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If a man takes himself for a model and learns nothing from others there is little hope for his improvement. For about twenty years we have had our annual meetings, composed of intelligent men from all the states in the Union, with our friends from Canada, discussing all questions pertaining to Cemetery matters. We also have our excellent paper, "Park and Cemetery," through which we are kept posted on all these things, so that our cemetery improvements keep pace with the advancing intelligence of our people.
Our excellent Chairman has invited us to step out from the quiet precincts of the Cemetery, for a little while, to consider the welfare of the living. Nature in this country is on an extensive scale. Our inland seas, great rivers, mountain ranges, fertile lands, exuberant vegetation, with our vast sea coasts, fisheries and unbounded mineral wealth, form a country capable of sustaining a thousand millions of people.
Nature is a unit, and as a unit it is also a mechanism, perfect in all its parts. To disturb any part thereof is to disturb all the rest. To remove say one hundred feet deep of vegetation from such a large country as this, would certainly make a great change. We observe that our streams are becoming raging torrents in winter and dry beds in summer. Then the fierce winds of winter sweep over the bare face of the earth, with injury to farm crops and certain destruction to fruit trees, becoming a menace to the comfort and health of the people and the cattle in the field. The destruction of the forests is going on and unless we replenish the forests by replanting, we may say that our nation has reached the zenith of its prosperity.
But will our people let this, the most desirable country in the world go to destruction? I throw not. Already our wise men at Washington, DC, have thrown the broad shield of the government protection over forests on the public land and at the head-waters of some of our rivers in different States, which will save our goodly city of Orleans, with other southern cities, from being washed into the seas. In this connection we may mention the dear old, smoky city of Pittsburg, that great hive of industry, whose streets are so frequently flooded by the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers, by reason of the destruction of the forests above, with all the cities and towns on the banks of the Ohio on down to the sea, which are washed more and more every year in proportion as the forests are cleaned from the country above. To stop this destruction is a serious consideration. We know the cause; what is the remedy?
I would suggest as a universal and perfect plan, one that would meet all the requirements, connected with forest trees. Plant break-winds of evergreen trees so that every field will be protected. The snow and ice will linger among them all winter and stop the flooding of our streams at once. To be effective, it would take one-tenth of the surface to he devoted to shelter belts. But what about our lords of creation, the farmers? Certainly they will be amply compensated for the loss of the land by the valuable lumber grown on the farm, and the shelter afforded will more than double the worth of the acres cultivated. To this end, then, we must be diligent, working together, each man do his duty, like a well organized army, throughout the length and breath of the land. This is the only way possible, by which we can maintain the prosperity of the country by keeping the supply of lumber equal to the great demand, securing the safety of our cities on the rivers, where our farmers find a ready market for their produce. Those trees will be growing while we sleep; so, by the judicious planting of trees our country would appear as a paradise, where the whistling winds of winter sing to the storm and the sighing of the summer breezes accompany the sweet songs of our forest birds whose home is among the swaying branches, thus wielding a refining influence over our young people, filling them with love and respect for farm and country. But the most important and valuable results, will be the restoration of the salubrity of our climate, promoting the comfort and health of our people.
Let us take a retrospective glance at the history of an old Nation. Abraham, because of his excellent character, was called the friend of God. When he bought a burial lot from the sons of Heth, he was very careful to mention in the deed, "the trees in the borders thereof." One of his descendants, Solomon, King of Israel, made the cedars of Lebanon to be as plentiful about Jerusalem as the Sycamores of the valley. He also wrote a treatise on the vegetation of his country, from the cedars of Lebanon to the hysop that springs out of the wall. Unfortunately, that treatise is lost. Many persons today would be willing to pay a good price for it, could it be found. We are led to inquire, why is it, that that great country, which maintained a dense population for ages, is a desert today? Is it not because the cedars have departed from Lebanon? And the oak from Bashan? Let us take a lesson from Australia, a country about the size of our own, part of the British Empire. A few years ago a large district of the country was stripped of its forests, because of the commercial value of its lumber. The result was that region became a desert. The rain from heaven ceased to fall and every thing was desolate. But the government began planting trees, on the outside of' the dry district. As the trees advanced, the rain-fall advanced. Now the whole region is reclaimed. We have the experience of several old nations, in the treatment of their forests and the beneficial effects there from. It is quite evident, that no country can prosper without forests. Let us shelter every field from all the "cold blasts that can blow," not forgetting to plant high and lofty trees in vicinity of buildings, being a great protection in thunder storms.
A vast amount of property is consumed by lightning every year in this country, barns and dwellings with their contents, which can easily be prevented by the planting of a few trees. Speaking from my own experience and observations, in my location, Washington, PA., which is all the battle line of climatic war, between the extremes of the North and the South, I sincerely believe that all parts of the country, from the Arctic to the Torrid Zone, would be benefited by the planting of trees. All Superintendents of American Cemeteries should make their influence felt for the public weal along this line in their various locations.
Our country, the United States of America, was the last and best portion of the earth to be opened up for the habitation of man. These men were prepared in the old world, by severe discipline under tyranic rule, so that the love of liberty and right swayed all their actions. They brought with them the Bible, Colleges and Schools, the influence of which has made America the leading nation of the world, a bulwark of freedom, a joy and praise in the earth. Let us all then as citizens live up to our duty making the best of life and leaving this world the better for our being in it. Therefore it behooves us all to look forward to the consummation of all things earthly. King David, the "Sweet Singer of Israel," with all the power of prophetic vision, looked away clown the vista of coming time, to the supreme crisis, the glorious entrance of the human race, into their eternal home and was led to exclaim:
"Ye gates lift your heads, and an entrance display,
"Ye doors everlasting wide open the way!
"The King of all Glory; high honors await,
"The King of Glory; shall enter in state!”
"With joy and gladness great,
He all of them shall bring,
And they together enter shall; the palace of the King."
From the publication:
AACS - Proceedings of the 22nd Annual Convention
Held at Kansas City, MO
August 11, 12 and 13, 1908