29 January 1856

by layman k

It is interesting to see near the sources, even of small streams or brooks, which now flow through an open country, perhaps shrunken in their volume, the traces of ancient mills, which have devoured the primitive forest, the earthen dams and old sluiceways, and ditches and banks for obtaining a supply of water. These relies of a more primitive period are still frequent in our midst. Such, too, probably, has been the history of the most thickly settled and cleared countries of Europe. The saw-miller is neighbor and successor to the Indian.

It is observable that not only the moose and the wolf disappear before the civilized man, but even many species of insects, such as the black fly and the almost microscopic “no-see-em”. How imperfect a notion have we commonly of what was the actual condition of the place where we dwell, three centuries ago!

from the journals of Henry David Thoreau