Our property was very likely heavily forested from before the time that the first white settlers came to Whidbey. The open prairies of central Whidbey Island and some other similar areas around Oak Harbor were the most valued locations. Trees were extremely difficult and labor-intensive to remove, especially to get out the massive root systems which made farming the soil very difficult. So, forests were “bad” and open prairies were “great”. My preference leans the other way. But, I’m not a farmer with 1850s technology and my livelihood does not depend upon tilling many acres of fertile land.
The 1853 Kineth land claim to the east of us may have been formed with some of these factors in mind. John Kineth chose a shape of 640 acres that was longer in the north-south direction than in the east-west direction, and he did not include our land.
George A. Kellogg sheds some good light on the general preferences of the first land claimers in his book “A History of Whidbey’s Island”:
“While the Old Oregon Land Act (of short duration as it was) allowed a square mile to each settler, the topography of the Island was such a nature as to make this arrangement impractical, if not impossible, for most of those who came. So varied are the shapes of the later claims that the term ‘square’ was not applicable, nor did they all embrace anywhere near 640 acres. The land easiest to till was first taken, and late-comers had to be satisfied with a small portion of the prairies together with large areas of wooded and rocky ridges. Trees were at no premium, and a heavily forested section was shunned.”
Shunned by them, and preferred by us!