Sunday, May 15, 2011

"A Guide to Stinchfield Woods" circa 1965?

The following passages are from an old book called "A Guide to Stinchfield Woods." There is no publication date; however, the latest year found in the book is 1965 and it was typed on a typewriter so my best guess is that it is from about 1965.

Stinchfield Woods serves as a demonstration area and research laboratory for the faculty and students of the School of Natural Resources and other unites of the University. All woods work including plantings, thinnings, and other stand improvements is done by students of the School. Part of the work is required in connection with classes, but much of it is paid for on an hourly basis, thereby providing a source of income to those students who desire to earn money for school expenses.

Logs suitable for sawing are processed in the sawmill. All other wood is cut into firewood and sold. Income from the area is allocated to the current operating fund for the School.

A small nursery was started in the spring of 1949 immediately east of the caretaker's house on the Newcomb tract. Water for irrigation through the overhead sprinkler system is pumped from the Huron River nearby. As all open areas are now planted, the nursery has been discontinued. 

The Portage Lake Observatory, Radio Telescope, and Radio Station WUOM, all units of the University, are located on the area.

A gift from Mrs. Annie Tillson Stinchfield of Detroit in memory of Jacob W. Stinchfield and Charles Stinchfield, made is possible in 1925 to make the first purchase of land for what is known as Stinchfield Woods. With funds furnished by Mrs. Stinchfield, plus a small appropriation by the University, nearly 320 acres in two separate tracts were acquired at that time. The westerly part, described on the acquisition map as Bell tract, whereas the eastern tract contained approximately 240 acres. This was the Stinchfield Woods as the older alumni know it. 

In 1946 the Peach Mountain tract of 147 acres was purchased from the State Department of Conservation and in 1949 the Carr tract of 60 acres, the Gardner of 90 acres, the Ford of 40 acres and the Pustay of 40 acres were added. A purchase of 0.67 acres in 1953 made from the Clarks Bros. This made it possible to build a road connecting the Carr tract with old Stinchfield tract.

In 1955 the Losee tract, 80 acres, was purchased. This brought the total area up to 777 acres.

Across the Huron River to the east and bordering on the Strawberry Lake Road lies another University-owned area of 206 acres known as the Newcomb tract. This was purchased in 1930 as the site for an Observatory. Pending its use for this purpose, the administration of the land was handled by the Department of Zoology. For almost 19 years the Newcomb Tract was used chiefly for ornithological and limnological observations. in 1949 the School was assigned the management of approximately 80 acres of the tract including the farm buildings which are now used as headquarters for Stinchfield Woods, and are occupied by the assistant to the Forest Properties Manager. Adjoining the Newcomb tract on the east in the Murdock tract of 33 acres purchased in 1951. The Newcomb and Murdock tracts are now considered part of Stinchfield Woods so that the total area now embraces 890 acres.

Land Description and Development
The eastern portion of the original purchase in 1925 consisted of 165 acres of cleared land and 75 acres of severely grazed hardwoods. The soil varies from sand and gravel to clay, but the prevailing type is Bellefontaine sandy loam, which is of low value for crop production. When the land was acquired most of the cleared land was no longer cropped but did furnish some poor pasturage. Planting of the open land began in 1925 and was completed in 1940. The detached 80 acres to the west, the Bell 80, included about 73 acres of abandoned fields, a small swamp in the northwest corner, and 7 acres of overgrazed hardwoods. The first planting of the Bell 80 was made in 1927, and the last in 1937, except for a small lot that was used for a short time for seed beds. Several cuts for the removal of trees of poor quality of of low-value species have been made in the hardwood stands on these two tracts, and some small, poorly-stocked areas have been clear cut and replanted with pines. Black and white oaks and several species of hickory predominate heavily. Seedling reproduction of white ash, black cherry, oaks, and sassafras has occurred, and some sprouting has resulted from the cuttings. Small areas have been underplanted with hard and Norway maples.

On the Peach Mountain tract there were 60 acres of heavily grazed hardwoods and 87 acres of cleared land when the land was acquired. Improvement cuts have been made in the hardwood area and planting of the open land was begun in 1946 and completed in 1952. With the exception of some scattered red cedar, there was practically no natural seedling reproduction. The tower of the University's broadcasting station is located on the top of Peach Mountain by walking only is provided for in an agreement with the State Conservation District. 

The Carr tract is made up of forty-seven acres of hardwood and 13 acres of old field. Improvement cuts in the hardwood area were made in the winters of 1950-51 and 1951-52. Site quality on parts of this area is very low for hardwoods. White ask reproduction is good in some places, and seedlings of white, red, and black oaks are appearing. The cleared land was planted with conifers in 1952.

The Gardner, Pustay, and Ford tracts consist mostly of old fields with some small areas of poor, over-grazed hardwoods. The Pustay tract was subject to a lease under which gravel could be removed until August 1952. Another gravel lease of 10 acres on the Ford tract expires when the gravel is exhausted. 

The part of the Newcomb tract controlled by the School of Natural Resources consists of 19 acres of hardwoods, 51 acres of old fields, and 10 acres around the buildings. A part of this 10 acres was used for a nursery.

The Murdock tract, 33 acres, is completely wooded with a hardwood stand of potentially good quality.

There is a large variety of wildlife on the area. The greatest attraction is deer which between 1945 and 1949 increased to such proportions in the county that an open season was declared. Other game animals and fur-bearers are rabbits, grey and fox squirrels, foxes, woodchucks, badgers, raccoons, opossums, weasels, and an occasional coyote. Of the game birds, ruffed grouse are present in considerable numbers and pheasants are found in parts of the area adjacent to private farm lands. Occasionally quail are seen. Songbirds in great variety, and hawks and owls, comprise the rest of the bird population on the area.

Some wildlife management practices have introduced beneficial results. Multiflora roses have been planted along the exterior fence lines as a source of food and cover for wildlife and also to provide a permanent stock proof fence that will not require maintenance. Not very successful. Since 1947 squirrel and raccoon den trees have been preserved. It is interesting to note that the ratio of fox and grey squirrels has changed within the last few years. The hardwood forest now has a dense understory which seems to have caused an increase in the grey squirrel and a decline in the fox squirrel population. Wild turkey were observed on the area in the spring of 1965.

Portable Sawmill
The senior class of 1942 established a fund for the purchase of a portable sawmill. With this start, and with contributions from the Forestry Club, succeeding senior classes, and the alumni, a fund was finally built to about $2,000. With this amount on hand the University contributed enough to make possible the purchase and installation of the mill.

The building was constructed entirely with student labor, and the material came largely from the forest properties of the School. One notable exception is the corner posts and posts around the doors which are of wood from Chile brought here by a graduate student from that country. The equipment was installed with student labor and the building and installation was completed in the spring of 1947. During the summer the electrical hook-up was made by electricians from the University Plant Service. The first lumber was cut in the fall of 1947.

In 1952 a lumber storage shed, 24' x 48', was added to the north end of the sawmill. 

An equipment storage shed 16' x 28' was added to the rear of this lumber shed in the summer of 1954. In 1957, this shed was enclosed and a Penney Molter Mill was installed for use by the Wood Technology Department. This same year, 1957, another 28' x 50' lumber shed was added to the north.

In 1958, a garage 22' x 28' was built for storage of equipment. A swing cut off saw to slab conveyor was added in 1959 making it necessary to build a roof over the conveyor and an addition to the north for a warming room.

In the summer of 1963, another lumber drying shed was built just north of the mill. Approximately 25' x 50'.


  1. You can find aerial photos of Stinchfield Woods from years 2005, 1963, and 1955 at by entering "Hudson Mills MI" and scrolling north. If you compare the 1955 map to the 1963 map you can see the buildings that were added between that time. You can also see the changes in vegetation during that time.

  2. Very cool! Thanks for the link. It looks like what is now the caretaker's home was built even earlier than I had thought.