Original plantings were to keep roads in place
by BETH ALTENA
The face of Rockford changed somewhat as two old trees were removed at the corner of East Main and Elizabeth streets Monday, July 9. The pair of maples, as big as 60 to 70 feet high, were suffering from some dead wood, and according to Melissa Imhoff of Imhoff Tree Service, the homeowners were concerned because in storms and high winds branches were falling from the elderly pair. She also noted that dead wood was visible in a split in one of the two trees.
“Parts of the trees are healthy, but as a whole tree, they were not healthy trees,” said Imhoff.
The company spent the entire day chipping branches, cutting limbs and removing in their entirety the two trees, and Imhoff said their service includes complete removal of the trees and the tree debris, including grinding the stump. She said a job such as this one costs about $2,000.
Imhoff said she wasn’t sure how old the trees were, but many of the large ancient maples that line the streets of Rockford date back to the 1850s when Rockford was still known as Laphamville. According to the late Homer Burch’s definitive book on the town’s history, “From Sawmill to City,” the long years passing, by 1855 Laphamville was rapidly expanding eastward from Smith Lapham’s 40 acres on the Rogue River.
“New homes and buildings were being built haphazardly wherever convenient, with little thought to future growth as a village,” wrote Burch.
He went on to describe the efforts of surveyor and engineer William Thorton as he drew up the very first ever map of the Village of Laphamville. He laid out and named all the streets of the new village from Main Street to Courtland, south to Division (Ten Mile).
“Then, through his efforts, many of the new streets were lined with shade trees set out in orderly rows outside the sidewalk lines. Most of those trees were soft maples, but they also included some hard maples, poplars and elms.”
The purpose of the tree planting was to ensure the streets stayed where Thorton had drawn them, rather than to deviate in other directions. Hopefully both East Main Street and Elizabeth Street are now well-enough established that drivers will continue to use the intended routes rather than find new driving paths now that the trees do not block the way.