Growing up in what was probably the very last unsullied woodlands in Queens, NY, we used to find arrowheads in the woods. My mother had insisted we buy the wooded property adjacent to our house. It wasn’t connected to the street and in those days, they didn’t build houses on lots that weren’t on a street. It was just woods. With big trees, flowering dogwood, lots of plants. We didn’t need the property because our lot was big already, but the woods contained huge white oaks. the very few that had not been used to make the masts of ships as had all the other white oaks in the area.
The Department of Agriculture used to come by and care for the trees because they were the last ones in New York — at least the southern end of it. I never saw any in the northern part of the state either. Red oaks aplenty, but not white oaks. So it was oddly familiar moving to the woods here. You wouldn’t think so since I technically grew up in the big city of NY, but it was a little lost pocket of city which had remained untouched until finally, my parents had to sell it. Now, of course, it’s full of condominiums.
Here, where we now live, used to be farmland. You can tell this because we can see a corner of the stone house that was just behind ours and because there are stone fences in all the woods. A hundred years or so years ago, that stone house behind ours was surrounded by stone-fenced fields. Those fields are full of red oaks, all about 100 years old, give or take a few decades.
I don’t know what was grown here. Not corn because the land isn’t flat or open enough. Probably dairy cattle, goats, horses, sheep, and apples. There were a lot of apples and produce such as summer squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, basil, and other spices. We are more rural today than we were in the 1800s. The population is smaller. Once upon a time, this was an major city in the center of the Blackstone Valley complex — the heart of the manufacturing and mill business in New England.
Today, Uxbridge is a sleepy town with virtually no industry. With the quarantine, much less business than before and we didn’t have much before. Many people are moving to wherever the rest of the family is living (Florida? Arizona?) because their jobs are gone. We haven’t been rich in business resources since the 1910s ended, but now there is almost nothing except a couple of lumber yards, grocery stores, hairdressers, barbers, and a few food chain places.
As an underfunded small town, Uxbridge will get worse. Young folks won’t be able to see a future here. They are right. If we had an opportunity to build up some business, it disappeared in 2020. I wonder how many other small towns are shrinking from small to barely there? I’m sure it’s not just us. The future is looking a bit grim.
It is possible that our lovely Valley will return to what it was in the 1970s and 1980s … a near-to-NY and Boston vacation area. The only thing we have left — as long as our climate changes don’t overwhelm us — is natural beauty. If we get autumn back and no one pollutes the rivers again, maybe we can built up some tourism. It goes well with horse-breeding and the many equestrian schools in the area.
We could suddenly go upscale … or we could disappear.