land lying between the Winter Hill
road, now Broadway
, and Cambridge
was divided into ‘rights of pasturage,’ and after this the main was called the common.
But the destruction of the forest was so great that it was early necessary to take steps to prevent the needless waste of trees, and in 1636 it was voted in town meeting that a ‘fine of 5 shillings be imposed for every tree felled and not cut up.’
But several years later, when one Willoughby
was building a ship, the town, to encourage the enterprise, gave him liberty to take timber from the common, without being obliged to cut up the tops of the trees.
And so, the primeval forest was cut away, a second growth succeeding, to fall in its turn before the woodman's axe, and the cleared land slowly increased in extent until the Revolution.
During the siege of Boston
, when the colonial troops were encamped for nine months on the Somerville hills
, the demand for firewood was great, and the last of the forest trees disappeared.
The devastation wrought in Somerville
during the siege is plainly set forth in a letter by Rev. William Emerson
, written in the late summer of 1775.
He says: ‘Who would have thought, twelve months past, that all Cambridge
would be covered over with American camps, and cut up into forts and intrenchments, and all the lands, fields, orchards laid common,—horses and cattle feeding in the choicest mowing land, whole fields of corn eaten down to the ground, and large parks of well-regulated locusts cut down for firewood and other public uses.’
, who commanded the troops on Prospect Hill
, wrote December 31, 1775: ‘We have suffered prodigiously for want of wood.
Many regiments have been obliged to eat their provisions raw for want of fuel to cook them, and notwithstanding we have burnt up all the fences and cut down all the trees for a mile around the camp, our sufferings have been inconceivable.’
And the following winter, when the Hessians were prisoners of war on Winter Hill
, they used for firewood the last of the walnut trees, which gave the original name of Walnut Hill
to what is now College Hill
Fruit trees and ornamental trees were also sacrificed to keep