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Memories of Canadice NY

Burning Wood for Fuel in Canadice

By Earl Mastin - The Canadice Chronicle

July 1995

In the years past, most people in Canadice burned wood not only to heat their homes but also for cooking.

A few people burned coal or kerosene if they didn’t have their own supply of wood. Most people in Canadice had a woods of their own where they cut their own wood supply. Some people from the nearby villages bought a wood lot in Stillman Mills where Spencer Park is now located. It was called Stillman Mills, after the Stillmans who lived there.

Stillman had a large sawmill and harvested many logs which he sawed into lumber. Some of the lumber was used locally but a great deal of it was drawn by horses, wagons or sleighs to Hemlock and shipped to Rochester on the railroad.

The Extinct Chestnut Trees

There were many chestnut trees in those woods. They were cut for telephone poles and fence posts and used for lumber in buildings. Part of my house has chestnut lumber in it with 4 inch studding placed 16 inches apart. The main beams were made of oak which was much stronger. Chestnut was more risistant to the weather and lasted a long time, making it good especially for fence posts. It was easier to split than oak or other kinds of trees.

I remember when my father sent my brother and me to the woods to cut fence posts and split them. We cut the tree with a crosscut saw. On some of the larger logs which we couldn’t split with an axe, we used a wedge and mall to split them. There was a great demand for the posts for fences because the farmers needed fences for their horses, cattle and sheep.

Abe Lincoln used chestnut to build rail fence in his day. The only tree more resistant to rot is the locust tree. When seasoned, it was difficult to drive a staple into locust for holding up the fence. The most popular fence was made of woven wire and was about 4 inches high. Sometimes, a single strand of barbed, woven wire was used for fencing. It is easy to put up and less expensive to use.

I remember when the horses would get their feet caught in the fence and had to have help to get them out.

Our Wood Lot on Canadice Hill

My father had a large woods on Canadice Hill and cut and sold many telephone poles as well as fence posts. He drew the poles and posts to Hemlock to be shipped on the railroad. He drew the load on a wooden-wheeled wagon. The wheels had a strip of metal on the circumference, to make the wheel last longer. Sometimes in the summer and during dry times, the metal strip would have to be reset by the blacksmith. It was reheated and shrunk over the wheel.

If you examine the structure of the older houses and barns in Canadice, you will see the carpenters used different wood for different purposes.

Besides the types I have mentioned above, there were elm trees used for lumber. Elm was considered good for stable planks in the horse stalls. It warps out of shape, however, as it dries out. It is hard to drive nails into.

Another tree is the basswood. It is soft wood and used for making boxes and potato crates. It is not very resistant to the weather. Some basswood was used in making furniture as it was light and easy to handle.

Making Cordwood

We used to cut the trees in the woods and haul them into a pile. My father had a four-horse gasoline engine mounted on a farm wagon. This was used to power a buzz saw for cutting the wood into 2 or 4 foot lengths for the stove. The wood pile contained anywhere from 25 to 75 cords. I helped Leslie Paine buzz a 90-cord pile on the farm at the foot of Canadice Lake. This was about 1929 or 1930.

As oil and coal, as well as electricity, have become more expensive, some people now ar going back to burning wood.

These are some of the memories I have about the use of wood in the olden days.