This year marks the 243rd anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, which declared the 13 American colonies free and independent from British rule.
For me personally, the 4th of July also marks a time to reflect on our American heritage as well as New England’s rural culture - which includes activities like hunting, trapping, and immersing oneself in all that our forested hills and valleys have to offer the mortal soul.
The influences of liberty, heritage, and our independence can be found subtlety incorporated into the Furbearer Conservation logo - which depicts the outline of a beaver wrapped around a lone pine tree.
In Jonathan Trumbull's revolutionary war painting, The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker Hill, American colonists are observed carrying what is known as the Continental flag in battle. This was one of many common flags in New England at the time of the Revolutionary War. Most of these flags bore the outline of a pine tree, typically within the flag’s canton. A good explanation of this symbolism resides in a great write-up from Revolutionary War and Beyond.
The pine tree was a common symbol of liberty in New England. Its use dates back to pre-colonial times to the Penacook Indians, an Algonquin Tribe that lived in New England. Penacook means "Children of the Pine Tree." To this day, the symbol of the Iroquois Indians is a pine tree with an eagle on the top. The Indians that helped the Pilgrims of Plymouth Rock survive their first winter were allegedly Penacooks. From that time on, the Pine Tree would often appear as a symbol of freedom in colonial literature and symbolism.
This flag was also commonly used on American Ships of the time. It was noted as the first New England Naval ensign. As the flag was described being used in the very first battle of the American Revolution against the British at Bunker Hill in Boston, it could also be considered the first American Flag - made by Americans and flown on American ships to identify Americans from British subjects.
New Hampshire, which serves as the “home-base” for the Furbearer Conservation Project, also carries significance in the shaping of our country as we know it, ringing true to the state’s “Live Free or Die” motto of fighting for independent liberty and holding steadfast to our rural roots.
In January of 1776, New Hampshire became the first colony to establish an independent government and form a constitution.
A notably significant turning point in the Revolutionary War was the Battle of Bennington in Vermont. Led by General John Stark of New Hampshire, colonists fought against German mercenaries contracted by the British. The British suffered 200 losses, while the Americans reportedly had but minor casualties. The battle was key to strengthening American morale during the war.
New Hampshire provided the Continental Army with three regiments who were called in to fight at the Battle of Bennington, the Saratoga Campaign, the Battle of Rhode Island, and more importantly, the Battle of Bunker Hill - the battle in which the pine tree flag was historically noted to be carried in tow.
The significance of the fur industry in shaping our country is too immense to summarize here; but as far as Independence Day is concerned, the fur trade of the 18th century would play a part in the Revolutionary War as many Native American tribes formed alliances with the British over land and territory control. Dominance over fur trading posts was integral to strategic successes of both forces.
By 1777, neutrality treaties with Native Americans had fallen apart, which brought most Native Americans into the war on the side of the British. After the Revolutionary War, the British were given reasonable time to vacate their fur trading posts - but it would take many years before American colonists regained full control of a fur industry that, at the time, was quickly being out-shined by colonial farming practices. While the Revolutionary War didn’t significantly disrupt the fur trade, it did create considerable turmoil; mostly in the form of land and territory disruption.
On this, the 4th day of July, we celebrate our American independence. We celebrate our traditions, our heritage, our quest for individual liberty and the colonization of these beautiful lands we so humbly traverse today.
For the Furbearer Conservation Project, we’re wishing a happy Independence Day to all of America’s hunters, trappers, wildlife professionals and conservationists.