Yesteryear’s Memories: Timber!
So went the call just before a tree fell to the ground at the hands of our pioneering ancestors here in Little Egypt. Maybe the axe was even more of a basic need than a fire or a roof overhead — because with an axe and some ingenuity, great great grandpa could provide both of the first two. Axes were carried into the area by the first settlers and were essential to clear the woods, shape wood, make simple furniture, build a cabin, and were even used as weapons. Axes were made in different configurations for different jobs. An axe for felling trees was slim to cut deep into the wood, whereas those used for splitting wood could be thicker to separate the halves. Some had a flat side opposite the cutting edge, to be used for hammering. Some axes were ‘double bit’ with a cutting edge on both sides, and broad axes had one bit that was much wider and was good for finishing the surface.
Most axes, especially as time went on, were manufactured in large quantities, but any blacksmith could make one — and many individually made axeheads had a special mark or design that employed the maker’s idea of an ideal tool.
Nowadays, we may be tempted to discount an axe as just another tool, but in the early days of Southern Illinois it was necessary for everyday life and even survival.