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[5] extent of salt marsh. And again on the west was a narrower strip of land that felt the influence of salt water where Alewife brook divides Somerville from Cambridge and Arlington. Numerous brooks flowed through valleys between the many hills, watering ‘large meadows, without any tree or shrub to hinder the scythe.’

The hills of Somerville are drumlins, and were doubtless covered with the hardwood trees that thrive best on such dry, glacial soil—oak, chestnut, maple, beech, and birch. The little valleys and the swamps, the tracts of sand and clay offered conditions favorable to the growth of many different kinds of trees, of which pine, according to, Higginson, ‘was the most plentiful of all wood and the most useful to the colonists.’ Altogether, these formed a primeval forest whose extent and variety and solemn grandeur excited the wonder and the admiration of the newly-arrived Englishmen. But the needs of the colonists made great inroads upon these mighty forests. The building of houses, and ships, and wharves, the constant demand for firewood, and the sending great quantities of timber back to England in the ships that brought out supplies to the colonists, coopers and cleavers of timber being sent out by the company in London to prepare it for shipping, soon made an appreciable difference in the character of the main, and from various items recorded in the first decade after the settling of Charlestown, we must infer that the proportion of cleared and grass land was great in Somerville.

In the list of the inhabitants of Charlestown in 1633 appears the name of Nicholas Stowers, herdsman, whose duties were ‘to drive the herd forth to their food in the main every morning, and bring them into town every evening.’ If the main had been an ‘uncouth wilderness,’ like the country farther back, or even an unbroken forest, the poor cows and goats would have suffered as much from the lack of proper food as did their owners in the first hard year after their arrival. But we have abundant testimony in the early records that the ‘cattle did thrive marvelously well.’

Still more conclusive is the fact that in 1637 a large tract of

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Alewife Brook (Massachusetts, United States) (1)
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