“If you look at a book on trees or on Wikipedia, it will say that the [American chestnut] blight was first spotted in 1904, or came over ‘ca. 1900,’ through certain Long Island nursery men, but I found old newspaper clippings suggesting… that the blight had begun much earlier, either right before or right after the Civil War, and had begun in the interior, not on the coast and not in the Northeast but in places like Georgia and Virginia, the Carolinas.
“The first manifestation I could find of whatever it was occurred in Rockingham, North Carolina…. I started finding these newspaper stories, first from small-town papers around Rockingham and then from a widening radius. People would be meeting in these towns, having meetings basically to ask, ‘What are we going to do about the chestnuts dying?’ ”