A tree with European ties and an American heritage Long ago, English bodgers crafted the legs of Windsor chairs from beech trees they felled in the forest. The long- wearing wood also became peasant footwear in the shape of shoes and clogs. And in the iron smelters of Germany, France, and England, beech was the fuel. The vast beech forests that once covered large parts of Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, and central Michigan were thus familiar to early European immigrants and travelers. But westward-moving pioneers in the new land dicovered that the American beech grew in the choicest soils. So with ax and saw, they felled the trees to plant crops. In doing so, they destroyed the nut crop of the then numberless passenger pigeon. This move, combined with mass hunting, spelled their extinction. Today, although the blanketing beech forests are gone, the tree remains plentiful throughout its range. Its hard, pliable, strong, and pretty wood, however, primarily furnishes stock for paper. That's because kiln-drying beech in commercial quantities has its pitfalls. Yet, some beech does become woodenware and furniture parts, as well as barrels for aging beer.
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