EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

September 30, 2007

Robert Frost tree felled to protect historic farm

By Eric Parry , Staff writer

DERRY - Fourty-four years after Robert Frost's death, the 200-year-old maple tree that inspired the poet at his Derry home fell yesterday before a crowd of about a hundred writers, historians and Frost relatives.

"Our hearts say leave it up but our heads say to take it down," said Laura Burnham, chairwoman of the Frost Farm Board of Trustees.

The tree was the last of six maple trees that stood on the property. In June, local forestry experts determined the century-old sugar maple and other trees on the property were in danger of threatening the integrity of the Frost Farm, which was owned by the poet, his wife, Elinor, and their four children from 1900 to 1911 while Frost taught English at nearby Pinkerton Academy.

John Martin, a licensed forester who examined the tree, said the base of it had rotted so much it could fall on the house.

During a ceremony before the tree was cut, several poets and writers read some of Frost's work that was inspired by the tree, including the classic "Tree at My Window."

"Frost would have said, 'What's all this fuss about? It's just a tree,' and then he would have went and wrote a poem about it," said Derry poet Robert Crawford, before reading "The Need of Being Versed in Country Things."

The farm's caretaker, Bill Gleed, said some of his fondest memories of the farm are of playing guitar alone in the shade of the tree. Gleed remembered sitting on the granite steps with his assistant, Stephen Ormond, next to the tree, when a young man from Virginia pulled off the road with a mandolin and they had a bluegrass jam for a half hour.

"We're really going to miss this tree," Gleed told the crowd.

Even though the tree has fallen, parts of it will carry on. Several artisans stood by the tree as it fell yesterday to collect limbs and pieces of the trunk to make walking sticks, foot stools and other furniture.

William Frost, a fourth cousin of the poet, said he plans to make bowls and other crafts from the wood while Marc Iannaccone, who lives on Frost Road in Derry, said he is going to make walking sticks.

"It's nice to reuse the material because it'll live on in some way," said Karl Tubalkain, a Hampstead furniture maker who plans to carve foot stools and small benches from the wood. "It's not the type of wood from Home Depot."

The farm Board of Trustees plans to hold a craft fair next fall for the artisans to present their work to the public. The pieces made from the tree will be auctioned off.

The parts of the tree that aren't used by artisans are going to be chipped up and used in the state's wood-fired power plants.

Gleed said the base of the tree will be used as a container for the Derry Garden Club to plant flowers. Next spring the farm plans to replace the fallen tree with a new maple tree.