A few weeks ago I watched a film on TV entitled The Last Buffalo. It was produced by the Smithsonian Channel. Although sad at the loss of those great herds of buffalo, it ended with an uplifting scenario for their continued existence.
I know we’ve all heard the stories about the senseless lack of concern for our environment and its biodiversity in the early years of America’s development. ‘About the extinction of many plants including trees and shrubs, birds, animals and insects. And although it makes us sad, we also know that today through science we know better and we have hope that sooner than later, humans will begin taking care of our environment. We’re already seeing this concern with the Millenial generation.
I thought it might be helpful to know the mind-set of the early pioneers who traversed to the Midwest. They brought to America only what they knew. We’ve done a whole lot of learning since those days and I dare say we’ve got a whole lot more learning to do.
At the Toward Harmony with Nature Conference held on January 19, 2019, keynote speaker David Cordray gave us a brief glimpse of how our ancestors viewed the environment. He quoted Albert G Tuttle. In 1847, Tuttle had moved from New Haven, Connecticut to Fort Winnebago, Wisconsin and then to Baraboo where he became a partner in a general store before purchasing his farm in Baraboo. In letters back home to his wife, he wrote:
Garden of the World
“The natural resources of Wisconsin are almost unlimited and nothing is wanted but the hand of cultivation to make it the garden of the world. The general face of the country is beautiful in the extreme………In traveling over Wisconsin, one cannot but admire the scenery even when no traces of cultivation are visible. There is a softness and beauty in the landscape which is indescribable and which the hand of art will fail to improve.” (The Value of Ecological Restoration, slide 55)
It’s obvious from this quote early pioneers had only in mind cultivating the land, regardless of its beauty.
The Poisoned Wolf
“A few days since, while walking by the lake (Monona), I heard a voice above me saying, ‘look out, there’s a wolf.’ I looked and saw a few rods from me a large gray wolf eyeing me very intently. Who do you think ran? Why the wolf, of course…He knowing something of the nature of the beasts, suspected that he intended soon to return by the same route, went to his house, took a piece of meat, put some strychnine on it and left it on the lake. The wolf soon returned, ate it and after going a few rods fell down dead. These animals are rather plenty.” (The Baraboo Republic courtesy of Wisconsin Historical Society, Wisconsin Local History & Biography Articles)
It’s obvious from this quote early pioneers had little regard for the animals that first roamed this land.
This was All They Knew
But again, this was all they knew. Landing in this lush new land with its majestic forests, its unpolluted waters and its breathtaking plains was probably like being in heaven, compared to the worn out environment of Europe and Asia. I’m sure they all thought this land and its environment would last forever — not realizing the early pioneers to Eurasia probably thought the same thing when they arrived. Let’s all do our part to through natural landscaping to try to make certain past history doesn’t repeat itself.
NOTE: Albert G Tuttle was the grandfather of Charles R Tuttle who continued to run the farm, nursery business and flower, fruit and vegetable growing business known as Baraboo Valley Nursery. Tuttle House is listed on the Register of Historic Places.