Todd County, Kentucky Timber

There is a wide difference in the timber growth found in the different parts of the State. No coniferous tree or bush, with the exception of the swamp cypress and a few small cedars, are to be found in western Kentucky, and in this section the hemlock seems to be generally confined to the coal measures. Magnolias are found in the precincts of the lawn, but they are exotics. Originally, southern Todd was known as a ” barren,” where the timber was kept down by frequent burnings, and in this connection it may be observed this county was thus deprived of much valuable timber that otherwise would be found in great abundance in the forests that have grown since the settlement of the whites. It seems to be undisputed, that certain timbers, especially white oaks, do not return again to forests from which they have once been driven by such an agency as fire. In the State report upon this subject Prof. Shaler re-marks: ” The formations best adapted to the growth of the chestnut are the conglomerate and Chester sandstones (mill grit). On soils from these formations chestnut is normally found in the greatest abundance, and growing to the greatest perfection. In passing from western to eastern Kentucky my attention was therefore attracted to the fact that when the Big Clifty (Chester) sandstone first appeared, which was in the neighbor-hood of Hopkinsville and on Pilot Knob, no chestnut appeared with it. Moreover, the white oak and liriodendron, away from the streams, seemed scrubby and scarce. Otherwise the forest was normal, and I searched in vain for any clue to the absence of these timbers. Mr. Irvine Kennedy, who has lived in this part of Kentucky for sixty-eight years, and who now (1879) resides near Elkton, informed me that my conjecture (Become extinct through agency of fires) was correct, and that he could remember when all these heavy forests were a uniform growth of young trees, with not an old tree standing, except on streams too large for fires to sweep through their swamps. I was after-ward informed that some chestnut groves exist not far from Elkton, though I did not see a tree. It is possible that they stand in a piece of woods for some reason protected from the ravages of fire. After passing Hopkinsville we begin to leave the St. Louis limestone and approach the Chester sandstone, which already caps the highest hills. The introduction of red oak, forming the larger part of the forest growth, is a marked feature in passing onto the calcareous limestone and lower Chester from the St. Louis limestone. Scarlet oaks crown the hill-tops, and post oaks are found in depressions, or largely on the hill-sides below the Chester. The latter feature is local, however, as on a high hill about five miles from Hopkinsville post oaks extend up onto the Chester. The blackjack, how-ever, is clustered around the hills just at the base of the Chester, and this I noticed to be generally true. Sugar maple, bartram oak, swamp chest-nut oak, white elm and black ash are found in considerable quantities along the streams. For six or eight miles beyond Hopkinsville, toward Fairview, the timbers change little in kind or quality from those just noted, except that, some red haw and winged elm are found. There is no white oak, no sweet gum, no chestnut (that I could find) and no liriodendron. On Pilot Rock, which is a lofty bluff of Big Clifty sandstone, cedar and liriodendron are both met with; but this is very local, and even here no chestnut is to be seen, so far as I could gather. Between Fair-view and Elkton the timbers, as a whole, are not valuable; but in places black ash, white elm, pig and shag hickory, and such timbers, are exceedingly fine. Especially is this true on West Fork of Red River, about one and one-half miles from Fairview. On this stream are also found splendid white oak, swamp chestnut oak, red and pin oak, white and shag hickory, black and blue ash, sweet gum, liriodendron, white elm, sycamore, box-elder, sugar maple, white maple and red bud. All of these timbers are very fine. It is a peculiar, though an easily explained fact that in a large part of the country through here the timbers are better on the hill-tops than on the lower grounds. The reason is that the hill-tops are capped with Chester sandstone, the detritus of which forms a damp soil, favorable for large trees, while the upper St. Louis limestone here is not adapted to timber growth.”

Toward Elkton scattering bartram oaks and cedars are found in addition to the usual red oak, shag, pig and white hickory, winged elm, small black ash, scrub white oak (in spots), Spanish oak, black oak, post oak, black gum, etc. Yellow wood is also found near Elkton, with some honey locust, red bud and red (slippery) elm. Of course the swamp timbers have never been affected by fire; and on streams fine white oak, liriodendron, white and sugar maples, sweet gum, laurel oak, etc., flourish. The upland and lowland timbers alternate, with no changes worthy of note until Russellville is reached.


Battle, J. H., W. H. Perrin, Counties of Todd and Christian, Kentucky : historical and biographical, Chicago : F. A. Battey Publishing Co., 1884.

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