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When Wood Cutting Thrived

Footnotes to Long Island History

When woodcutting Thrived
April 19, 1951

by

Thomas R. Bayles


       The cordwood business, which was an important industry on Long Island 50 years ago, has practically disappeared. Evidence of its importance in those days is the following item which appeared in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle February 1, 1903:

       "EASTPORT, L.I, FEB. 1- Thousands of cords of wood are being cut and shipped over the Long Island Rail Road from this vicinity. One of the largest dealers in this locality expects to ship more than 7000 cords of wood from this place before the season ends. 

       "Among the large dealers are Charles Steijke, M. Raynor and sons, G. W. Raynor, H. Bitters, E. W. Lane, William Carter and Sons and P. Howell. More than 100 woodcutters are now engaged in the pine and oak woods to the north of this village."

       In 1890 an item in a local paper stated that "large quantities of cordwood are being shipped from the Manorville station, G. W. Raynor alone having shipped over 1000 cords since June 1."

       In those days the "pine plains" across the island were covered with a heavy growth of pine and oak timber and throughout Brookhaven town the wood cutting business was engaged in by a great many of the farmers during the winter months and brought in a substantial income during a time of year when here was little else to do.

       For many years during the past century a great quantity of wood was cut through the middle and north sides of the Island and carted to the sound where it was piled. During the summer months the wood was loaded on sloops from the sound shore and shipped to New York City and also up the Hudson  to Haverstraw for use in curing bricks in the great brick yards there.

       About the last area man still living who was actively engaged in the wood business 50 or more years ago is Lewis E. Ritch of Middle Island. Although he is now 81 years old of age every winter he still cuts several cords of wood on his farm and sells it. A short time ago he remarked that the market for cordwood had practically disappeared and about the only sale now was for wood cut in lengths to be burned in fireplaces.

       An item in Brooklyn Eagle on June 25, 1908 tells about a forest fire that burned over 1,000 acres of woodland east of Middle Island and destroyed over 300 cords of wood cut on the farm of John G. Randall of the Ridge.

       An advertisement run in the Advance in April, 1902, by William H. Harris who operated a wood yard in Patchogue at the corner of East Main street and Evergreen avenue  quoted dry oak cord wood at $4 a cord, pine at $3 a cord with $1.50 extra for sawing an splitting two cuts.

       At the present time over $6 a cord is paid for cutting what little wood is cut and the art of cutting and pilling a nice cord of wood is a thing in the past.

       So with the changing conditions of our times the old wood industry has disappeared from Long Island.


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