A DUNKARD'S TREE OF LIFEImagine a life of simple things with most of them coming from the tree. Today we use so many things that come from minerals that we forget how much we still depend on trees for everything from paper to medicine. In the early 1700s iron ore and other kinds of metals were just beginning to be used to make more industrial items. If you were to look at a list of household items you would only find the skillets, kettles, griddles, toaster, ax heads, hatchet, knives, silverware, mugs, and other small kitchen items made of iron, pewter, or tin. These items were more expensive and harder to take along when moving or traveling. It was easier for the early settlers to take along a good knife, hatch, ax, and maybe a kettle and skillet. Most early traveling was done by horse or by foot. There were few roads so the early settlers took along as little as possible. They knew that where there were going there would be plenty of trees to make most anything they needed out of wood. Today most people know very little about wood, but in the early 1700s and 1800s children grew up knowing about trees and how the wood in the different trees should be used. Household items made of wood were called “treenware.” To make a good rocking chair took seven kinds of wood. Each kind of wood helped the other pieces to work together making a very strong chair. Often the early ministers would use examples such as this to help show how all the different people in a congregation working together make a stronger church. However, it wasn't just the wood that was used, but also the by-products of the tree. All ashes were saved and put into wooden barrels where rain water was poured over them to form the lye which was then used to make soap. Charcoal could be used to make gun powder. Oak bark was soaked in water and used in the large tan-ning operations found throughout the Cove area. Also many dyes were made from the bark and nuts. Christopher Sower and John Kline used the trees to make medicine which they used in their travels and to send to the early Dunkards when there was sickness. It is said that if you eat an apple every day it will keep the doctor away. The apple tree became one of the most valuable trees in the new world. Many people afraid to drink the water used cider and apple juice instead. The apples were often stored in root cellars or hung by their stems if they were special. It was against the law to cut down a fruit tree, and often apples or other fruits were used as money. Apple butter was made in the fall of the year and stored in crocks to be used during the long winter months. March was the time of year when the maples started to send the sap back up from the roots to the leaves. The Indians showed the early Dunkards and other settlers how to tap the trees and use the sap to make sugar and syrup. As the sugaring season progressed, the syrup became darker and was used to make different things. The first run made the whitest sugar which was put in wooden tubs made of maple and kept for special
occasions. Syrup was collected in wooden buckets made of maple to keep the favors pure. It was then boiled down over fires kept burning for many days. The first Dunkards sent potash and lumber back to Europe in the early days as payment for passages on ships and as a way to earn much needed cash. Trees provided a source of income as well as a way to make life easier in a new world. The early Dunkards worked hard to be good caretakers of the world God created. To learn more about how trees were used long ago, read Eric Sloane's books on early life.