Natural History

from the Port Folio


Mr. Editor,

In Evelyn’s Sylva, a work more familiar, perhaps to European than American scholars, I remember to have perused, at the puerile age, many marvelous accounts of the extraordinary growth and dimensions of the monarchs of the wood. But from the researches of a gentleman of South Carolina, whose science & veracity are alike indisputable; I am recently apprised that in the vicinity of the village of Coosawhatchi, in one of the vast swamps of that region, there grew an enormous Cypress tree, which was justly considered as the Emperour of the Forest. This proud title was conferred, not merely on the account of its loftiness, but its bulk. It actually overtopped the tallest of the tall trees is that exuberant region. It should be remembered that it grew on the margin of a lake, and that the soil was of a character remarkably fertile. A gentleman of fortune and leisure finding the tree partially excavated by the hand of Nature herself, ordered his workmen to enlarge the cavity, to construct a regular apartment within, to floor the basement, to attach a circular seat to the trunk, to form a door way, to cut windows for the free admission of light, and [sit?] up a sort of author's round table in the centre. Thus commodiously arranged, the hollow cypress became a haunt for the Sportsman, the Idler, and the Epicure. Here after the toils of angling and the chase, men met to drink and to dine. Seventeen guests in the demus interior of this venerable vegetable have been comfortably accommodated, without even the pressure, which we often experience at the Table d'Hote of an ordinary.

In process of time the votaries of Diana and Bacchus, [remarking?] that this enormous growth of the wood was susceptible of still farther improvements, constructed over the rustic hall we have just described, a sort of sylvan withdrawing room for the accommodation for the ladies. Access to this apartment was obtained by a flight of steps without the tree. The room itself had all the gladsomeness of a modern parlour. While gentlemen were convivially recalling themselves in the tree below, the ladies might amuse themselves by angling from the window above. This hollow in the cypress could easily accommodate eight persons.
At no inconsiderable elevation from the earth, and where the bole of the tree was completely circular, it measured at least 42 feet. This, I understand, is but a moderate computation. It gives me paid to add, that this stupendous production of Nature's fertility at length shared the fate of Shakespeare's Molberry - - Soon after the commencement of the war between Great Britain and her colonies, the owner of the estate, alledging that the resort of visitors trespassed upon his property, ordered, in a fit of spleen or anger, that this Nestor of the wood should be demolished. Accordingly, like the old Thorn, at Market Hill, as described by the Dean of St. Patrick's, it was cut down by some Hibernian hatchet, blunter than its master's [pate?]; and thus shamefully perished one of the noblest of rude Nature's children, to the deep regret of all the fond lovers of nature; and of all who view, with veneration, such an object as a moment, indicating the lapse of centuries, and the miracles of the Almighty Creator.

I am, sir, yours, &c.



[Selected and transcribed by Matt Newman, HC 2015.]

Steamboat Adventure
Made possible by the Rivers Institute and the
History Department of Hanover College.


How to cite this article:  “Natural History,” Western Spy (Cincinnati, Ohio), 28 Sept. 1811, p. 3, available at