Alexander/Crawford History

Tag: 
Town News

By John Dudley 

& Cassie Oakes

 

THE VIEW THROUGH THE WINDSHIELD

Did you know that the view through the windshield is about to change again along the roads of rural Washington County?  In Alexander, the first road was blazed through the woods in 1806.  It started on the Township 15 (Cooper) line and ran following northerly along a ridge, down a steep hill, by a lake on the west, through a cedar swamp, up another hill to the highland, hence easterly to the top of Bailey Hill and the Houlton Road.  Much of that 1806 road can be traveled upon today.  We have all done that, but not through the woods.

By 1820 families lived in Township 16 (Alexander).  About a quarter of the families were scattered along the above-described road.  The homes were small, mostly log.  The families were big.  The clearing by each home was from one to three acres and full of stumps and rock piles, Crops were to feed the family and might have been fenced to keep out the cattle (oxen and cows), sheep and pig.  Livestock pastured in the woods.

By 1860 about eighty families called Alexander home, a drop in population from 1850 that would continue until 1980.  In 1860 we might see an abandoned home site.  A post and beam house and barn stood on each of the twenty-two farms along the Cooper Road.  The stumps had rotted away and some of the rock piles were in walls along the edges of the fields.  Most apples were for pigs and cider, the livestock still wandered or were fenced into the woodlot.

The view along the road had changed greatly by 1900.  Farmers had found a cash crop, cream for butter.  Many had two barns, the cycle bar mower had caused them to clear the fields of rocks and other objects that would hinder haying and the cows were pastured in what became cleared, fenced, but rough fields.  The orchard was another source of cash. Apples were shipped out of Calais by ship until 1900 when the railroad connected us to the world.  Our view through the windshield would be the rural scene that artists painted.

Our world changed again at the end of WWII.  Lard butter had replaced the real stuff. A killing freeze in May of 1934 had ended the apple trees.  The depression had sent our people elsewhere searching for security.  Elbridge McArthur and Bernard Flood were the first to commute to work in Woodland.  Out their windshields they saw abandoned farms, fields growing in to deer pastures (later moose pastures), and blueberries creeping into those fields.

And it has been the pleasure horse people, a couple of folks raising beef critters and blueberries that have filled the view through the windshield for the past 40 years, that cleared land and woods and built a few more houses. What will we see the next 40?  What will happen to those beautiful fields cleared for blueberries?

Through the windshield we’ve seen how chemicals have eliminated many weeds, how excavators have removed the rocks, how machines have raked the crop.  We’ve read how production per acre has grown six times since WWII.  We have heard of the provincial governments of Quebec and the Maritimes still plowing money into blueberry production. And we listen to our growers who lost money this year, while some left the crop in the fields.

What will we see through the windshield?  Will those fields grow up to deer pastures again, then into forests?  Will farmers switch to growing fir boughs for Christmas decorations?  What type of things will grow on that land that has been sprayed?  What will grow in those fields we see through the windshields with climate change?