By David O. Heishman –
Chestnut rails, split and delivered, sixty-six and two thirds cents per hundred. That was lowest amount I saw paid for fence materials by the man who built the “Taylor Place” an old plantation house near Wardensville. He maintained a daily journal in which he kept accounts and noted work completed.
I don’t remember the year he bought those rails, but I know it was before the Civil War and Emancipation. There were other entries such as “butchered thirty-two hogs for the slaves” Another day he only butchered twenty-four.
I’ve never split Chestnut rails. Wish I had. American Chestnut must have been wonderful wood to work with. Straight grained, durable, last a man’s lifetime and beyond if kept where it could dry.
In surveying old property lines, particularly through woodland, I’ve found rows of small stone piles. On occasion I’ve mistaken one for a corner monument. Their first purpose was support for cross points in split rail fences. In conversation with an old surveyor/woodsman I learned that rails crossed on two rocks instead of one because ground moisture wouldn’t climb the second rock. Corners laid on a single stone would rot down, but on two or more rocks would remain dry and solid.
I have split locust posts. Pap always claimed split posts would last longer than sawed posts. Sawed posts rotted quicker because water entered wood where the saw cut across grain. Split posts had grain integrity and lasted longer.
Pap also claimed worst enemy of posts, either split or round was birds. Bird poop promoted decay. He bent old roofing metal into caps for more important posts such as for gates and braced sharp corners…