18th c. "jam" in a new sense?
Dalecoye at AOL.COM
Sat Feb 5 18:28:34 UTC 2005
I found this description in a local town history. Apart from it being a
sense of the word that I didn't find in either the OED online or DARE, note the
delight the author takes in the concept of 5000 trees coming down at once.
>From Historical Sketches of Wilton New Hampshire 1739-1939, Hamilton S.
Putnam, ed. The Wilton Historical Society, 1939
JAM pp. 9-10 Because of the dense forests, settlers were forced to cut
down thousands of these big trees to make room for public buildings, houses,
bridges and roads. It was customary to cut down trees and burn them. Sometimes
the early citizens held a “jam.” All the trees on a certain tract would be
cut nearly off, then, when all was ready the jam would be started by felling
one big tree. The giant timber crashing against others would send the whole
tract smashing to the ground, with a fearful crash, filling the air with broken
limbs and shaking the ground for a long distance.
This method of clearing land eliminated a great deal of chopping
and was supposed to prevent the lodging of trees. It was a magnificent sight
to see from one thousand to five thousand of these original “giants of the
forest” go down at once. But it was a dangerous business, as a premature fall or
high wind might start the “jam” before the workmen were ready. In spite of
all manner of precautions several of the early settlers were killed by these
The trees were left on the ground to dry for several months.
After selected logs had been removed from the fallen timber area the whole
section was set on fire. Dry timber, leaves, and dry mould of centuries burned like
tinder and within a few minutes the heat from the blazing pile was like that
of a “blazing oven.” Great precautions had to be taken to prevent the
frightful force and fury of the fire from burning beyond the bounds and a strong
force of men was needed.
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