Of York County’s pesky black walnut trees and motorcycles

A heavy snowfall hit southern York County, Pa., circa 1905. This scene looks north on south Main Street in Shrewsbury. That’s the Reformed Church, right, and Christ Lutheran Church’s steeple in the background in this photo appearing in Bob Ketenheim’s “Around Shrewsbury.” Farther north and south from this scene, trees were planted along the road, later the Susquehanna Trail, to honor those who served in World War I.  Some of those stands live today. Also of interest:  York County, Pa., boroughs offer tasty slice of small-town life.

York’s Barry Ness poses a tough question, which I’ll turn over to readers.

Why do black walnut trees seem to be planted near roads?

Barry often takes his motorcycle on York County’s secondary roads.

“While riding I encounter this problem of those green colored, round objects covering sections of these secondary roads, AND just a few days/weeks later there is a lot of this smush on the roadway,” he wrote.

That results in a black, tarry substance and small, round objects that seem to come from those green items.

“I’m getting awfully tired of cleaning this ‘smush’ from the tires, fenders, body parts from my motorcycles plus the cars,” he wrote.

He asked: Why do these trees always seem to grow near roads?

I don’t know.

I’m aware of stands of red oaks, elms, sugar maples, tulip trees and sycamores planted along the Lincoln Highway and Susquehanna Trail to honor World War I servicemen.

Some stand today, particularly the sycamores lining the Trail between Loganville and Shrewsbury, south of York.

Another stand grows along the Trail, between Shrewsbury and the Maryland line.

But what about the location of those pesky black walnut trees?

Also of interest:

Visit these posts for information about Bob Ketenheim’s other books on New Freedom and Glen Rock. Information from his Arcadia Publishing’s “Around Shrewsbury” appears in the caption above.


About Jim McClure

Editor of the York Daily Record/Sunday News, ydr.com and its many digital products. Journalism/history blogger: yorktownsquare.com. Author or co-author of seven York County, Pa., history books.
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4 Responses to Of York County’s pesky black walnut trees and motorcycles

  1. Dianne says:

    “Good Roads”, Vol 61, American Road Builder’s Association, p. 159

    “The black walnut is a long-lived tree. To a considerable extent it has been used on roadside for many years. Since the World War, it has quite properly been considerable (sic) of a memorial tree, for which purpose it has qualifications equaled by no other species. It has taken active part in all our American wars but in none to the extent that it did in the war with Germany. The Forest Service of the United States Dept. of Agriculture is authority that it was used for gun stocks by practically all of the belligerent nations. Germany in particular, bought our logs for many years, beforehand.
    …President Wilson issued a memorial call to the Boy Scouts of the United States to find and report the situation of walnut trees of merchantable size. Probably no other American tree was so vitally needed by the nation as the Walnut was then. Walnut shells were used by the Gas Defense in the making of carbon for gas masks… With a record of such valiant service, it would seem that wherever the black walnut will succeed, it should be planted as a memorial tree in preference to all others. Certainly we should take precaution to plant now as an emergency measure for future wars, and there is no better place to plant it for any purpose than along the roadways.”

  2. Pingback: York Town Square | Don’t forget humanitarian Spurgeon Keeny on list of York County’s best and brightest

  3. Barry Ness says:

    A tip of my motorcycle helmet to Dianne!!!! Will give this roadside nusiance much more respect while riding the roads and byways of the Commonwealth.
    However, cleaning the bike and car will still be needed. 😉

  4. Dianne says:

    You’re welcome Barry. Good to know that you’re wearin’ a helmet.

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