. Designed and constructed to blend into the mountainside and showcase exceptional scenic views, the Blue Ridge Parkway represented a departure from other roadways. With limited access, parkway regulations excluded commercial roadside development and the route skirted towns and traffic lights. Campgrounds, scenic turnouts, and even lodges tucked away from the drivers’ view line the route. Thus it provides a nonstop vista across the Blue Ridge Mountains with ample opportunities for enjoying nature (Jolley 1969). The role of government has been prominent in the development of southern parks and outdoor recreation. From the establishment of the Everglades National Park in Florida in 1947 to the creation of Cumberland Island National Seashore in 1972, efforts to transfer private land to public management have been a core part of outdoor recreation in the South. Ill-conceived efforts to drain large portions of the Florida Everglades for agriculture resulted in several catastrophes— peat fires and subsidence lowered the drained land and a pair of hurricanes in the 1920s devastated the incipient agricultural lands. In addition, diversion of water for urban consumers has reduced the critical flow of water through the south Florida wetlands. Marjory Stoneman Douglas (1947) stirred public concern with the abuses of the Everglades with her evocative book entitled River of Grass. By the 1990s, over 1.3 million acres of south Florida wetlands were preserved within the Everglades National Park. Despite federal protection, water diversion

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Southern United States: An Environmental History and pollution by agricultural chemicals continue to threaten the ecosystem’s health. Efforts to filter chemicals and restore some of the water flow are part of programs that seek to restore the Everglades to the once sustainable wetland that so impressed early visitors (McCally 1999). In most national parks in the South, latter-day acquisition has produced numerous conflicts between park management policy and lingering private property rights within the parks (Dilsaver 2004). Cumberland Island National Seashore is a complex jumble of private lands, park property, and wilderness tracts. Each property type must follow different management policies creating an extremely challenging prospect for park officials. Following the lead of the national government, states have also acquired land, much of it formerly degraded by timbering or abusive agricultural practices, and created a network of parks that allow public access to nature. Despite major efforts to properly manage the environment of the eastern parks, heavy visitation and external threats like air and water pollution plague the units proximate to major population centers. Southern blacks, like minority populations elsewhere, have been virtually absent at many of the national and state parks. In the past, hampered in part by mobility and fear of backlash if they visited, they have been a minor component of visitor statistics. Exclusion of African Americans from many urban parks and the closure of many swimming pools across the South during the Civil Rights movement limited their involvement in the pursuit of nature. Some cities provided parks for the black residents, and in recent years, the National Park Service, along with state recreation agencies, have expanded the range of heritage sites of interest to African Americans. Alabama has a Civil Rights heritage trail, for instance. Yet the emphases of sites that commemorate historic accomplishments of black citizens do not provide the scenic wonders of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Access to parks that emphasize natural wonders has improved for minorities, but attendance remains low.

CONCLUSIONS: THE TRANSFORMATION CONTINUES The past century presents clues for the future of the South’s environment. Tremendous efforts have created protective reserves for wildlife and brought threatened species back from the brink of extinction. Birds of plume, bears, and giant reptiles have made notable recoveries through human agency. Deer populations have rebounded with such vigor that they are becoming pests in some suburban neighborhoods. Hatcheries launch sport fish into the lakes and rivers of the region, while fish farms supply restaurants and homes with the favored

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Paradise Lost? catfish. Wildlife is important to southerners and efforts to protect it will likely continue, but not in the same way as wildlife of the nineteenth century. Habitat alteration, particularly pine plantations and urban sprawl, will restrict most wildlife to protected zones, while stocking waterways with favored sport fish will determine the biological communities available to anglers. Agriculture and forestry The ivory-billed woodpecker has been sensationally rediscovered in eastern Arkansas. will continue to dominate the This adult male was photographed in the last rural landscape. Their unsusknown nesting site of the species near Tallulah, tainable reliance on fossil fuLouisiana, by Cornell University ornithologists els and agricultural chemicals in 1935. (Reproduced with permission from The will be challenged by rising Auk 54 [April 1937]) costs and lower-priced commodities from developing countries. In time, more of the rural South may give way to a second round of farmland abandonment and natural reforestation. This could offset the loss of land to urbanization. Sprawl, too, is unsustainable and ultimately must give way to reconsolidation of urban areas as fossil fuel supplies are exhausted during the next century. Already the viability of structural flood protection is being challenged in the Mississippi River valley where the Corps of Engineers and other organizations are constructing artificial outlets to the Gulf of Mexico in an effort to mimic nature. Land-use flood protection policies are replacing the strict reliance on engineered devices. Over time, this strategy will check the neverending race to build higher levees, taller seawalls, or other structures to protect growing populations from natural hazards. In addition, policies of the late twentieth century have reduced the volume of hazardous pollutants entering the environment, although adjustments to the policies in the early twenty-first century threaten their long-term viability. Nonetheless, many Superfund sites have been cleaned up and toxic emissions restricted. Furthermore, environmental justice has become a fundamental part of regulatory practice. As the United

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Southern United States: An Environmental History States, and the South, export jobs to overseas locations, the volume of industrial emissions will fall, thereby reducing environmental impacts on the region— although pollution will follow employment opportunities to foreign locations. Finally, the state and national parks have set aside valuable tracts of natural and scenic wonder. In times of scare resources, the National Park Service has had to reduce maintenance and protective activities. This is particularly critical in the parks of the South since heavy visitation and external threats place great stress on natural resources. Yet, the public has consistently shown a willingness to protect these important parks and it is likely that financial resources will be directed their way. Whether or not sufficient funds will be made available for simple maintenance, or more costly environmental restoration, remains to be seen. In a century characterized by environmental abuses, followed by rising environmental concerns at the national level, the South has witnessed much the same pattern. Southerners were slow to enlist in the national environmental movement, but they have exhibited a deeply rooted interest in the environment. As the rural South enters another phase of adjustment, the environment undoubtedly will remain an important factor in the life of the region.

EPILOGUE Donald E. Davis Today, in the twenty-first century, nature has little meaning for the younger generation of southern residents living in metropolitan areas or in sprawling subdivisions. In rural areas, the situation is not much different as very few southern families continue to farm full-time and even those who do grow a portion of their food raise hybrid or genetically engineered varieties. Of course, no one in the American South has fully escaped the limitations imposed on them by the physical environment, not even those living in the most urban of areas. For millennia, nature has always had a major influence on the lives of southern residents, even if only by driving them indoors during the coldest winter months. However, before European colonization, frontier settlement, and nineteenth-century industrialization, the environment was something one adapted to, not radically changed for commercial profit or individual pleasure. Archaic and Woodland Indians certainly found ways of changing the landscape of the American South, but their subsistence methods did not, in the long view, drastically alter the local ecosystem. In fact, early Native American subsistence patterns integrated and minimized their presence on the landscape, as they clearly evolved in a direct relationship with the physical environment.

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Paradise Lost? At the same time, there are many lessons to be learned from exploring the environmental history of the American South. Over the past 15,000 years, it is possible to see that the southern environment retained a great deal of agency over the course of human action. Climate change had a profound impact on the Indians of the Pleistocene, who had to rapidly adapt to a warming environment as the last mega-fauna perished. The weather also had a profound impact on the Mississippian Indians, whose maize-based civilization seemed to rise and fall with the spring and summer rains. During the eighteenth century, African and Mediterranean crops also had an important impact on both southern subsistence patterns and thus landscape change, especially in the Deep South, where such species thrived in the poorest soils and hot summer heat. The landscape of the uplands, with its cooler weather and shorter growing season, favored many of the agriculture practices of Northern Europe, including growing flax and raising apples and sheep. In the Deep South, however, Old World customs such as apple cultivation, wheat growing, and sheep-raising remained less significant because the ecological conditions there hardly favored their husbandry. Nor did European market forces subvert all native subsistence practices: in many rural areas, maize, beans, catfish, and wild game remained central to southern diets until at least the mid-twentieth century. If there is a conclusion to be drawn here, it is that when settling the southern landscape no one asked enough questions of themselves, the environment, or each other. From the Spanish entradas forward, European expansion into the New World was enormously myopic. The Spanish expected the Mississippians to bow in total obedience and did not appear concerned that their very presence might facilitate the spread of fatal epidemics among native populations. The first settlers at Roanoke were ill-prepared to survive the climate extremes of the Atlantic Coast, nor did they seem interested in making efforts to befriend those who best knew the coastal landscape. In the late eighteenth century, Americans fully believed that they were doing southern Indians a great favor by introducing them to the modern plow, even though their overall productivity often declined after its adoption—not because of improper use of the tool, but because plowing was a solitary activity involving the production of a single crop. The plow was therefore not so much a symbol of modernization as it was the ascendancy of private property and market agriculture, for which the majority of southern Indians had little interest until the mid-nineteenth century. After the Civil War, lumber barons cut millions of acres of old-growth forests, with little understanding of the role that those standing trees played in the southern ecosystem, including the prevention of destructive floods and harmful soil erosion. By studying the environmental history of the region over the past 15,000 years, it was possible to see, perhaps for the first time, the full impact of human

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Southern United States: An Environmental History settlement on the landscape. Some human disturbances were obviously less destructive than others, but cumulatively all had a profound and lasting effect on the American South. In the best of all possible worlds, these changes could be reversed, simply by restricting the range of human activity over the landscape. But environmental preservation is much more complicated, as such efforts never happen in a vacuum and are ultimately related to social forces often outside the control of single individuals or groups. And while there is much to mourn about the extent of environmental change since the late Pleistocene, not all paradise was loss. Preservation efforts in the region have also set aside millions of acres of national forests, national parks, wildlife refuges, and urban greenways since the turn of the last century and there is hope that these landscapes can be expanded further. Nature has shown amazing resilience in the region over the millennia, and with proper care, might again become central to the lives of the people of the South.

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THE OKEFENOKEE SWAMP (GEORGIA/FLORIDA) Megan Kate Nelson Most swamps have rather bad reputations. The Okefenokee Swamp—a 396,000 acre forested wetland whose mass covers much of southern Georgia and some of northern Florida—is no exception. Mississippian tribes of the pre-contact era named the giant swamp “E-cun-fin-o-cau,” meaning “trembling earth” or “quivering water,” warning of the area’s unstable peat islands that swallowed animals and people. They advised Europeans, and later, Americans, to avoid the swamp by telling tales of Okefenokee sirens who would lure the men to their deaths within its morasses (Bartram 1790). Most early explorers depicted the Okefenokee as an empty space, a blank on the southeastern landscape that was unknown and unworthy of exploration (Savery 1769). During the nineteenth century, Georgia physicians and civic do-gooders proposed plan after plan to dispose of the Okefenokee through elaborate drainage and ditching plans; proposals to run a scenic highway through the swamp or harness its water for an Atlantic-Gulf canal were common until the 1930s. To most Americans, the Okefenokee seemed to strangle and choke, infect and discombobulate; it was a toxic landscape. Despite these negative associations, Georgia’s “great swamp” has always fascinated those human groups who came into contact with it over time. Swamplands are, as the writer Barbara Hurd has pointed out, places of transition in which people are always in the act of becoming something or someone else (Hurd 2001). This promise of becoming drew many different communities to the swamp for more than 400 years. However, due to the peculiar ecology of the swamp itself and the conflicts that emerged along the swamp’s mucky margins and within its interior, very few of these communities were able to realize their desires for change in the Okefenokee.

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Southern United States: An Environmental History A Marginalized Landscape The Okefenokee is a freshwater depression swamp that most likely formed during the Pleistocene era (more than 250,000 years ago) when the Atlantic Ocean was 150 feet higher than it is today. Wind and waves formed the Trail Ridge, a sand sill that extends 130 miles north and south, and freshwater marshes formed to the west of the ridge. As the Atlantic retreated, it left behind an extensive silty depression; rain, water runoff from the Trail Ridge, and local streams continuously feed this low area. Although the Okefenokee is a swamp (a forested wetland), it contains within it a highly complex, interlocking system of ponds, marshes, bayheads, scrub bogs, cypress and gum swamps, and piney uplands. Peat islands, which formed about 7,000 years ago, can reach depths of 15 feet and retain water, restricting outflow. The deepest peat islands form “prairies” in the Okefenokee interior, which boast a diversity of plant communities (Larson 1995). The Okefenokee’s ecological mosaic has attracted avian and human visitors and its complexity has been one of the reasons for the swamp’s resistance to large-scale conversion at the hands of southeastern communities. The first humans to come into contact with the Okefenokee were those who first named it—various tribes who roamed the American Southeast around the Okefenokee about 5,000 years ago. Both the Suwannee and the St. Marys rivers emerge out of the swamp and hunting groups followed their prey (bear, deer, birds, and panthers) along these rivers to the swamp interior. As native populations began to establish more permanent towns, they started to farm small acreages around the swamp’s edges and in its interior piney uplands. Archaeologists have found evidence of cultivation of garden crops in addition to maize and sweet potatoes (Miller 1998). Around 1150, a dominant Mississippian culture characterized by subsistence agriculture, a common root language, urbanization, and mound building emerged in the Southeast. It was these groups who named the swamp after its undulating peat islands and who first encountered Europeans as they began to explore the Okefenokee hinterlands in the sixteenth century. Although the swamp and its surrounding lands were more sparsely settled than the Northeast and thus not as susceptible to European pathogens during this period, Spanish and later French and English exploration and colonization resulted in as much as an 80 percent decline in southeastern native populations within the first century of contact (Miller 1998). Surviving native groups were unstable as a result and by the eighteenth century, tribes had fragmented and reassembled into a confederacy of loosely affiliated clans that the Spanish and English called “Seminoles” (J. Leitch Wright Jr. 1986). This confederacy claimed the Okefenokee as their territory and European mapmakers recognized and identified the Okefenokee as a place “whose past is secret,” inhabited by native

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Case Studies tribes (Romans 1776). Until the mid-nineteenth century, Europeans and Americans understood the Okefenokee and other swamps in the Southeast to be home to marginalized peoples whose “savage” qualities led them to embrace the choking vines of the swamp. To them, the Okefenokee was a pestilent landscape fit only for Native Americans and later, African slaves. When Europeans arrived in South Carolina in the seventeenth century and in Georgia in the eighteenth century, they brought African and Caribbean slaves with them. It was here that Euro-American planters set slaves to work cutting down cypress trees and digging elaborate networks of ditches in the coastal landscapes to create gridded rice fields. Although the Trustees of Georgia had explicitly outlawed slavery in 1732 before they sent a group of “worthy poor” to occupy the colony, a group of “Mutinous Malcontents” began to agitate for the importation of slaves as soon as they saw the riverine swamps of the colony’s interior (Stewart 1996; Coleman 1976, 1978, 1991). They succeeded in their quest in 1750, mostly due to persuasive arguments regarding the noxious, disease-causing miasms that swamps produced and the singular suitability of Africans to these pestilent environments (Tailfer et al. 1741). The establishment of plantation slavery in Georgia thus was rooted in the perception of swamps and their intimate connection with Africans. In an ironic twist, the Africans and African Americans who built rice plantations out of swamps then used these and other swamps to undermine the slave system itself. The Okefenokee straddles the political line between Georgia and Florida and in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that separated the English colonies (and then American states) from Spain’s northern outpost in North America. This swamp thus became the object of vigorous disputes between colonial powers during these years. One particular source of conflict was a Spanish policy that irked Georgia and South Carolina planters; while Spain ruled the colony of Florida (from 1565 to 1763, then from 1783 to 1821) the king offered freedom to fugitive slaves from across the border (Landers 1996, 1999). This offer resulted in thousands of escapes and attempted escapes during these periods and evidence indicates that many of these fugitive slaves used the Okefenokee as a pathway to freedom (Nelson 2005). Slave catchers refused to enter the swamp to chase runaways and the Okefenokee became known, again, as a landscape relegated to racial “others.” During the early history of human encounters with the Okefenokee, the swamp itself sustained very little environmental damage. Native peoples who used the swamp to farm and hunt did burn cypress and pine trees in addition to brush and vines in an effort to increase soil fertility and hunting visibility. But these practices also helped to regenerate plant communities and strengthen the fire resistance of some varieties of swamp trees. Fugitive slaves

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Southern United States: An Environmental History used the Okefenokee only as a pathway and here, unlike in the Great Dismal Swamp in Virginia, they did not establish permanent towns in the swamp interior. Both Native Americans and African Americans sought freedom and subsistence within the Okefenokee and many of them succeeded in their quests, at least in the short-term. During the 1830s, however, the first Euro-American crossed the Okefenokee from west to east and this exploration changed the way that white southerners began to envision the swamp and what they could become within it.

Exploration and Extraction The initial Euro-American exploration of the Okefenokee interior during the nineteenth century was a military expedition. As the American federal and state governments began to promote expansion of white settlement into the western and southeastern territories, relations between the Seminoles and Americans began to deteriorate. The First Seminole War brought Andrew Jackson to the periphery of the Okefenokee in April 1818 and despite the American victory in this chaotic war, many Seminoles ignored the treaty that ended the conflict and continued to use the Okefenokee and its hinterlands as they saw fit. When Jackson assumed the presidency in 1828 he began to formulate plans to open the Southeast to American farmers and pushed the Indian Removal Act through Congress in 1830. Seminole men and women refused to relocate to Oklahoma and relations between local Indian agents and confederacy chiefs worsened. In November 1835 Seminole leader Osceola orchestrated a simultaneous attack on an American regiment led by Francis L. Dade and on Indian agent Wiley Thompson at Fort King in north central Florida (Porter 1996; Covington 1993). The Second Seminole War’s battleground stretched from the northern Okefenokee hinterlands to the southern Everglades; the American army entered the Okefenokee in an attempt to sweep the swamp of its Native inhabitants in the fall and winter of 1838–1839. On November 6, 1838, Georgia governor George Gilmer announced that he had given orders to raise an Okefenokee regiment to operate under the command of General Charles Rinaldo Floyd, with the stated purpose of destroying or driving away “the savage enemy” (Savannah Daily Republican 1838a, 2). Floyd had already arrived on the southwestern side of the Okefenokee by the time of Gilmer’s announcement and “encamped on the edge of the great monster, the Okefinokee Swamp” (Floyd 1838, 258). Despite Gilmer’s stated intentions, Floyd was not there merely to eradicate the Native presence in the swamp; he was to explore the Okefenokee and provide a record of its depths, marking a path for

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Case Studies other white men to follow. Floyd and his troops traversed the Okefenokee from west to east and made several reconnaissance trips along its borders over the course of the next three months. They discovered “beautiful place[s],—high and dry, with magnificent Oak & Laurel trees” and several Seminole towns but “no Indians” (Floyd 1838, 259). But Floyd was not overly concerned about this absence and continued on his explorations, renaming islands in the Okefenokee interior (one of the largest bears his name) and nailing tin cans to trees to commemorate his passage. By the end of the excursion, Floyd’s troops were “worn down with fatigue, and many were without shoes, hats, & pantaloons, these articles having been destroyed by the obstacles in the swamp” (Floyd 1838, 260–261). But Floyd’s soldiering adventures were productive; throughout his months in the Okefenokee, he wrote to local Georgia papers narrating his adventures and arguing that, “The Okefenokee instead of being a barren waste, contains some of the best land in Georgia” (Savannah Daily Republican 1838b, 2). Even when Floyd described the swamp’s negative qualities—its boggy mud, the gloomy cypress trees, and the vicious briars that tore his soldiers’ uniforms to ribbons—he argued that these ecological problems actually invited and justified the incursion and future development of the swamp by American entrepreneurs. At this point, Floyd created a perception of the Okefenokee (and potentially other swamps as well) as potentially valuable. While traversing the Okefenokee over the winter of 1838–1839, Floyd and his men mapped out the swamp’s future and secured its availability to Georgia’s American residents. The Second Seminole War ended in a stalemate in 1842 but Floyd’s excursions and the toll of continuous warfare pushed the Seminoles deeper into Florida; the Okefenokee ceased to be the home site or hunting ground of Native Americans at this point. Fugitive slaves had also stopped using the swamp after Spanish colonists left Florida and the United States annexed the territory in 1821. In the 1820s and 1830s, white Americans poured into the Okefenokee hinterlands. What followed was a period of exploration of the “great monster” and its subsequent shift from a blank space on local maps and a refuge for people of color, to a landscape marked by the chains and lines of surveyors, engineers, and lumber kings. The perception of swamplands as noxious, pestilent places (which had been used as justification for slavery) and the popular conception that forested wetlands were fundamentally worthless worked together to convince many Americans that the Okefenokee should be drained or at least converted into a more useful landscape. To bring about Floyd’s dream that his exploration would “open to the citizens of Georgia new sources of wealth in the rich lands of the swamp,” surveyors and developers began to traverse and survey the Okefenokee

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Southern United States: An Environmental History in the early 1850s (Savannah Daily Republican 1838b, 2). A series of state legislative decisions in 1849–1850 authorizing the sale of lands and construction around the edges of the swamp revealed that Georgians had begun to recognize the Okefenokee not for what it was, but for what it could be. Swamps were clearly useless in and of themselves, officials claimed, but drainage would change Floyd’s “great monster” into an agricultural Eden. With this in mind, the Georgia legislature approved funds for a complete survey of the swamp, to be undertaken by land speculator and surveyor Mansfield Torrance in May 1850. The Okefenokee’s dense foliage, yellow flies, and mucky peat stymied Torrance and his team and his survey was superficial and incomplete (Trowell 1989). But entrepreneurial attention had turned to the Okefenokee and several more state and privately funded surveys shaped public perception of the swamp over the next twenty-five years. Richard L. Hunter, a civil engineer, surveyed the swamp in 1856 and argued that reclamation of the gigantic swamp was both possible and desirable. “The soil of the swamp,” he noted in his Report, “if it shall ever be drained, will be very valuable” (Hunter 1857, n.p.). As delightful as this vision was for most residents of the Okefenokee hinterlands, efforts to sell the Okefenokee to a drainage company in the 1850s came to nothing. The increasingly tense political situation between North and South, the ensuing Civil War, and the difficulties of Reconstruction turned attention away from the Okefenokee until 1875, when a group of young businessmen with an appetite for financial success and adventure planned a series of swamp surveys that provoked public awareness of the Okefenokee and aligned it with the rise of the South and the affirmation of southern masculinity. The most vocal boosters of the New Southeast’s economic health in the 1870s were local newspapermen who made names for themselves and their towns by advocating new industries. These men were too young to have fought for the Confederacy and they were eager to prove their manliness not through battle with Yankees but through mastery of the local landscape. In southern Georgia and northern Florida, these young men looked to the Okefenokee to provide for them the kind of adventures that would make them into bona fide southern men. Two of these businessmen-editors were Charles R. Pendleton of the Valdosta (Ga.) Times and George W. Haines of the Jesup (Ga.) Georgian. By narrating their adventures in the Okefenokee in a series of surveys in 1875, Pendleton and Haines hoped to entertain their readers, boost circulation revenues, and display their masculinity; in so doing they wrote the Okefenokee into the New South’s developmental consciousness. Pendleton and Haines participated in three different surveys and fancied that they had seen “more of the interior of the great terra incognita than any set of white men have yet seen” (Trowell 1989, 27). Their survey teams made some

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Case Studies measurements and calculated some distances but spent most of their time on hunting excursions that took the two adventurers into the depths of the Okefenokee. They described the swamp aesthetically (rife with vibrant green plants and beautiful birds) but also depicted it as a kind of “frontier” to experience and physically overpower in a quest to establish southern strength. Despite their attention to the experiences of the surveyors themselves, the articles and letters that Pendleton, Haines, and other survey members produced also addressed potential Okefenokee drainage and development and the news was good. In the opinion of civil engineer Charles Locke, who participated in the third Okefenokee survey of 1875, the soil was demonstrably rich; luxuriant plant growth indicated that such lands would be agriculturally productive. Drainage would be relatively easy; new technologies like hydraulic dredges would remove the swamp muck quickly and efficiently (Trowell 1989). The 1875 Okefenokee surveys provided little in the way of solid scientific studies of the swamp but they did make it possible for developers to envision the Okefenokee’s conversion from worthless muck to productive land. Several Okefenokee developmental schemes emerged throughout the 1870s and 1880s but came to nothing. In 1889, however, the Georgia legislature made possible the first large-scale drainage and development effort in the swamp. They announced that the state would sell the Okefenokee to the highest bidder; the minimum bid was 12 1/2 cents per acre and the winner would be incorporated as the “Suwanee Canal Company.” In March 1890, the bids were opened and a company headed by an Atlanta lawyer named Henry Jackson won the right to develop the Okefenokee for 26 1/2 cents per acre (Waycross [Ga] Reporter 1890). The newly incorporated Suwanee Canal Company board members met together the next week, appointed officers, and drafted a plan to drain the swamp and convert its muck to spectacularly fertile agricultural soils. Jackson and his compatriots were convinced by Locke’s arguments that newly designed machinery could easily drain the swamp; the survey they conducted of the Okefenokee’s interior was therefore perfunctory and superficial. The SCC board members dove into their reclamation project with a fundamental misunderstanding of Okefenokee ecology and this misjudgment proved fatal to the company’s success. Over the next five years, attempts to dig a canal from the swamp to the St. Marys River (which drains only 10 percent of the swamp’s waters on the southeastern side) failed; forging a path through the Trail Ridge proved difficult and a drought followed by heavy rains eroded the sides of the ditch so that they collapsed in December 1892 (Trowell and Izlar 1998). The engineering firm that the SCC had hired was more successful in the dredging of an interior canal that was meant to traverse the entire swamp; by the fall of 1892 the canal had extended 2

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Southern United States: An Environmental History miles into Chase Prairie. The board of directors decided to use this canal to float timber from the Okefenokee interior and began operations to harvest cypress trees beginning in 1893 (Trowell 1984). However, a series of hurricanes and the American economic depression that year slowed investment and increased railroad transportation costs. The soft banks of the outer canal collapsed again in 1895 and by 1897, the Suwanee Canal Company descended into receivership. Between 1897 and 1901, the board members and other developers abandoned the Okefenokee. The environmental toll of this initial developmental project was high. Jackson had pronounced that he was “enlisted for the war, and I propose to go on to final victory”; the Okefenokee bore the scars of this battle (Trowell 1984). Boats and buildings rusted and sank in the swamp’s prairies, and the Suwanee Canal Company left several million feet of deadened cypress trees uncut; these trees were havens for insects and became fire hazards. Although the Suwanee Canal became choked with peat and vines after the dredges and pull boats drifted away or sank, the channel was so wide and deep that it remains a distinctive feature of the Okefenokee landscape. But the swamp, which had frustrated so many military men, slave hunters, and adventurers, swallowed most of the evidence of the Suwanee Canal Company’s dreams for swamp development over the course of the decade. The primary reason that the Suwanee Canal Company failed to develop the Okefenokee was its board members’ and engineers’ misunderstanding of the Okefenokee’s peculiar ecologies. Their failure has become the stuff of legend in the Okefenokee; locals refer to the company’s efforts as “Jackson’s Folly” and gleefully recount the potentially apocryphal story that even when the outer canal’s walls stood, the water ran from the St. Marys into the swamp rather than out of it. The Suwanee Canal Company directors thought that they could convert the worthless Okefenokee into a landscape of profit and prestige but they profoundly misunderstood its role as a regional watershed and its nature as a silty depression swamp. However, the Suwanee Canal Company’s mistakes benefited the developers who bought the Okefenokee in April 1901. The Hebard family of Philadelphia had made their fortune harvesting white pine from northwestern forests but in the 1890s their mills had begun to slow and they looked southward to the Okefenokee hinterlands for fresh trees just as the Suwanee Canal Company abandoned the swamp. The Hebards invested two years in extensive timber and water cruises of the swamp, all of them led by John M. Hopkins, a young lawyer and surveyor from Darien, Georgia. These teams measured each acre, platted it, and counted the trees within it. They then compiled all their data and created detailed maps of the swamp and its timber reserves (Hopkins 1945). Only when

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Case Studies the Hebards fully understood the cypress and pine densities within the swamp in addition to the access routes in and out of the Okefenokee on all sides did they begin their operations. This extensive survey proved valuable to the Hebards; it gave them the ecological information they needed to harvest the Okefenokee successfully over the next twenty years. To deal with transportation problems, the Hebards sent John Hopkins (whom they appointed superintendent in 1903) to observe northwestern operations that harvested trees out of wetlands. He observed their railroad systems and returned to the Okefenokee to construct a series of “mud lines” (removable train tracks) along the swamp’s edges and several miles into its interior. Quickly he determined that the Okefenokee “is different from any swamps we visited where logging by rail was done, and we learned that some methods of road construction that were satisfactory in many swamps were not desirable for the Okefenokee” (Hopkins 1945, 32). Because of the Okefenokee’s “trembling earth,” Hopkins and his engineers had to abandon “cribbed” tracks (logs laid across the soil surface) because they sank into the muck under the pressure of heavy train engines and cars. And because parts of the Okefenokee were sandy and other parts were mucky, some parts of the track sank while others seemed to float on the surface; the Okefenokee’s ecological mosaic made for an unpredictable and perilous train ride. After considering these issues, Hopkins decided to build pile roads, tracks built on vertical cypress and pine pilings driven into the muck until they reached solid earth. Pile roads required less maintenance than cribbed lines and engineers could gather up the ties when the company was done with a stretch and build another pile road in another section. But pile roads were also vulnerable to slow-burning fires, floods, and the Okefenokee’s peculiar ecologies; the muck could swallow up to thirty feet of pilings with no end in sight (Hopkins 1945). Despite these problems, pile roads were the most efficient and successful transportation structure for Okefenokee timber removal and the Hebards’ willingness to experiment and invest in this kind of technology was one of the reasons for their success developing the swamp in the early twentieth century. The Hebards were also willing to invest in new extractive technologies and they quickly established a streamlined and profitable system for harvesting Okefenokee cypress by 1909. First, an engineer or surveyor cruised a section targeted for cutting; he would look for a stand of merchantable timber. When he found it, he would survey the area and then “girdle” the trees (cut a four-inch line into the bark to drain the sap and kill the tree). About a year later, crews would build a pile road near the “skidder set,” set up cables and trolleys along the tops of the trees, and commence cutting and hauling the cypress out to the waiting railroad cars (Izlar 1971).

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Southern United States: An Environmental History Most of the men who worked for the Hebard Cypress Company were inhabitants of the Okefenokee hinterlands (Swampers) who had knowledge of the swamp and who were willing to risk the dangers of logging work to take home a healthy paycheck. The company looked out for their workers; they provided housing, fishing and hunting licenses, and lawyers for their men. Hopkins believed that fair treatment and generosity would keep employees loyal and he was right; most former employees of the Hebard Lumber Company raved about the enterprise and the good that the Hebards did for the local community. The Hebards were successful in their developmental enterprise in the Okefenokee for this reason and because they planned their operations well and took the time to understand the swamp’s ecosystem—its tree stands, its waterways, its peat islands, and its wildlife populations. But the Hebards’ extraction activities in the Okefenokee were short-lived. In 1921, the nation experienced a depression in the lumber market and by 1926, the demand for cypress plummeted. The Hebards closed down their mills in 1927 and ceased all operations in 1928 (Trowell 1984). Like the Suwanee Canal Company directors, they too left the shrapnel of development—pilings, abandoned crib roads, and hundreds of acres of cypress stumps—as reminders of their entrepreneurial presence in the Okefenokee. Cypress trees, unlike loblolly pines, were slow growers and thus not easily regenerated; the 450 million board-feet the Hebard Lumber Company cut in the Okefenokee between 1909 and 1927 will take hundreds of years to grow back to their early-twentieth-century heights. The surveys and subsequent development of the Okefenokee changed the way that southerners thought about the swamp. It was at this point no longer a worthless landscape but a natural resource to be used for the benefit of Georgia’s citizens.

Scientific Inquiry, Preservation, and Tourism At the same moment that the Hebards were negotiating the purchase of the Okefenokee from the Suwanee Canal Company, Roland Harper, a civil engineer who worked as a botanical collector for the state of Georgia, set out on a scientific reconnaissance of the swamp that initiated an era of scientific inquiry into the swamp’s interior. This new kind of expedition and others like it ultimately resulted in the preservation of the Okefenokee as a National Wildlife Refuge in 1937. Scientists began to enter the Okefenokee just as three movements coalesced in American culture: industrial logging, conservation, and professionalization of the sciences. All three of these developments brought attention to the pine forests and swamplands of the Southeast and provoked concerns about the viability of this area’s natural resources. During the first three decades of the

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Case Studies twentieth century, scientists like Roland Harper, and particularly his brother Francis, were positioned against logging and other destructive changes to the Okefenokee and depicted the swamp as a pristine ecosystem that would become a productive laboratory for their professional studies. Ten years after Roland Harper counted and collected plants in the Okefenokee, a group of scientists affiliated with Cornell University began a full-scale biological reconnaissance of the swamp’s insect, plant, animal, and avian life. They hired guides from the local community, collected specimens, and took field notes; the evidence they collected informed the arguments they made in hundreds of articles on the Okefenokee ecosystem; these studies appeared in national and professional journals and magazines between 1912 and the 1930s. One of the most prolific of these writers was Roland Harper’s brother Francis, an ornithologist and one of the Okefenokee’s most ardent preservationist advocates. Harper viewed the swamp not as a monster but as a primeval wilderness that was an ideal site of scientific study; he appreciated both its aesthetic beauty and its ecological diversity. Throughout the 1910s and 1920s Harper shared the islands and prairies of the Okefenokee with timber cruisers, loggers, and mud-line tracks, constant reminders of the swamp’s potential destruction. It was with a sense of urgency that Harper pleaded with the readers of Natural History that, “the whole tremendous value [of the Okefenokee] for this purpose—the study of life histories and ecological relations—depends on the preservation of natural conditions” (Harper 1920, 28). By 1918, a critical mass of scientific articles on the Okefenokee had appeared in print, the U.S. Congress had passed the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (which outlawed the killing and transportation of migratory birds across state and national borders), and Okefenokee preservation societies began to form. Several organizations were founded, published pamphlets promoting the Okefenokee as a refuge for science and wildlife, and then faded away. But the Georgia Society of Naturalists, formed in 1929, was more stable than previous organizations due to its broad membership base, influential leadership, and prodigious production of print culture; it therefore became a prominent and successful lobbying power for the preservation of the Okefenokee during the 1930s. The Georgia Society of Naturalists publicized its field trips to the swamp and helped organize and fund a visit by the members of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Conservation of Wildlife Resources in 1931 (Trowell 1998). The members of the committee fished and camped in the Okefenokee and attended banquets in their honor; they were impressed enough to send a group from the U.S. Biological Survey to assess the swamp for preservation the following year. The survey leaders concluded that while the Okefenokee would “make an admirable wildlife refuge offering sanctuary for all time to all forms of wildlife

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Southern United States: An Environmental History indigenous to this region,” the economic exigencies of the Great Depression made funding impossible (Dieffenbach and Reddington 1932, 1). The dire economic circumstances of the 1930s revived Okefenokee developmental schemes. In 1932–1933, plans for an Atlantic-Gulf canal emerged, as did plans for an interstate and intraswamp road that would bring tourists to the area. Harper and his fellow scientists, alarmed by this turn to development just as the Hebards had ceased logging operations, decided to take more aggressive action. Harper’s wife, Jean Sherwood Harper, wrote to Franklin Delano Roosevelt directly (she had been his children’s nanny) and pleaded with him, “our hope lies in you to stop the [ship canal] project before it goes farther, and spend money in the purchase of the swamp for a reservation, where beauty and scientific interest may be preserved for all time” (Presley and Harper 1981, 7–8). Roosevelt wrote back to Jean Harper and promised to look into the situation, noting that he “should hate to see the Okefinokee [sic] Swamp destroyed” (Presley and Harper 1981, 8). He made good on his promise and sent another team from the U.S. Biological Survey to investigate the Okefenokee and determine its value; the team established that the property was worth $1.50 an acre, and that the federal government could purchase a core tract of the swamp for $400,000. The Hebards accepted this bid and on November 30, 1936, the federal government assumed responsibility for the management of the Okefenokee Swamp (Trowell 1998). On March 30, 1937, Roosevelt signed Executive Order 7593, stating that all lands, including lands under water, comprising the Okefenokee Swamp, are “reserved and set apart . . . as a refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife” (Eadie 1984, n.p.). At this point, the Okefenokee Swamp ceased to be a landscape of local use and development and became the nation’s public property. This shift entailed monetary exchanges and legislative action, but it also involved the delineation of boundaries and the restriction of access. At the time of its establishment, the refuge rules forbade fishing without a license, hunting or trapping of all kinds, the conveyance of firearms, and visitors without registered guides. These restrictions were directed not so much at outof-town tourists but at Swampers who had historically used the Okefenokee as a site of farming, hunting, herding, fishing, logging, moonshining, and guiding. Families like the Hilliards and the Coxes had lived in the Okefenokee area for over a century within and along the edges of the swamp, supporting themselves with diverse modes of production. They had worked for themselves, for surveyors, and for adventurers in the 1850s–1870s. They dug canals, built railroad tracks, and logged for the Suwanee Canal Company and the Hebard Lumber Company during the 1890s–1920s. And they guided Roland and Francis Harper and other scientists who searched the swamp for scientific specimens during the 1910s–1930s. The executive order that legally converted the Okefenokee to a

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Case Studies federal wildlife refuge was effectively an eviction notice for this community and Okefenokee Swampers reacted to this turn of events in various ways. Some moved willingly from their homes on interior islands to towns outside the swamp; others stayed until they were thrown out. Others acted in accordance with their cultural history and went to work for the refuge as officials and registered guides. Some Swampers deliberately led their former neighbors in chases through the swamp as they collected illegal traps or poached deer and alligators at night. Even in the context of preservation, then, the Okefenokee continued to be what it had always been through its history: a contested landscape. In the years following 1937, community conflicts within the Okefenokee have continued to center on definitions of appropriate land use within the context of conservation. In 1954 and 1955, the Okefenokee again received national attention when a series of droughts resulted in a massive wildfire that destroyed more than a half million acres of forest in the swamp. Concerned conservationists lobbied for the construction of a dam that would keep the swamp wet and prevent such a conflagration in the future. The Suwannee Sill, an earthen dam with two gated structures, was completed in 1957 and has become another site of contention. In keeping with the Okefenokee’s ironic past, the Sill has provoked what it was meant to prevent—the dam keeps the swamp unnaturally wet (preventing smaller, annual fires) and ground foliage has grown more rapidly. These circumstances have created the conditions for larger wildfires like those of 1954–1955; when these fires begin, they burn down into the deep peat deposits and are incredibly difficult to control and contain. In May 2002, a wildfire consumed 95,000 acres of Okefenokee interior before local firefighters could stop it. Locals and national conservationists continue to bicker about the utility of the sill. Recent arguments also involve not the danger of fire but of floods. In 1998, several weeks of heavy rain caused the Okefenokee to overflow the sill (the gates were closed) and send a substantial wall of water down the Suwannee River toward Florida (U.S. Fish and Wildlife 2005). As has been the case so often in the cultural history of the Okefenokee, human expectations have often been frustrated by the reality of the swamp’s ecology. One man who observed the Okefenokee fires and other developments of the 1950s with concern was Walt Kelly, the cartoonist and social critic whose series Pogo introduced national readers to the Okefenokee and its wildlife in newspapers in the post-war years. In The Pogo Papers, published in 1953, Kelly wrote in the foreword that “the activities in this present book were spread shamelessly over the past drought-ridden year. Looking back across the fertilizer, small shafts of green can be seen here and there, while off in the distances wisps of smoke denote the harvesters at work . . . Resolve then, that on this very ground, with small flags waving and tinny blast on tiny trumpets, we shall

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Southern United States: An Environmental History meet the enemy, and not only may he be ours, he may be us” (Kelly 1953, n.p.). This lampoon of Commodore Oliver Perry’s triumphant dispatch during the War of 1812 (“we have met the enemy and they are ours”) appeared in a more streamlined fashion on the first poster for Earth Day in 1970: “we have met the enemy and he is us.” Here, Pogo (a possum) looks back over his shoulder at the viewer, astonished at the sight we share: the swamp strewn with buckets, tires, bottles, bikes, and other detritus of “civilization.” The trope of “primeval wilderness” that Harper and his fellow preservationist scientists used to describe the Okefenokee in the 1920s and 1930s emerges here again, pitted against the destructive forces of human agency. The phrase proved so popular that Kelly drew a two-panel version for Earth Day in 1971 and entitled his 1972 collection of Pogo cartoons, Pogo: We Have Met the Enemy and He Is Us. It has become a slogan for the environmental movement in the years since, and has linked the Okefenokee permanently to preservationist ideals. This connection may have had some impact on the congressional decision to further protect the swamp by designating 353,000 of its acres as a National Wilderness Area in 1974, and may have influenced the United Nations’ decision in 1986 to designate the Okefenokee as a Wetland of International Importance in 1986 (U.S. Fish and Wildlife 2005; Ramsar Sitelist 2005). Despite the Okefenokee’s long history as a preserved ecosystem, conflicts over its use have continued to arise. In the early 1990s, DuPont purchased 13,000 acres along the Trail Ridge as a potential titanium dioxide strip mine. The combined efforts of the Department of Interior and the Okefenokee Wildlife League (an organization of local businessmen and women) raised enough of a ruckus to defeat this attempt at conversion. In 2003, in response to negative publicity and public pressure, DuPont donated its acreage to the Conservation Fund (5,000 of these acres were given over to the refuge) (Associated Press 2003, n.p). The 200,000 visitors a year to the Okefenokee hear this and other stories from refuge employees and from local guides; it fits perfectly into the swamp’s history of conflicts over the value of the swamp’s foliage and fauna, and the popular image of the resurgence of the “primeval wilderness” in an increasingly technological and global society. Over the course of four centuries and more, the Okefenokee Swamp has been a landscape that provoked strong reactions in those humans who encountered it. The oral, written, and visual descriptions of storytellers, mapmakers, soldiers, adventurers, surveyors, scientists, and cartoonists have shaped the ways that southerners and all Americans have thought about the swamp and the ways they have sought to use it to bring change to their lives. The Okefenokee Swamp of the twenty-first century remains a place of becoming; it therefore continues to be a site of struggle and a landscape of conflict.

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Case Studies

THE MAKING OF CANCER ALLEY: A HISTORICAL VIEW OF LOUISIANA’S CHEMICAL CORRIDOR Barbara L. Allen The winding 150-mile stretch of the lower Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge has played an important cultural and economic role in the lives of its inhabitants over the last few centuries. This corridor along the Mississippi was, at one time, lined with ribbons of cane plantations, which included both river frontage for transportation and fertile valley lands for planting. Today over 150 petroleum processors and chemical plants line the riverbanks, displacing agriculture as the region’s most lucrative industry. While Louisiana now produces only 6.7 percent of the nation’s chemicals (by value), it produces 12.5 percent of all the hazardous waste reported nationally. These plants along the chemical corridor produce ninety-eight major chemicals, eleven of which are recognized as carcinogens. In 2001, for example, this industry emitted or released over 145 million pounds of hazardous waste according to their own reporting to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA 2005). In recent times it is sometimes called “Cancer Alley” and has become a national focus for the antitoxics movement (Roberts and Toffolon-Weiss 2001; Allen 2003). Since the 1980s, residents of this region, particularly those living closest to industry, have come together, voicing concern about the negative effects of the chemical industry on their lives and demanding a voice in the future planning of this hybrid landscape of communities and industrial facilities. Poor people and people of color, who typically share the fence-line with industry, are voicing concern over the undue burden to both health and the economy that industry has wrought on them with seemingly little reward or restitution. Combining concepts from both the Civil Rights movement and the antitoxics movement, the synergy between low-income and minority residents is called the environmental justice movement and has been a force for environmental change in the region. How did this transformation happen? How did one of the most fertile and culturally rich regions in the country become environmentally bankrupt? This history is necessarily a recent one and coincides primarily with the development and expansion of the petrochemical industry along the lower Mississippi River.

From Plantations to Petrochemical Corporations With the arrival of the Europeans, the land along the lower Mississippi was increasingly divided among the population centers of New Orleans and Baton Rouge in long, narrow plantations lining the river. The Europeans soon learned

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Southern United States: An Environmental History of the wealth to be gained from planting in the New World and with the help of slaves and technologies from both Africa and the Americas, they began building the greatest and most successful plantation empire in the world. By the beginning of the nineteenth century many plantations ceased to grow traditional crops such as indigo, which had been the staple crop in the area, and began cultivating the commercially successful sugarcane instead. This crop was labor intensive because large quantities of cane were necessary to make the expensive granulation process, required for exporting sugar, economically feasible. The agricultural shift to sugarcane in the region required a labor shift, thus the slave population escalated rapidly during the early nineteenth century. After the Civil War, the Destrehan plantation on the Mississippi River was confiscated and became a freedmen’s colony and a vocational training school for newly freed slaves. The land surrounding the house was formally transferred to a corporate agribusiness firm where it remained in sugarcane production until the oil producers arrived. Then in 1914 an executive of the Mexican Petroleum Company (Delaware) traveled to New Orleans with instructions to purchase an inexpensive piece of land near the city as a site for refining Mexican crude oil. The company settled on the Destrehan property largely because of its location in relation to both New Orleans and the national and international shipping trade. The acquisition of the property was fairly simple, given its marginal status as a former school for African Americans and its ownership by outside agricultural interests. The transition was a straightforward one: the school for blacks was permanently closed, farming ceased, and a petroleum refinery was built on the fertile bank of the Mississippi. A few years before Mexican Petroleum’s move into the region, Standard Oil of Louisiana (a subsidiary of Standard Oil of New Jersey) chose Baton Rouge for its new refinery location. The decision to build in Baton Rouge came on the heels of legal attacks against Standard’s business practices in Texas, and after receiving assurances from public officials in Louisiana regarding favorable treatment (Larsen, Knowlton, and Popple 1971, 3–4). Although Standard Oil of Louisiana had originally been conceived of as a refining and marketing division, it was soon discovered that it was located at the edge of the Sabine Uplift, one of the richest oil fields to date. By 1918 it was the largest refinery in Standard Oil’s holdings, refining not only mid-continent crude, but local crude as well as imported Mexican oil. The refinery, built on land that once was rich with cotton and cane, now became a different sort of plant; row upon row of tanks, pipes, and gas flues crowded the city skyline. In order to transport the crude from the oil fields to the pipelines, large wooden barrels made from virgin cypress stands were fabricated. The northern Louisiana oil fields were booming: “derricks reared up on pilings in the bayous and along the

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Case Studies cypress-lined shores of this swampy wilderness—an oil slick which was never to disappear over the black waters of Caddo lake appeared” (Gibb and Knowlton 1956, 67). Oil fields were discovered increasingly closer to the home office in Baton Rouge. The increasing availability of crude drove the company toward record exponential growth. Between 1912 and 1917 the net value of Standard Louisiana increased from $6.6 million to $42.5 million, or a 700 percent increase. Along with Mexican Petroleum (now Amoco) and Standard Oil (now Exxon) came other industrial giants. In 1916 Richard Airey, a representative of Shell Oil, negotiated the purchase of 366 acres in the town of Sellers in St. Charles Parish for $21,000 (Beaton 1957, 140). The land was the river frontage of what once was a large sugarcane plantation. The company began refining operations in 1920 under the name New Orleans Refining Company (NORC). In 1930, Sellers was renamed Norco, after the refinery. The company’s Mississippi River location was ideal, as it received all of its crude by water, primarily from Mexico. By 1934, over half of Shell’s North American refining capacity was in the South and 30 percent of that was at Norco (Beaton 1957, 434). Mexican crude was very heavy, containing many impurities. Shell intended to use the kerosene “bottoms” left after extracting gasoline to make asphalt; the large volume of gasses remaining were simply flared or burned. Concerned with the extensive waste inherent in the petroleum catalytic cracking process, on April 5, 1927, Shell’s Dutch owners made the decision to enter the chemical business in an effort to capitalize on its waste products. Important questions were brought before the directors: (l) What raw materials were suitable for chemical manufacture? (2) What products could be made from them? (3) Would there be a market for these products? A decision was made to produce synthetic ammonia from the refinery waste gasses that were then being flared (Beaton 1957, 506–507). Shell’s Amsterdam laboratory began work on the production of chemicals for market. The best petroleum distillates were natural gas and by-product gases. The latter were particularly useful as they contained chemical unsaturates that were suitable for use as chemical building blocks. Research proved that many hydrocarbon derivatives could be made from a handful of these new feed stocks. The product and market questions were answered as well. Newly developed processes for making films, fibers, lacquers, and synthetic materials such as rubber required solvents, whose demand could not be met from the existing supply. In the 1930s, while the Depression devastated many other regions and sectors of the economy, the South experienced tremendous growth in both petroleum processing and chemical production. The technology of catalytic cracking allowed chemists to achieve both efficiency and precision in processing crude and petroleum distillates to make the new chemicals they needed

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Southern United States: An Environmental History (Davis 1984, 118). With the production volume made possible by the new chemistry, the availability of the raw materials was now more important than ever. All five natural building blocks of the petrochemical industry—oil, natural gas, salt, water, and sulfur—were abundant in the Gulf Coast. One of the nation’s largest sulfur deposits was located on the Louisiana/Texas border. Salt domes littered the coastline in both states. However, the explosive growth of this industry owes a large debt to a discovery of a different kind: new plant architecture. In late 1938 two Dow Chemical officials from the home office in Michigan were driving down a road between Houston and the Texas coast, fascinated by the natural gas flares burning from the oil production wells. They spotted a saltwater estuary adjacent to all the oil and gas production wells and thought it ideal for the location of their new plant (Spitz 1988, 89). Dutch Buetel, Dow’s appointed southern chemical pioneer, made a risky, but profitable decision: to build the Houston coast plant without a building. He felt that enclosing the vast pipes and tanks of the plant in a building, as in the north, was unnecessary with the mild climate of the Gulf Coast. He opted for what is now called an “open architecture” plant. This saved a tremendous amount of initial investment capital and made southern locations extremely competitive in the growing petrochemical industry. Low wages, a non-union labor force, and regulatory freedom were other primary reasons for industrialists’ decisions to relocate in southern states (Haynes 1946, 273).

Attempt at Regulation Officials at the Louisiana Department of Conservation (LDC) begun publicly noting the environmental problems associated with the petrochemical industry as early as 1928. There were reports of streams polluted by industrial waste and a recommendation to index petroleum waste as well as oil field waste pits (LDC 1928–1929, 48). Four years later, “heavy oyster mortality associated with the presence of oil and oil well sludge” was reported (LDC 1932–1933, 240). Biologists also discovered extensive disease within the oyster beds, which they attributed to industrial pollution. The year 1932 was the first time some fishermen in Louisiana were forbidden from marketing their goods because of pollution—instead, they were “compensated by the oil company concerned” (LDC 1932–1933, 241). Concerned with the environmental disruption of their fishing and trapping by the oil companies, local fishermen often denied requests by the companies to have access to their property for pipeline rights-of-way or drilling. The oil companies appealed to patriotism or the war effort to no avail.

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Case Studies As a last resort, the companies manipulated or bribed the parish priest into coercing the fishermen, predominantly Catholic, into obedience (Loos 1959, 41). By the mid-1930s the LDC had reevaluated its posture toward the oil and chemical industries. It “could sympathize with the fisherman,” but it felt that “there was something to be said for the factory payroll and its distribution in the community” (LDC 1936–1937, 11). It recommended that the regulators not be too hasty in passing judgment on an industry that was being courted by the state. The LDC conducted an investigation through the newly formed Bureau of Scientific Research. The Bureau found that the “sick” oyster beds had not been contaminated by industry, but were due to other “natural” reasons; thus the hypothesis that the diseased oyster beds were a result of industrial pollution was questionably disproved (LDC 1936–1937, 13). In late 1937 the Louisiana Bureau of Chemical Engineering was organized to analyze water, industrial waste, and pollution problems in general. It noted that “the use of the streams is the right of every man whether sportsman, farmer, or industrialist” (LDC 1938–1939, 289). Instead of pollution control, the Chemical Engineering Bureau turned its attention to the improvement of plant methods and efficiency, and stream flow conditions. It appointed a board of technicians directly from the petrochemical corporations; industry was allowed to police itself. This newly formed advisory board found that “well-meaning citizens—attribute the injury of fish to industries when the fish mortality is definitely due to natural causes” (LDC 1940–1941, 136–137). By 1940 the stream conditions in Louisiana were so acute that the state set up the Stream Control Commission under the direction of the LDC. Farmers were beginning to complain about crop failure caused by water salinity and other pollutants. Again, the commission appointed technicians from among industry, and the petrochemical giants were allowed to regulate themselves. During the Long family political era (1928–1960), the LDC was rife with graft and corruption. The Longs, both Huey and Earl, saw in the poor and disenfranchised an untapped political resource. They campaigned with promises of new roads, highways and bridges, expanded universities, health programs, more textbooks, and better schools—all for free! At the same time, they publicly attacked big oil companies for not carrying their fair share of the burden. Huey Long levied oil and gas severance taxes, mineral leases, royalties, and other fees to pay for his new programs. The voters saw the results of his promises while at the same time paying the lowest taxes, including auto license fees and property taxes, in the nation (Kurtz and Peoples 1990, 6–7). Behind the scenes of this populist regime, however, other schemes were unfolding. The Department of Conservation’s commissioner, Robert Maestri, allowed oil companies to produce and refine large quantities of “hot oil,” that is, oil

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Southern United States: An Environmental History in excess of state quotas and exempt from taxes, in exchange for “contributions” to both campaign coffers and personal treasuries. One of the closest allies of the Long administration was Louis Lesage, lobbyist for Standard Oil. The Department of Conservation was filled with Long’s allies on committees and bureaus of both policy and enforcement. When the federal government attempted to curb these practices through the device of investigating income tax evasion, they found that “hot oil” payments had been declared on tax returns, thus preventing the IRS from prosecuting offenders (Kurtz 1990, 98). Later it was discovered that Maestri owned stock in the petrochemical giants he was supposed to regulate. As long as oil and petrochemical companies prospered, Louisiana could have its proverbial free lunch and political free-for-all. In the long run, however, these promotional policies and practices would lead the region into environmental devastation and lay the groundwork for what the local citizens call “Cancer Alley.”

Further Expansion of the Chemical Industry Dow Chemical Company’s expansion following World War II typifies the petrochemical industry’s consolidation in the South. Having large operations in Texas and Michigan, Dow wanted to further decentralize, largely in response to two problems. First, labor was easier to manage and control in smaller units and the South was ideal for further development because of its lack of unions. Second, it feared problems with water, waste, disposal, and depletion of resources if concentrated in too few areas (Whitehead 1968, 231). In 1956 Dutch Buetel, of open architecture fame, chose a location south of Baton Rouge, on the Mississippi River, for the site of Dow’s most ambitious new plant. The 1,700 acres it purchased had been used for both cane and cattle and today remains one of the largest chemical plant campuses in the region. Shortly after the opening of the Dow plant—which would produce vinyl chloride, chlorine, caustic soda, chlorinated solvents, and glycol—the 1958 recession hit. The plant managers decided that the savings would come from deep labor cuts. From this experience, Dow and the other petrochemical producers discovered a remarkable trick—retain only the top managers and contract out the remaining labor to a local firm on the basis of low bid (Whitehead 1968, 233). In the 1950s and 1960s fierce competition among petrochemical industries brought a change in plant economics. Automation processes made the hiring of most blue-collar workers obsolete. One regional journal of the period touted that “it is not uncommon to find new multi-million dollar plants operated by a handful of men”(Conway 1952, 22). As the chemical plants grew larger, the cost per unit of material decreased, most of the savings coming from labor economics.

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Case Studies In the 1950s Louisiana went on an all-out campaign to sell itself to industry. Articles appeared in trade journals aimed at attracting new industrial development. One such article proclaimed Louisiana as a leading producer of salt, second in production of gas and sulfur, and third nationally in petroleum production. The abundance of water was creatively phrased in another article: “The importance of this resource is seen in the location of the Esso [Exxon] plant at Baton Rouge that uses more water than the entire city of Cleveland!” (JSA 1953, 14). During this period there was unprecedented growth along the Mississippi River chemical corridor. Standard Oil’s (Exxon) Baton Rouge refinery, the largest of its kind in the world was reporting record growth of over 270,000 barrels of crude processed per day. Shell spent $30 million expanding the capacity of the Norco plant by over 50 percent. Mexican Petroleum, now Amoco, spent almost $6 million in expansion and in new fluid catalytic cracking technologies. But this growth was to look paltry when compared to the exponential expansion the industry was to experience in the 1960s. From 1964 to 1968 petrochemical growth in Louisiana outpaced all other states including Texas. Rapid growth was attributed to numerous factors including: (1) Louisiana’s decision to reduce tax on natural gas, (2) proximity to markets, (3) cheap labor, (4) freshwater for cooling, and (5) a positive political and pollution climate (Nebel III 1971, 51). The Mississippi River provided a large volume of freshwater unlike other Gulf Coast locations. Companies were aware that with the passage of the 1966 Federal Water Quality Act, pollution would soon be a major consideration. Since rivers with a high discharge rate were more resistant to pollution, the Mississippi made an ideal location for the coming regulations. And finally, enforcement was an issue; firms knew that in Louisiana, “political contributions” insured lenient inspections. In 1964, the river town of Geismar, now one of the centers of the environmental justice controversy in Louisiana, was targeted for development by the petrochemical industry. The small, rural, largely African American town primarily relied on small farms, fishing, and cottage industries. The residents, most of whom owned their own homes, had been there for many years but they were ignored as potential employees by the newly emerging industry. One article describing this new growth phenomenon in Geismar states, “the town has no manpower . . . most of the workers . . . commute” (OGJ 1964b, 50). Mobil, MonoChem, BASF, Morton, Allied and others all bought riverfront property from former plantation owners (whites who promptly left the area) and began operations. Chemical networks had by this time become common occurrences along the river as one industry’s feed stock was another industry’s waste or product. Thus a sort of chemical symbiotic networking and piping system facilitated economic production.

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Southern United States: An Environmental History The Geismar industries were attracted by a lucrative government package. The state assured there would be no property taxes assessed to support schools and the other functions of local government. The Army Corps of Engineers was busy on a new stabilization scheme for the riverbanks insuring excellent docking facilities. The state also promised highways into Geismar, which included the new Sunshine Bridge, making the small community accessible to all modes of transportation. And, companies were drawn to the area by the “no politics attitude from the governor’s office” (OGJ 1964a, 114). Resident and environmental justice activist Amos Favorite grew up cutting cane near Geismar and made enough to buy a small plot of land. After serving in World War II as an electronics technician, he was excited when the new plants opened and went to each of them looking for a job. Each time he was told the same thing: they did not hire blacks. Meanwhile his small plot of farmland was polluted, and sometimes plants would wither in the garden overnight. Nine members of his immediate family died of cancer. But he finally became outraged in the early 1980s when an eleven-year-old boy, playing with his dog, chased it into a ditch full of toxic waste. The dog cried in pain and the boy pulled it out and took it home. The dog died that day and the boy died nine days later, his lungs totally destroyed (Allen 2003, 44). Things have not changed, he explains: “You should see this place at night . . . when companies burn off their waste, the air lights up like a battlefield. I’m telling you it’s scary. Nighttime around here is like an evil dream” (Allen 2003, 25).

From “Environmental” to “Environmental Justice” Movement The early environmental movement in the state harkens back to the early 1970s and concern over the well-being of wildlife and habitat destruction. A pivotal figure in the arena was William “Willie” Fontenot who had held positions in both the Sierra Club and the Louisiana Wildlife Federation. Noting the increasing number of spills from industry and the indiscriminate toxic dumping that was taking place around the state, Fontenot began to realize that the state’s environmental problems extended beyond concern for wetlands and animal habitat. Then in 1978 a galvanizing event happened. A young truck driver, Kirtley Jackson, was hauling hazardous waste to open disposal pits near Bayou Sorrel just south of Baton Rouge. The waste from his truck reacted with the waste in the pit and Jackson was overcome by the fumes and died instantly. That same year reform-minded Attorney General William Guste hired Willie Fontenot and created a special position for him as an environmental outreach specialist. For the next twenty-seven years he was to be the go-to person that

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Case Studies citizens could consult if they needed advice on how to navigate the state bureaucracy so that their voices were heard. Fontenot guided many citizens through the maze of paperwork and legalisms resulting in some early positive decisions by the courts and the regulators (Schwab 1994). Some of the first citizens to come forward under Fontenot’s guidance were the residents of the small African American community of Alsen located across the street from Rollins, a large industrial waste disposal facility. Alsen also had two Superfund sites and numerous other petrochemical facilities adding to the noxious mixture regularly in the air. In 1981 the citizens filed a class-action lawsuit against Rollins and won a small settlement when they agreed to release the company from all future liability. Some years later, under the guidance of Florence Robinson, a scientist and resident of the community, the citizens won further concessions from the regulators and industry: the Superfund sites are being cleaned up, many of the most egregious dumping practices have been stopped, and industry has not been allowed to expand in the area. The environmental justice (EJ) movement began to coalesce in the 1980s when poor and minority groups organized to protest the disproportionate prevalence of hazardous materials in their neighborhoods (Bullard 1990; Cole and Foster 2001). While the EJ movement was emerging throughout the United States at this time, Louisiana was home to many watershed events bringing publicity and notoriety to the new struggle. It gained momentum and rose to national prominence in 1989 when hundreds of residents of the chemical corridor participated in the Great Louisiana Toxics March, a ten-day march down the corridor from Baton Rouge to New Orleans. Wanting to bring attention to illness and industrial pollution in their communities, these citizens and environmental activists braved unfriendly police and arrest to publicize their concerns. Around the same time, Greenpeace, who participated in the march, released a study alleging that cancer deaths in the chemical corridor were twice that of the national average (Roberts and Toffolon-Weiss 2001, 47). Though the state and the chemical industry countered with their own joint study showing no adverse health affects, environmental activists had now named the region “Cancer Alley.” The 1980s also saw the loss of three predominantly African American communities along the river due to chemical industry pollution. The towns of Morrisonville (founded 1790) and Sunshine (founded 1874) were both “relocated,” meaning that the homeowners were bought out and the citizens forced to move because of chemical exposure due to their location adjacent to industry. Some years later, Reveilletown, an ex-slave settlement adjacent to Georgia Pacific, was bought out by the company due to contamination. In these cases, most of the residents were scattered and their communities dispersed with the exception of the graveyards, which were left intact.

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Southern United States: An Environmental History In 1991, the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit was held in Washington, D.C., where citizen groups from around the United States converged to draft an environmental justice manifesto. Their concerns were verified by two important reports: the United Church of Christ (UCC 1987) report on “Toxics and Waste in the United States” and the Cerrell Associates Consultants (CAC 1984) report prepared for the city of Los Angeles on siting polluting facilities. The Cerrell report, a how-to manual for locating toxic facilities, launched a firestorm among environmentalists. The report suggested guidelines for disposal and incinerator siting such as: (1) avoid middle and higher income neighborhoods, (2) target communities that are less educated, (3) target conservative or traditional communities (i.e., ethnic, religious, or non-English speaking), and (4) target rural and/or elderly communities. The outcry over this siting strategy, made overt by the Cerrell report prompted the UCC research and report a few years later, which verified that race was a factor in siting unwanted facilities. A pivotal moment, adding steam to the movement, was President Clinton’s 1994 Executive Order 12898 which states that “each federal agency shall make achieving environmental justice part of its mission by identifying and addressing, as appropriate, disproportionately high and adverse effects of its programs, policies, and activities on minority and low-income populations.” This decree was to help fuel one of the biggest environmental justice battles in the United States, waged against the giant Japanese multinational, Shintech. In 1996, with full endorsement of the then-governor, Mike Foster, Shintech applied for a permit to build a $700 million polyvinyl chloride plant, one of the largest in the world, on agricultural land near the town of Convent. The facility would have added over 600,000 pounds of toxic emissions to St. James parish (county) that was already home to thirteen plants and ranked third in the state for industrial pollution. After approaching their elected officials, to no avail, the citizens formed the St. James Citizens for Jobs and the Environment and asked the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic (TELC) to represent them. While the group consisted of both poor whites and blacks, the neighborhood that would be closest to the fenceline with Shintech was almost all black. Through a series of maneuvers too lengthy to discuss here, the state managed to organize a counter African American group that argued that having a new chemical plant was good for their environment and the TELC’s hands were tied so tightly, it could hardly represent clients anymore (Roberts and Toffolon-Weiss 2001; Allen 2003). In 1997, with the help of the TELC, the citizens filed two EJ complaints: one was against the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality for bias and EJ infringements and the other alleged that the new plant’s siting would violate Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Using Title VI, following the presi-

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Case Studies dential order, was particularly powerful as one did not need to prove intent to discriminate, only that the end effect was discriminatory, a much easier burden of proof. This was to be the first test case of using the Civil Rights Act for EJ purposes and the state regulators and industry got nervous. Almost two years later, Shintech and allies decided to drop their plans for a new plant in Convent, before the landmark decisions were rendered, and locate a much smaller facility on the Dow Chemical campus in a nearby parish across the river. In the last few years a fourth African American community, in Norco, has been bought out and dismantled by Shell Oil and Chemical Company (Lerner 2005). Margie Richard, a resident of Norco, tells of a neighbor who was burned to death in a vinyl chloride fire from failed chemical piping in her own front yard. She tells of how her sister died of sarconosis, a respiratory illness, and how four other in this small community have the same rare disease (Allen 2003, 27). People in her community are afraid to be outdoors. A buyout was the only solution. Ironically and sadly, this is the second time the community has been dislocated by this petrochemical giant and it will likely be the last as the people have scattered and their community is a ghost town.

Corporate Versus Human Welfare Today Louisiana’s corporate tax exemption programs are burgeoning with plants like Shell’s Norco facility and Exxon’s Baton Rouge refinery. Under the state’s industrial property tax exemption, both companies avoided paying over $175 million in taxes during the 1980s. The industrial property tax exemption began in 1936 and has become a virtual corporate welfare roll in recent years. In 1944 over 40 percent of all exemption applicants were rejected, compared to 1985 when 3 out of 427 applications, or 1 percent, were denied tax relief (Nauth 1992, 37–39). These exemptions, theoretically incentives for jobs, cost the taxpayers an estimated $85,000 per job. Although many other southern states have this exemption, Louisiana is the only one that grants the exemption without local approval or input. In one particularly outrageous incident, Shell was granted an exemption to rebuild a plant that had been destroyed by fire, killing seven workers. The Norco facility, fully insured, was faulted for improper maintenance, but it was still granted an extra “incentive” under the Enterprise Zone program for replacing the seven workers who had died. Since much of the tax monies that corporations save would have gone to local schools and public facilities, these communities are left underfunded and unable to provide adequate basic services. Many do not have running water or municipal sewage and others do not have even basic medical services.

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Southern United States: An Environmental History Today Louisiana ranks l ast in the number of children that finish high school, second only to Mississippi for the gap between rich and poor, and third to last in adult literacy. The state is also third in the generation and disposal of hazardous waste and first in the nation for cancers attributable to air and water pollutants (Nauth 1992, vii). Risk analysts have given residents living across the street from Exxon’s Baton Rouge Plant between a 1 in 100 and a 1 in 1,000 chance of getting industrial-related cancer. Residents of Norco have been given similar odds (Nauth 1992, 23–25). Aside from claims of elevated cancer rates, other illnesses abound and Louisiana ranks third in the nation in percentage of a family’s income spent on healthcare. According to a seven-parish survey of citizens living within a mile of the river, where most industry is heaviest, 35 percent of the residents suffer from respiratory problems, 21 percent suffer from allergy problems, and 17 percent suffer from other sinus problems (Burby 1995, 2). Marsha Miller, a young mother, testifying against permitting yet another chemical plant in her community, said: “I left my nine year old son lying in Riverview Hospital because he was having severe asthma attacks and I have a $7,500 hospital bill for my son. I have a $3,500 hospital bill for my daughter, and I’m raising my two-year-old nephew who now has a rare kidney disease” (Allen 2003, 70). But the state has done little to study these more common health problems, often dismissing them as the result of “lifestyle choices” such as smoking and drinking. Louisiana has opted to promote itself to industry regardless of the cost to its citizens and their environment.

Conclusion During the early twentieth century, the lower Mississippi region was a mixture of diverse cultures. There were the white plantation owners who had managed to survive the political and economic upheavals of the Civil War. There were the poor whites, both recent immigrants and Cajun transplants from Canada. There were black townships and farms formed during the Reconstruction period as well as the properties and businesses owned by the large free black populations of Louisiana. Though culturally rich by national standards, the communities were economically poor within the emerging industrial economic system. In the short span of European habitation, this region has gone from a land of great riches, both cultural and natural, to the total environmental bankruptcy that it faces today. The landing place of the first Acadians exiled from Canada is now an oil tanker dock. The first African American school building on the lower Mississippi River is in danger of being destroyed by chemical companies.

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Case Studies Even though the citizens have won some victories against the industrial polluters, their main guide through the legal and regulatory system, Willie Fontenot, was, in early 2005, forced to either retire or be fired from his position as environmental liaison to the state Attorney General’s office. Evidently, leading citizens on educational and fact-finding tours of the petrochemical corridor in Louisiana is now considered a breach of “homeland security” policy. Similarly, environmental health scientists in the region are being refused access to information on what chemicals are produced or stored at various facilities in the name of national security. Closing the door on public access to information regarding industrial pollution does not bode well for the future of the environment in the chemical corridor. The clock may be turning back a half century, to the time when the industry policed itself.

IMPERILED AND EXTINCT BIRDS OF THE SOUTH Mikko Saikku Some 11 percent of the world’s avifauna—1,111 bird species—have been identified as threatened in a survey published by BirdLife International, compiler of the famous “Red List of Endangered Species” for birds (Collar, Crosby, and Stattersfield 1994). The highest threat category employed in the list is extinct in the wild, which means that exhaustive searches in known habitats have failed to record an individual, and a taxon is known only to survive in captivity or as a naturalized population well outside its past range. Critically endangered as a threat category refers to a situation where a species is facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild in the immediate future, and endangered where it does not qualify as critically endangered, but is still facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild in the near future. Of the 1,111 bird species listed as threatened, 4 (0.04 percent) are identified as extinct in the wild, 168 (15 percent) as critically endangered, 235 (21 percent) as endangered, and 704 (63 percent) as vulnerable. A further 11 species (0.1 percent of the total) can be allocated to the category of conservation dependent and 875 (9 percent) to the category of near threatened. In other words, over a fifth of all bird species in the world give some cause for concern in terms of global extinction risk. The threat categories are characterized by different probabilities of extinction, and it is thus possible to estimate the number and rate of avian extinctions over the next 100 years, assuming no action is taken on the species’ behalf and making no allowance for new species entering the lists. From this it emerges that some 200 species of birds will likely disappear from the face of the earth within a few decades. According to this survey, the most significant change in relation to extinction

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Southern United States: An Environmental History of birds and many other animals during the last decades has been the accelerating rate of eradication of mature tropical forests in Africa, Central and South America, and Southeast Asia, where the forested acreage diminishes ceaselessly because of cutting and agricultural clearing. The tropical forests are areas of high avian endemism, and they constitute indispensable winter habitat for numerous migrant birds from the Northern Hemisphere. As environmental degradation in the tropics catches up with that in Europe and North America, numerous additions to the list of extinct birds can be expected. It should furthermore be noted that many of the remaining 80 percent of bird species, the category of least concern, are rapidly declining in their overall population numbers, and the process is not confined to the tropics and oceanic islands. For example, a quarter of European bird species have experienced a decline of more than 20 percent in over one-third of their populations in a couple of decades. Similar developments are taking place in bird populations of many other temperate regions and reflect the situation in all terrestrial life form groups. There is no doubt today that our planet’s biological diversity is rapidly deteriorating, and only immediate action across the globe can prevent a major wave of extinctions. What do these sobering facts from the frontlines of today’s conservation biology have to do with the environmental history of the American South? Innumerable studies have shown that birds can serve as reliable indicators of the changes taking place in ecological systems. Birds are also among the most studied of all life forms, and, relatively speaking, an astonishing amount of data exists on the disappearance of many bird species when compared to the decline of many other organisms. Thus a study of the changes in southern bird populations may well illustrate the many-sided ecological effects of human-induced environmental change in the South from its very beginning. The South in the following discussion is identical to the Southeast Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), which includes the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Because of their distinctive colonization history and natural environment, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, also a part of the Southeast Region in the USFWS usage, are not included. On the other hand, Virginia and eastern Texas share many typically “southern” characteristics with the USFWS’s Southeast Region, and have therefore been added to the geographical area covered by this case study. The birds listed in Tables 1 and 2 have been selected from the official lists maintained by the USFWS and BirdLife International. Combined they include the recently extinct or most imperiled full species and subspecies (geographical races) of birds encountered in the South during historical times. The eleven full species and ten subspecies of birds listed in the two tables are well-qualified to

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Extinct and Imperiled Full Bir d Species of the South

Scientifi ficc Name

Common Name

IUCN Red List Classifi ficcation

USFWS Classifi ficcation

PELECANIFORMES Pelecanidae Pelecanus occidentalis

Pelicans Brown Pelican

Least Concern

Endangered, 1970 (partly delisted, 1995)

CICONIIFORMES Ciconiidae Mycteria americana

Storks Wood Stork

Least Concern

Endangered, 1984

FALCONIFORMES Accipitridae Haliaeetus leucocephalus

Hawks and Eagles Bald Eagle

Least Concern

Threatened, 1967 (excluding Alaska)

GRUIFORMES Gr uidae Grus americana

Cranes Whooping Crane

Endangered

Endangered, 1967; Experimental Population

CHARADRIIFORMES Charadriidae Charadrius melodus

Plovers Piping Plover

Vulnerable

Endangered/Threatened, 1985

Ster nidae Sterna antillarum

Ter ns Least Tern

Least Concern

Endangered, 1985

COLUMBIFORMES Columbidae Ectopistes migratorius

Pigeons, Doves Passenger Pigeon

Extinct



PSITTACIFORMES Psittacidae Conuropsis carolinensis

Par rots Carolina Parakeet

Extinct



Vulnerable

Endangered, 1970

Critically Endangered

Endangered, 1967

Vulnerable

Threatened, 1987

PICIFORMES Picidae Picoides borealis

Woodpeckers Red-cockaded Woodpecker

PASSERIFORMES Par ulidae Vermivora bachmanii

New World Warblers Bachman’s Warbler

Cor vidae Aphelocoma coerulescens

Cr ows and Jays Florida Scrub Jay

Notes: Compiled from the species factsheets maintained by Birdlife International and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. See also Mountfort 1989, 211–240; and Ehrlich, Dobkin, and Wheye 1989. The taxonomic order and scientific names follow the list of world’s bird species used in Perrins 1992, 366–432.

serve as indicators of environmental alteration: they differ greatly from each other in many aspects of their biology and can mirror a wide variety of ecological changes. Great taxonomic diversity for only twenty-one taxons is evidenced by the presence of ten out of the twenty-eight to thirty orders of birds, with

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Table 2

Extinct and Imperiled Subspecies of Bir ds of the South

Scientifi ficc Name FALCONIFORMES Accipitridae Rostrhamus sociabilis R. s. plumbeus Falconidae Polyborus plancus [Caracara cheriway] P. p. audubonii GALLIFOR MES Tetraonidae Tympanuchus cupido T. c. attwateri GRUIFORMES Gr uidae Grus canadensis G. c. pulla CHARADRIIFORMES Ster nidae Sterna dougallii S. d. dougallii PICIFORMES Picidae Campephilus principalis C. p. principalis PASSERIFORMES Emberizidae

Ammodramus maritimus A. m. mirabilis A. m. nigrescens Ammodramus henslowii A. h. houstonensis Ammodramus savannarum A. s. floridanus

IUCN Red List Classifi ficcation (Full Species)

Common Name Hawks and Eagles Snail Kite Everglade Snail Kite Falcons, Caracaras Crested Caracara

USFWS Classifi ficcation (Subspecies)

Least Concern Endangered, 1967 Least Concern

Audubon’s Crested Caracara

Threatened, 1986

Grouse Greater Prairie Chicken Attwater’s Prairie Chicken Cranes Sandhill Crane Mississippi Sandhill Crane

Vulnerable Endangered, 1967

Least Concern Endangered, 1973

Ter ns Roseate Tern Nominate race

Least Concern Endangered/ Threatened, 1987

Woodpeckers Ivory-billed Woodpecker Nominate race

Critically Endangered

Buntings, Tanagers, and Relatives Seaside Sparrow

Least Concern

Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow Dusky Seaside Sparrow

Endangered, 1967

Endangered, 1967 Evidently Extinct

Henslow’s Sparrow Texas Henslow’s Sparrow

Near Threatened

Grasshopper Sparrow Florida Grasshopper Sparrow

Least Concern

Evidently Extinct

Endangered, 1986

Notes: Compiled from the species factsheets maintained by Birdlife International and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. See also Mountfort 1989, 211–240; and Ehrlich, Dobkin, and Wheye 1989. The taxonomic order and scientific names follow the list of world’s bird species used in Perrins 1992, 366–432.

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Case Studies fourteen families ranging from pelicans to warblers. From the legendary ivorybilled woodpecker (Campephilus principalis) of old-growth hardwood forests to the imperiled grasslands subspecies such as the Cape Sable seaside sparrow (Ammodramus maritimus mirabilis) and Attwater’s prairie chicken (Tympanuchus cupido attwateri), the stories of their decline can illustrate the versatile environmental history of the South. Why and when did these birds become extinct or exceedingly rare? Human impact on the natural environment of the South has taken many forms from the initial arrival of Eurasian and African organisms to the region through the heyday of “cut out and get out” lumbering to contemporary industrial and residential development. Historical examination of such activities can connect the disappearance or current threat of extinction of these birds to the broader context of southern environmental history. Extinction, of course, is the condition that arises from the death of the last surviving individual of a population or a species. This dire term can indicate an irreversible process—once a species has become extinct, there is no possibility of bringing it back to life. Extinctions are complicated biological processes, and numerous factors usually contribute to the extinction of a species. To evaluate the role played by humans in the imperilment of southern birdlife, I examine the general characteristics of extinction and different factors that may have played a part in the decline of species. A population—or a species—will become extinct when its rate of mortality is continually greater than its rate of recruitment. Extinctions are a natural part of the evolutionary process, and during the last 150 million years innumerable species of birds have evolved and most of them have become extinct. While humans cannot have had any role whatever in the vast majority of these extinctions, there is evidence for human agency in almost every incident of avian extinction during the last fifty millennia. Humans have greatly increased the rate of avian extinctions, considerably reducing the average longevity of a bird species. Some scientists have maintained that during historical times there are no documented examples of continental bird species being extinguished by nonhuman influence (King 1980). The extinction of a species can typically be viewed as a two-stage process, and causes of extinction divided into two classes: ultimate and proximate. Ultimate causes of extinction are the reasons that have led to a situation in which there is a small population, while proximate causes consist of the reasons the last individuals of this population die. The eminent conservation biologist David Simberloff (1986) has divided the proximate causes into four classes: demographic stochasticity, genetic deterioration, social dysfunction, and extrinsic forces. Numerous studies of avian extinctions have shown that after the population of a

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Southern United States: An Environmental History species has decreased under a certain level by ultimate causes such as persecution or habitat alteration, various proximate causes will then come into play and result in extinction. Minimum viable population is a term often employed in this context. It refers to the critical population size below which the population is doomed to quick extinction. Demographic stochasticity refers to the random change in population variables, which is much more threatening to a small population. Small populations also experience genetic deterioration as a result of inbreeding. It must be furthermore noted that once a population has declined to a certain level, there may simply be too few individuals left to stimulate or consummate social behavior. For example, certain species of colonial birds moderate predation losses by synchronous breeding, and thus a decrease in the size of a breeding population typically results in increased offspring mortality. A species may furthermore require some sort of social facilitation for mating and offspring production to be vigorous. A small population may also be threatened by random fluctuations in its environment. Extrinsic forces such as an increased number of predators, epizootic diseases, or adverse weather can easily extirpate a small population. Species with narrow habitat requirements are typically subject to a greater than normal threat of extinction. What have then been the contributing factors for the demise of the twentyone forms of birds under discussion, and is it even possible to find some common causes for the decline of organisms so dissimilar in many aspects of their ecology? Despite the vast differences in their ecology, all these birds have used natural habitats of the South either as permanent residents or seasonal visitors. Some endemic species were furthermore confined to the region at the commencement of European colonization. Thus it is natural to focus on the changes that have taken place in their environment during the last five centuries. The most important development in the southern environment during this period has by far been the settlement of the region by a massive wave of people and other organisms of Eurasian and African origin, followed by a rapid modernization process. What have been the results of this development to southern birdlife, and what changes in the natural environment could have been the most influential in relation to the population levels of southern avifauna? An inquiry in the world’s currently threatened bird species underlines habitat degradation and loss as the most significant threat, and identified forest as the most important habitat for imperiled birds (Collar, Crosby, and Stattersfield 1994). Before the arrival of European colonists, indigenous peoples had been living in the South for millennia. The Native American way of life has often been romanticized and the environmental impacts of their land-use practices downplayed, given that Native Americans throughout the region were clearly capable

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Case Studies of manipulating animal and plant assemblages and creating habitats best suited to human settlements. In contrast to later Euro-American settlers, however, Native Americans sustained relatively small populations and did not aim to maximize their use of resources for market-oriented production. The hammocks and cypress swamps located on deltas of southern rivers and in the Florida Everglades supported enormous rookeries of herons, egrets, ibis, and cormorants, which were customarily used for food by Native Americans. Indigenous peoples of the South also hunted migratory waterfowl and wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo), and killed some other species for their feathers. The enormous flocks of the passenger pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius) were also exploited by Native Americans, both at nesting sites and during migration. Still, it is hardly conceivable that hunting by Native Americans had any significant effect on the populations of any bird species as a whole. European expansion to the South began during the sixteenth century with incursions by Spanish conquistadors. Unlike the early Spanish raiders, subsequent European colonists were to recognize the region’s natural resources as the basis for their material advancement. The economic life of the European settlers in the South became heavily based on agriculture from the beginning, and new cropland was obtained by clearing the forested areas. Large-scale agriculture in the region came to be based on the plantation system and cultivation of staple crops such as tobacco, indigo, cotton, rice, and sugarcane for the international marketplace. The scarcity of labor in the South—initially resolved by using indentured and slave labor—demanded utmost efficiency in its use. Primitive agricultural techniques, cash crops, and insatiable markets insured that southerners would produce major change on the landscapes. In addition to forest clearing for agriculture, trees were harvested for housing, fencing, lumber, and fuel since the colonial times. The intense exploitation of southern forests accelerated during the nineteenth century and has continued unabated to this day. The effects of habitat degradation are evident in the decline of the populations of many forestdwelling birds of the region. The populations of the ivory-billed woodpecker began to shrink rapidly during the latter half of the nineteenth century. This magnificent bird was originally found in old-growth bottomland hardwood forests throughout the South, from southeastern North Carolina to eastern Texas and up the Mississippi Valley to southern Illinois. By the 1930s, the ivory-billed woodpecker was known only from a handful of localities in Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina. Its disappearance was ultimately caused by land clearing and logging on the southern floodplains, which deprived the species of its main food source, larvae of certain wood-boring insects found in abundance only in mature forests. The decreases in

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Southern United States: An Environmental History the ivory-billed woodpecker’s range correlated with the spread of the modern logging industry, and the birds invariably disappeared soon after old-growth timber had been removed (Tanner 1942). Since the mid-twentieth century, the ivory-billed woodpecker has attained an almost mythical status among American birders, whether professional ornithologists or amateur birdwatchers. Intensive searches for any remaining populations of the North American subspecies principalis have been conducted repeatedly, but with no success. On the other hand, the other subspecies bairdii—long presumed extinct—was rediscovered in Cuba in 1986. Unfortunately, the Cuban population seems since to have vanished, and the ivory-billed woodpecker as a full species is today considered critically endangered, if not extinct. The disappearance of the Bachman’s warbler (Vermivora bachmanii) during the twentieth century can similarly be traced to the destruction of old-growth bottomland hardwood forests in the South. Dense understory vegetation of these forests seems to have been an important element for this bird. With European settlement, canebrakes—which were probably important for foraging and nesting of the species—soon disappeared from much of the region. In addition to the massive alteration of the species’ breeding habitat, its wintering grounds on Cuban lowlands have largely been converted into sugarcane fields. By the mid-1950s, the island’s forest cover was reduced to 15 percent of its original extent, and the clearing of Cuban forests for agricultural reasons continues (Terborgh 1989, 60–62). Other southern songbirds experiencing population declines because of the loss of forest habitat on both their breeding and wintering grounds include the Swainson’s (Limnothlypis swainsonii) and cerulean warblers (Dendroica cerulea). Yet another endangered bird of the southern woodlands is the red-cockaded woodpecker (Picoides borealis), which depends on fire-sustained, open pine forest for habitat and cannot survive in the contemporary, young and heavily-managed pine plantations. During the twentieth century, environmental degradation in the South took new forms. The piping plover (Charadrius melodus), a small shorebird listed as endangered or threatened throughout its range in the United States, offers an illuminating example on the effects of new forms of habitat change. After a sharp decline since the mid-twentieth century, the whole population was estimated to be fewer than 6,000 individuals in 2001. The plovers nest mainly on the sandy beaches of the North American Atlantic Coast from Newfoundland to North Carolina, and winter along the Atlantic seaboard and in the Bahamas and West Indies. The birds are primarily coastal during the winter and prefer sandy beach areas for feeding and roosting. The current threats to the plover are new forms of habitat modification and destruction, combined with human disturbance on both nesting and wintering areas. Since World War II,

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Case Studies commercial tourism of unprecedented magnitude has taken over the Atlantic coastline, leading to an enormous increase in the number of hotels, vehicles, and people on beaches. In addition to construction, pedestrian and vehicular traffic seriously affects breeding success of all birds associated with beach habitat. Recreational activities indirectly lower birds’ nesting success by disrupting nesting, while traffic and beach maintenance often destroy their eggs or nestlings. Severely disturbed beach and coastal habitat has been cited as a major problem for, among others, the least tern (Sterna antillarum), the nominate race of roseate tern (Sterna d. dougallii), the saltmarsh sharp-tailed sparrow (Ammodramus caudacutus), and the Ipswich race of Savannah sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis princeps). Habitat destruction after World War II seems to have played a decisive role in the extinctions of two subspecies, the dusky seaside sparrow (Ammodramus maritimus nigrescens) and the Texas Henslow’s sparrow (Ammodramus henslowii houstonensis), formerly found on the coastal salt marshes and prairies of Florida and Texas (Ehrlich, Dobkin, and Wheye 1992, 199). Conversion of coastal prairies in Texas to pastureland or their development for industrial and residential purposes continues to deteriorate critical habitat for many migratory and resident species, including the Sprague’s pipit (Anthus spragueii) and Attwater’s prairie chicken. Similarly, suburbanization and destruction of habitat in Florida are blamed for the population declines of the Audubon’s crested caracara (Polyborus plancus audubonii), Cape Sable seaside sparrow, Florida grasshopper sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum floridanus), and Florida scrub jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens). The wood stork (Mycteria americana), Mississippi sandhill crane (Grus canadensis pulla), and Everglade snail kite (Rosthrhamus sociabilis plumbeus) have suffered greatly from the draining of southern wetlands, which has destroyed much of their feeding grounds and preferred habitat. As a byproduct of industrialization, the pollution of land, water, and air on an unprecedented scale has taken place during the last centuries. At present, oil spills and lethal industrial effluents, even residues of atomic waste, affect southern environments and the birds occupying them. For example, oil and gas development on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts destroys important feeding areas of many marine bird species, including the endangered black-capped petrel (Pterodroma hasitata). The immense energy needs of industrial society can affect bird populations even without harmful discharges; an important cause of death today for fledglings of many large birds, such as the whooping crane (Grus americana) and bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), is collision with powerlines. The use of pesticides and herbicides expanded enormously during the last century, and the unintended victims of human chemical ingenuity were many birds of prey, such as the bald eagle and the American subspecies of the peregrine

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Southern United States: An Environmental History falcon (Falco peregrinus anatum). The worldwide decline of the genera Haliaeetus and Falco coincided with the introduction of chlorinated pesticides, especially the notorious DDT in 1947. Birds at the top of the food chain ingested high levels of the pesticide, which had contaminated their prey. Adult mortalities increased, but the principal effect was damage to the raptors’ reproductive potential through interference with calcium metabolism. Birds affected by DDT and its metabolite DDE failed to lay eggs or produced thin eggshells that broke during incubation, greatly hampering their reproductive success. The brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis), found along the Pacific Coast in California and from North Carolina to Texas, Mexico, the West Indies and many Caribbean islands, is another species affected by pesticides. Resembling the misfortunes of hawks, eagles, and falcons, decline in the pelicans’ southern populations was primarily caused by the collapse of thin-shelled eggs, resulting from ingestion of pesticide residues in their prey fishes. In addition to DDT compounds, polychlorinated biphenyl insecticides such as dieldrin and endrin were blamed for the impairment of the pelicans’ reproductive success. Between 1957 and 1961, the poisons drastically reduced the Texas population and completely eliminated the original Louisiana population, with lesser declines in other southern states. Other factors affecting the brown pelican included human disturbance of nesting colonies and mortalities resulting from the birds being caught on fish hooks. Oil or chemical spills and erosion affecting nest sites were cited among other threats. Because of the drastic population declines, the brown pelican and peregrine falcon were listed as endangered by the USFWS in 1970. During the last centuries the area occupied by original landscapes has been tremendously reduced in the South, and the remaining pristine areas are greatly influenced by different human activities. Thus it would not be difficult to accept physical habitat alteration by humans as the sole cause for the decline of most southern bird populations. This byproduct of European colonization has, however, been magnified by deliberate and accidental introduction of various Eurasian life forms. The European settlers introduced numerous new species to North American flora and fauna, many of which became competitors, predators, or parasites of the original species (Mooney et al. 1986). The colonists also brought with them the diseases of the Old World that were sometimes lethal to Native Americans as well as to the indigenous flora and fauna. The introduction of species such as swine, rats, and cats to North America often had devastating effects on the indigenous avifauna. Along with introductions of various parasites and pests, the European colonists imported an insect that possibly became a competitor for many cavity-nesting birds. The European honeybee (Apis mellifera) soon became extremely abundant in the South. The bees tend to occupy cavities in hollow trees, the very places where many birds nest and roost, and thus

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Case Studies may have prevented them from using the holes. The settlers in search of honey and wax furthermore felled many of the hollow trees, and further reduced the number of available sites for passerines and many other birds which, unlike woodpeckers, cannot excavate their own nesting holes (McKinley 1960, 283). The increasing suburbanization and recreational pressures on remaining prime bird habitats in the South have recently created yet another unnatural proliferation of predators. For example, urban and suburban development has resulted in an increased number of rats, skunks, raccoons, opossums, and gulls, all of which are attracted to large quantities of refuse. This has resulted in increased predation of eggs and juvenile birds and abandonment of nesting areas. Free-roaming cats and dogs furthermore increase chick mortality in tourist and residential areas. The southern environment of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was rich in a variety of mammals and birds that provided a convenient supply of food and made hunting an important part of the local culture and economy. The passenger pigeon offers probably the most famous example of avian extinction caused by hunting (Schorger 1955). Less than two centuries ago, billions of these birds inhabited eastern North America, breeding mainly in southern Canada and the northeastern and central states and usually migrating to the southeastern states for the winter. The pigeon’s diet consisted of various invertebrates, seeds, berries, and nuts, especially beechnuts. The flocks sometimes devastated newly planted grain fields but otherwise did little damage to crops. Flocks of pigeons in search of food roamed around eastern North America in almost incredible numbers and could literally darken the skies for hours. Early naturalists, such as Mark Catesby, Pehr Kalm, Alexander Wilson, and John James Audubon, observed flocks that may have contained over a billion birds each. The pigeons bred in equally impressive colonies, and a typical nesting site could cover thousands of acres. From the 1870s on, the species’ decline was dramatic: the last great nestings took place during that decade, and the last wild birds were encountered at the turn of the twentieth century. A few individuals still survived in captivity, but the last passenger pigeon, the famous Martha, died on September 1, 1914, at the Cincinnati Zoo. Ruthless slaughter by market hunters for human consumption is held responsible for the passenger pigeon’s rapid disappearance. Year after year, countless birds were killed and shipped by carloads for sale in the markets of fastgrowing eastern cities. The hunting pressure declined only after the great nesting colonies had been wiped out and the economic incentive lost. Other possible explanations for the species’ rapid decline include imported avian disease, social dysfunction, and the destruction of its food supply by the clearance of eastern hardwood forests.

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Southern United States: An Environmental History The passenger pigeon was not the only species targeted by the nineteenthcentury market hunters. Many species of cranes, ducks, shorebirds, and grouse experienced severe population declines before the passage of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1916, which established federally regulated hunting seasons for migratory game birds. Some species, including the whooping crane, barely survived but others never recovered from the blows delivered by overhunting. Legislation came too late for two birds encountered on the South’s Atlantic seaboard as fall or winter visitors, the Eskimo curlew (Numenius borealis) and the great auk (Alca impennis), and for one permanent resident, the heath hen (Tympanuchus c. cupido) (Ehrlich, Dobkin, and Wheye 1992, 22, 196, 198). In addition to the pursuit of edible game birds, conspicuous and “harmful” species such as hawks and eagles were widely shot for sport and practice. Persecution for agricultural reasons by the European settlers has traditionally been held as an important cause for the decline of many North American birds. Some species’ habit of gathering at a kill, probably an adaptation to minimize the effects of natural predators, turned out to be a fatal liability against armed human ones. An illustrative example is offered by the now-extinct Carolina parakeet (Conuropsis carolinensis). This single endemic American parrot originally inhabited most of the eastern half of the United States. Over their wide range, the birds were usually found in mature bottomland forests and cypress swamps. The parakeet’s diet originally consisted of various native seeds, fruits, and nuts, but after the European colonization of North America the species became a serious pest in the settlers’ fields, orchards, and gardens. The parakeets were deliberately shot on every occasion, a task made easy by their behavioral patterns. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the Carolina parakeet was still common over its whole range, but soon its numbers began to dwindle. The last unquestionable sighting of the species in the wild was made in Florida in 1904. No concentrated efforts for captive breeding were attempted, and—as in the case of the passenger pigeon—the last known individual of the species died at the Cincinnati Zoo; in this case, the year was 1918. Dates of the Carolina parakeet’s extirpation coincide with the growth of human populations, increased farming acreage, and destruction of old-growth forests in the southern United States. It is conceivable that the widespread killing of parakeets for agricultural reasons, connected with the vast destruction of their habitat, started the species’ decline. There were, however, other forces that contributed to the extirpation of its weakened populations. Aviculture as a hobby increased in popularity on both sides of the Atlantic during the nineteenth century, and flourishing cage bird trade diminished populations of all bird species deemed attractive as pets. Today rare cage birds from the tropics continue to command fantastic prices, but enormous sums are also paid by fal-

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Case Studies coners, especially those from the Middle East, for imported chicks of the peregrine and other rare falcons. The human-reared falcons can then be used to hunt imperiled species such as the Houbara bustard (Chlamydotis undulata), in serious decline over its whole range of North Africa, Middle East, and Central Asia (Mountfort 1988, 18). Remarkably, ladies’ fashion at the turn of the twentieth century had a considerable effect on the populations of many beautifully plumaged birds found in the South, including the Carolina parakeet and the roseate and least terns. Milliners and their customers at the time fancied hats decorated with flashy feathers and sometimes even whole stuffed birds. Among the greatest favorites of professional plume hunters was the snowy egret (Egretta thula) which barely survived in the more remote southern swamps; in 1902 alone, 1.5 tons of feathers of the species were exported to milliners in London (Halliday 1978, 43). The rapid decline of many southern bird populations did not arouse much attention among ornithologists until well into the twentieth century. Conservation ideas were still unusual, and the few laws passed for protection of threatened birds during the nineteenth and early twentieth century often proved impossible to enforce. Only a few biologists or legislators proposed concrete measures to preserve endangered species while the majority of ornithologists concentrated on specimen hunting—a species on the verge of extinction had to be obtained for the scientist’s own collection or museum while it was still possible. Articles describing the collecting of imperiled birds for specimens were routinely published in distinguished journals of scientific ornithology without arousing much criticism. As the rising conservation movement gained momentum, laws—and the attitudes of scientists—began to change, and by the 1930s an ornithologists’ observation of a rare species did not inevitably result in an additional specimen in a museum collection. In addition to the specimen hunting on more or less scientific grounds, the nests and eggs of endangered species were in demand for other purposes. In turnof-the-twentieth-century United States and Europe, oology as a hobby was almost as popular as philately or numismatics, and a flourishing trade existed in the eggs of rare species. When a set of rare eggs could profit a professional merchant even hundreds of dollars, the onslaught on the last known populations of declining species such as the ivory-billed woodpecker and Carolina parakeet was hardly surprising. Oology and excessive scientific collecting motivated by financial and professional ambitions have not ceased to affect the world’s rarest birds; the only known nesting area on Madeira of the critically endangered Zino’s petrel (Pterodroma madeira) has been raided by a specimen-hunting ornithologist. Because of our incomplete knowledge about the primeval numbers of southern birds, their breeding biology, and social requirements combined with

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Southern United States: An Environmental History insufficient statistics of land use—not to mention the fragmented data on hunting or the effects of introduced predators—it is impossible in many cases to confirm which factors contributed most to the decline of the different populations. It is conceivable that three ultimate causes, the vast degradation of the original habitats since the seventeenth century connected with the introduction of various Old World life forms and direct persecution by humans, started their decline. Combined later with various proximate causes, these forces resulted in extinctions and drastic population declines. For example, egg and specimen collecting and adverse weather conditions have undoubtedly accelerated the demise of many species and subspecies as discussed earlier. The early southern settlers or nineteenth-century lumber entrepreneurs can hardly be blamed for understanding the full environmental consequences of their actions; conservation biology as a science emerged only a few decades ago. The excuse of ignorance, however, is no longer valid, and certain measures have been taken since the mid-twentieth century to reverse some of the most negative environmental trends described in this case study. A watershed in the protection of imperiled birds in the United States was the passage of the 1966 Endangered Species Preservation Act, which was promptly followed by other, even more significant legislation aimed at protecting endangered species. In 1972 the newly-founded Environmental Protection Agency placed a ban on the use of DDT in the United States, and since then has also sharply curtailed the use of endrin. Similar prohibitions are also in effect in Canada and most European countries. As a result, the environmental residue levels of these persistent compounds have steadily decreased in developed countries. There has been a corresponding increase in eggshell thickness and reproductive success of many birds, including the brown pelican, bald eagle, and peregrine falcon. Consequently, the brown pelican is currently listed as endangered only on the Gulf Coast, and the peregrine falcon has been completely delisted since 1999, after successful efforts had been made for reestablishing populations using captive-reared birds. Critical wildlife habitat has also been set aside mainly by federal and state authorities, and reintroduction programs for endangered species such as the whooping crane are in progress. While some southern birds have been permanently lost, the ongoing attempts to enforce and expand existing conservation legislation and create preserves for imperiled species in the region provide some hope for the future of southern birdlife. The most important sources for this case study were the continuously updating individual species factsheets maintained by BirdLife International and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. These can be downloaded at http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/species/index. html and http://endangered.fws.gov/wildlife.html, respectively.

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IMPORTANT PEOPLE, EVENTS, AND CONCEPTS

Appalachian Mountains

A beautiful upland region stretching 2,000 miles (3,200 km) from Newfoundland to Alabama, and separating the eastern coastal region from the interior of North America. An ancient mountain range, rising 250 million years ago to great heights and slowly eroding since, the Appalachians in their northern and eastern segments consist of Precambrian rocks (over 540 million years old), and in southern and western

stretches of Paleozoic shale, sandstone, and coal. The range’s many valleys and ridges create numerous microclimates and cut similar climatic zones off from each other, which combined with the southern Appalachians’ warm, moist climate has created an ecologically rich and diverse region. While Indians had long lived in the mountains, English colonists kept to the richer lowlands until Scotch-Irish and German settlers moved in, mainly from Pennsylvania down the Great Appalachian Valley. The poverty of the mountain soil was offset by wealth of extensive hardwood and pine forests, coal close to the surface, iron ore, and granite and marble deposits. Exploitation of each of these resources has brought severe environmental problems. Today, air pollution and acid rain threaten the health of the ecosystem, and are so bad that at the Great Smoky Mountains and Shenandoah National Parks that park officials issue ozone alerts. Extensive areas of dead firs cover Mount Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi River. Coal mining has ravaged large areas. Lumber companies replace rich hardwood forests with pine monocultures. Ar chaic Indians Succeeded the Paleoindian culture around 8,000–9,000 years ago. Archaic Indians used a much broader range of food sources and produced a wide variety of implements, including grinding stones, bowls, knives, “plummets” or sinkers for fishing nets, and elaborate spear throwers (atlatls). The best known Archaic archeological site in the South is Russel Cave in Alabama.

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Southern United States: An Environmental History B a r t r a m , J o h n a n d W illiam

Quakers and pioneering American naturalists. John Bartram (1699–1777), the “father of American botany,” was a member of the American Philosophical Society with Benjamin Franklin, and Royal Botanist for the American colonists. He made scientific journeys into the Alleghenies and the Carolinas, and took his son William on a 1765–1766 exploration of Florida. William Bartram (1739–1823) made his own scientific travels into the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida in 1773–1777. His account, Travels, was published in 1791, and had a much bigger impact in Europe than in the United States. Bartram’s Travels influenced scientists with its scientific descriptions, and English and American Romantic writers with its lyrical prose—among them Coleridge, Wordsworth, Emerson, Thoreau, and British geologist Sir Charles Lyell. Bennett, Hugh Hammond (1881–1960) A native of Anson County, North Carolina, Bennett carried out soil surveys in the South for the Bureau of Soils in the Department of Agriculture and came to realize the extent and problem of soil erosion. His scientific publications culminated in Soil Erosion: A National Menace (coauthored with William Ridgely Chapline in 1928). After 1933, as director of the Soil Erosion Service in the Department of the Interior, Bennett worked for the passage of the Soil Conservation Act of 1935, which created the Soil Conservation Service. He headed the service from 1935 until his retirement in 1951. Ber gmann’s Rule A rule that relates climate temperature to the ratio of an animal’s surface area to its body weight. It states that individual birds and mammals of the same species tend to be bulkier in colder climates; formulated by Carl Bergmann, a nineteenth-century German biologist. Byr d, William (1674–1744) A wealthy planter in colonial Virginia, member of the Royal Society, whose lively and clever “History of the Dividing Line” chronicled his participation in the 1728 survey of the boundary between Virginia and North Carolina. “Cancer Alley” A bitter play on “Chemical Corridor,” a name given to a concentration of petroleum and chemical plants along the Mississippi River in Louisiana that have seriously polluted land and water and left neighboring poor black communities with significantly adverse health effects. Catesby, Mark (1683–1749) An Englishman who lived from 1712 to 1726 in Virginia and South Carolina and traveled in eastern North America and the West Indies. Catesby collected plants and birds, and between 1731 and 1743 produced a Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands, the first published book on the plants and animals of North America, with 220 plates.

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Important People, Events, and Concepts Chavis [Muhammed], Benjamin (1948– )

Clergyman who coined the term “environmental racism.” A native of North Carolina, Chavis graduated from the University of North Carolina and received a degree from Duke University Divinity School and a doctorate from Howard University. He worked with the United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice after 1972. Wrongful imprisonment in the late 1970s for arson affected Chavis deeply. He participated in the 1982 protests in Warren County that started the environmental justice movement (see Chronology). Subsequently Chavis participated in the UCC’s influential study that claimed that toxic waste dumps and facilities tended to be placed in or near poor minority communities. The environmental justice movement achieved government recognition in 1994 when President William Clinton directed the Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies to develop strategies to achieve environmental justice. Chavis headed the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1993–1994, organized the Million Man March of 1995, and joined the Nation of Islam in 1997, when he changed his name to Benjamin Chavis Muhammed. Chesapeake Bay The largest inlet on the east coast of the United States, nearly 200 miles (300 km) long and up to 25 miles (40 km) wide, formed at the mouth of the Susquehanna River basin and bordered by Virginia and Maryland. The irregular, low, marshy eastern shore contrasts with the straighter western shore, often lined by cliffs. Numerous rivers empty into the bay, among them the Potomac, James, and Rappahannock. The English built their first successful settlement at Jamestown, where the James River meets the Bay. Washington, D.C., sits at the head of navigation on the Potomac, while Baltimore is the Bay’s major port city. Colonists attracted by the rich bottomland soil grew tobacco and imported servants and slaves for labor. Fishermen drew a rich living from the huge numbers of fish and shellfish in the nutrient-rich waters. By the late twentieth century, urban and industrial growth around the Bay had polluted the waters and increased their sediment content, and in the 1970s and 1980s commercial and recreational fishing plummeted. Introduced species like the predatory northern snakehead fish from China threaten further ecological disruption. Efforts by groups and agencies such as the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (founded 1967) are under way to restore the bay’s ecological health. Cor n, also called maize or Indian cor n A grain domesticated in Mexico, and cultivated in the American Southwest by 2000–1000 B.C. A diet too reliant on corn leads to health problems: its low niacin content causes pellagra and its carbohydrate content causes tooth decay. Archeologists have found evidence

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Southern United States: An Environmental History of both in excavated remains. Eastern Indians, such as the Hopewell Indians, adopted corn by around 1 A.D. Corn cultivation was typical of the Mississippian culture after 700. European settlers quickly planted corn as well, and took it to every inhabited continent. Southern planters liked corn because it grew with little care and did not take labor away from commodity crops like cotton and tobacco. Corn products are thus hallmarks of the southern diet, and include cornmeal, hominy, grits, corn pone, cornbread, griddle cakes, scrapple, fritters, hush-puppies, and whiskey. Cor n-bean-squash complex Typical Indian agricultural staples of the Mississippian culture, often planted together in the same field, in small mounds. Cotton A shrub common to most tropical regions, which produces bolls containing seeds. The seeds are covered in fine fibers, which are removed, made into yarn or thread, and then woven into cloth. The longer the staple, or fiber length, the more luxurious is the cotton. Long staple cotton needs a very long growing season, and flourished on the sea islands of Georgia; medium and short staple cottons grow well across the Deep South. Ginning separates cottonseeds from the cotton, which is then packed in bales and shipped to textile mills for production into cloth. Cotton’s profitability led to the spread of slave plantations and small farms from North Carolina to Texas. After the Civil War, tenants and sharecroppers grew cotton until the boll weevil and mechanization ended the reign of “King Cotton” in the twentieth century. Douglas, Marjor y Stoneman (1890–1998) Author and environmental activist. Douglas’s 1947 book, The Everglades: River of Grass, successfully concluded her long campaign to protect the Everglades wetlands from development. Ever glades A huge subtropical wetland region covered mainly in sawgrass, which covers about 4,000 square miles (10,000 sq. km) of the southern tip of Florida. Water from Lake Okeechobee flows through it to mangrove swamps along the Gulf of Mexico. On its sandy eastern border lies the growing metropolitan area of Miami. Palm, pine, live oak, cypress, and palmetto trees grow on hammocks, or low islands. The region alternates between a wet season, in summer and early fall, and a dry season, when much of the Everglades seems to dry up. Alligators, birds, deer, cougars, bears, snakes, and numerous reptiles and small animals used to thrive in the region. Until their removal in the 1840s and 1850s, Seminole Indians lived in the swamps because whites would not threaten them there. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, hunters severely reduced the numbers of large wading birds for their plumes and alligators for their skins, and orchid collectors nearly eliminated many once prolific species. Extensive drainage programs have transformed about 20 percent of the re-

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Important People, Events, and Concepts gion for agriculture, which now produces sugarcane and vegetables. These improvements, agriculture, and urbanization of the Atlantic Coast have dramatically transformed the region, disrupting water flow and contaminating water drained from fields with fertilizers and agricultural chemicals. Habitat has been reduced and species like the Florida cougar are endangered. The Everglades National Park, authorized in 1934 but not created until 1947, protects the southwest portion of the Everglades, and has since been joined to its east by the Biscayne National Monument in 1966 (after 1993 a national park) and to its northwest by Big Cypress National Preserve in 1974. Gr eat Dismal Swamp William Byrd of Virginia (q.v.) named this marshland during his survey of the border of Virginia and North Carolina in 1728. Heavily forested by cypress and other trees, it originally covered about 2,000 square miles (5,200 sq. km), but drainage has reduced it to about 750 square miles (2,000 sq. km). The Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, established in 1974, protects about a quarter of it. Originally home to abundant wildlife and rare birds, including the ivory-billed woodpecker, lumbering and fires have eliminated some of them. Wildlife still thrives in the swamp’s interior, and the region continues to be known for hunting and fishing. Gulf of Mexico A nearly landlocked sea bordering the southeastern portion of North America and surrounded by the United States, Mexico, and Cuba. About 1,100 miles (1,760 km) from east to west and 800 miles (1,280 km) from north to south at its greatest extent, it connects to the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean by two narrow channels dividing Cuba from Yucatan and Cuba from Florida. The margins of the Gulf were originally rich in life that resided in tidal estuaries, long sandy beaches, and mangrove swamps, and in the waters of the shallow continental shelf. The waters are warmed by the tropical and subtropical sun. The warm Gulf Stream flows through the southeastern Gulf to the northern Atlantic and keeps western Europe temperate, although global warming has slowed the current and may bring it to a stop. From June through October heat buildup contributes to the creation of hurricanes, which have endangered shipping and communities for centuries. Warm moist air from the Gulf has influenced the climate of the entire South, as it flows northward and eastward to keep the air humid and the ground well watered. The warm waters have long nourished huge populations of fish and shellfish, and supported a large commercial fishery that takes about 20 percent of the total American catch. The abundant seafood and habitat have sustained a large seabird population, famously of pelicans, Louisiana’s state bird. Christopher Columbus entered

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Southern United States: An Environmental History the Gulf of Mexico in 1492 and found a large, thriving Indian population. When introduced diseases, war, and exploitation reduced or eliminated the native presence from Florida to the Caribbean, Europeans imported African slaves for plantation labor. The Gulf has faced many environmental challenges. Hunters of plumes for ladies’ hats eliminated the Florida flamingo and pushed many large wading shorebirds nearly to extinction. The most endangered was the whooping crane, the tallest bird in North America, which by 1939 consisted of only eighteen individuals. Careful protection of its wintering sites along the Texas coast has allowed this species to increase to over 100 birds. DDT and other pesticides killed off raptors and other birds, including pelicans, which had disappeared from the Louisiana coast by the 1960s. Since pesticide regulation began, these birds have regained much of their population. As development and residential construction destroys mangroves (about half of which are gone), wetlands, and beaches, it eliminates or severely reduces habitat, including endangered olive ridley, Kemp’s ridley, and leatherback sea turtles, which nest on shores. Water pollution has also increased dramatically. Levees and flood control projects along the Mississippi as well as channels dug and wetlands drained by oil and gas companies have drastically reduced the sediment deposited in the Mississippi River delta, without which the land is subsiding into the Gulf. Occasional large oil spills pollute the Gulf and kill wildlife. Finally, agricultural fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides run off fields into rivers that empty into the Gulf. Fertilizers cause algae to bloom, die, and decompose, which removes oxygen from the water (hypoxia) and destroys most fish. Agricultural runoff from the entire Mississippi drainage basin empties into the Gulf off Louisiana, and for three decades has produced a yearly “dead zone” that covers around 5,800 square miles (15,000 sq. km) of the Gulf. Hopewell Culture Most notable Indian culture of east-central North America, centered in southern Ohio. Hopewell Indians relied on cultivation of maize, beans, and squash, as well as hunting and gathering; built large and elaborate earthworks; and produced spectacular examples of pottery, carved stonework, polished stone pipes carved in the shape of fish, birds, and animals, and metalwork (mainly copper, but also silver, meteoric iron, and gold). Hypsither mal A period of relatively warm temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere, associated in the South with hurricanes, drought, and fires, and generally dated to 7,000–600 B.C. Indigo An Old World plant cultivated since ancient times for its navy blue dye; an important colonial southern commercial crop in the warmer, moister areas, such as coastal South Carolina, Georgia, and Louisiana.

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Important People, Events, and Concepts Kudzu

A vine native to China and Japan imported as an ornamental plant in 1876 and after 1935 widely planted throughout the South to control erosion. Kudzu’s rapid and prolific growth, its propensity to cover shrubs and trees, and its lack of natural enemies has since made it a serious environmental problem. It is emblematic of introduced species that have plagued the South since the mid-twentieth century, from water hyacinth and fire ants (from South America) to walking catfish (from Southeast Asia). Laur entide Ice Sheet The principal ice sheet in North America, originating in Canada and at its height extending as far south as 37 degrees and in some areas 8,000–10,000 feet (2,400–3,000 meters) thick. Logging The southern timber industry began in the colonial era with the exploitation of southern longleaf pine for “naval stores,” that is, tar, pitch, and turpentine, using methods that eventually destroyed the trees. Lumber and clearing for agriculture forced forests into retreat. Loggers frequently left dead or diseased trees standing, allowing woodpeckers to continue to thrive. Technological advances, particularly the arrival of the railroad, accelerated the rate of logging and allowed access to previously remote places. Intensive logging between 1870 and 1930 removed almost all the oldgrowth forest in the South. Since World War II logging of second-growth pine forests has exceeded replanting by about 40 percent. Lumber companies have increasingly preferred to work in southern states because of their weak regulations. Companies have replaced many forests with pine plantations, which lack habitat for animals. Also, clear-cutting methods leave no dead or diseased trees standing, with the result that woodpecker species are in severe decline. Maize See “Corn.” Mar tin, Paul S. Emeritus Professor of Geosciences at the University of Arizona’s Desert Laboratory. In Quaternary Extinctions: A Prehistoric Revolution (1984), Martin proposed the controversial “overkill hypothesis,” according to which humans were primarily responsible for a massive extinction of large mammals soon after humans arrived in North America 10,000–12,000 years ago. Mesic, mesophytic Of plants: requiring a moderate amount of moisture. In the South, the typical mesophytic forest is a mixed hardwood forest dominated by oaks and hickory. Mining Coal, silver, and gold had long been mined on a small scale in the Appalachian region. Mining increased on a large scale in the last two decades of the nineteenth century as companies dug mine shafts in West Virginia and neighboring states, primarily to feed coal to the nearby steel mills of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Mining brought jobs but also widespread envi-

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Southern United States: An Environmental History ronmental devastation. Huge slag heaps marked the entrance to every mine and leached toxic chemicals into watercourses. Abandoned or exhausted mines left behind barren and eroded lands. Mechanization, declining coal prices, and rising reliance on oil and gas closed mines and brought poverty to the region, and many residents left. Rising oil prices in the 1970s encouraged a return to mining, mainly strip mining with huge machinery if possible, and shaft mining if necessary. More recently companies have adopted mountaintop removal, whereby 800–1,000 feet (140–300 meters) of the mountain is blasted away by dynamite to get at the coal, and the debris dumped into nearby valleys, burying streams. The devastation is enormous, resulting in noise pollution, polluted streams, dust in the air, and flooding. Perhaps 15 to 20 percent of southwestern West Virginia’s mountains have been leveled. Although required by law to protect streams and restore the mountains or develop the level tops, companies frequently skirt or ignore these requirements. Mississippi Delta A broad, alluvial valley along the Mississippi River, stretching from Ste. Genevieve, Missouri, to the river’s mouth below New Orleans, and including 90,000 miles of rivers and streams and 3 million acres (1.2 million hectares). The river bottom encompasses the nation’s largest wetland and bottomland hardwood forest and is home to a profusion of wildlife, most notably of birds. One of the four major flyways in the United States, the Mississippi Delta hosts one-fifth of the nation’s duck species and large numbers of cranes, geese, hawks, falcons, and subtropical birds. Carrying a load of silt drained from the vast region between the Appalachian Mountains, the Great Lakes, and the Rocky Mountains, the Mississippi’s floods and flow built up and fertilized the land around it and over 5,000 years pushed its mouth out into the Gulf of Mexico. Periodically the river has sought more direct routes to the sea and switched course, giving Louisiana’s map a distinctive bird-foot shape. Currently the river shows signs of wanting to flow down the channel of the Atchafalaya, which would shorten its journey to the Gulf by nearly 200 miles (300 km). Because that would leave New Orleans high and dry and leave the extensive petrochemical industries along its shores without access to shipping, the Army Corps of Engineers has constructed huge works to keep the Mississippi in its present channel. Humans have long occupied the Delta region, which boasts extensive mounds left by Indians of the Mississippian culture that are still visible: Cahokia Mounds, Illinois; Wickliffe Mounds, Kentucky; Pinson Mounds, Tennessee; Shiloh Mounds, Tennessee; Winterville Mounds, Mississippi; along the Natchez Trace, Mississippi; Toltec Mounds, Arkansas; Poverty

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Important People, Events, and Concepts Point, Louisiana; and other places. For centuries humans have used the river as a transportation corridor. The rich soil, warm and moist climate, and long growing season attracted European farmers and planters, who have converted over half of the delta to agriculture and planted cotton, sugarcane, rice, and grain. Other settlers, notably descendants of the French Acadians (or “Cajuns”), have made a living from the wetlands, streams, and bayous (from Choctaw bayuk). After the 1890s, lumber companies cut down the vast cypress forests, nearly eliminating habitat for the spectacular ivory-billed woodpecker, North America’s largest woodpecker. Large oil and gas deposits have attracted the petrochemical industry, which has built large facilities along the river in Louisiana. Dams, levees, and locks for flood control and shipping disrupted the natural flow of water, cut off wetlands, and prevented deposition of silt. Without fresh silt, the Louisiana coast is sinking steadily into the gulf. Silt is deposited instead in the river channel, which raises it, increasing the danger of floods and requiring everhigher levees. Since the 1970s environmental awareness has positively impacted construction of flood control projects, preservation of wetlands, and the cleanliness of river water. Mississippian Cultur e This culture followed and continued elements of the Woodland Period. Mississippian Culture was marked by burial mounds and ceremonial earthworks, a chiefdom political organization that usually extended throughout a specific floodplain environment, and widespread trade in prestige goods. The culture’s heartland lay in the central Mississippi Valley, the lower Ohio Valley, and the mid-South, including western and central Kentucky, western Tennessee, and northern Alabama and Mississippi. Oil and gas In 1901 a driller struck oil in the Spindletop field near Beaumont, Texas, east of Houston near the Louisiana border. Oil companies soon found rich fields along the Gulf Coast of Louisiana and Texas. The first offshore rig began operations off Louisiana in 1947, and similar rigs sprouted along the coast and ever farther out to sea. Originally most natural gas was burned at the wellhead, but now extensive pipes take it to markets in the north. Occasional offshore oil spills have killed sea life and fouled beaches. In 1979 the Ixtoc I well off Mexico blew out and created a huge oil slick that washed up on beaches in Texas, 600 miles (1,000 km) to the north. Huge oil refinery complexes sprang up near Houston and on the Mississippi River (see “The Making of Cancer Alley: A Historical View of Louisiana’s Chemical Corridor” by Barbara L. Allen in Chapter 9), polluting the air, ground, and water and endangering the health of nearby residents and ecosystems. Oil companies also have dredged channels through Louisiana wetlands that have unintentionally resulted in their destruction and subsidence.

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Southern United States: An Environmental History Okefenokee Swamp

Marshland on the border of Georgia and Florida, whose Seminole Indian name means “trembling earth,” from the floating islands. A low sandy ridge, Trail Ridge, prevents easy drainage into the Atlantic, and the swamp drains via the St. Marys and Suwannee rivers. The interior of the swamp has defied development, and giant tupelo and cypress trees may still be found. The swamp harbors prolific wildlife, including 175 species of birds and 40 of mammals, and snakes and alligators. Rare flowering plants abound. The swamp’s long, contested history is the subject of the first case study. Paleoindian The earliest peoples in the present-day South; also known as the Clovis people, from the characteristic fluted spear point often associated with them and first found near Clovis, New Mexico. Few undisturbed Paleoindian archeological sites have been found in the South. Piedmont An upland region lying between the Appalachian Mountains and the Fall Line, where it drops to the coastal plain, and extending from New Jersey to Alabama. The Piedmont’s rolling hills are from 300 to 1,800 feet (90 to 550 meters) high, are well watered with rivers, and possess fertile soil. The oak-hickory and pine forests of the Piedmont that the European colonists found were shaped by centuries of Indian fire practices, which left the forests relatively open and preserved grassland openings. Regular fires kept brush from crowding the forests, created habitat for mammals and birds, and encouraged fruiting of huckleberries, blackberries, and dewberries. Settlers found the relatively open land easy to cultivate after Indians were forced away or eliminated by disease. They settled the entire region by 1850 and planted tobacco in the northern Piedmont and cotton to the south. Fertility did not last and poor farming methods, including straightline furrows on slopes, encouraged erosion and soil exhaustion. Several waves of farmland abandonment ensued: after the Civil War, in the agricultural depression of the 1880s, after the arrival of the boll weevil in the 1920s, and after World War II. Most of the former farmland has reverted to forest, usually pines, although some has been cleared and replanted, only to revert to forest again after a decade or so of farming. Pleistocene Epoch Commonly known as the Ice Age, a period from 1,600,000 years ago until roughly 10,000 years ago characterized by advances and retreats of great ice sheets. Rice A crop grown commercially first along the low-lying coastal regions and islands of colonial South Carolina and Georgia. Rice was first grown on plantations by slaves, who probably brought knowledge of rice culture from Africa. Rice production declined after emancipation, although it would

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Important People, Events, and Concepts later be grown in Arkansas, Texas, California, and Louisiana. Wild rice, now a delicacy, is a distant relative that Indians harvested for centuries. Ruf fin, Edmund (1794–1865) Pioneer of soil chemistry. Ruffin experimented with methods to restore fertility to the exhausted soils of his Virginia tobacco plantation, which resulted in publication of his highly influential book, An Essay on Calcareous Manures (1832), which explained the use of marl to reduce soil acidity, From the 1820s through the 1840s he published and spoke widely on fertilization, crop rotation, and other methods of preserving or restoring soil fertility. Later Ruffin won notoriety as a vocal defender of slavery. A fiery secessionist who fired one of the first shots at Fort Sumter, Ruffin committed suicide after the defeat of the Confederacy. Sea Islands A long chain of low, sandy barrier islands off the coast of Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida, between the Santee and St. John’s rivers. Many possessed fertile soil, saltwater marshes, estuaries, freshwater ponds, oak forests, and long, dune-covered beaches. Great numbers of birds make their homes there, and loggerhead turtles lay their eggs on the beaches. Seasonally occupied for thousands of years by Indians, the islands were contested by the Spanish and English. Whites established plantations that produced luxurious Sea Island cotton, as well as rice and indigo. For labor they brought in African slaves, who developed a distinctive English dialect and culture called “Gullah.” During and after the Civil War, the Union distributed plantation land to its African American inhabitants. In the late nineteenth century, wealthy northerners bought some of the islands and established summer residences, resorts, and golf courses. In the twentieth century, the boll weevil brought cotton culture to an end. Construction of causeways to the mainland ended the islanders’ isolation and brought development, resorts, and rapid population growth. The original Gullah inhabitants find themselves marginalized and left out of the new prosperity. The environment of some islands were preserved, for example by creation in 1972 of the Cumberland Island National Seashore in Georgia, but developers put tremendous pressure on both the environment and restrictions to growth, and feral pigs and horses create environmental problems. Sugarcane A large grass cultivated for its sweet sap, the source for sugar and molasses. Originally from New Guinea, human migration and trade spread it into Asia, Polynesia, and Africa. In the fifteenth century Portuguese set up plantations in Madeira to grow it using African slave labor, a system so profitable that it was adopted by other European colonial nations in the Caribbean, Brazil, and southern North America. After the cane ripens and is cut by hand or, increasingly, by machine, the cane is crushed in machinery

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Southern United States: An Environmental History and the sap boiled to produce sugar or molasses, which can be distilled into rum. Tobacco A plant, originally tropical, first cultivated by Indians, which they dried and smoked primarily at religious or ceremonial occasions. Indians throughout the South grew and used it. After English colonist John Rolfe hybridized a commercial variety at Jamestown in 1612, tobacco became the colonial South’s primary commercial export, and would continue to be grown on slave plantations across the upper South. Now grown around the world, it remains a significant southern cash crop, particularly in North Carolina. Woodland Period Following the Archaic Period, the Woodland Period was marked by permanent villages; a distinctive tradition in pottery-making, with specific forms and decoration; greater reliance on planting and tending garden crops and intensive collection of starchy seeds and nuts in the fall; and continued development of tools and subsistence strategies of the Archaic Period. The Poverty Point sites in Louisiana are among the best known examples of this culture. Xeric, xer ophytic Of plants: requiring little moisture. In the South, typically xeric environments have drier, sandy soils and pine forest cover.

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CHRONOLOGY

20,000 years befor e the common era ( B C E )

Height of the last advance of the Pleistocene Ice Age; Laurentide ice sheet at its greatest extent, cooling the Southern climate 16,000 BCE Retreat of the Laurentide ice sheet, signaling a warming trend

15,000–14,000

BCE

Advance of mesic forest northward; earliest evidence of

human presence 12,000 BCE Aside from drier regions where xerophytes thrived, mesophytic plants dominate the forests of the South; first evidence of permanent human settlements 10,000 BCE Completion of climate change to cool-to-warm temperate 9,000 B C E End of the Ice Age and beginning of the Holocene Epoch in the South, marked by accelerated warming across the region 8,000–9,000 BCE Transition from Paleoindian to Archaic Indian culture 7000–600 BCE Hypsithermal period of relatively warm temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere, associated in the South with hurricanes, drought, and fires 4000 BCE Beginning of the Middle Archaic Indian cultural period 2500 BCE Beginning of the Late Archaic Indian cultural period 1500 BCE Earliest evidence of plant domestication, beginning in the TennesseeKentucky region 1200–390 BCE Early Woodland cultural period 390 BCE–575 CE Middle Woodland cultural period; maize (or corn) cultivation begins; bow and arrow technology appears 200 BCE–5 500 CE Hopewell culture flourishes 575–1000 Late Woodland cultural period 700–900 Maize culture spreads throughout the Southern region 850–1700 Mississippian cultural period ca. 1200 Culture located at present-day Cahokia, Illinois, at its peak

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Southern United States: An Environmental History ca. 1300

Collapse of Cahokia leaves Moundville, Alabama, culture as North America’s largest city 1513 Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de Leon and his men set foot in Florida 1528 Panfilo de Navaez leads an ill-fated expedition to the Gulf Coast; survivor Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca later writes a famous account 1537 First major epidemic of Old World disease sweeps through the Indian population of the South 1539 Spanish conquistador Hernando de Soto, veteran of Pisarro’s campaign to conquer the Incan Empire, arrives in Florida with his men, including the Gentleman of Elvas, who later published a Portuguese account of their four-year destructive rampage through present-day Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Louisiana 1564 French Huguenots (Protestants) establish Fort Caroline, the first permanent European settlement in North America, on the St. John’s River near present-day Jacksonville, Florida; destroyed by the Spanish and its inhabitants massacred in 1565 1565 Spanish under Don Pedro Menendez de Áviles found the first permanent Spanish settlement, St. Augustine, Florida, 32 miles south of Fort Caroline 1585 English establish their first colony at Roanoke, in present-day North Carolina, soon abandoned, to be followed by a second colony in 1587, which disappeared in mysterious circumstances before 1591 1607 First successful English colony established at Jamestown, Virginia 1619 The first African “servants” arrive in Jamestown, probably as slaves 1622 Powhatan Indians attack the Virginia colony, killing about a quarter of the English settlers before being decisively defeated and their power broken 1680s Rice cultivation begins on slave plantations in South Carolina 1682 René-Robert Cavelier, sieur de La Salle, descends the Mississippi River, claims its drainage for France, and names it “Louisiana” 1702 The French found Mobile, now in Alabama, capital of French Louisiana after 1711 1718 The French found New Orleans, capital of French Louisiana after 1722 1731–1742 English naturalist Mark Catesby publishes his landmark book, Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands 1742 Eliza Lucas’s plantation in South Carolina produces the first crop of indigo 1775 Daniel Boone leads the construction of the Wilderness Road from Virginia through the Cumberland Gap into Kentucky, through which settlers soon pour 1791 Philadelphia naturalist William Bartram publishes his influential Travels through North & South Carolina, Georgia, East & West Florida

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Chronology 1793

Traditional date when Eli Whitney perfected the cotton gin; improved versions made the production of cotton very profitable, and cotton became the most important agricultural product from North Carolina across the Deep South to Texas 1794 Jean Etienne Boré’s plantation produces commercial amounts of sugarcane in Louisiana; it becomes a major plantation product in Louisiana, and later in Georgia, Florida, and Texas 1803 The Jefferson Administration arranges the Louisiana Purchase, transferring the future states of Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, and the region between the Mississippi and the Rocky Mountains to the United States from France 1830s and 1840s The United States military forcibly removes 100,000 Indians of the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Seminole, and Creek tribes from the American South to Oklahoma, with perhaps a quarter of them dying en route; the removal of the Cherokees in 1838–1839 is known as the “Trail of Tears,” while Seminoles resisted militarily in the Second Seminole War of 1835–1842; significant Indian presence in the South ends after ten millennia 1832 Virginia planter Edmund Ruffin publishes his widely read treatise on soil fertility, An Essay on Calcareous Manures 1861–1865 The Civil War results in the devastation of farms and plantations across the South, and abandonment of farms and towns in upland regions; Virginia, Georgia, and South Carolina were particularly affected 1863 The Emancipation Proclamation, followed by the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, ends the system of slave agriculture; the plantation system is replaced by small farms, tenancy, debt peonage, and sharecropping 1892 The boll weevil enters the United States from Mexico, and within thirty years infests cotton fields across the South and ends the era of cotton monoculture in most of the region 1898 Funded by Cornelius Vanderbilt, Dr. Carl A. Schenck establishes the Biltmore Forest School in North Carolina, which over the next fifteen years would train a generation of Southern foresters; founder of the U.S. Forest Service, Gifford Pinchot had managed the Biltmore forest in 1892, and Schenk had taken over the forest in 1895 1900 A hurricane destroys Galveston, Texas 1904 Accidentally imported from the Far East, the chestnut blight is first observed in the New York Zoological Gardens; it would eventually nearly kill off the American chestnut, one of the dominant trees of Southern forests and historically a major food resource 1914 Last known passenger pigeon dies in the Cincinnati, Ohio Zoo

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Southern United States: An Environmental History John Muir’s A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf is published posthumously 1920 Last confirmed sighting of Carolina parakeets, in Florida 1920s and 1930s Benton MacKaye, a founder of the Wilderness Society in 1935, leads the creation of the Appalachian Trail, which runs from Springer Mountain, Georgia, to Mount Katahdin, Maine 1927 A huge flood inundates the lower Mississippi region, causing the Army Corps of Engineers to plan an extensive system of levees to control the river, with many unintended ecological consequences ca. 1930 The red fire ant, a serious pest, arrives by ship in Mobile, Alabama, from South America, and defies control efforts to become established from Texas to Florida 1933 Congress creates the Tennessee Valley Authority, which transforms the environment and economy of the upper South through numerous dams and reservoirs, rural electrification, tree planting, and other conservation programs 1934 Great Smoky Mountains National Park created in the Appalachian Mountains of eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina, protecting the last virgin southern hardwood forest; designated a World Heritage Site in 1983 1930s–1950s To control erosion, the Soil Conservation Service encourages planting of kudzu, which becomes a serious pest 1936 Shenandoah National Park established in the Blue Ridge area of the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia, allowing an overused area to return to hardwood forest 1947 Marjory Stoneman Douglas’s influential The Everglades: River of Grass appears 1947 Establishment of Everglades National Park, which protects the largest subtropical wildlands still remaining in the continental United States 1950 Appearance of inexpensive compact air conditioners, which quickly spread throughout the South and make the region much more attractive to in-migration; without air-conditioning, the rapid growth of sprawling “Sunbelt” cities from Los Angeles to Atlanta is inconceivable 1979 A bitter battle over the building of the Tellico Dam on the Little Tennessee River ends when Congress exempts the project from the Endangered Species Act or any other Federal law; a “pork barrel” project, the unneeded dam was discovered halfway through construction to endanger the only known habitat of a small perch, the snail darter; after the dam reservoir began to fill, the snail darter was discovered in other nearby streams 1984 Poor black residents of Warren County, North Carolina, protest the siting of a PCB dump in their community, setting off the environmental justice 1916

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Chronology movement in the United States; the protests inspire Rev. Benjamin Chavis to lead a United Church of Christ investigation that alleges “environmental racism,” a pattern indicating the deliberate siting of toxic waste dumps and toxic industries in poor, minority communities; other major actions include protests in Houston, Texas, and in “Cancer Alley” in Louisiana 2005 An ivory-billed woodpecker is sighted in an Arkansas game refuge, the first seen in over sixty years 2005 Hurricane Katrina devastates the Gulf Coast in Louisiana and Mississippi and inundates New Orleans, killing more than 1,000 residents. The disaster also focused attention on the levees and canals that caused the disappearance of wetlands that might have protected New Orleans from the storm surge.

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DOCUMENTS

Gentleman of Elvas, fl fl.. 1537–1557, A Relation of the Invasion and Con quest of Florida by the Spaniards Under the Command of Fer nando de Soto (1686). The earliest European expedition into the heart of the present-day American South marched under the command of Hernando de Soto. While de Soto himself did not survive the journey, one of his company, the “Gentleman of Elvas,” returned to Europe and published in Portuguese the earliest eyewitness description of the Indians and their culture of the century. Europeans arriving in the area a century later would find the number and power of the Indians much reduced by repeated epidemics of European diseases. Indeed, Indians told de Soto that the first of these epidemics had already struck two years before his expedition. In this section de Soto moves from present-day Florida into Georgia. Some of de Soto’s pigs would escape and become the ancestors of the South’s wild razorbacks. —Mark Stoll

Chap. XIV: The Governour [de Soto] leaving the Province of Patofa, meets with a Desart, where he and all his men were reduced to extreme misery The Indians of Patofa . . . knew there was a plentiful and populous Province to the North-West, called Cosa; however, the Cacique [Indian chief] told the Governour that he would furnish him with Guides and Servants what way soever he resolved to go, whether towards Cosa, or towards the Province which that Indian designed. Soto demanded six hundred Indians of him, and so they parted with testimonies of reciprocal affection. We took Maes [maize, or Indian corn] for four days, and marched six by a way that grew narrower and narrower still till at length it altogether failed us . . . This put the Governour into a great perplexity . . . Next day it was debated in Council, whether we should return back again, or take some other course. The Country which we had left

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Southern United States: An Environmental History behind us, was ruined and laid waste, and our provision of Maes spent . . . The Governour had brought with him into Florida an hundred Swine, which had already bred him three hundred Pigs; some of these he caused to be killed, and half a pound of flesh given to every Souldier a day; for all the Maes was consumed three or four days before. Thus the Souldiers kept Soul and Body together, with so small an allowance of meat and some boyled herbs . . . The Governour . . . parted for Cutifachiqui, and took three Indi-

ans by the way, who told him that the Lady of that Country had already had notice of the Christians, and that she expected them in one of her Habitations. The Governour sent back one of these three Indians to offer the Lady his friendship, and tell her that he was coming to see her. So soon as he was in sight of the Village, four Canoes, in one of which was the Sister of the Cacique or Queen, came to receive him; and that Indian Lady coming ashoar, told him, That her Sister had sent her to kiss his Lordships hand; and that she did not come her self, because she was taken up in giving orders to make ready all her Canoes for transporting the Army, and for the reception of so great a Lord, to whom she had devoted all her Services. The Governour thanked her; and some time after she was gone back, the Cacique appeared in a kind of Litter, carried by four of the most considerable of her Subjects to the water-side. She went into a Canoe which had a Tent in the stern supported by a Lance, with a Carpet and two Cushions on which she sat, accompanied by some Indian women of her Retinue, and many Canoes with men. In that equipage she came to the other side, where the Governour expected her, and spake to him in these terms.

Most excellent Lord, may all happiness attend your arrival in this Country which belongs to you. Though my Ability comes short of my Will, and the Services we render you suit not with my Desires, nor with the merit of so powerful a Prince; nevertheless, since the Will is more to be esteemed than all the Treasures in the World, if they be presented without it, I offer your Lordship a firm and constant good will, with my Person, Country, Subjects, and mean Services. Having said so, she presented the Governour with Mantles and Skins, which were brought in the other Canoes, and pulling from her neck a Lace of large valuable Pearls, she put it about the Governours, whom she entertained very pleasantly till a number of Canoes were come, sufficient to carry over the Army: And so long as he stayed in that Village, she took care to send him a great many Pullets daily. That was a very pleasant Country, fruitful and watered with a great many Rivers. It produces but a few bushes, but Nut-trees and Mulberry trees in abundance. The Indians told us, that the Sea was but two days journey distant. Within a League round the Village, there were a great many forsaken houses, wherein the grass grew, which was a sign that they had been a long time uninhabited: We were told by the Indi-

ans that the Plague had been the cause of it; that it had raged in the Country two years before our coming, which had obliged the Inhabitants of these Villages to seek out other Habitations. In their Store-houses were still to be seen a great many Mantles made of stuff, of the bark of a tree, or of white, green, red, and blew feathers, very convenient for the Winter, and very neat according to their fashion. Besides these, there were a great many Deers skins rarely well dyed, and cut into breeches, hose, and shooes. Seeing the

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Documents Cacique observed that the Spaniards highly esteemed Pearls, she bid the Governour send and search in some Tombs that were in her Town, telling him that he would find abundance there; and that if he caused those also of the other Villages to be searched, they would furnish Pearls enough to load all the horses of the Army. The Tombs of the Town were indeed searched, where we got fourteen bushels of Pearls; and the figures of Children and Birds made also of Pearl. The people are tawny, well shaped, and more polite than any we had as yet seen in Florida: They all wear Cloaths and Breeches after their own fashion. The young Indian told the Governour that they began to enter into the Country he told him of; and seeing there was some probability in it, he understanding the Language of the Inhabitants, Soto suffered himself to be perswaded; which made the Indian desire of him that he might be Baptized, and had it granted: he was named Pe-

dro, or Perico; and the Governour ordered the Chain which he had hitherto carried, to be taken off. That Country, according to the relation of the Indians, had been well peopled; it was reckoned plentiful; and probably the young Indian who led us thither, might have heard of it, though he affirmed that he had seen it, having devised all the rest of his story according to the best of his imagination. We found in the Town a Dagger and some Coats of Mail; whereupon the Indians told us, that many years before, the Christians had landed in a Port two days journey from thence (this was certainly Aylhan, who undertook the Conquest of Florida) that the Governour died upon his landing, which had occasioned great factions, divisions, and slaughter amongst the chief Gentlemen that had followed him, every one pretending to the supream Command, so that at length they left the Port and returned to Spain, without discovering the Country. It was thought fit by all that we should stop here, and people this place; which was so advantageously scituated, that all the Captains of ships of New Spain, Peru, S. Marte, and of the Continent, would be over-joy’d to come and Trade in this Port, since it lay in their way to Spain: That the Country was exceeding good, and that it might afford a good Trade and very considerable profit. But since nothing run in the Governours mind but the Treasure of

Atabalipa, and that he hoped to find the like; the fertility of that Country, and the abundance of Pearls, could not satisfie him, though in reality a great many of them were worth no less than Gold; and those which they might have made the Indians fish, would have been of another-guess value, if the Country had been peopled, because they spoil their lustre by piercing them in the fire. Nevertheless, though the Governour was much prest to comply in that with the desire of all his men, he answered, That that Country could not supply us with Provisions enough for one Month; that we could not excuse our selves from going to the Port Ocuse, where Maldonado was to wait for us; and that, in fine, that Country would be always open to us, and we might retreat thither if we found none richer: That in the mean time the Indians would sow their Land, and so we should find Maes in greater plenty. He always informed himself of the Indians, whether they had not heard talk of some great Lord, and rich Country; and the Indians telling him that twelve days journey from Cutifachiqui, there was a Province called Chiaha, subject to the Lord of Cosa, he immediately resolved to go in quest of that Country; and as he was a dry and severe man, though he took pleasure to hear the opinions of all, yet so

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Southern United States: An Environmental History soon as he had declared his own, he could not endure to be contradicted, but did what he judged best himself. Thus all were feign to obey, insomuch that though the leaving of this Country appeared to be a great fault seeing we could have got Provisions from the Neighbours about, until the Indians had sown their Land, and the Maes been ripe, yet none durst oppose the decision of Soto.

Thomas Har riot, A Briefe and Tr ue Repor t of the New Found Land of V i r ginia: of the Commodities and of the Natur e and Manners of the Naturall Inhabitants (1590). A member of the English reconnaissance expedition to Roanoke Island in 1585–1586, Thomas Harriot described in some detail the coastal Indians of North Carolina (then considered part of Virginia) and their manner of living on the land and using its resources. He also described a curious custom they had: smoking tobacco. Hoping to attract English settlers, Harriot greatly overestimated the ease of earning a living from the rich soil. While he emphasized food crops like Indian corn, and predicts how immigrants would supplant native plants and animals with their own, later English settlers in Virginia and North Carolina would find tobacco more profitable. Harriot also describes how he and his company unwittingly spread a disease throughout the region. —Mark Stoll THE SECOND PART, OF SUCHE COMMODITIES AS VIRGINIA IS knowne to yeelde for victuall and sustenace of mans life, usually fed upon by the naturall inhabitants: as also by us during the time of our aboad. And fi firrst of such as are sowed and husbanded. ... All the aforesaid commodities for victuall are set or sowed, sometimes in groundes a part and severally by themselves; but for the most part together in one ground mixtly: the manner thereof with the dressing and preparing of the ground, because I will note unto you the fertilitie of the soile; I thinke good briefly to describe. The ground they never fatten with mucke, dounge or any other thing; neither plow nor digge it as we in England, but onely prepare it in sort as followeth. A fewe daies before they sowe or set, the men with wooden instruments, made almost in forme of mattockes or hoes with long handles; the women with short peckers or parers, because they use them sitting, of a foote long and about five inches in breadth: doe onely breake the upper part of the ground to rayse up the weedes, grasse, & old stubbes of corne stalkes with their rootes. The which after a day or twoes drying in the Sunne, being scrapte up into many small heapes, to save them labour for carrying them away; they burne into ashes. (And whereas some may thinke that they use the ashes for to better the grounde; I say that then they woulde eyther disperse the ashes abroade; which wee observed they doe not, except the heapes bee too great: or els would take speciall care to set their corne

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Documents where the ashes lie, which also wee finde they are carelesse of.) And this is all the husbanding of their ground that they use. Then their setting or sowing is after this maner. First for their corne, beginning in one corner of the plot, with a pecker they make a hole, wherein they put foure graines with that care they touch not one another, (about an inch asunder) and cover them with the moulde againe: and so through out the whole plot, making such holes and vsing them after such maner: but with this regard that they bee made in rankes, every ranke differing from other halfe a fadome or a yarde, and the holes also in every ranke, as much. By this meanes there is a yarde spare ground betwene every hole: where according to discretion here and there, they set as many Beanes and Peaze: in divers places also among the seedes of ‘Macócqwer’, ‘Melden’ and ‘Planta Solis’. The ground being thus set according to the rate by us experimented, an English Acre conteining fourtie pearches in length, and foure in breadth, doeth there yeeld in croppe or ofcome of corne, beanes, and peaze, at the least two hundred London bushelles: besides the ‘Macócqwer, Melden’, and ‘Planta Solis’: When as in England fourtie bushelles of our wheate yeelded out of such an acre is thought to be much. I thought also good to note this unto you, if you which shall inhabite and plant there, maie know how specially that countrey corne is there to be preferred before ours: Besides the manifold waies in applying it to victuall, the increase is so much that small labour and paines is needful in respect that must be used for ours. For this I can assure you that according to the rate we have made proofe of, one man may prepare and husbane so much grounde (having once borne corne before) with lesse then foure and twentie houres labour, as shall yeelde him victuall in a large proportion for a twelve moneth, if hee have nothing else, but that which the same ground will yeelde, and of that kinde onelie which I have before spoken of: the saide ground being also but of five and twentie yards square. And if neede require, but that there is ground enough, there might be raised out of one and the selfsame ground two harvestes or ofcomes; for they sowe or set and may at anie time when they thinke good from the middest of March untill the ende of June: so that they also set when they have eaten of their first croppe. In some places of the countrey notwithstanding they have two harvests, as we have heard, out of one and the same ground. For English corne nevertheles whether to use or not to use it, you that inhabite maie do as you shall have farther cause to thinke best. Of the grouth you need not to doubt: for barlie, oates and peaze, we have seene proof of, not beeing purposely sowen but fallen casually in the worst sort of ground, and yet to be as faire as any we have ever seene here in England. But of wheat because it was musty and hat taken salt water wee could make no triall: and of rye we had none. Thus much have I digressed and I hope not unnecessarily: nowe will I returne againe to my course and intreate of that which yet remaineth appertaining to this Chapter. There is an herbe which is sowed a part by it selfe & is called by the inhabitants Uppówoc: In the West Indies it hath divers names, according to the severall places & countries where it groweth and is used: The Spaniardes generally call it Tobacco. The leaves

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Southern United States: An Environmental History thereof being dried and brought into powder: they use to take the fume or smoke thereof by sucking it through pipes made of claie into their stomacke and heade; from whence it purgeth superfluous fleame & other grosse humors, openeth all the pores & passages of the body: by which meanes the use thereof, not only preserveth the body from obstructions; but also if any be, so that they have not beene of too long continuance, in short time breaketh them: wherby their bodies are notably preserved in health, & know not many greevous diseases wherewithall wee in England are oftentimes afflicted. The Uppówoc is of so precious estimation amongest then, that they thinke their gods are marvelously delighted therwith: Wherupon sometime they make hallowed fires & cast some of the pouder therein for a sacrifice: being in a storme uppon the waters, to pacifie their gods, they cast some up into the aire and into the water: so a weare for fish being newly set up, they cast some therein and into the aire: also after an escape of danger, they cast some into the aire likewise: but all done with strange gestures, stamping, somtime dauncing, clapping of hands, holding up of hands, & staring up into the heavens, uttering therewithal and chattering strange words & noises. We ourselves during the time we were there used to suck it after their maner, as also since our returne, & have found manie rare and wonderful experiments of the vertues thereof; of which the relation woulde require a volume by it selfe: the use of it by so manie of late, men & women of great calling as else, and some learned Phisitions also, is sufficient witnes. ... THE THIRD AND LAST PART, OF SUCH OTHER THINGES AS IS BE HOOfull for t h o s e w h i c h s h a l l p l a n t a n d i n h a b i t t o k n o w o f ; w i t h a d e s c r i p t i o n o f t h e n a t u r e and manners of the people of the countr ey. ...

Of the nature and manners of the people It resteth I speake a word or two of the naturall inhabitants, their natures and maners, leaving large discourse thereof untill time more convenient hereafter: nowe onely so farre foorth, as that you may know, how that they in respect of troubling our inhabiting and planting, are not to be feared; but that they shall have cause both to feare and love us, that shall inhabite with them. They are a people clothed with loose mantles made of Deere skins, & aprons of the same rounde about their middles; all els naked; of such as difference of statures only as wee in England; having no edge tooles or weapons of yron or steele to offend us withall, neither know they how to make any: those weapons that they have, are onlie bowes made of Witch hazle, & arrowes of reeds; flat edged truncheons also of wood about a yard long, neither have they any thing to defend themselves but targets made of barcks; and some armours made of stickes wickered together with thread. Their townes are but small, & neere the sea coast but few, some containing but 10. or 12. houses: some 20. the greatest that we have seene have bene but of 30. houses: if

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Documents they be walled it is only done with barks of trees made fast to stakes, or els with poles onely fixed upright and close one by another. Their houses are made of small poles made fast at the tops in rounde forme after the maner as is used in many arbories in our gardens of England, in most townes covered with barkes, and in some with artificiall mattes made of long rushes; from the tops of the houses downe to the ground. The length of them is commonly double to the breadth, in some places they are but 12. and 16. yardes long, and in other some wee have seene of foure and twentie. ... One other rare and strange accident, leaving others, will I mention before I ende, which mooved the whole countrey that either knew or hearde of us, to have us in wonderfull admiration. There was no towne where we had any subtile devise practised against us, we leaving it unpunished or not revenged (because wee sought by all meanes possible to win them by gentlenesse) but that within a few dayes after our departure from everie such towne, the people began to die very fast, and many in short space; in some townes about twentie, in some fourtie, in some sixtie, & in one sixe score, which in trueth was very manie in respect of their numbers. This happened in no place that wee could learne but where wee had bene, where they used some practise against us, and after such time; The disease also so strange, that they neither knew what it was, nor how to cure it; the like by the report of the oldest men in the countrey never happened before, time out of minde. A thing specially observed by us as also by the naturall inhabitants themselves. ... This marvelous accident in all the countrie wrought so strange opinions of us, that some people could not tel whether to think us gods or men, and the rather because that all the space of their sicknesse, there was no man of ours knowne to die, or that was specially sicke: they noted also that we had no women amongst us, neither that we did care for any of theirs. ...

The Conclusion NOW I have as I hope made relation not of so fewe and smal things but that the countrey of men that are indifferent & wel disposed maie be sufficiently liked: If there were no more knowen then I have mentioned, which doubtlesse and in great reason is nothing to that which remaineth to bee discovered, neither the soile, nor commodities. As we have reason so to gather by the difference we found in our travails: for although all which I have before spoken of, have bin discovered & experiemented not far from the sea coast where was our abode & most of our travailing: yet somtimes as we made our journeies farther into the maine and countrey; we found the soyle to bee fatter; the trees greater and to growe thinner; the grounde more firme and deeper mould; more and larger champions; finer grasse and as good as ever we saw any in England; in some places

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Southern United States: An Environmental History rockie and farre more high and hillie ground; more plentie of their fruites; more abondance of beastes; the more inhabited with people, and of greater pollicie & larger dominions, with greater townes and houses. ... What hope there is els to be gathered of the nature of the climate, being answerable to the land of Japan, the land of China, Persia, Jury, the landes of Cyprus and Candy, the South parts Greece, Italy, and Spaine, and of many other notable and famous countreis, because I meane not to be tedious, I leave to your owne consideration.’ Whereby also the excellent temperature of the ayre there at all seasons, much warmer then in England, and never so violently hot, as sometimes is under & between the Tropikes, or neere them; cannot bee unknowne unto you without farther relation. ... If that those which shall thither travaile to inhabite and plant bee but reasonably provided for the first yere as those are which were transported the last, and beeing there doe use but that diligence and care as is requisite, and as they may with eese: There is no doubt but for the time following they may have victuals that is excellent good and plentie enough; some more Englishe sortes of cattaile also hereafter, as some have bene before, and are there yet remaining, may and shall bee God willing thiter transported: So likewise our kinde of fruites, rootes, and hearbes may bee there planted and sowed, as some have bene alreadie, and prove wel: And in short time also they may raise of those sortes of commodities which I have spoken of as shall both enrich themselves, as also others that shall deale with them.

James Adair, The Histor y of the American Indians (1775). James Adair was a seventeenth-century trader who lived much of his life among the Indians of the Southeast. While his book The History of the American Indians mainly intended to prove his thesis that American Indians descended from the Jews, it included detailed descriptions of contemporary Indian life that today constitute an invaluable and unequaled portrait of a long-vanished culture. —Mark Stoll By the aforesaid difficult method of deadening the trees, and clearing the woods, the contented natives got convenient fields in process of time. And their tradition says they did not live straggling in the American woods, as do the Arabians, and rambling Tartars; for they made houses with the branches and bark of trees, for the summer-season; and warm mud-walls, mixt with soft dry grass, against the bleak winter, according to their present plan of building, which I shall presently describe. Now, in the first clearing of their plantations, they only bark the large timber, cut down the sapplings and underwood, and burn them in heaps; as the suckers shoot up, they chop them off close by the stump, of which they make fires to deaden the roots, till in time they decay. Though to a stranger, this may seem to be a lazy method of clearing the wood-lands; yet it is the most expedi-

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Documents tious method they could have pitched upon, under their circumstances, as a common hoe and a small hatchet are all their implements for clearing and planting. Every dwelling-house has a small field pretty close to it: and, as soon as the spring of the year admits, there they plant a variety of large and small beans, peas, and the smaller sort of Indian corn, which usually ripens in two months, from the time it is planted; though it is called by the English, the six weeks corn. Around this small farm, they fasten stakes in the ground, and tie a couple of long split hiccory, or white oak-sapplings, at proper distances to keep off the horses: though they cannot leap fences, yet many of the old horses will creep through these enclosures, almost as readily as swine, to the great regret of the women, who scold and give them ill names, calling them ugly mad horses, and bidding them “go along, and be sure to keep away, otherwise their hearts will hang sharp within them, and set them on to spoil them, if envy and covetousness lead them back.” Thus they argue with them, and they are usually as good as their word, by striking a tomohawk into the horse, if he does not observe the friendly caution they gave him at the last parting. Their large fields lie quite open with regard to fencing, and they believe it to be agreeable to the best rules of oeconomy; because, as they say, they can cultivate the best of their land here and there, as it suits their conveniency, without wasting their time in fences and childishly confining their improvements, as if the crop would eat itself. The women however tether the horses with tough young barkropes, and confine the swine in convenient penns, from the time the provisions are planted, till they are gathered in—the men improve this time, either in killing plenty of wild game, or coursing against the common enemy, and thereby secure the women and girls, and get their own temples surrounded with the swan-feathered cap. In this manner, the Indians have to me, excused their long-contracted habit and practice. The chief part of the Indians begin to plant their out-fields, when the wild fruit is so ripe, as to draw off the birds from picking up the grain. This is their general rule, which is in the beginning of May, about the time the traders set off for the English settlements. Among several nations of Indians, each town usually works together. Previous thereto, an old beloved man warns the inhabitants to be ready to plant on a prefixed day. At the dawn of it, one by order goes aloft, and whoops to them with shrill calls, “that the new year is far advanced,—that he who expects to eat, must work,—and that he who will not work, must expect to pay the fine according to old custom, or leave the town, as they will not sweat themselves for an healthy idle waster.” At such times, may be seen many war-chieftains working in common with the people, though as great emperors, as those the Spaniards bestowed on the old simple Mexicans and Peruvians, and equal in power, (i.e. persuasive force) with the imperial and puissant Powhatan of Virginia, whom our generous writers raised to that prodigious pitch of power and grandeur, to rival the Spanish accounts. About an hour after sun-rise, they enter the field agreed on by lot, and fall to work with great cheerfulness; sometimes one of their orators cheers them with jests and humorous old tales, and sings several of their most agreeable wild tunes, beating also with a stick in his right hand, on the top of an earthern pot covered with a wet and well-stretched deer-skin: thus they proceed from field to field, till their seed is sown.

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Southern United States: An Environmental History Corn is their chief produce, and main dependance. Of this they have three sorts; one of which hath been already mentioned. The second sort is yellow and flinty, which they call “hommony-corn.” The third is the largest, of a very white and soft grain, termed “bread-corn.” In July, when the chesnuts and corn are green and full grown, they half boil the former, and take off the rind; and having sliced the milky, swelled, long rows of the latter, the women pound it in a large wooden mortar, which is wide at the mouth, and gradually narrows to the bottom: then they knead both together, wrap them up in green corn-blades of various sizes, about an inch-thick, and boil them well, as they do every kind of seethed food. This sort of bread is very tempting to the taste, and reckoned most delicious to their strong palates. They have another sort of boiled bread, which is mixed with beans, or potatoes; they put on the soft corn till it begins to boil, and pound it sufficiently fine;—their invention does not reach to the use of any kind of milk. When the flour is stirred, and dried by the heat of the sun or fire, they sift it with sieves of different sizes, curiously made of the coarser or finer cane-splinters. The thin cakes mixt with bear’s oil, were formerly baked on thin broad stones placed over a fire, or on broad earthen bottoms fit for such a use: but now they use kettles. When they intend to bake great loaves, they make a strong blazing fire, with short dry split wood, on the hearth. When it is burnt down to coals, they carefully rake them off to each side, and sweep away the remaining ashes: then they put their well-kneeded broad loaf, first steeped in hot water, over the hearth, and an earthen bason above it, with the embers and coals atop. This method of baking is as clean and efficacious as could possibly be done in any oven; when they take it off, they wash the loaf with warm water, and it soon becomes firm, and very white. It is likewise very wholesome, and well-tasted to any except the vitiated palate of an Epicure. The French of West-Florida, and the English colonists, got from the Indians different sorts of beans and peas, with which they were before entirely unacquainted. And they plant a sort of small tobacco, which the French and English have not. All the Indian nations we have any acquaintance with, frequently use it on the most religious occasions. The women plant also pompions, and different sorts of melons, in separate fields, at a considerable distance from the town, where each owner raises an high scaffold, to overlook this favourite part of their vegetable possessions: and though the enemy sometimes kills them in this their strict watch duty, yet it is a very rare thing to pass by those fields, without seeing them there at watch. This usually is the duty of the old women, who fret at the very shadow of a crow, when he chances to pass on his wide survey of the fields; but if pinching hunger should excite him to descend, they soon frighten him away with their screeches. When the pompions are ripe, they cut them into long circling slices, which they barbacue, or dry with a slow heat. And when they have half boiled the larger sort of potatoes, they likewise dry them over a moderate fire, and chiefly use them in the spring-season, mixt with their favourite bear’s oil. As soon as the larger sort of corn is full-eared, they half-boil it too, and dry it either by the sun, or over a slow fire; which might be done, as well, in a moderately hot oven, if the heat was renewed as occasion required. This they boil with venison, or any other unsalted flesh. They commonly

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Documents have pretty good crops, which is owing to the richness of the soil; for they often let the weeds out-grow the corn, before they begin to be in earnest with their work, owing to their laziness and unskilfulness in planting: and this method is general through all those nations that work separately in their own fields, which in a great measure checks the growth of their crops. Besides, they are so desirous of having multum in parvo, without much sweating, that they plant the corn-hills so close, as to thereby choak up the field.—They plant their corn in straight rows, putting five or six grains into one hole, about two inches distant—They cover them with clay in the form of a small hill. Each row is a yard asunder, and in the vacant ground they plant pumpkins, water-melons, marsh-mallows, sunflowers, and sundry sorts of beans and peas, the last two of which yield a large increase. They have a great deal of fruit, and they dry such kinds as will bear it. At the fall of the leaf, they gather a number of hiccory-nuts, which they pound with a round stone, upon a stone, thick and hollowed for the purpose. When they are beat fine enough, they mix them with cold water, in a clay bason, where the shells subside. The other part is an oily, tough, thick, white substance, called by the traders hiccory milk, and by the Indians the flesh, or fat of hiccory-nuts, with which they eat their bread. A hearty stranger would be as apt to dip into the sediments as I did, the first time this vegetable thick milk was set before me. As ranging the woods had given me a keen appetite, I was the more readily tempted to believe they only tantalized me for their diversion, when they laughed heartily at my supposed ignorance. But luckily when the bason was in danger, the bread was brought in piping hot, and the good-natured landlady being informed of my simplicity, shewed me the right way to use the vegetable liquid. It is surprising to see the great variety of dishes they make out of wild flesh, corn, beans, peas, potatoes, pompions, dried fruits, herbs and roots. They can diversify their courses, as much as the English, or perhaps the French cooks: and in either of the ways they dress their food, it is grateful to a wholesome stomach. Their old fields abound with larger strawberries than I have seen in any part of the world; insomuch, that in the proper season, one may gather a hat-full, in the space of two or three yards square. They have a sort of wild potatoes, which grow plentifully in their rich low lands, from South-Carolina to the Missisippi, and partly serve them instead of bread, either in the woods a hunting, or at home when the foregoing summer’s crop fails them. They have a small vine, which twines, chiefly round the watry alder; and the hogs ‘feed’ often upon the grapes. Their surface is uneven, yet inclining to a round figure. They are large, of a coarse grain, well-tasted, and very wholesome; in the woods, they are a very agreeable repast. There grows a long flag, in shallow ponds, and on the edges of running waters, with an ever-green, broad, round leaf, a little indented where it joins the stalk; it bears only one leaf, that always floats on the surface of the water, and affords plenty of cooling small nuts, which make a sweet-tasted, and favourite bread, when mixed with Indian corn flour. It is a sort of marsh-mallows, and reckoned a speedy cure for burning maladies, either outward or inward,—for the former, by an outward application of the leaf; and for the latter, by a decoction of it drank plenti-

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Southern United States: An Environmental History fully. The Choktah so highly esteem this vegetable, that they call one of their headtowns, by its name. Providence hath furnished even the uncultivated parts of America with sufficient to supply the calls of nature.—Formerly, about fifty miles to the north-east of the Chikkasah country, I saw the chief part of the main camp of the Shawano, consisting of about 450 persons, on a tedious ramble to the Muskohge country, where they settled, seventy-miles above the Alabahma-garrison: they had been straggling in the woods, for the space of four years, as they assured me, yet in general they were more corpulent than the Chikkasah who accompanied me, notwithstanding they had lived during that time, on the wild products of the American desarts. This evinces how easily nature’s wants are supplied, and that the divine goodness extends to America and its inhabitants. They are acquainted with a great many herbs and roots, of which the general part of the English have not the least knowledge. If an Indian were driven out into the extensive woods, with only a knife and tomohawk, or a small hatchet, it is not to be doubted but he would fatten, even where a wolf would starve. He could soon collect fire, by rubbing two dry pieces of wood together, make a bark hut, earthen vessels, and a bow and arrows; then kill wild game, fish, fresh water tortoises, gather a plentiful variety of vegetables, and live in affluence. Formerly, they made their knives of flint-stone, or of split canes; and sometimes they are now forced to use the like, in slaying wild animals, when in their winter hunt they have the misfortune to lose their knives. I shall mention one instance, which will confirm what I have said of their surprising skill and ability of living in desarts, inhabited only by wild beasts. In the winter of the year 1747, one of the Chikkasah traders went from home, about ten miles, accompanied only by a negro; six of the miles was an old waste field, which the Chikkasah formerly had settled, when they were more numerous. On their return home, within two miles of the outer-houses, while riding carelesly near two steep gullies, there stood a couple of Canada Indians behind a tree, (beside two others a little way off) within a few yards of the path, with their trunk guns, watching two boys then in sight—when the trader and his servant came abreast of them, the negro’s horse received a mortal shot, and after carrying him about a quarter of a mile, on leaping a difficult pass, he fell dead on the spot; the rider’s heels carried him the rest of the way safe: but, unluckily, it did not fare so well with the gentleman, for as he rode a young Choktah horse, which had been used only to a rope round his neck, the reining him with a bridle, checked him, and the French savages had an opportunity to give the gentleman two mortal wounds, with brass-barbed arrows, the one in his belly, and the other a little below the heart; beside two others in his left shoulder. His horse being frightened, sprung off at full speed, and brought him home. The gentleman in his rapid course twisted the murdering arrows out of his bowels, but could not reach those that were deeply lodged in his shoulder. He lived two nights and a day after this in most exquisite tortures, but sensible to the last; when he had been forcibly kept down, a considerable time on the bed, he entreated in the most importunate manner, to be helped to lean his back against the wall, and it would give him ease. At my request it was allowed him—he immediately expired, and it is to be hoped, that, according to his desire, he im-

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Documents mediately entered into eternal rest. While he lay a corpse, and till we the next day buried him, the Indians were silent, and almost invisible. The negro and his master, as soon as they discovered the Canadians, put up the shrill whoop, both to warn the Chikkasah, and draw them against the enemy; this made the two boys to stretch home, which they did a little before sun-set. But the lateness of the day, prevented our friends pursuing, till next morning. By the distance the enemy ran in the night, they for that time evaded their eager pursuers. Some went to the place of ambuscade, and found that the enemy being disappointed of the prey falling into their hands, had pursued till they came up with the negro’s horse, which they had chopped, and the saddle, with their tomohawks, all to pieces. However, about half way between the Chikkasah country and the Illinois, three old Chikkasah warriors, on their way to join the main camp, came up with those Canadians in wet bushy ground;—they closely chased them for several miles, and forced them by degrees to throw away every thing they carried, and seek their safety by leaping quite naked into a deep and broad creek, that was much frozen on the two banks; it was for some time imagined they had perished in the woods, by the severity of winter, but we were well informed afterwards, that like hardy beasts of prey, they got safe home. None of the Indians however eat any kind of raw sallads; they reckon such food is only fit for brutes. Their taste is so very opposite to that of cannibals, that in order to destroy the blood, (which with them is an abomination to eat) they over-dress every kind of animal food they use. I have often jested them for pressing me to eat eggs, that were boiled so much as to be blue, and told them my teeth were too bad to chew bullets. They said they could not suck eggs after the manner of the white people, otherwise they would have brought them raw; but they hoped I would excuse the present, and they would take particular care not to repeat the error, the next time I favoured them with a visit. In the spring of the year, they use a great many valuable greens and herbs, which nature has peculiarly adapted to their rich, and high-situated regions: few of them have gardens, and it is but of late they have had any angelica, or belly-ach-root; this is one of their physical greens, which they call Look-sooshe. I shall now describe the domestic life of the Indians, and the traders among them. The Indians settle themselves in towns or villages after an easy manner; the houses are not too close to incommode one another, nor too far distant for social defence. If the nation where the English traders reside, is at war with the French, or their red confederates, which is the same, their houses are built in the middle of the town, if desired, on account of greater security. But if they are at peace with each other, both the Indians and traders chuse to settle at a very convenient distance, for the sake of their live stock, especially the latter, for the Indian youth are as destructive to the pigs and poultry, as so many young wolves or foxes. Their parents now only give them ill names for such misconduct, calling them mad; but the mischievous, and thievish, were formerly sure to be dry-scratched, which punishment hath been already described. Most of the Indians have clean, neat, dwelling houses, white-washed within and without, either with decayed oyster-shells, coarse-chalk, or white marly clay; one or other of which, each of our Indian nations abounds with, be they ever so far distant from the

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Southern United States: An Environmental History sea-shore: the Indians, as well as the traders, usually decorate their summer-houses with this favourite white-wash.—The former have likewise each a corn-house, fowl-house, and a hot-house, or stove for winter: and so have the traders likewise separate store-houses for their goods, as well as to contain the proper remittances received in exchange.

William Bar tram, Travels Thr ough Nor th & South Car olina, Geor gia, East & West Florida, the Cher okee Countr y, the Extensive Ter ritories of th e Mu s c og ulge s , or C r eek Confederacy, and the Countr y of the Chactaws; Containing An Account of the Soil and Natural Pr oductions of Those Regions, Together with Obser vations on the Manners of the Indians (1791). Son of the famous naturalist John Bartram of Philadelphia and a naturalist himself, William Bartram explored the American Southeast with his father in 1765–1766 and alone between 1773 and 1777. He described his second trip with his botanical discoveries in his Travels, which won him international renown for its science and its prose. Bartram superbly described the plants and wildlife of this region, as well as its Indian inhabitants, giving us a detailed portrait of an abundant landscape on the eve of European settlement. —Mark Stoll CHAP. V. Being desirous of continuing my travels and observations, higher up the river, and having an invitation from a gentleman who was agent for, and resident at a large plantation, the property of an English gentleman, about sixty miles higher up, I resolved to persue my researches to that place; and having engaged in my service a young Indian, nephew to the White Captain, he agreed to assist me in working my vessel up as high as a certain bluff, where I was, by agreement, to land him, on the west or Indian shore, whence he designed to go in quest of the camp of the White Trader, his relation. Provisions and all necessaries being procured, and the morning pleasant, we went on board and stood up the river. We passed for several miles on the left, by islands of high swamp land, exceedingly fertile, their banks for a good distance from the water, much higher than the interior part, and sufficiently so to build upon, and be out of the reach of inundations. They consist of a loose black mould, with a mixture of sand, shells and dissolved vegetables. The opposite Indian coast is a perpendicular bluff; ten or twelve feet high, consisting of a black sandy earth, mixed with a large proportion of shells, chiefly various species of fresh water Cochlea and Mytuli. Near the river, on this high shore, grew Corypha palma, Magnolia grandiflora, Live Oak, Callicarpa, Myrica cerifera, spinifex, and the beautiful evergreen shrub called Wild lime or Tallow nut. This last

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Documents shrub grows six or eight feet high, many erect rising from a root; the leaves are lanciolate and intire, two or three inches in length and one in breadth, of a deep green colour, and polished; at the foot of each leaf grows a stiff, sharp thorn; the flowers are small and in clusters, of a greenish yellow colour, and sweet scented; they are succeeded by a large oval fruit, of the consistence and taste of an ordinary plumb, of a fine yellow colour when ripe, a soft sweet pulp covers a nut which has a thin shell, enclosing a white kernel somewhat of the consistence and taste of the sweet Almond, but more oily and very much like hard tallow, which induced my father when he first observed it, to call it the Tallow nut. At the upper end of this bluff is a fine Orange grove. Here my Indian companion requested me set him on shore, being already tired of rowing under a fervid sun, and having for some time intimated a dislike to his situation, I readily complied with his desire, knowing the impossibility of compelling an Indian against his own inclinations, or even prevailing upon him by reasonable arguments, when labour is in the question; before my vessel reached the shore, he sprang out of her and landed, when uttering a thrill and terrible whoop, he bounded off like a roebuck, and I lost sight of him. I at first apprehended that as he took his gun with him, he intended to hunt for some game and return to me in the evening. The day being excessively hot and sultry, I concluded to take up my quarters here until next morning. The Indian not returning this morning, I sat sail alone. The coasts on each side had much the same appearance as already described. The Palm trees here seem to be of a different species from the Cabbage tree; their strait trunks are sixty, eighty or ninety feet high, with a beautiful taper of a bright ash colour, until within six or seven feet of the top, where it is a fine green colour, crowned with an orb of rich green plumed leaves: I have measured the stem of these plumes fifteen feet in length, besides the plume, which is nearly of the same length. The little lake, which is an expansion of the river, now appeared in view; on the East side are extensive marshes, and on the other high forests and Orange groves, and then a bay, lined with vast Cypress swamps, both coasts gradually approaching each other, to the opening of the river again, which is in this place about three hundred yards wide; evening now drawing on, I was anxious to reach some high bank of the river, where I intended to lodge, and agreeably to my wishes, I soon after discovered on the West shore, a little promontory, at the turning of the river, contracting it here to about one hundred and fifty yards in width. This promontory is a peninsula, containing about three acres of high ground, and is one entire Orange grove, with a few Live Oaks, Magnolias and Palms. Upon doubling the point, I arrived at the landing, which is a circular harbour, at the foot of the bluff, the top of which is about twelve feet high; and back of it is a large Cypress swamp, that spreads each way, the right wing forming the West coast of the little lake, and the left stretching up the river many miles, and encompassing a vast space of low grassy marshes. From this promontory, looking Eastward across the river, we behold a landscape of low country, unparalleled as I think; on the left is the East coast of the little lake, which I had just passed, and from the Orange bluff at the lower end, the high forests begin, and increase in breadth from the shore of the lake, making a

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Southern United States: An Environmental History circular sweep to the right, and contain many hundred thousand acres of meadow, and this grand sweep of high forests encircles, as I apprehend, at least twenty miles of these green fields, interspersed with hommocks or islets of evergreen trees, where the sovereign Magnolia and lordly Palm stand conspicuous. The islets are high shelly knolls, on the sides of creeks or branches of the river, which wind about and drain off the superabundant waters that cover these meadows, during the winter season. The evening was temperately cool and calm. The crocodiles began to roar and appear in uncommon numbers along the shores and in the river. I fixed my camp in an open plain, near the utmost projection of the promontory, under the shelter of a large Live Oak, which stood on the highest part of the ground and but a few yards from my boat. From this open, high situation, I had a free prospect of the river, which was a matter of no trivial consideration to me, having good reason to dread the subtle attacks of the allegators, who were crouding about my harbour. Having collected a good quantity of wood for the purpose of keeping up a light and smoke during the night, I began to think of preparing my supper, when, upon examining my stores, I found but a scanty provision, I there upon determined, as the most expeditious way of supplying my necessities, to take my bob and try for some trout. About one hundred yards above my harbour, began a cove or bay of the river, out of which opened a large lagoon. The mouth or entrance from the river to it was narrow, but the waters soon after spread and formed a little lake, extending into the marshes, its entrance and shores within I observed to be verged with floating lawns of the Pistia and Nymphea and other aquatic plants; these I knew were excellent haunts for trout. The verges and islets of the lagoon were elegantly embellished with flowering plants and shrubs; the laughing coots with wings half spread were tripping over the little coves and hiding themselves in the tufts of grass; young broods of the painted summer teal, skimming the still surface of the waters, and following the watchful parent unconscious of danger, were frequently surprised by the voracious trout, and he in turn, as often by the subtle, greedy alligator. Behold him rushing forth from the flags and reeds. His enormous body swells. His plaited tail brandished high, floats upon the lake. The waters like a cataract descend from his opening jaws. Clouds of smoke issue from his dilated nostrils. The earth trembles with his thunder. When immediately from the opposite coast of the lagoon, emerges from the deep his rival champion. They suddenly dart upon each other. The boiling surface of the lake marks their rapid course, and a terrific conflict commences. They now sink to the bottom folded together in horrid wreaths. The water becomes thick and discoloured. Again they rise, their jaws clap together, re-echoing through the deep surrounding forests. Again they sink, when the contest ends at the muddy bottom of the lake, and the vanquished makes a hazardous escape, hiding himself in the muddy turbulent waters and sedge on a distant shore. The proud victor exulting returns to the place of action. The shores and forests resound his dreadful roar, together with the triumphing shouts of the plaited tribes around, witnesses of the horrid combat. My apprehensions were highly alarmed after being a spectator of so dreadful a battle; it was obvious that every delay would but tend to encrease my dangers and difficul-

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Documents ties, as the sun was near setting, and the alligators gathered around my harbour from all quarters; from these considerations I concluded to be expeditious in my trip to the lagoon, in order to take some fish. Not thinking it prudent to take my fusee with me, lest I might lose it overboard in case of a battle, which I had every reason to dread before my return, I therefore furnished myself with a club for my defence, went on board, and penetrating the first line of those which surrounded my harbour, they gave way; but being pursued by several very large ones, I kept strictly on the watch, and paddled with all my might towards the entrance of the lagoon, hoping to be sheltered there from the multitude of my assailants; but ere I had half-way reached the place, I was attacked on all sides, several endeavouring to overset the canoe. My situation now became precarious to the last degree: two very large ones attacked me closely, at the same instant, rushing up with their heads and part of their bodies above the water, roaring terribly and belching floods of water over me. They struck their jaws together so close to my ears, as almost to stun me, and I expected every moment to be dragged out of the boat and instantly devoured, but I applied my weapons so effectually about me, though at random, that I was so successful as to beat them off a little; when, finding that they designed to renew the battle, I made for the shore, as the only means left me for my preservation, for, by keeping close to it, I should have my enemies on one side of me only, whereas I was before surrounded by them, and there was a probability, if pushed to the last extremity, of saving myself, by jumping out of the canoe on shore, as it is easy to outwalk them on land, although comparatively as swift as lightning in the water. I found this last expedient alone could fully answer my expectations, for as soon as I gained the shore they drew off and kept aloof. This was a happy relief, as my confidence was, in some degree, recovered by it. On recollecting myself, I discovered that I had almost reached the entrance of the lagoon, and determined to venture in, if possible to take a few fish and then return to my harbour, while day-light continued; for I could now, with caution and resolution, make my way with safety along shore, and indeed there was no other way to regain my camp, without leaving my boat and making my retreat through the marshes and reeds, which, if I could even effect, would have been in a manner throwing myself away, for then there would have been no hopes of ever recovering my bark, and returning in safety to any settlements of men. I accordingly proceeded and made good my entrance into the lagoon, though not without opposition from the alligators, who formed a line across the entrance, but did not pursue me into it, nor was I molested by any there, though there were some very large ones in a cove at the upper end. I soon caught more trout than I had present occasion for, and the air was too hot and sultry to admit of their being kept for many hours, even though salted or barbecued. I now prepared for my return to camp, which I succeeded in with but little trouble, by keeping close to the shore, yet I was opposed upon re-entering the river out of the lagoon, and pursued near to my landing (though not closely attacked) particularly by an old daring one, about twelve feet in length, who kept close after me, and when I stepped on shore and turned about, in order to draw up my canoe, he rushed up near my feet and lay there for some time, looking me in the face, his head and shoulders out of water; I resolved he should pay for his temerity,

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Southern United States: An Environmental History and having a heavy load in my fusee, I ran to my camp, and returning with my piece, found him with his foot on the gunwale of the boat, in search of fish, on my coming up he withdrew sullenly and slowly into the water, but soon returned and placed himself in his former position, looking at me and seeming neither fearful or any way disturbed. I soon dispatched him by lodging the contents of my gun in his head, and then proceeded to cleanse and prepare my fish for supper, and accordingly took them out of the boat, laid them down on the sand close to the water, and began to scale them, when, raising my head, I saw before me, through the clear water, the head and shoulders of a very large alligator, moving slowly towards me; I instantly stepped back, when, with a sweep of his tail, he brushed off several of my fish. It was certainly most providential that I looked up at that instant, as the monster would probably, in less than a minute, have seized and dragged me into the river. This incredible boldness of the animal disturbed me greatly, supposing there could now be no reasonable safety for me during the night, but by keeping continually on the watch; I therefore, as soon as I had prepared the fish, proceeded to secure myself and effects in the best manner I could: in the first place, I hauled my bark upon the shore, almost clear out of the water, to prevent their oversetting or sinking her, after this every moveable was taken out and carried to my camp, which was but a few yards off; then ranging some dry wood in such order as was the most convenient, cleared the ground round about it, that there might be no impediment in my way, in case of an attack in the night, either from the water or the land; for I discovered by this time, that this small isthmus, from its remote situation and fruitfulness, was resorted to by bears and wolves. Having prepared myself in the best manner I could, I charged my gun and proceeded to reconnoitre my camp and the adjacent grounds; when I discovered that the peninsula and grove, at the distance of about two hundred yards from my encampment, on the land side, were invested by a Cypress swamp, covered with water, which below was jointed to the shore of the little lake, and above to the marshes surrounding the lagoon, so that I was confined to an islet exceedingly circumscribed, and I found there was no other retreat for me, in case of an attack, but by either ascending one of the large Oaks, or pushing off with my boat. It was by this time dusk; and the alligators had nearly ceased their roar, when I was again alarmed by a tumultuous noise that seemed to be in my harbour, and therefore engaged my immediate attention. Returning to my camp I found it undisturbed, and then continued on to the extreme point of the promontory, where I saw a scene, new and surprising, which at first threw my senses into such a tumult, that it was some time before I could comprehend what was the matter; however, I soon accounted for the prodigious assemblage of crocodiles at this place, which exceeded every thing of the kind I had ever heard of. How shall I express myself so as to convey an adequate idea of it to the reader, and at the same time avoid raising suspicions of my want of veracity? Should I say, that the river (in this place) from shore to shore, and perhaps near half a mile above and below me, appeared to be one solid bank of fish, of various kinds, pushing through this narrow pass of St. Juans into the little lake, on their return down the river, and that the alliga-

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Documents tors were in such incredible numbers, and so close together from shore to shore, that it would have been easy to have walked across on their heads, had the animals been harmless. What expressions can sufficiently declare the shocking scene that for some minutes continued, whilst this mighty army of fish were forcing the pass? During this attempt, thousands, I may say hundreds of thousands of them were caught and swallowed by the devouring alligators. I have seen an alligator take up out of the water several great fish at a time, and just squeeze them betwixt his jaws, while the tails of the great trout flapped about his eyes and lips, ere he had swallowed them. The horrid noise of their closing jaws, their plunging amidst the broken banks of fish, and rising with their prey some feet upright above the water, the floods of water and blood rushing out of their mouths, and the clouds of vapour issuing from their wide nostrils, were truly frightful. This scene continued at intervals during the night, as the fish came to the pass. After this sight, shocking and tremendous as it was, I found myself somewhat easier and more reconciled to my situation, being convinced that their extraordinary assemblage here, was owing to this annual feast of fish, and that they were so well employed in their own element, that I had little occasion to fear their paying me a visit. It being now almost night, I returned to my camp, where I had left my fish broiling, and my kettle of rice stewing, and having with me, oil, pepper and salt, and excellent oranges hanging in abundance over my head (a valuable substitute for vinegar) I sat down and regaled myself chearfully; having finished my repast, I re-kindled my fire for light, and whilst I was revising the notes of my past day’s journey, I was suddenly roused with a noise behind me toward the main land; I sprang up on my feet, and listning, I distinctly heard some creature wading in the water of the isthmus; I seized my gun and went cautiously from my camp, directing my steps towards the noise; when I had advanced about thirty yards, I halted behind a coppice of Orange trees, and soon perceived two very large bears, which had made their way through the water, and had landed in the grove, about one hundred yards distance from me, and were advancing towards me. I waited until they were within thirty yards of me, they there began to snuff and look towards my camp, I snapped my piece, but it flashed, on which they both turned about and galloped off, plunging through the water and swamp, never halting as I suppose, until they reached fast land, as I could hear them leaping and plunging a long time; they did not presume to return again, nor was I molested by any other creature, except being occasionally awakened by the whooping of owls, screaming of bitterns, or the wood-rats running amongst the leaves. The wood-rat is a very curious animal, they are not half the size of the domestic rat; of a dark brown or black colour; their tail slender and shorter in proportion, and covered thinly with short hair; they are singular with respect to their ingenuity and great labour in the construction of their habitations, which are conical pyramids about three or four feet high, constructed with dry branches, which they collect with great labour and perseverance, and pile up without any apparent order, yet they are so interwoven with one another, that it would take a bear or wild-cat some time to pull one of these castles to pieces, and allow the animals sufficient time to secure a retreat with their young.

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Southern United States: An Environmental History The noise of the crocodiles kept me awake the greater part of the night, but when I arose in the morning, contrary to my expectations, there was perfect peace; very few of them to be seen, and those were asleep on the shore, yet I was not able to suppress my fears and apprehensions of being attacked by them in future; and indeed yesterday’s combat with them, notwithstanding I came off in a manner victorious, or at least made a safe retreat, had left sufficient impression on my mind to damp my courage, and it seemed too much for one of my strength, being alone in a very small boat to encounter such collected danger. To pursue my voyage up the river, and be obliged every evening to pass such dangerous defiles, appeared to me as perilous as running the gauntlet betwixt two rows of Indians armed with knives and fire brands; I however resolved to continue my voyage one day longer, if I possibly could with safety, and then return down the river, should I find the like difficulties to oppose. Accordingly I got every thing on board, charged my gun, and set sail cautiously along shore; as I passed by Battle lagoon, I began to tremble and keep a good look out, when suddenly a huge alligator rushed out of the reeds, and with a tremendous roar, came up, and darted as swift as an arrow under my boat, emerging upright on my lea quarter, with open jaws, and belching water and smoke that fell upon me like rain in a hurricane; I laid soundly about his head with my club and beat him off, and after plunging and darting about my boat, he went off on a strait line through the water, seemingly with the rapidity of lightning, and entered the cape of the lagoon; I now employed my time to the very best advantage in padling close along shore, but could not forbear looking now and then behind me, and presently perceived one of them coming up again; the water of the river hereabouts, was shoal and very clear, the monster came up with the usual roar and menaces, and passed close by the side of my boat, when I could distinctly see a young brood of alligators to the number of one hundred or more, following after her in a long train, they kept close together in a column without straggling off to the one side or the other, the young appeared to be of an equal size, about fifteen inches in length, almost black, with pale yellow transverse waved clouds or blotches, much like rattle snakes in colour. I now lost sight of my enemy again.

Federal Writers Pr oject, Works Pr ogr ess Administration, Slave Nar r a tives: A Folk Histor y of Slaver y in the United States fr om Inter views with For mer Slaves, Washington, D.C.: Librar y of Congr ess, 1941. In the 1930s, the Works Progress Administration began a project collecting narratives of slavery and Reconstruction from elderly African Americans. A number of the subjects recalled the ways that they made use of the natural landscape. —Mark Stoll Interviewer: Irene Robertson Subject: Ex-Slave-Hunting

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Documents Story:—Information This information given by: Henry Walker Place of Residence: Hazen, Arkansas Occupation: Farmer. Age: 78 Henry Walker was born nine miles south of Nashville, Tennessee. Remembered the soldiers and ran to the windows to see them pass. One day he saw a lot of soldiers coming to the house. Henry ran in ahead and said out loud, “them Yankeys are coming up here.” The mistress slapped Henry, hid him and slammed the doors. The soldiers did not get in but they did other damage that day. They took all the mules out of the lot and drove them away. They filled their “dugout wagons” with corn. A dugout wagon would hold nearly a crib full of corn. They were high in front and back and came down to a point, nearly touched the ground between the wheels. The wheels had pens [pins] instead of axles in them. The children ran like pigs every morning. The pigs ran to eat acorns and the children—white and black—to pick up chestnuts, scaly barks and hickory nuts. There were

lots of black walnuts. “We had barrels of nuts to eat all winter and the mistress sold some every year at Nashville, Tennessee. The woods were full of nut trees and we had a few maple and sweet gum trees. We simmered down maple sap for brown sugar and chewed the sweet gum. We picked up chips to simmer the sweet maple sap down. We used elder tree wood to make faucets for syrup barrels. There were chenquipins [chinquapins] down in the swamps that the children gathered.” Henry Walker said that they were sent upon the hills to find ginsing [ginseng] and often found long beds of it. They put it in sacks and a man came and bought it from the mistress. The mistress’ name was Mrs. Williams. She kept the money for the ginsing and nuts too when she sold them . . . Henry said Mr. Williams let him carry his gun hunting with him and taught him how to shoot squirrels. They were plentiful. He had a lot of dogs. The master went to the deer stand and Henry managed the twelve hounds. He didn’t like to fox hunt. About a hundred men and thirty dogs, horns, etc. out for the chase. They came from Nashville and in the country. A fox make three rounds from where he is jumped and then widens out. They brought “fine whiskey” out on the chases . . . Mr. Williams set aside a certain number of acres of land every year to be cleared, fenced and broke for cultivation by spring. Six or eight men worked together. They used tong-hand sticks to carry the logs to the piles where they were burning them. A saw was a side show, they used mall, axe and wedge. After the log rolling there would be a big supper and a good one. The visitors got what they wanted from the table first. “That was manners.” JOHN F. VAN HOOK Newton Bridge Road Athens, Georgia Written by: Mrs. Sadie B. Hornsby, Area 6, Athens

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Southern United States: An Environmental History . . .“Until I retired,” he remarked, “I taught school in North Carolina, and in Hall, Jackson, and Rabun Counties, in Georgia. I am farming now about five miles from Athens in the Sandy Creek district. I was born in 1862 in Macon County, North Carolina, on the George Seller’s plantation, which borders the Little Tennessee River. . . .“Our quarters was on a large farm on Sugar Fork River. The houses were what you would call log huts and they were scattered about promiscuously, no regular lay-out, just built wherever they happened to find a good spring convenient. . . . “What did we have to eat then? Why, most everything: ash cakes was a mighty go then. Cornbread dough was made into little pones and placed on the hot rocks close to the fire to dry out a little, then hot ashes were raked out to the front of the fireplace and piled over the ash cakes. When thoroughly done they were taken out and the ashes washed off; they were just like cake to us children then. We ate lots of home-made lye hominy, beans, peas, and all kinds of greens, cooked with fat meat. The biggest, and maybe the best thing in the way of vegetables that we had then was the white-head cabbage; they grew large up there in Carolina where I lived. There was just one garden to feed all the folks on that farm. “Marse George had a good ’possum dog that he let his slaves use at night. They would start off hunting about 10 o’clock. Darkies knew that the best place to hunt for ’possums was in a persimmon tree. If they couldn’t shake him out, they would cut the tree down, but the most fun was when we found the ’possum in a hollow log. Some of the hunters would get at one end of the log, and the others would guard the other end, and they would build a fire to smoke the ’possum out. Sometimes they had to pull him out, they would find the ’possum in such a tight place that most of his hair would be rubbed off before they could get him out. Darkies hunted rabbits, squirrels, coons, all kinds of birds, and ’specially they was fond of going after wild turkeys. Another great sport was hunting deer in the nearby mountains. I managed to get a shot at one once. Marse George was right good about letting his darkies hunt and fish at night to get meat for themselves. Oh! sure, there were lots of fish and they caught plenty of ’em in the Little Tennessee and Sugar Fork Rivers and in the numerous creeks that were close by. Red horse, suckers, and salmon are the kinds of fish I remember best. They were cooked in various ways in skillets, spiders [skillets], and ovens on the big open fireplace. . . .“We caught real salmon in the mountain streams,” John remarked. “They weighed from 3 to 25 pounds, and kind of favored a jack fish, only jack fishes have duck bills, and these salmon had saw teeth. They were powerful jumpers and when you hooked one you had a fight on your hands to get it to the bank no matter whether it weighed 3 or 25 pounds. The gamest of all the fish in those mountain streams were red horses. When I was about 9 or 10 years old I took my brother’s fish gig and went off down to the river. I saw what looked like the shadow of a stick in the clear water and when I thrust the gig at it I found mighty quick I had gigged a red horse. I did my best to land it but it was too strong for me and pulled loose from my gig and darted out into deep water. I ran fast as I could up the river bank to the horseshoe bend where a flat bottom boat belonging to our family was tied. I got in that boat and chased the fish ’til I got him. It weighed 6 pounds and was 2 feet

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Documents and 6 inches long. There was plenty of excitement created around that plantation when the news got around that a boy, as little as I was then, had landed such a big old fighting fish. “Suckers were plentiful and easy to catch but they did not give you the battle that a salmon or a red horse could put up and that was what it took to make fishing fun. We had canoes, but we used a plain old flat boat, a good deal like a small ferry boat, most of the time . . . “As long as we were their property our masters were mighty careful to have us doctored up right when there was the least sign of sickness . . . “After the war we were slower to call in doctors because we had no money, and that’s how I lost my good right eye. If I had gone to a doctor when it first got hurt it would have been all right now. When we didn’t have money we used to pay the doctor with corn, fodder, wheat, chickens, pork, or anything we had that he wanted. “We learned to use lots of herbs and other home-made remedies during the war when medicine was scarce at the stores, and some old folks still use these simple teas and poultices. Comfrey was a herb used much for poultices on risings, boils, and the like, and tea made from it is said to be soothing to the nerves. Garlic tea was much used for worms, but it was also counted a good pneumonia remedy, and garlic poultices helped folks to breathe when they had grippe or pneumonia. Boneset tea was for colds. Goldenrod was used leaf, stem, blossom, and all in various ways, chiefly for fever and coughs. Black snake root was a good cure for childbed fever, and it saved the life of my second wife after her last child was born. Slippery ellum [elm] was used for poultices to heal burns, bruises, and any abrasions, and we gargled slippery ellum tea to heal sore throats, but red oak bark tea was our best sore throat remedy. For indigestion and shortness of breath we chewed calamus root or drank tea made from it. In fact, we still think it might useful for those purposes. It was a long time after the war before there were any darkies with enough medical education to practice as doctors. Dr. Doyle in Gainesville was the first colored physician that I ever saw . . .” Laney [his wife] had quietly left the room, but as the visitors were taking their departure she returned with a small package. “This,” she explained, “is some calamus root that I raised and dried myself, and I hope it comes in handy whenever you ladies need something for the indigestion.” JOHN LOVE, 76, was born near Crockett, Texas, a slave of John Smelley. John tells of the days of Reconstruction, and life in the river bottoms. He now lives in Marlin, Texas. “I’s born on de Neches River and spends all my earlies’ life right down in de river bottoms, ’cause I done live in de Brazos bottom, too . . . “It was wild down in de Neches bottom den, plenty bears and panthers and deers and wolves and catamounts, and all kind birds and wild turkeys. Jes’ a li’l huntin’ most allus fill de pot dem days . . . “I knows why dat boll-weevil done come. Dey say he come from Mexico, but I think he allus been here. Away back yonder a spider live in de country, ’specially in de bottoms. He live on de cotton leaves and stalks, but he don’t hurt it. Dese spiders kep’ de

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Southern United States: An Environmental History insects eat up. Dey don’t plow deep den, and plants cotton in February, so it made ’fore de insects git bad. “Den dey gits to plowin’ deep, and it am colder ’cause de trees all cut, and dey plows up all de spiders and de cold kill dem. Dey plants later, and dere ain’t no spiders left to eat up the boll-weevil.”

Fr ederick Law Olmsted, The cotton kingdom: a traveller ’s obser vations on cotton and slaver y in the American slave states (1861). Before he became America’s leading landscape architect of the nineteenth century, Frederick Law Olmsted was a well-known journalist. The New York Daily Times commissioned him to travel widely throughout the South, and his reports were gathered in several books, of which the last, The Cotton Kingdom of 1861, was perhaps best known and most influential. His reports create a vivid picture of Southern life and especially of Southern slavery, which he came to condemn as not only immoral but economically inefficient as well. Here he describes the environmental effects of plantation agriculture. —Mark Stoll Not far north of the ridge, plantations are found again, though the character of the surface changes but little. The hill-sides are carefully ploughed so that each furrow forms a contour line. After the first ploughing the same lines are followed in subsequent cultivation, year in and year out, as long as enough soil remains to grow cotton upon with profit. On the hills recently brought into cultivation, broad, serpentine ditches, having a fall of from two to four inches in a rod, have been frequently constructed: these are intended to prevent the formation of gullies leading more directly down the hill during heavy rains. But all these precautions are not fully successful, the cultivated hills, in spite of them, losing soil every year in a melancholy manner. I passed during the day four or five large plantations, the hill-sides worn, cleft, and channelled like icebergs; stables and negro quarters all abandoned, and everything given up to nature and decay. In its natural state the virgin soil appears the richest I have ever seen, the growth upon it from weeds to trees being invariably rank and rich in colour. At first it is expected to bear a bale and a half of cotton to the acre, making eight or ten bales for each able field-hand. But from the cause described its productiveness rapidly decreases. Originally, much of this country was covered by a natural growth of cane, and by various nutritious grasses. A good northern farmer would deem it a crying shame and sin to attempt to grow any crops upon such steep slopes, except grasses or shrubs which do not require tillage. The waste of soil which attends the practice is much greater than it

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Documents would be at the North, and, notwithstanding the unappeasable demand of the world for cotton, its bad economy, considering the subject nationally, cannot be doubted. If these slopes were thrown into permanent terraces, with turfed or stone-faced escarpments, the fertility of the soil might be preserved, even with constant tillage. In this way the hills would continue for ages to produce annual crops of greater value than those which are at present obtained from them at such destructive expense—from ten to twenty crops of cotton rendering them absolute deserts. But with negroes at fourteen hundred dollars a head, and fresh land in Texas at half a dollar an acre, nothing of this sort can be thought of. The time will probably come when the soil now washing into the adjoining swamps will be brought back by our descendants, perhaps on their heads, in pots and baskets, in the manner Hue describes in China,—and which may be seen also in the Rhenish vineyards,—to be relaid on these sunny slopes, to grow the luxurious cotton in.

Alfr ed R. Waud “Sketches of a Rice Plantation” H a r p e r ’s Weekly, Januar y 5, 1867. As Alfred Waud’s illustrations of both the rice and the cotton plantations suggest, the labor opportunities and patterns for southern blacks did not change greatly after the Civil War, especially with the retreat from Reconstruction policies in the late 1860s and early 1870s. Most freedpeople had agricultural skills and little or no money to buy their own land or to invest in a business. Consequently, they continued to work on the plantations of their former masters. Some freedpeople were eventually able to rent land from white landowners (tenancy) or to share the crop costs and profits with the white landowners (sharecropping). The South had been economically devastated by the Civil War and it took a long time to recover. The general privation of the South combined with the legal and social restrictions based on race, the lack of economic resources available to blacks, and the economic arrangements of tenancy and sharecropping kept most southern blacks in a state of economic dependence and poverty. —Donald E. Davis The planters of the South have always fostered an idea that there was an unusual risk to the unacclimated in Southern farming, and particularly has this been claimed to be the case in rice culture, although it is very doubtful if the rice country is much if any worse than the river bottoms of the West, so attractive to emigration. The operations of the rice plantation commence with ditching the fields to facilitate flooding, the water being distributed by a system of canals and flood-gates. The ground is then prepared either by the hoe or plow—the latter being decidedly the best, although considered an innovation by the bigoted old planters; the weeds and wild rice, or volunteer crop, as it is called is killed, and the ground trenched for planting.

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Southern United States: An Environmental History The rice is sown rapidly, as the negroes generally take a trotting gait as they drop it in the furrows, which are cut very straight. The sprout-water is now let on, and the fields remain flooded for eight or nine days, after which it is drawn off, and the rice allowed to put out leaf; and when it has reached two or three inches in height it is again flooded with what is technically called stretch-water, care being taken not to drown the rice, which must be perceptible above the water. The rice having advanced to the proper height the water is slowly drawn off that the rice, which it supports, may not fall to the ground, and, after an interval of a week or ten days, the ground is pronounced dry enough for first hoeing, which is immediately followed by the second. The water is then put on again and performs the double duty of nourishing and bearing up the rice and keeping down the growth of weeds. It is at this time that malaria is apt to arise, the water, which is only changed at intervals of two weeks, getting sour and stagnant. This flooding is kept up with the changes of the tide—being careful not to stretch the rice too much—till the time arrives for harvest-water, which is the last flooding, and is kept on longer than the previous ones. The rice being ripe and the water finally drawn off, when the fields are dry enough the reapers enter, and cut the crop, which is at once carried to the threshing-mill, as it is necessary that it should be threshed as fast as it is cut, 500 to 1000 bushels daily being the usual amount made. In rice culture the aim of the planter is to get his crop in time to flood with the spring-tides. If he does this the rice will advance so rapidly that it will be harvested before the arrival of those pests to the rice-grower—the rice-birds. These collect about the rice plantations in immense flocks before migrating to the West Indies and Central America for the winter. The bobolink, or rice-bird, eats immense quantities of insects and grubs, and is thus of considerable use to the farmer of the North; but woe to the planter if this bird finds the rice upon the ground! Rats and ducks are also among the enemies of the rice, and the hands kill and eat them—the rats as well as the ducks. The negroes of the rice plantations hold themselves much above other hands, and their takes are much lighter, usually being finished by the middle of the day, when they eat a good meal. To eat early makes them sick, and they often put it off till they have done their work, after which they go to the woods and rivers, and add game and fish to their rations of pork, corn, and rice—the latter they must have. In their gardens they cultivate cabbage, potatoes, etc., and altogether lead a tolerably pleasant existence. The drawings, which were made on the plantation of Colonel Wardell, on the Ogeechee, near Savannah, represent, in the centre, the rice fields with the hands at work, and around it the threshing-mill, the main flood-gate, one of the smaller gates, or trunks, a flooded field, ditching, reaping, etc.

“The South and Nor th,” Civil War Song Sheets, Series 2, Volume 1, Rar e Book and Special Collections Division, Librar y of Congr ess.

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Documents This pugnacious patriotic Confederate song of the Civil War refers also to a significant Southern environmental problem. The fourth verse mentions guano. This natural manure from bird dung was mined on sea islands and imported in the 1850s in large amounts to help restore fertility to the fields of the South’s exhausted cotton plantations. —Mark Stoll THE SOUTH AND NORTH The Southrons and the Northers, Oh! Have got into a fight; The South will whip the North, I know, Because they’re in the right. Chorus.—Then strike them fast and hard my boys, And do not be afraid; Then strike them hard and fast my boys, And Heaven will us aid. The Stars and Stripes were very good, While emblem of the free; But now they’re dyed in brothers blood, They will not do for me. Chorus— I’ll fight for Southern rights and laws, While I’ve a hand to save; And If I fall in a Freeman’s cause, I’ll fill a freeman’s grave. Chorus— Their bones will make the Cotton grow; Where it could’nt grow before; And guano we no more will sow, But bone dust for manure. Chorus—

John Muir, A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf (1916). Born in 1838 in Scotland, raised in frontier Wisconsin, John Muir set out in 1867 on a famous hike through the post–Civil War South to the Gulf of Mexico. His famous journey past farms, over mountains, and through swamps ran parallel to an equally wellknown internal journey that brought him new insights into the relationship of humanity and the natural world. These insights would guide him later in life as he fought for the establishment of Yosemite National Park in 1890 and founded the

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Southern United States: An Environmental History Sierra Club in 1892. In his journal, published after his death in 1914, Muir recorded many superb descriptions of the wild and settled landscapes, noted environmental attitudes apparent in Southerners’ conversations, and observed evidence of ecological changes under way. —Mark Stoll

Chapter 1: Kentucky Forests and Caves I had long been looking from the wildwoods and gardens of the Northern States to those of the warm South, and at last, all draw-backs overcome, I set forth on the first day of September, 1867, joyful and free, on a thousand-mile walk to the Gulf of Mexico. Crossing the Ohio at Louisville, I steered through the big city by compass without speaking a word to any one. Beyond the city I found a road running southward, and after passing a scatterment of suburban cabins and cottages I reached the green woods and spread out my pocket map to rough-hew a plan for my journey. My plan was simply to push on in a general southward direction by the wildest, leafiest, and least trodden way I could find, promising the greatest extent of virgin forest. Folding my map, I shouldered my little bag and plant press and strode away among the old Kentucky oaks, rejoicing in splendid visions of pines and palms and tropic flowers in glorious array, not, however, without a few cold shadows of loneliness, although the great oaks seemed to spread their arms in welcome. I have seen oaks of many species in many kinds of exposure and soil, but those of Kentucky excel in grandeur all I had ever before beheld. They are broad and dense and bright green. In the leafy bowers and caves of their long branches dwell magnificent avenues of shade, and every tree seems to be blessed with a double portion of strong exulting life. Walked twenty miles, mostly on river bottom, and found shelter in a rickety tavern.

September 3. Escaped from the dust and squalor of my garret bedroom to the glorious forest. All the streams that I tasted hereabouts are salty and so are the wells. Salt River was nearly dry. Much of my way this forenoon was over naked limestone. After passing the level ground that extended twenty-five or thirty miles from the river I came to a region of rolling hills called Kentucky Knobs—hills of denudation covered with trees to the top. Some of them have a few pines. For a few hours I followed the farmers’ paths, but soon wandered away from roads and encountered many a tribe of twisted vines difficult to pass. . . . Passed gangs of woodmen engaged and hewing the grand oaks for market. Fruit very abundant. Magnificent flowing hill scenery all afternoon. Walked southeast from Elizabethtown till wearied and lay down in the bushes by guess.

September 4. The sun was gilding the hill-tops when I was awakened by the alarm notes of birds whose dwelling in a hazel thicket I had disturbed. They flitted excitedly close to my head, as if scolding or asking angry questions, while several beautiful plants, strangers to me, were looking me full in the face. The first botanical discovery in bed!

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Documents This was one of the most delightful camp grounds, though groped for in the dark, and I lingered about it enjoying its trees and soft lights and music. Walked ten miles of forest. Met a strange oak with willow-looking leaves. Entered a sandy stretch of black oak called “Barrens,” many of which were sixty or seventy feet in height, and are said to have grown since the fires were kept off, forty years ago . . .

September 6. Started at the earliest bird song in hopes of seeing the great Mammoth Cave before evening . . . The villager who accompanied me . . . told me that he had never been at Mammoth Cave—that it was not worth going ten miles to see, as it was nothing but a hole in the ground, and I found that his was no rare case. He was one of the useful, practical men—too wise to waste precious time with weeds, caves, fossils, or anything else that he could not eat. Arrived at the great Mammoth Cave. I was surprised to find it in so complete naturalness. A large hotel with fine walks and gardens is near it. But fortunately the cave has been unimproved, and were it not for the narrow trail that leads down the glen to its door, one would not know that it had been visited. There are house-rooms and halls whose entrances give but slight hint of their grandeur. And so also this magnificent hall in the mineral kingdom of Kentucky has a door comparatively small and unpromising. One might pass within a few yards of it without noticing it. A strong cool breeze issues constantly from it, creating a northern climate for the ferns that adorn its rocky front. I never before saw Nature’s grandeur in so abrupt contrast with paltry artificial gardens. The fashionable hotel grounds are in exact parlor taste, with many a beautiful plant cultivated to deformity, and arranged in strict geometrical beds, the whole pretty affair a laborious failure side by side with Divine beauty. The trees around the mouth of the cave are smooth and tall and bent forward at the bottom, then straight upwards. Only a butternut seems, by its angular knotty branches, to sympathize with and belong to the cave, with a fine growth of Cystopteris and Hypnum . . .

September 9. Another day in the most favored province of bird and flower. Many rapid streams, flowing in beautiful flower-bordered canons embosomed in dense woods. Am seated on a grand hill-slope that leans back against the sky like a picture. Amid the wide waves of green wood there are spots of autumnal yellow and the atmosphere, too, has the dawnings of autumn in colors and sounds. The soft light of morning falls upon ripening forests of oak and elm, walnut and hickory and all Nature is thoughtful and calm. Kentucky is the greenest, leafiest State I have yet seen. The sea of soft temperate plant-green is deepest here . . . Far the grandest of all Kentucky plants are her noble oaks. They are the master existences of her exuberant forests. Here is the Eden, the paradise of oaks . . .

September 10 . . . After a few miles of level ground in luxuriant tangles of brooding vines, I began the ascent of the Cumberland Mountains, the first real mountains that my foot ever touched or eyes beheld. The ascent was by a nearly regular zigzag slope, mostly covered up like a tunnel by overarching oaks. But there were a few openings where the glorious forest road of Kentucky was grandly seen, stretching over hill and valley, adjusted to every slope and curve by the hands of Nature the most sublime and comprehensive picture that ever entered my eyes. Reached the summit in six or seven hours—a

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Southern United States: An Environmental History strangely long period of up-grade work to one accustomed only to the hillocky levels of Wisconsin and adjacent States.

Chapter 2: Crossing the Cumberland Mountains

September 12. Awoke drenched with mountain mist, which made a grand show, as it moved away before the hot sun. Passed Montgomery, a shabby village at the head of the east slope of the Cumberland Mountains. Obtained breakfast in a clean house and began the descent of the mountains. Obtained fine views of a wide, open country, and distant flanking ridges and spurs. Crossed a wide cool stream [Emory River], a branch of the Clinch River. There is nothing more eloquent in Nature than a mountain stream, and this is the first I ever saw. Its banks are luxuriantly peopled with rare and lovely flowers and overarching trees, making one of Nature’s coolest and most hospitable places. Every tree, every flower, every ripple and eddy of this lovely stream seemed solemnly to feel the presence of the great Creator. Lingered in this sanctuary a long time thanking the Lord with all my heart for his goodness in allowing me to enter and enjoy it . . .

September 16. “I will take you,” said he, “to the highest ridge in the country, where you can see both ways. You will have a view of all the world on one side of the mountains and all creation on the other. Besides, you, who are traveling for curiosity and wonder, ought to see our gold mines.” I agreed to stay and went to the mines. Gold is found in small quantities throughout the Alleghanies, and many farmers work at mining a few weeks or months every year when their time is not more valuable for other pursuits . . .

September 17 . . . This is the most primitive county I have seen, primitive in everything. The remotest hidden parts of Wisconsin are far in advance of the mountain regions of Tennessee and North Carolina. But my host speaks of the “old-fashioned unenlightened times,” like a philosopher in the best light of civilization. “I believe in Providence,” said he. “Our fathers came into these valleys, got the richest of them, and skimmed off the cream of the soil. The worn-out ground won’t yield no roastin’ ears now. But the Lord foresaw this state of affairs, and prepared something else for us. And what is it? Why, He meant us to bust open these copper mines and gold mines, so that we may have money to buy the corn that we cannot raise.” A most profound observation.

September 18. Up the mountain on the state line. The scenery is far grander than any I ever before beheld. The view extends from the Cumberland Mountains on the north far into Georgia and North Carolina to the south, an area of about five thousand square miles. Such an ocean of wooded, waving, swelling mountain beauty and grandeur is not to be described. Countless forest-clad hills, side by side in rows and groups, seemed to be enjoying the rich sunshine and remaining motionless only because they were so eagerly absorbing it. All were united by curves and slopes of inimitable softness and beauty. Oh, these forest gardens of our Father! What perfection, what divinity, in their architecture! What simplicity and mysterious complexity of detail! Who shall read the teaching of

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Documents these sylvan pages, the glad brotherhood of rills that sing in the valleys, and all the happy creatures that dwell in them under the tender keeping of a Father’s care?

September 19 . . . All the larger streams of uncultivated countries are mysteriously charming and beautiful, whether flowing in mountains or through swamps and plains. Their channels are interestingly sculptured, far more so than the grandest architectural works of man. The finest of the forests are usually found along their banks, and in the multitude of falls and rapids the wilderness finds a voice. Such a river is the Hiwassee, with its surface broken to a thousand sparkling gems, and its forest walls vine-draped and flowery as Eden. And how fine the songs it sings! . . .

September 22. Hills becoming small, sparsely covered with soil. They are called “knob land” and are cultivated, or scratched, with a kind of one-tooth cultivator. Every rain robs them of their fertility, while the bottoms are of course correspondingly enriched. About noon I reached the last mountain summit on my way to the sea. It is called the Blue Ridge and before it lies a prospect very different from any I had passed, namely, a vast uniform expanse of dark pine woods, extending to the sea; an impressive view at any time and under any circumstances, but particularly so to one emerging from the mountains . . .

Chapter 3: Through the River Country of Georgia . . . September 24. Spent this day with Mr. Prater sailing on the Chattahoochee, feasting on grapes that had dropped from the overhanging vines. This remarkable species of wild grape has a stout stem, sometimes five or six inches in diameter, smooth bark and hard wood, quite unlike any other wild or cultivated grapevine that I have seen. The grapes are very large, some of them nearly an inch in diameter, globular and fine flavored. Usually there are but three or four berries in a cluster, and when mature they drop off instead of decaying on the vine. Those which fall into the river are often found in large quantities in the eddies along the bank, where they are collected by men in boats and sometimes made into wine. I think another name for this grape is the Scuppernong, though called “muscadine” here. Besides sailing on the river, we had a long walk among the plant bowers and tangles of the Chattahoochee bottom lands . . .

October 1. Found a cheap breakfast in a market-place; then set off along the Savannah River to Savannah. Splendid grasses and rich, dense, vine-clad forests. Muscadine grapes in cart-loads. Asters and solidagoes becoming scarce. Carices [sedges] quite rare. Leguminous plants abundant. A species of passion flower is common, reaching back into Tennessee. It is here called “apricot vine,” has a superb flower, and the most delicious fruit I have ever eaten. The pomegranate is cultivated here. The fruit is about the size of an orange, has a thick, tough skin, and when opened resembles a many-chambered box full of translucent purple candies.

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Southern United States: An Environmental History Toward evening I came to the country of one of the most striking of southern plants, the so-called “Long Moss” or Spanish Moss [Tillandsia], though it is a flowering plant and belongs to the same family as the pineapple [Bromelworts]. The trees hereabouts have all their branches draped with it, producing a remarkable effect. Here, too, I found an impenetrable cypress swamp. This remarkable tree, called cypress, is a taxodium, grows large and high, and is remarkable for its flat crown. The whole forest seems almost level on the top, as if each tree had grown up against a ceiling, or had been rolled while growing. This taxodium is the only level-topped tree that I have seen. The branches, though spreading, are careful not to pass each other, and stop suddenly on reaching the general level, as if they had grown up against a ceiling. The groves and thickets of smaller trees are full of blooming evergreen vines. These vines are not arranged in separate groups, or in delicate wreaths, but in bossy walls and heavy, mound-like heaps and banks. Am made to feel that I am now in a strange land. I know hardly any of the plants, but few of the birds, and I am unable to see the country for the solemn, dark, mysterious cypress woods which cover everything. The winds are full of strange sounds, making one feel far from the people and plants and fruitful fields of home. Night is coming on and I am filled with indescribable loneliness. Felt feverish; bathed in a black, silent stream; nervously watchful for alligators. Obtained lodging in a planter’s house among cotton fields. Although the family seemed to be pretty well-off, the only light in the house was bits of pitch-pine wood burned in the fireplace.

Chapter 4: Camping among the Tombs

October 9. After going again to the express office and post office [for money which had not yet arrived], and wandering about the streets, I found a road which led me to the Bonaventure graveyard. If that burying-ground across the Sea of Galilee, mentioned in Scripture, was half as beautiful as Bonaventure, I do not wonder that a man should dwell among the tombs. It is only three or four miles from Savannah, and is reached by a smooth white shell road. There is but little to be seen on the way in land, water, or sky, that would lead one to hope for the glories of Bonaventure. The ragged desolate fields, on both sides of the road, are overrun with coarse rank weeds, and show scarce a trace of cultivation. But soon all is changed. Rickety log huts, broken fences, and the last patch of weedy ricestubble are left behind. You come to beds of purple liatris and living wild-wood trees. You hear the song of birds, cross a small stream, and are with Nature in the grand old forest graveyard, so beautiful that almost any sensible person would choose to dwell here with the dead rather than with the lazy, disorderly living . . . The most conspicuous glory of Bonaventure is its noble avenue of live-oaks. They are the most magnificent planted trees I have ever seen, about fifty feet high and perhaps three or four feet in diameter, with broad spreading leafy heads. The main branches

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Documents reach out horizontally until they come together over the driveway, embowering it throughout its entire length, while each branch is adorned like a garden with ferns, flowers, grasses, and dwarf palmettos. But of all the plants of these curious tree-gardens the most striking and characteristic is the so-called Long Moss (Tillandsia usneoides). It drapes all the branches from top to bottom, hanging in long silvery-gray skeins, reaching a length of not less than eight or ten feet, and when slowly waving in the wind they produce a solemn funereal effect singularly impressive. There are also thousands of smaller trees and clustered bushes, covered almost from sight in the glorious brightness of their own light. The place is half surrounded by the salt marshes and islands of the river, their reeds and sedges making a delightful fringe. Many bald eagles roost among the trees along the side of the marsh. Their screams are heard every morning, joined with the noise of crows and the songs of countless warblers, hidden deep in their dwellings of leafy bowers. Large flocks of butterflies, flies, all kinds of happy insects, seem to be in a perfect fever of joy and sportive gladness. The whole place seems like a center of life. The dead do not reign there alone. Bonaventure to me is one of the most impressive assemblages of animal and plant creatures I ever met. I was fresh from the Western prairies, the garden-like openings of Wisconsin, the beech and maple and oak woods of Indiana and Kentucky, the dark mysterious Savannah cypress forests; but never since I was allowed to walk the woods have I found so impressive a company of trees as the tillandsia-draped oaks of Bonaventure. I gazed awe-stricken as one new-arrived from another world. Bonaventure is called a graveyard, a town of the dead, but the few graves are powerless in such a depth of life. The rippling of living waters, the song of birds, the joyous confidence of flowers, the calm, undisturbable grandeur of the oaks, mark this place of graves as one of the Lord’s most favored abodes of life and light. On no subject are our ideas more warped and pitiable than on death. Instead of the sympathy, the friendly union, of life and death so apparent in Nature, we are taught that death is an accident, a deplorable punishment for the oldest sin, the arch-enemy of life, etc. Town children, especially, are steeped in this death orthodoxy, for the natural beauties of death are seldom seen or taught in towns. Of death among our own species, to say nothing of the thousand styles and modes of murder, our best memories, even among happy deaths, yield groans and tears, mingled with morbid exultation; burial companies, black in cloth and countenance; and, last of all, a black box burial in an ill-omened place, haunted by imaginary glooms and ghosts of every degree. Thus death becomes fearful, and the most notable and incredible thing heard around a death-bed is, “I fear not to die.” But let children walk with Nature, let them see the beautiful blendings and communions of death and life, their joyous inseparable unity, as taught in woods and meadows, plains and mountains and streams of our blessed star, and they will learn that death is stingless indeed, and as beautiful as life, and that the grave has no victory, for it never fights. All is divine harmony . . .

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Southern United States: An Environmental History Chapter 5: Through Florida Swamps and Forests . . . October 15 . . . Florida is so watery and vine-tied that pathless wanderings are not easily possible in any direction. I started to cross the State by a gap hewn for the locomotive, walking sometimes between the rails, stepping from tie to tie, or walking on the strip of sand at the sides, gazing into the mysterious forest, Nature’s own. It is impossible to write the dimmest picture of plant grandeur so redundant, unfathomable . . . It was while feeling sad to think that I was only walking on the edge of the vast wood, that I caught sight of the first palmetto in a grassy place, standing almost alone. A few magnolias were near it, and bald cypresses, but it was not shaded by them. They tell us that plants are perishable, soulless creatures, that only man is immortal, etc.; but this, I think, is something that we know very nearly nothing about. Anyhow, this palm was indescribably impressive and told me grander things than I ever got from human priest . . . I am now in the hot gardens of the sun, where the palm meets the pine, longed and prayed for and often visited in dreams, and, though lonely to-night amid this multitude of strangers, strange plants, strange winds blowing gently, whispering, cooing, in a language I never learned, and strange birds also, everything solid or spiritual full of influences that I never before felt, yet I thank the Lord with all my heart for his goodness in granting me admission to this magnificent realm.

October 16 . . . Arrived at a place on the margin of a stagnant pool where an alligator had been rolling and sunning himself. “See,” said a man who lived here, “see, what a track that is! He must have been a mighty big fellow. Alligators wallow like hogs and like to lie in the sun. I’d like a shot at that fellow.” Here followed a long recital of bloody combats with the scaly enemy, in many of which he had, of course, taken an important part . . . Another man that I met to-day pointed to a shallow, grassy pond before his door. “There,” said he, “I once had a tough fight with an alligator. He caught my dog. I heard him howling, and as he was one of my best hunters I tried hard to save him. The water was only about knee-deep and I ran up to the alligator. It was only a small one about four feet long, and was having trouble in its efforts to drown the dog in the shallow water. I scared him and made him let go his hold, but before the poor crippled dog could reach the shore, he was caught again, and when I went at the alligator with a knife, it seized my arm. If it had been a little stronger it might have eaten me instead of my dog.” I never in all my travels saw more than one, though they are said to be abundant in most of the swamps, and frequently attain a length of nine or ten feet. It is reported, also, that they are very savage, oftentimes attacking men in boats. These independent inhabitants of the sluggish waters of this low coast cannot be called the friends of man, though I heard of one big fellow that was caught young and was partially civilized and made to work in harness. Many good people believe that alligators were created by the Devil, thus accounting for their all-consuming appetite and ugliness. But doubtless these creatures are happy and fill the place assigned them by the great Creator of us all. Fierce and cruel they ap-

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Documents pear to us, but beautiful in the eyes of God. They, also, are his children, for He hears their cries, cares for them tenderly, and provides their daily bread. The antipathies existing in the Lord’s great animal family must be wisely planned, like balanced repulsion and attraction in the mineral kingdom. How narrow we selfish, conceited creatures are in our sympathies! How blind to the rights of all the rest of creation! With what dismal irreverence we speak of our fellow mortals! Though alligators, snakes, etc., naturally repel us, they are not mysterious evils. They dwell happily in these flowery wilds, are part of God’s family, unfallen, undepraved, and cared for with the same species of tenderness and love as is bestowed on angels in heaven or saints on earth. I think that most of the antipathies which haunt and terrify us are morbid productions of ignorance and weakness. I have better thoughts of those alligators now that I have seen them at home. Honorable representatives of the great saurians of an older creation, may you long enjoy your lilies and rushes, and be blessed now and then with a mouthful of terror-stricken man by way of dainty! . . . The streams of Florida are still young, and in many places are untraceable. I expected to find these streams a little discolored from the vegetable matter that I knew they must contain, and I was sure that in so flat a country I should not find any considerable falls or long rapids. The streams of upper Georgia are almost unapproachable in some places on account of luxuriant bordering marines, but the banks are nevertheless high and well defined. Florida streams are not yet possessed of banks and braes and definite channels. Their waters in deep places are black as ink, perfectly opaque, and glossy on the surface as if varnished. It often is difficult to ascertain which way they are flowing or creeping, so slowly and so widely do they circulate through the tree-tangles and swamps of the woods. The flowers here are strangers to me, but not more so than the rivers and lakes. Most streams appear to travel through a country with thoughts and plans for something beyond. But those of Florida are at home, do not appear to be traveling at all, and seem to know nothing of the sea . . .

October 21 . . . I set out for the grand palm grove . . . I made my way through the briers, which in strength and ferocity equaled those of Tennessee, followed the path through all of its dim waverings, waded the many opposing pools, and, emerging suddenly from the leafy darkness of the swamp forest, at last stood free and unshaded on the border of the sun-drenched palm garden. It was a level area of grasses and sedges, smooth as a prairie, well starred with flowers, and bounded like a clearing by a wall of vine-laden trees. The palms had full possession and appeared to enjoy their sunny home. There was no jostling, no apparent effort to outgrow each other. Abundance of sunlight was there for every crown, and plenty to fall between. I walked enchanted in their midst. What a landscape! Only palms as far as the eye could reach! Smooth pillars rising from the grass, each capped with a sphere of leaves, shining in the sun as bright as a star. The silence and calm were as deep as ever I found in the dark, solemn pine woods of Canada, and that contentment which is an attribute of the best of God’s plant people was as

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Southern United States: An Environmental History impressively felt in this alligator wilderness as in the homes of the happy, healthy people of the North . . .

October 22. This morning I was easily prevailed upon by the captain and an exjudge, who was rusticating here, to join in a deer hunt. Had a delightful ramble in the long grass and flowery barrens. Started one deer but did not draw a single shot. The captain, the judge, and myself stood at different stations where the deer was expected to pass, while a brother of the captain entered the woods to arouse the game from cover. The one deer that he started took a direction different from any which this particular old buck had ever been known to take in times past, and in so doing was cordially cursed as being the “d——dest deer that ever ran unshot.” To me it appeared as “d——dest” work to slaughter God’s cattle for sport. “They were made for us,” say these self-approving preachers; “for our food, our recreation, or other uses not yet discovered.” As truthfully we might say on behalf of a bear, when he deals successfully with an unfortunate hunter, “Men and other bipeds were made for bears, and thanks be to God for claws and teeth so long.” Let a Christian hunter go to the Lord’s woods and kill his well-kept beasts, or wild Indians, and it is well; but let an enterprising specimen of these proper, predestined victims go to houses and fields and kill the most worthless person of the vertical godlike killers,—oh! that is horribly unorthodox, and on the part of the Indians atrocious murder! Well, I have precious little sympathy for the selfish propriety of civilized man, and if a war of races should occur between the wild beasts and Lord Man, I would be tempted to sympathize with the bears.

William J. Edwar ds, Twenty-Five Years in the Black Belt (1918). The problem of soil erosion was so severe in the South, due mainly to its hilly terrain, its moist climate, and its history of exploitative agricultural practices, that the American movement for soil conservation in large part arose in that region of the country. Hugh Hammond Bennett, born in 1881 in rural North Carolina, wrote powerfully of the erosion problem in the 1920s and created the Soil Conservation Service (now the Natural Resources Conservation Service in the U.S. Department of Agriculture) in 1935. Here, African American educator William J. Edwards describes in his 1918 memoir how soil exhaustion and erosion threatened progress for Southern blacks. —Mark Stoll

CHAPTER 14. THE GREATEST MENACE OF THE SOUTH. In every age there are great and pressing problems to be solved,—problems whose solution will have seemingly, a far reaching and lasting effect upon the economic life of

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Documents the country concerned. It was the case in this country from its very beginning and the same condition obtains today, although each section of the country has its own peculiar problems the true American citizen recognizes the fact that the success of one section in solving its problems will be beneficial to the entire nation. Perhaps, no section of this country has been confronted with more difficult problems than the South. I therefore, wish to present what I consider to be the greatest menace of this section, not as a prophet foretelling future events,—but humbly expressing my views of the situation after careful study. If you were to ask the average white man of the South today what is the greatest menace to this section, his answer, undoubtedly, would be, the Negro and Negro domination. At least this would be the answer of the politician. That he would take this view, is shown by the great amount of legislation that has been enacted, aiming either directly or indirectly to retard the Negro’s progress. I do not believe that there has been one piece of legislation enacted in the South within the last thirty years for the express purpose of promoting the Negro’s welfare. This does not mean, however, that the entire white South is against the Negro or that it means to oppose his advancement. There are thousands of white men and women throughout the length and breadth of the South, who are today, laboring almost incessantly for the advancement of the Negro. To these, we owe a great debt of gratitude, and to these should be given much credit for what has been accomplished. This class of white southerns are not, as a rule, politicians and it is seldom, if ever, they are elected to office. When we speak of the average southern white man then, we have particular reference to the great horde of office seekers and politicians that infest the entire south-land. It is this class that will tell you that Negro domination is the greatest menace to the South. Now, Negro domination may be a menace to the South, but it is certainly not the greatest. Neither is the extermination of our forests to be greatly feared. There are organizations and societies on foot in all parts of the South for the conservation of our forests. Southern citizenship is suffering much from child labor, but even this, although being a great danger to our future development and prosperity, cannot rightly be classed as our greatest menace. The one thing today, in which we stand in greatest danger, is the loss of the fertility of the soil. If we should lose this, as we are gradually doing, then all is lost. If we should save it, then all other things will be added. Our great need is the conservation and preservation of the soil. The increased crops which we have in the South occasionally, are not due to improved methods of farming, but to increased acreage. Thousands of acres of new land are added each year and our increase in farm production is due to the strength of these fresh lands. There is not much more woodland to be taken in as new farm lands, for this source has been well nigh exhausted. We must then, within a few years, expect a gradual reduction in the farm production of the South. Already the old farm lands that have been in cultivation for the past fifty or fifty-five years are practically worn out. I have seen in my day where forty acres of land twenty or twenty-five years ago would produce from

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Southern United States: An Environmental History twenty to twenty-five bales of cotton each year, and from 800 to 1000 bushels of corn. Now, these forty acres will not produce more than eight or nine bales of cotton and hardly enough corn to feed two horses. In fact, one small family cannot obtain a decent support from the land which twenty years ago supported three families in abundance. This farm is not on the hillside, neither has it been worn away by erosion. It is situated in the lowlands, in the black prairie, and is considered the best farm on a large plantation. This condition obtains in all parts of the South today. This constant deterioration of land, this gradual reduction of crops year after year, if kept up for the next fifty years, will surely prove disastrous to the South. Practically, all the land in the black belt of the South is cultivated by Negroes and the farm production has decreased so rapidly during the last ten or fifteen years that the average Negro farmer hardly makes sufficient to pay his rent and buy the few necessaries of life. Of course, here and there where a tenant has been lucky enough to get hold of some new land, he makes a good crop, but after three or four years of cultivation, his crop begins to decrease and this decrease is kept up at a certain ratio as long as he keeps the land. Instead of improving, the tenant’s condition becomes worse each year until he finds it impossible to support his family on the farm. Farm after farm is being abandoned or given up to the care of the old men and women. Already, most of these are too old and feeble to do effective work. Now, the chief cause of these farms becoming less productive, is the failure on the part of the farmers to add something to the land after they have gathered their crops. They seem to think that the land contains an inexhaustible supply of plant food. Another cause of this deficiency of the soil is the failure of the farmer to rotate his crop. There are farms being cultivated in the South today where the same piece of land has been planted in cotton every year for forty or fifty years. Forty years ago, I am told by reliable authority, that this same land would yield from one bale to one and a half per acre. And today it will take from four to six acres to produce one bale. Still another cause for the deterioration of the soil is erosion. There is practically no effort put forth on the tenant’s part to prevent his farm from washing away. The hill-side and other rolling lands are not terraced and after being in use four or five years, practically all of these lands are washed away and as farm lands they are entirely abandoned. Not only are the hillside lands unprotected from the beating rains and flowing streams, but the bottom or lowlands are not properly drained, and the sand washed down from the hill, the chaff and raft from previous rains soon fill the ditches and creeks and almost any ordinary rain will cause an overflow of these streams. Under these conditions an average crop is impossible even in the best of years. At present, the South does not produce one-half of the foodstuff that it consumes and if the present condition of things continue for the next fifty years, this section of the country will be on the verge of starvation and famines will be a frequent occurrence. Of course, Negro starvation will come first, but white man starvation will surely follow. I believe, therefore, that I am justified in saying that there is even more danger in Negro starvation than there is in Negro domination.

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Documents I have noticed in this country that the sins of the races are contagious. If the Negro in a community be lazy, indifferent, and careless about his farm, the white man in the community will soon fall into the same habit. On the other hand, if the white man is smart, industrious, energetic and persevering in his general makeup, the Negro will soon fall into line; so after all, whatever helps one race in the South will help the other and whatever degrades one race in the South, sooner or later will degrade the other. But you may reply to this assertion by saying that the Negro can go to the city and make an independent living for himself and family, but you forget that all real wealth must come from the soil and that the city cannot prosper unless the country is prosperous. When the country fails, the city feels the effect; when the country weeps, the city moans; when agriculture dies, all die. Such are the conditions which face us today. Now for the remedy. It is worth while to remember that there are ten essential elements of plant food. If the supply of any one of the elements fails, the crop will fail. These ten elements are carbon and oxygen taken into the leaves of the plant from the air as carbon dioxide, hydrogen, a constituent of water absorbed through the plant roots; nitrogen, taken from the soil by all plants also secured from the air by legumes. The other elements are phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron and sulphur, all of which are secured from the soil. The soil nitrogen is contained in the organic matter or humus, and to maintain the supply of nitrogen, we should keep the soil well stored with organic matter, making liberal use of clover or other legumes which have power to secure nitrogen from the inexhaustible supply in the air. It is interesting to note that one of the ablest chemists in this country, Prof. E. W. Clark of the U.S. Geological Survey, has said that an acre of ground seven inches deep contains sufficient iron to produce one hundred bushels of corn every year for 200,000 years, sufficient calcium to produce one hundred bushels of corn or one bale of cotton each year for 55,000 years, enough magnesium to produce such a crop 7,000 years, enough sulphur for 10,000 years and potassium for 2,600 years, but only enough phosporus for 130 years. The nitrogen resting upon the surface of an acre of ground is sufficient to produce one hundred bushels of corn or a bale of cotton for 700,000 years; but only enough in the plowed soil to produce fifty such crops. In other words, there are enough of eight of the elements of plant food in the ordinary soil to produce 100 bushels of corn per acre or a bale of cotton per acre for each year for 2,600 years; but only enough of the other two, phosphorus and nitrogen, to produce such crops for forty or fifty years. Let us grant that most of our farm lands in the South have been in cultivation for fifty or seventy-five years, and in many instances for one hundred years, it is readily seen that practically all of the phosphorus and nitrogen in the plowed soil have been exhausted. Is it any wonder then that we are having such poor crops? The wonder is that our crops have kept up so well. Unless a radical change is made in our mode of farming, we must expect less and less crops each year until we have no crops, or such little that we can hardly pay the rent.

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Southern United States: An Environmental History To improve and again make fertile our soils, we must restore to them the phosphorus and nitrogen which have been used up in the seventy-five or more crops that we have gathered from them. This is a herculean task but this is what confronts us and I for one, believe we can accomplish it. By the proper rotation of crops, including oats, clover, cowpeas, as well as cotton and corn, and a liberal use of barn-yard manure and cotton seed fertilizer, all of the necessary elements of plant food can be restored to our worn out soil. But the proper use of these require much painstaken study. The black as well as the white should give this matter serious consideration. The landlords and the tenants should co-operate in this great work. The merchants and bankers must lend their aid and influence, preachers and teachers should be pioneers in this movement to save our common country. Our agricultural colleges should imprint their courses of study in something more than their annual catalogues. They should be imprinted in the minds and hearts of their students, and especially those who are to do farm work. Thus far, but very little general good has been accomplished by these schools. The reason is that the farmers, those who till the soil, have not had access to these schools and those who attend are not the farming class, and do not take to farming as their life’s work. The man who works the soil must be taught how to farm. We have in this state nine purely agricultural schools, each of which is a white institution. It is true that some agricultural training is given for Negroes at Normal, Montgomery and Tuskegee, but these are not purely agricultural schools and the great mass of Negro farmers cannot hope to attend them. If the Negro is to remain the farming class in the Black Belt of the South, then he must be taught at least the rudiments of the modern methods of improved farming. He must have agricultural schools and must be encouraged to attend them. The loss of the fertility of the soil is the greatest menace of the South. How can we regain this lost fertility, is the greatest question of the hour.

“Pearl Fishing Has Vanished as Industr y: Veteran Fisher men Recall How Business Once Was Thriving,” Knoxville Jour nal, April 26, 1936. This newspaper article comments on and investigates the changes to the rivers of Tennessee that had resulted in the disappearance of mussels and the profitable pearl fishing business. —Mark Stoll Pearl fishing on the rivers of East Tennessee, an important industry of a quarter of a century ago, is no longer considered a profitable occupation. Fresh water pearls found in the mussels along Holston and Clinch rivers were noted for their luster and value on the markets of New York and other large cities. Veteran rivermen recall that pearl fishing parties made many valuable finds in the earlier years of this century, but the industry waned as the mussel beds disappeared.

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Documents No special reason has been assigned by the rivermen for the decline of the mussel deposits abundant on the shoals of many rivers years ago. The success of pearl hunting reached its peak several years ago when the rivers were at low stages.

Rare Specimens Emory river, near Harriman, was reported to have yielded some of the rarest fresh water pearls ever found in Tennessee. Some of the pearls were sold in New York and later went to the markets in Paris and London. One noted New York dealer sold many of the pearls collected from the rivermen in Tennessee. The pearls were valued by their perfect shape and luster. Some were slightly pink and others were tinted similar to the interior of the mussel shells from which they were extracted. One of the pioneer jewelers of Knoxville, H. W. Curtis, sold man pearl stickpins. The pearls were taken from the rivers near Knoxville. Hope Bros. and Heins are also among the early jewelers who dealt in Tennessee pearls. During the height of the pearl industry they could be bought along the sidewalks of Knoxville from peddlers who carried them wrapped in cotton. Many residents of Knoxville today still have strings of the famous pearls as well as shirt studs, pins and other ornaments. It is said that some of the pearls purchased by Tiffany were among the best fresh water pearls in the world. The late William King, for years a hunter and riverman, made a specialty of collecting pearls and his success was phenomenal.

Buttons Next After the fabulous pearl resources became exhausted, another industry that of making pearl buttons of all sizes was cut from the shells at a plant that was established on Lane street down, down near the Tennessee river wharf. Hundreds of boats were run to the wharf with shells that had been dredged along Holston and French Broad rivers. The materials were then sent to large button factories to be finished for the markets. The shells found here were of the right quality to make choice buttons and commanded good prices. This industry also waned as the supply of shells became exhausted. It is the belief of many rivermen that the pearl fishing and later the demands for the button industry caused the mussel beds to disappear from the rivers.

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Southern United States: An Environmental History At any rate, no pearls have been found recently, and few mussel beds have been reported found in recent years.

C. W. Wimster, Life Histor y of C. W. Wimster, Turpentine Man (1939). In the 1930s, the Works Progress Administration Federal Writers’ Project collected the biographies of common people, including this interview with a white overseer of turpentine operations. Since colonial days, southerners had collected “naval stores” like pitch and tar from the pines of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. After the Civil War the primary product of pine-tree sap was turpentine, produced by camps of African Americans living in near-slavery conditions. Here C. W. Wimster describes life in the camps and methods of collecting sap and making turpentine from it. —Mark Stoll “Yeah, man. I was bawn in a turpentine camp, spent near about forty years in the business, and woulda been in it yet if the bottom hadn’t-a dropped out of it. I’ve soaked up so much turpentine in my life that if you run me through a still right now, I reckon you’d git about ten gallon outa me.” The speaker, a 40-year-old veteran of the turpentine woods, chuckled at this jest as he sat on the front porch of his weathered one-story home in an old residential part of Tampa. He stretched his long wiry frame in the porch rocker, ran long fingers through a shock of wavy brown hair, and his level gray eyes took on a reminescent [sic] look as though gazing back through the endless vistas of gum-exuding pines that had been the scene of his life. He went on: “When I say I was bawn in a turpentine camp I mean jist that. My father was manager of a 20-crop naval stores place, an we lived in the camp near Eastman, Georgia, an I was bawn right in the camp in 1899. There was six children of us, an as soon as us boys was old enough we shore had to work, helpin around the still or the commissary, or work as water boys. When I was about two years old my folks moved to another camp at Bay Lake, Florida. “I started to school there when I was six, in a little one-room log schoolhouse in the woods. I started in the turpentine business as a water boy when I was eight, an finally worked myself up to manager of eight camps at $230 a month. “My folks believed in education, an I was sent to school regular when I was a boy, but worked in the summers. When I was about ten years old we moved to a camp at Martin, seven miles from Ocala, an I was promoted to talley ‘man’—keeping tally on the number of tress boxed or streaked by each [African American]. [African Americans] do all the labor in the woods, an most of the work around the still. The manager, foreman, commissary men and woods riders are all white men. At each camp there will be from

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Documents 50 to 200 [African Americans], accordin to the number of ‘crops’ worked. A crop is about 10,000 trees. “The white folks live in fairly good homes at one side of the camp, and the [African Americans] in their quarters at the other side in two-or three-room cabins or board houses. We always aimed to have separate quarters for the single [African Americans] to keep them from messin up with the married men’s wives. But this didn’t always work, and there was many a fight on account uv them mixin at night in the woods. “By the time I was 12 years old I began to learn how to make boxes an streaks, an do everything else in the woods an at the still. A box is a deep cut in the tree to ketch the gum, an streaks are shallow gutters out in the trunk of the tree to lead the gum down into the box. In late years most turpentine men use cups attached to the tree to ketch the sap or gum, instead of the deep boxes they used to cut. The cup system makes the trees last longer. The dip squad travels through the woods with a team or truck loaded with barrels into which they collect the gum, an then haul it to the still to be refined into spirits of turpentine. The gum is about as thick as thick syrup, and when heated the rosin settles to the bottom of the still, and is drawed off hot into barrels. “When I was about 13 years old I started to ride the woods, an was foreman of the dippin squad. I rode three crops, an that was a man’s work. About 1914, when I was around 15, we moved to Loraine, Manatee County, about 12 miles from Bradenton. At this camp the boss thought I was too young to ride, so he give me a job as talley man and inspector of box cuttin. By this time I was an expert box cutter myself, and could tell the [African Americans] how to do it right. If a box aint cut exactly right its no good at all. I worked part of a year there, an then got a job guardin convicts in a turpentine place at Punta Gorda. “All this time I was goin to school in the winter, and when I was 16 years old I graduated from high school at Ocala. Next I got a job as manager for Mr. Hamp Lowther who had a 30-crop place at Verna, Florida. There I worked in the commissary some, an worked as woodsman, ridin one ride, besides actin as manager. I worked there and at other camps till I joined the army and went to France in 1917. After the armistice I came to Tampa. Then in 1919 I got the idea I could get rich raisin canaloupes, so went to Ocala and tried it a year an lost $500 I had saved. My cantaloupe crop was a plum failure. So I decided I’d better stick to turpentine.” It will be noted that Mr. Wimster’s speech varied at times from rural Florida dialect to the better diction of his high school influence. “In 1920 I went to work as over-rider over eight woodsmen on a 100-crop job at Nalaca, Florida, but there came a slump in the price of turpentine and the force at this place was out to about nothing, includin me; so I left there and the next year when the market picked up a little I got another job, as foreman of a 40-crop place at Miakka. Another drop in the price of turps laid me off there in 1922. Up to then I hadn’t had much time to think about gittin married, but now, with nothing else to do, I remembered a nice gal I’d met in Polk County, so I went a-courtin up there an married her. Then I got a job as manager at Camp Four in Polk County, for Mr. W. C. French.

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Southern United States: An Environmental History “In 1922, I think it was, I was offered a better job, as manager of eight camps owned by a New York concern at Opal, Okeechobee County. This was a big virgin woods in low, swampy country, and the outfit was a big one of 120 crops. There I had charge of 400 [African Americans] and nine woodsmen (riders). I got $250 a month and held that job for two years. Then come the damdest rainy season I ever saw in Florida. It poured down for weeks, and water stood knee deep all over the woods. We had to set around in camp and do nothing. There was 400 [African Americans] an 30 heada horses an mules eatin up rations, an besides the wet weather made the horses and mules backs all sore so we couldn’ta worked on anyhow. I shore had a mess of trouble on my hands. An to make everything worse the big bosses in New York kept telegraphin me an wantin to know why no production. Finally I got mad an told em to go to hell an git somebody else, an I walked and waded off the job. “Next I worked a while an manager of a 30-crop job at Camp Cook, near Panama City. All this time, remember, the price of turpentine kept goin down, an that was mostly the reason I changed jobs so much. Whenever the demand for naval stores got slack the operators would shut down or cut wages. Substitutes for turps and rosin were comin on the market, and besides many plants had began to distill the product from stumps and lighterd knots. This cheap stuff made it almost impossible to operate a regular turpentine business at a profit. “By the latter part of 1924 I had some money saved, so I went to Spring Park, Marion County, and bought me a 10-crop turpentine place of my own, and 200 acres of farm land. Then the Florida boom begun, and my laborers all left and went to the cities or up North where they could git higher wages. I could’t make a livin on my place, so I quit and went to road contractin for a while. Then from 1926 to the latter part of 1932 I worked for Aycock & Lindsay, big Florida turpentine men, as manager and later as top rider over all their camps in Dixon County. In 1934 the price of naval stores again hit bottom, and I went to Venus, Florida, as superintendent of a logging camp . . . When asked about the home life of the Negroes in the Florida turpentine camps, Mr. Wimster smiled, relaxed, and again became the “boss man” of the resinous Florida woods: “Turpentine [African Americans] are a class by themselves. They are different from town [African Americans], farm laborers or any other kind. Mostly they are born and raised in the camps, and don’t know much about anything else. They seldom go to town, and few of them ever saw the inside of a school house . . . “The supreme authority in a camp is the foreman. To the [African Americans] he is the law, the judge, jury and executioner. He even ranks ahead of God to these people. In speakin to him they all call him ‘Cap’s.’ Among themselves they call him ‘the Man.’ An believe me, he better be a man fum the ground up. If he ever stands for any back talk or shows a streak of yellow he’s through, an might as well quit. For they lose all respect for him and won’t mind him. Even though they keep up a pretense of respect to his face, they’ll laugh at him behind his back and gang up to make his life so miserable he’ll soon have to leave. They like to be ruled by an iron hand an no velvet glove. “Seems like I always had a knack of handlin labor. Bein bawn an raised with turpen-

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Documents tine [African Americans] I learned their nature. They all liked me because I was fair and firm, an they’d do anything for me. If I quit a job and went to another, ever last [African American] on the place would follow me if I told em to. “Most camps are so deep in the woods that law officers don’t bother em much. Outside of murder, the officers usually leave it up to the camp foreman to make and enforce his own laws. At least that’s the way it used to be . . .”

Marjor y Stoneman Douglas, The Ever glades: River of Grass (1947). A movement to put national parks in the South got started in the 1920s and 1930s. Marjory Stoneman Douglas led the fight for the establishment of Everglades National Park in 1947 and was a founder of Friends of the Everglades in 1969. Born in 1890 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and raised in Massachusetts, Douglas moved to Florida in 1915 and began a career in journalism, followed by a literary career. Beginning in the 1920s, she protested unbridled development in Florida and called for the protection of the state’s unique landscape. Her best-selling 1947 book, The Everglades: River of Grass, raised consciousness about the wonder that was the Everglades, and also helped create a public perception that wetlands could be valuable, and not just worthless “swamp.” An activist up to the end, she died in 1998 at the age of 108. In this excerpt, she describes the wonders of a unique ecosystem—the Everglades. —Mark Stoll There are no other Everglades in the world. They are, they have always been, one of the unique regions of the earth, remote, never wholly known. Nothing anywhere else is like them: their vast glittering openness, wider than the enormous visible round of the horizon, the racing free saltness and sweetness of their massive winds, under the dazzling blue heights of space. They are unique also in the simplicity, the diversity, the related harmony of the forms of life they enclose. The miracle of the light pours over the green and brown expanse of saw grass and of water, shining and slow-moving below, the grass and water that is the meaning and the central fact of the Everglades of Florida. It is a river of grass. The great pointed paw of the state of Florida, familiar as the map of North American itself, of which it is the most noticeable appendage, thrusts south, farther south than any other part of the mainland of the United States. Between the shining aquamarine waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the roaring deep-blue waters of the north-surging Gulf Stream, the shaped land points toward Cuba and the Caribbean. It points toward and touches within one degree of the tropics. More than halfway down that thrusting sea-bound peninsula nearly everyone knows the lake that is like a great hole in that pawing shape, Lake Okeechobee, the second largest body of fresh water, it is always said, “within the confines of the United States.” Below that lie the Everglades.

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Southern United States: An Environmental History They have been called “the mysterious Everglades” so long that the phrase is a meaningless platitude. For four hundred years after the discovery they seemed more like a fantasy than a simple geographic and historic fact. Even the men who in the later years saw them more clearly could hardly make up their minds what the Everglades were or how they could be described, or what use could be made of them. They were mysterious then. They are mysterious still to everyone by whom their fundamental nature is not understood. Off and on for those four hundred years the region now called “The Everglades” was described as a series of vast, miasmic swamps, poisonous lagoons, huge dismal marches without outlet, a rotting, shallow, inland sea, or labyrinths of dark trees hung and looped about with snakes and dropping mosses, malignant with tropical fevers and malarias, evil to the white man. Even the name, “The Everglades,” was given them and printed on a map of Florida within the past hundred years. It is variously interpreted. There were one or two other names we know, which were given them before that, but what sounds the first men had for them, seeing first, centuries and centuries before the discovering white men, those sun-blazing solitudes, we shall never know. The shores that surround the Everglades were the first on this continent known to white men. The interior was almost the last. They have not yet been entirely mapped . . . The grass and the water together make the river as simple as it is unique. There is no other river like it. Yet within the simplicity, enclosed within the river and bordering and intruding on it from each side, there is subtlety and diversity, a crowd of changing forms, of thrusting, teeming life. And all that becomes the region of the Everglades.

“Siting of Hazardous Waste Landfi fillls and Their Cor relation with Racial and Economic Status of Sur rounding Communities” (1983). The scope of American environmentalism expanded significantly as the result of an environmental protest in Warren County, North Carolina. When waste oil contaminated by toxic PCB was illegally spread on roadsides, the Environmental Protection Agency declared the roads a Superfund site. The contaminated soil was scraped up and put it in a dump in Warren County. Local residents protested that the dump’s location was chosen not because it was an ideal site for it but because it was in a poor black area. Their protests led to congressional investigations, a 1987 report from the United Church of Christ by Benjamin Chavis that defined the term “environmental racism,” and eventually to official recognition of environmental racism by the EPA during the Clinton administration. This report by the General Accounting Office, conducted at the request of Congress, verified that three out of four toxic dump sites in the South were located in poor, predominantly black communities. (Appendices and footnotes omitted.) —Mark Stoll

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Documents This report provides information on the racial and economic characteristics communities surrounding four hazardous waste landfills in three southeastern States. It also describes Federal criteria for siting landfills and provides data on public participation and how the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) proposed hazardous waste facility permit changes will affect it. GAO-RCED-83–168 June 1, 1983 The Honorable James J. Florio Chairman, Subcommittee on Commerce, Transportation and Tourism Committee on Energy and Commerce House of Representatives The Honorable Walter E. Fauntroy House of Representatives By letter dated December 16, 1982, you requested us to determine the correlation between the location of hazardous waste landfills and the racial and economic status of the surrounding communities. As agreed with your offices, we focused our review on offsite landfills—those not part of or contiguous to an industrial facility—found in the eight southeastern States comprising the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Region IV. You also asked for information on site location standards, public participation requirements for siting offsite hazardous waste landfills, and EPA’s class permit proposal which addresses the permitting, as a group, less complex waste management facilities such as storage tanks. We found that: There are four offsite hazardous waste landfills in Regions IV’s eight States. Blacks make up the majority of the population in three of the four communities where the landfills are located. At least 26 percent of the population in all four communities have income below the poverty level and most of this population is Black. The determination of where a hazardous waste landfill will be located is currently a State responsibility. Federal regulations, effective in January 1983, require that selected sites meet minimal location standards. EPA has just begun its review process to determine if sites meet these standards. Federal legislation requires public participation in the hazardous waste landfill permit process except for the approval of disposal for polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which are regulated under separate legislation that does not provide for public participation. Because of delays in issuing final regulations three of the four landfills in Region IV have not yet undergone the final permit process where public participation is required. The fourth is a PCB landfill and even though not subject to Federal requirements, had undergone this process. Only one site in the Nation (in Region VI) has been granted a final hazardous waste landfill permit and had been subjected to the public participation process. EPA’s class permit proposal for regulating facilities, such as tanks or containers that use proven technology, would change public participation at the local level by limiting the issues to be discussed. However, class permits would not apply to landfills.

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OBJECTIVE, SCOPE, AND METHODOLOGY Our objective was to determine the correlation between the location of hazardous waste landfills and the racial and economic status of surrounding communities. As agreed with your office, we reviewed offsite hazardous waste landfills in EPA’s Region IV (consisting of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee). We reviewed files and interviewed responsible officials at EPA and the Bureau of the Census headquarters in Washington, D.C. We also performed work at the EPA Regional Office in Atlanta. Because the Warren County PCB landfill was specifically referred to in the request letter and was the newest site in Region IV, we also did work at North Carolina’s Department of Crime Control and Public Safety (the State’s lead agency for PCB cleanup and disposal) and the Department of Human Resources in Raleigh. To obtain local information, we interviewed Warren County health officials. We also met in Atlanta with an official of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to discuss racial issues surrounding the Warren County site selection. To determine the location of offsite landfills in Region IV, we reviewed files at EPA headquarters and its Region IV office and interviewed officials by telephone in all eight States. We identified four offsite hazardous waste landfills—Chemical Waste Management, Sumter County, Alabama; Industrial Chemical Company, Chester County, South Carolina; SCA Services, Sumter County, South Carolina; and the Warren County PCB landfill, North Carolina. To obtain information on communities surrounding these landfills, Bureau of the Census, Department of Commerce, officials located the sites on maps that delineated census areas and provided 1980 racial and economic data for census areas in which the landfills are located and other census areas that have borders within about 4 miles. Bureau of the Census officials also provided similar data for the county and State where the landfills are located. As agreed with your office we did not verify Bureau of the Census supplied data nor determine why the sites were selected, the population-mix of the area when the site was established, the distribution of the population around the landfill, nor how the communities’ racial and economic status compared to others in the State. Also, we did not determine whether any of these sites pose a risk to the surrounding communities. We also reviewed the landfill siting and public participation requirements of the Resources Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 and the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976. We reviewed EPA’s headquarters public participation files but cannot judge the public participation process for landfill permits because only one final RCRA landfill permit had been issued. At your request, we did not obtain agency cements. However, the matters presented in this report were discussed with agency officials and their comments are incorporated, where appropriate.

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Documents Our work was conducted from December 1982 to April 1983. Except as noted above, we made our review in accordance with generally accepted government audit standards.

RACIAL AND ECONOMIC DATA Based on 1980 census data at three of the four sites—Chemical Waste Management, Industrial Chemical Company, and the Warren County PCB Landfill—the majority of the population in census areas (areas within a county such as a township or subdivision) where the landfills are located is Black. Also, at all four sites the Black population in the surrounding census areas has a lower mean income than the mean income for all races combined and represents the majority of those below poverty level (the poverty level was $7,412 for a family of four in the 1980 census).

1980 Census Population, Income, and Pover ty Data for Census Ar eas Where Landfi fillls Ar e Located Population

Mean Family Income

Population below Poverty Level

Number

Percent Black

All Races

Blacks

Chemical Waste Mgmt.

626

90

$11,198

$10,752

265

42

100

SCA Services

849

38

16,371

6,781

260

31

100

Industrial Chemical Co.

728

52

18,996

12,941

188

26

92

Warren County PCB Landfill

804

66

10,367

9,285

256

32

90

Landfill

Number Percent

Percent Black

... J. Dexter Peach Director

Mar y Huf for d, “Stalking the Mother For est: Voices Beneath the Canopy,” fr om Folklife Center News 17, No. 3 (Summer 1995). Ecologists had described what they called a “mixed mesophytic” forest in the Appalachians, a uniquely diverse mix of trees sometimes called the “mother forest” of other American deciduous forests. While ecologists bemoaned the death of the forest from pollution, mining, and logging, and replacement by single-species stands of

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Southern United States: An Environmental History conifers, the author, Mary Hufford, began working with local residents to document their forest-use traditions and their observations of contemporary ecological change, which she describes in this excerpt from her article, “Stalking the Mother Forest: Voices Beneath the Canopy.” —Mark Stoll

“Like a Thief Through the Air”: Discourses of Forest Decline In beer joints and living rooms, on porches and ridgetops, one hears people talking about a forest on the wane. “The men that like to hunt and be out ginsenging and will be all over the woods,” said Robert Allen, of Peachtree Creek. “I’ve heard a lot of them talk about the way the timber is falling and dying out.” Old-timers grew up tracking the demise of the American chestnut. A middle-aged generation eulogizes the red mulberry. Up on Clay’s Branch, Danny Williams, who cuts timber for a living, tabulates the present crop of decline: “Now it’s the red oak, now it’s going into your beech, you can’t find no solid beech, no solid gum, your poplars is not as bad but getting there, and then your hard sugar maple, they’re hollow. Yellow locust is gone. And if it’s standing up, it’s dead. It just ain’t fell yet.”1 From a porch at the head of Rock Creek Hollow, John Flynn and Ben Burnside discuss the vanishing nut trees: “Of course, the butternut [white walnut],” said Ben, “they’re just about a thing of the past. Most of them are dying.” “Remember the chinquapin nuts?” John asked him.2 “They’re gone too, ain’t they?” Ben observed. Not entirely, Mae Bongalis, seventy-eight, informed us later in Naoma: Chinquapins is about all died out, but there’s one tree growing up Sandlick. I seen this little branch a-hanging by the door of that little market right by the road? And the guy that owns that place, he’s a good friend, and I said, “Beano, where did you get them chinquapins?” He said, “You know, Mae, nobody knows what they are, how did you know?” I says, “I picked many a one of them,” and he said, “Right up there,” he said, “in that hill’s one tree.” And I said, “Any little ones comes up, dig me one.” A growing sense of a world going awry is fueled by a sense of history. “There’s something wrong with the roots of the trees,” said Kenneth Pettry, sixty-nine, proprietor of the Sundial Tavern. “You can snap off the roots of the [yellow] locust. Back when I was a kid we had to blow out the stumps of locust with dynamite.” Other residents report trees snapping off in high winds (“Snap locusts,” Joe Aliff wryly terms them), littering the forest floor with pieces of the canopy; falling over “for no reason at all,” disclosing desiccated root wads and dappling deep woods with unaccustomed light; “throwing” limbs on people walking and working in the woods; gushing water “like a faucet” onto chainsaws; and erupting into sylvan grotesques of exaggerated, nitrogen-induced growth. “Joe Aliff has [paw-paws] on his north hillside,” John

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Documents Flynn related to Robert and Mary Allen, “They’re fifty feet tall, and you look up and say, ‘Paw-paw?’” Some ecologists are linking these symptoms to long-term deterioration from airborne toxins. Acknowledging a problem, foresters have implicated a complex array of blight, fire, agricultural abuse, and disease. The ecologists counter that a healthy forest system can tolerate such incursions, and that the unprecedented failure of multiple species to regenerate is worth serious and immediate scrutiny. Orie Loucks, who holds the endowed chair of ecosystems studies for the state of Ohio, argues that three factors have profoundly altered the mixed-mesophytic system: (1) aluminum toxicity, related to acidification (from sulfates, exceeding thirty pounds per year per acre); (2) nitrogen deposition, which reduces the capacity of trees on the northern slopes to resist fungal infections; and (3) ozone deposition, which diminishes the photosynthetic capacity of trees, which in turn diminishes the roots. Ironically, the Clean Air Act of 1990, which set standards attainable by central Appalachia’s low-sulphur bituminous coal, triggered a campaign to retrieve what remains of the strippable reserves in the Coal River Valley.3 Clear-cutting in tandem with stripmining compounds what residents see as the accelerating deterioration of the forest. Loucks emphasizes, however, that the gradual, long-term damage caused by airborne toxins is, in contrast to clear-cutting, irreversible. In other words, the less visible aspects of the process are the more devastating. “Low” as it is, the sulphur transported out of the hollows in massive coal trucks returns through the air, via towering smokestacks hundreds of miles away on the Ohio and Tennessee rivers. Here the hollows breathe, “drawing air like a chimney,” inhaling and exhaling what Joe Aliff, a disabled coal miner in his fifties, calls “that damned blue haze.” It comes, he says, “like a thief through the air.”

Biodiversity, a Seasonal Round, and National Forest Policy Even in what residents perceive to be a deteriorated state, the comparative vitality of this forest is striking. Following his first visit to the coves on Coal River, plant pathologist David Houston of the USFS Northeastern experiments station commented, “I marvelled at the lushness and species diversity and the magnitude of the trees.”4 Around that lushness, diversity, and magnitude, residents of the Coal River Valley have for generations created culture. The fertile coves that once replenished the Eastern deciduous forests teem with plants, wildlife, and structures that are not merely economic resources, but templates for patterning life. “Plant corn when the oak leaves are as big as a squirrel’s ear,” said John Flynn to Dennis Christian of Dry Creek, a former schoolmate. Christian returned, “Plant corn when the dogwood’s in full bloom. That’s an old saying.” A seasonal round that synchronizes gardening, hunting, and the marketplace with the forest’s bounty begins each year in mid-March with a trip to the ramp patch. Ramps,

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Southern United States: An Environmental History wild cousins of garlic and the first of the wild foods, are featured at spring feasts throughout the Southern mountains, together with boisterous jokes about the odor ramps bestow on their loyal consumers. “Get that hot sausage,” said Ben Burnside, “have them ramps ready, scramble in the egg, three slices of cheese, boy, I’ll tell you, ain’t nothing better.” In every season the forest supports the round, with spring greens (poke, dock, “crow’s feet,” “woolly britches,” cresses, “Shawnee lettuce,” dandelions, wild mustard and a number of others), berries (“sarvice” berries, wineberries, blackberries, raspberries, “sheep tits,” huckleberries, and mulberries), and the nuts and fruits of fall (hazelnuts, acorns, chinquapins, beechnuts, butternut, walnut, persimmons, paw-paws, and bitternut, pignut, and mockernut hickory). There are mushrooms, the spring morels called “molly moochers,” the red ones of autumn that Elsie Rich, of Jarrold’s Valley, called “bull’s tongue,” and the “little white ones” that remind Mary Allen of choice seafood. “You cut them in two, they’re kind of like a scallop,” she said, “and roll them in flour and fry them, they’re good.” Hunting and digging ginseng, the most famous of the wild cash crops, is an abiding passion for a number of men on Coal River. “I’d as soon ginseng as eat when I’m hungry,” said Dennis Dickens, eighty-five. “Every spare minute I had was spent a-ginsenging.” And, of course, each season has its quarry, and each quarry its aficionados, for whom gathering wild products provides opportunities to observe this year’s distribution of preferred game, whether deer, bear, turkey, grouse, rabbit, raccoon, groundhog, squirrel, or rattlesnakes. Participation in this round informs local timbering practices. Bob Daniel, of Dry Creek, owner of Appalachian Hardwoods, spoke of the importance of den trees. “Some people call beeches ‘wolf trees’ because they gobble up all the nutrients. [But] I like to leave four or five, if they’re not too close together, for game.” Such talk may seem at first blush irrelevant to national goals of forest preservation and management, since none of the forested land there falls within a National Forest. Yet the National Forest Management Act of 1976 (P.L. 94–588) charges the U.S. Forest Service to maintain for the nation “a natural resource conservation posture that will meet the requirements of our people in perpetuity.” On Coal River, descriptions of a forest as part of a living, working landscape spell out those requirements, modeling a diversified system of mixed-age stands that is a dynamic, healthy, and human environment. Tied to a diminishing seasonal round, memories of residents highlight the importance of old-growth in a biocultural system. Traditional practices like honey harvesting, squirrel hunting, and tapping maple syrup depended on the presence of mature trees. “When I was young,” said Kenneth Pettry, “I hunted a lot. You couldn’t go a hundred feet in the mountains until you found walnuts, beeches. You don’t see it no more. Hickory was thick then. You could go into a grove of hickories and had to watch where you stepped or you’d fall in the nuts. It ain’t that way now. Dad showed me and my two older brothers how to tap sugar maples. Show me a sugar maple today you could get a pint out of. The walnuts that stood in our barnyard was six foot through.”

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Documents In Sundial, Wesley Scarbro, twenty-two, abandoned squirrel hunting five years ago. “There used to be stands of hickories all over,” he observed, “and it was more of a challenge. But now you go and there’s very few hickories where they can feed, and you know that they’re all going to be around that one tree, and there ain’t no sport.” “And I’ll tell you another thing,” said Robert Allen, sixty-seven. “Wild bees. There used to be a lot of them around here, and now they’re dying out. The wild bees would be in the older trees. The younger trees wouldn’t be big enough.” Lining bees with the aid of a sweet lure, one could follow them to their hive, exploiting the terrain of the coves to keep the bees in sight. “I’ll tell you the best way to beeline,” said Dave Bailey, fiftyeight, of Stickney. “Get in the holler where the sun comes up and comes down in. Get over on the other bank and set there and you can watch them in that sun.” Breaking into the wild stash, one could track the course of a blooming season in a mixed mesophytic hive. “The linden is more mild,” said Robert Allen, “It’s almost clear. Locust honey is a little stronger honey, and it’s amber colored. Then you get the poplar, it’s almost black and it’s real strong.”

“Holding up the Mountains”: Forest Talk as Historical Discourse As talk about change, forest talk is part of a larger effort to construct local history through historical discourse.5 Constructing history, people relate themselves to their surroundings and position that relationship in time. History is, as Henry Glassie writes, “a prime mode of cultural construction . . . a way people organize reality to investigate truth to survive in their own terms.”6 On Coal River, historical discourse renders coherent a struggle to maintain “place” on land that has shifted over that past century into the control of absentee owners. Through sayings, place name etymologies, genealogical digressions, local anecdotes, and historical recollections, speakers challenge a historical process that separates people from their land and resources. Authenticating their relationship to the land, such talk defends against the cultural disappearance (via stereotyping) that operates in tandem with literal removal. Local historical discourse does not separate the woods from the mountains, for to do so literally would be disastrous: “What’s holding up the mountains? Trees!” as Jerry Bone, thirty-eight, of Dry Creek put it. Nor does it separate woods from people: “They’re taking away our dignity by destroying our forest,” wrote Vernon Williams on a recently circulated petition to study and protect the forest. Viewed historically, knowledge of the mixed mesophytic has aided physical and cultural survival over the past century. During what Mae Bongalis called “the Hoover times,” reliance on wild foods minimized dependency on the company store. “Back in the bad times,” said Bongalis, “I seen people go out, be snow on the ground. Rake that snow and leaves off, you find little sprouts like that and pick it to eat. People didn’t even have grease to go on the stuff after they cooked it. They just boiled it and ate it. And we had plenty.”

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Southern United States: An Environmental History Recalling when, in a later era, the mines were idled during “slack run,” Dave Bailey cited the incorporation of “commodities”—food from the government—into family menus that included “blackberry flitters” from canned wild blackberries, “shoestring beans” dried and reconstituted from the garden, and memorable casseroles built around “Spam” (canned meat) from the government. For some currently “cut off from work” the woods continue to be culturally as well as economically sustaining. “I make my living in construction,” wrote Dennis Price, forty, on the above-mentioned petition. “But really, I consider myself a ginsenger.” His advice: “Don’t lay around on your deadbeat ass and get a check from the government. There’s ginseng, there’s bloodroot, there’s yellow root.” Place names and related narratives attach family and community history to the surrounding terrain. Taken as a whole, the names conferred on nearly every wrinkle seen from the air index forest history: Ground Squirrel Hollow, Honey Camp Hollow, Redbud Hollow, Sugar Camp Hollow, Seng Creek, Isaac’s Fork, Spring Hollow, Dogfight, Ma Kelly Branch. “Each hollow has a name,” emphasized Dennis Dickens, referring to the coves (also called “swags” or “drains”) flanking the slopes rising away from Peachtree Creek: Now Bear Branch, what gave it its name, a man cut a bee tree, and had more honey than he could carry and he left a bucket a-sitting there. And when he went back to get it, a bear had picked the bucket up and carried it out the mouth of the hollow and down the creek below there, past old Mose’s house, and there set his bucket on the walk where the bear’d eat the honey out of it. Other thresholds to local history in the forest include the “Marrying Rock,” on Bolt Mountain where couples awaited the blessing of the circuit rider; family cemeteries, old homeplaces, wagon roads that connected families scattered on both sides of a ridge, and sites associated with Indian ancestors, like the rock mortars Mae Bongalis’s grandmother showed her as they searched for red pucoon and slippery elm. “My great grandfather was an Indian witch doctor,” said Bongalis. My grandmother and all her brothers, they lived in Indian Creek. She’d take us up in them woods and she’d take an old stick and go to raking leaves and dirt, and show us in the cliffs where there was a hole—be about this big, then go down til it was little. They’d take what they call a hickory maul, and they’d put their corn down in that hollow, and then beat it with that maul til they had meal to bake bread, and she said, they built a fire on these big rocks and get them real hot and then they wiped them off and put their corn meal on and stir it up on that and bake it. The rocks were charred when Bongalis was a girl, and the mature trees her grandmother pointed out were saplings when their ancestors hung meat on them to cure. Such accounts, which bolster a sense of belonging on the land, also help to maintain a critical perspective on the historical process that has shaped the region’s destiny. Recurrent in oral tradition are vignettes that dramatically pit the knowledge of corporate agents against the intimate knowledge of area residents. “Now what did you say to the

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Documents guy when he told you you could get three hundred dollars for your walnut if it was one inch larger?” John Flynn asked Dennis Dickens. “I told him I’d just wait for it to grow,” Dennis Dickens responded, to appreciative guffaws. “You know, that walnut tree is just about the same age I am.”7 In national news coverage of environmental crises, one often hears the argument that environmental regulation costs jobs. Indeed, high rates of unemployment in places like Coal River are usually cited to rationalize controversial forms of resource extraction and use. In Stickney, Gary Bone, an unemployed coal miner, challenges the pitting of economic growth against environmental health: “You can’t destroy our environment just because we have a depressed economy.” The talk on Coal River constitutes a missing perspective in the national environmental debate. Shifting toward “ecosystem management,” the U.S. Forest Service grapples with the question of where human beings fit into ecosystems.” The task is to create environmental policy that registers local as well as national and global concerns. Sifting through the rubble of progress, tallying the cost, voices beneath the canopy compel a hearing.

Notes 1. Yellow or “mountain” locust is the local term for what botanists recognize as a subspecies of black locust. In contrast to the black or “field” locust that sprouts in open fields and makes a bad fence, yellow locust is a towering, rot-resistant cove species. While not highly regarded by foresters, yellow locust is prized locally as the wood of choice for fences, barns, mining posts, and an excellent heat source in distilling whiskey. 2. Chinquapin here refers to the shrub chestnut, Castanea pumila, not to be confused with the chinquapin oak. 3. Pat Canterbury, of Naoma, pointed out that, in place of the old “3 Rs,”—“Readin, Ritin, and Route 21,” which in the 1950s and 1960s alluded to outmigration as an imperative for economic survival—a new “3 Rs” is making the rounds: “Remove (the mountain top), Remove (the coal), and Replant (the land, usually with grass).” 4. Quoted in John Flynn’s memo to Orie Loucks, June 16, 1995. 5. Charles Briggs discusses historical discourse in Competence and Performance (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1988) as a mode of speaking that constructs the past, thinking of history as a symbolic construct that relates past, present, and future. 6. Passing the Time in Ballymenone (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1981), 652. 7. James Jarrell reported to John Flynn that Dickens recently dismissed yet another timber agent with the words, “I’ll sell as soon as you have enough horses to pull it all out.” Telephone conversation with John Flynn, July 24, 1995.

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