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The Davis Hamilton Tree Farm of Springwater NY

Article contributed by Patricia Willsea.

Click any image to enlarge.

A History of the Davis - Hamilton Tree Farm of Springwater NY

By John G. and Harriet Davis Hamilton in 2003

Part I

The Davis - Hamilton Tree farm is located at 8785 Schribner road in Springwater NY.

In 1932, Harriet’s father, a foresighted conservationist, purchased 90 acres of barren, eroded, farmed—out land previously used for sheep grazing and the growing of hops. Over the years, additional contiguous land was added; current acreage is 345 acres. At the time the original parcel was purchased, there were only two small woodlots and a few hedgerows. Over 100,000 red and Scotch pines, spruce, larch, balsam, and fir trees were planted as well as hardwoods such as black locust, American chestnut, and white birch. At the present time, there are approximately 250 acres of both soft and hardwoods which have been managed for almost 60 years. From the beginning, our goals have been for multiple use.

In addition to the forested lands, about 45 acres are in open land, ponds, waste and riverine lands, and about 50 acres are leased to a local potato farmer for crops.

Six ponds have been constructed, and a total of 6.1 miles of access roads as well as paths and trails have been built and maintained for logging and recreational purposes.

Following the death of Harriet’s father, we built our home and moved to the farm with our three children in 1974. We have been actively managing it ever since with the advice and encouragement of our N. Y. State D.E.C. senior forester, Billy Morris.

In 1979 we were certified as an American Tree Farm, and in 1990 we were named the N. Y. State Outstanding Tree Farmer.

In 1991, we were named Northeast Regional Outstanding Tree Farm, and on September 9, 1991, we were selected as the National Outstanding Tree Farm - the 50th anniversary of the American Tree Farm System - from 70,000 tree farms in America.

There are 11 other certified tree farms in Springwater.

When asked why we do what we do on our Tree Farm after being named New York State’s Outstanding Tree Farmers for 1990, our response was as follows:

Our family has worked so very hard to help create the forest on our farm that we are understandably interested in managing it for posterity. With our Scotch heritage, we felt compelled to protect our property. We derive our personal high from our Tree Farm. Not only do we love it for its own magnificent sake, we love it as well for the variety of species of plants, animals, and birds that it shelters. It warms us with its wood, puts syrup and jam on our table, furnishes us with our very own playground because we hunt, fish the ponds and streams, hike, cross—country ski, and occasionally even loll in a hammock beneath its branches. It keeps us physically fit and prevents our becoming lazy as there are always chores to be done. On occasion, it also puts a little jingle in our pockets.

We have learned much over the years about managing our forest, we are always eager to learn more, and we very much enjoy sharing it with anyone who cares to explore its pleasures.

To be factual, however, we had seen the incredible metamorphosis from eroded, barren, farmed—out land in 1932 to forested slopes with abundant wildlife in just 25 years. We had come to love the place and had helped with the many tasks required to achieve these spectacular results. When Harriet’s father died, we felt compelled to continue the management and follow the objectives by which the forest had been created.

We enjoy the work and the numerous benefits which accrue to living among the woods and fields, the streams and ponds in all seasons. We treasure the creatures with whom we share the property, the recreational opportunities, the scenic splendors, and the privacy that it all affords, right here at home. It has been a family endeavor all the way, and we do feel blessed.

Part II

At present our tree farm has 325 acres jointly owned with two brothers-in-law (George and Arthur Davis.) There are 50 acres of agricultural and open land with the rest in woodland.

In 1932, 90 acres of eroded land with a burned out house and some dilapidated barns were purchased by A. A. Davis for $90. The family used the barn timbers to build a weekend cabin which has been enlarged and modernized over the years and more land was added. Originally, there was evidence of 8 homes, some dating to 1830, for subsistence farmers who later grew hops and raised sheep.

Starting in the 30’s, with advise from the Conservation Department, tree planting began on the eroded land with more than 100,000 conifers and 2500 hardwoods planted.

In 1974, with my wife Harriet, we built our home on the property and moved from Rochester with our three children (Ann, Jane and Andrew). With continuing advice from a DEC forester we all became involved in managing our woods to improve the growth of our trees, wildlife habitat, and recreation.

In our management we have improved over 300 acres of woodland (some twice) to promote the growth of the better trees. 10 ponds have been built or enlarged, for wildlife and roads and trails have been developed for access and recreation.

It has been rewarding to see the improvement from bare eroded land to productive forestland over 70 years. In the past 30 years we have harvested over 60 MBF of hardwood log and still have a sustainable forest. 7 acres of conifers planted in the 30’s have been sold as utility poles, cabin poles and landscape timber. During this time we have also heated our home entirely with quality firewood. We have also enjoyed meeting foresters, woodland owners, school children, and other Tree Farmers who have toured our property. As a result of our management we were honored in 90 - 91 by being elected NY States, Regional and National Outstanding Tree Farmers of the year.