Historical Trees of MVHS: General Ellis Spear Red Spruce


My name is Marla and I am a Sophomore at Medomak Valley High School (2014/2015). This year I am part of the Medomak Valley Heirloom Seed Project. Next to many different historical seeds of tomatoes, peppers, corn and some other crops we have a Living History Arboretum with about 30 different trees. All these trees have an interesting and important history and the Red Spruce (Picea Rubens) is one of them.

"The plant symbol of the tree is PIRU, the Red Spruce Tree is in the Pinaceae family and part of the Gymnosperm group. One tree can get between 60 and 80 feet high, with a trunk diameter of almost two feet. The 1/2 inch long needles have four sides that are dark and shiny with a yellow-green color. Wood of Red Spruce Trees is narrow-ringed and light and soft compared to other trees. The wood has a light red color and is often used for sounding boards of musical instruments, but is also a very common eastern spruce lumber. Next to that, the tree is also used as christmas trees and make up a large number of spruce pulpwood.

The Red Spruce Tree mainly grows in the New England States of the US and in eastern Canada. The soil in these areas is really shallow till soil and is usually about 18 inches deep. In other parts the soil is overlying rocks.

A Red Spruce Tree starts to produce many seeds when it is 30 years old. Only one pound of seeds contains 139.000 seeds. Every three to eight years a tree can produce a heavy seed crop.

Many birds and mammals eat different parts of Red Spruce Trees, and many different insects are an enemy of the tree. The most dangerous enemy of the Red Spruce Tree is the Budworm. Other insects that can seriously damage the tree are the eastern spruce beetle, the European spruce sawfly and the yellow headed spruce sawfly."1


One of these Red Spruce Trees was found in the yard of The General Ellis Spear Cottage.  "Ellis Spear was born in Warren, Maine, in 1834. In 1858 he graduated from Bowdoin College. When the Civil War started, he studied for the bar and teaching school in Wiscasset, Maine. The following fall President Abraham Lincoln called for 300.000 more volunteers to serve in the war, and Ellis Spear encouraged people in his neighborhood and near towns to serve in the war. Together, the 87 men he managed to convince people to serve in the war were assigned to the 20th Maine, a regime that would be really important later on during the war. Until right before the Battle of Gettysburg in July of 1863, he was a commanding officer for the 20th Maine. In the Battle of Gettysburg he became an acting Major of this regiment. During the Battle of Little Round Top on July 2nd in 1863 he commanded the left of the 20th Maine under Joshua L. Chamberlain."2

"The Battle of Gettysburg was one of the most important battles in the Civil War. On the second day of this battle four northern regimes were assigned to defend the position of Little Round Top, the 83rd Pennsylvania, the 44th New York, the 16th Michigan and the 20th Maine. This part of the battle, known as Defense of Little Round Top, was probably the most important part of the Battle of Gettysburg. The 20th Maine, which Ellis Spear was part of, was the farthest left on the hill and it was also the hardest and the most brutal position. The 20th Maine was led by Joshua Chamberlain and they were ordered to hold the line, no matter what happens. Soon after the regiment took position, two Southern regiments attacked them. They were only a dozen yards away when the 20th Maine started an intense fire and turned back. The Southerners then tried to attack from the side. To be able to hold his lines and defeat them, Colonel Chamberlain stretched his lines so thin that they were only one men deep. Surprisingly they still defeated the two Southern regiments and they left the lines and went back. But now the 20th Maine was running low on ammunition because they had to fight against so many Southerners. They could already see them coming again, and they could see that they were preparing for another attack, so Colonel Chamberlain had to come up with a new idea, he didn't consider to leave the lines. They fixed bayonets on their guns and fought with them against the two Southern regiments, who soon realized that they don't have a good chance to win this battle and fled after many of their men were killed. The 20th Maine won this battle, one of the probability most important battles in the war." 3  "After that battle Ellis Spear took command of the 20th Maine for almost the rest of the war.

After the Civil War was over, Ellis Spear became a patent lawyer and worked and lived in Washington, DC, where he was a commissioner. When the war ended, he still worked and spend time with the 20th Maine Association. He published a book about his experiences in the Battle of Fredericksburg, and when his wartime diaries were found they were published as well. These personal diaries allowed to get to know Ellis Spear better  he was a very educated and generous man. He really cared about his men, what he showed by nursing them when they were sick. He also hated going to war but loved his country and thought that the war was necessary work to preserve the country and Union.  Ellis Spear lived to the age of 80 and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery."2

By: Marla Kugelmann


1. Plant Fact Sheet. (2002, February 5). Retrieved May 10, 2015, from http://                plants.usda.gov/factsheet/pdf/fs_piru.pdf

2.   Ellis Spear. (n.d.). Retrieved May 10, 2015, from http://home.comcast.net/~tstarr1863/spear.htm

3. The Battle Of Gettysburg. (n.d.). Retrieved May 4, 2015, from http://                battlegettysburg.weebly.com/the-defense-of-little-round-top.html

4. Red Spruce. (n.d.). Retrieved May 20, 2015, from http://www.bio.brandeis.edu/            fieldbio/pkenlan/HTML/Pinaceae/picea_rubens.html

5. Spear Pugh, J. (2007). 22 The General Ellis Spear Cottage. In Friendship Homes, If         These Houses Could Talk (Second ed., p. 147). Friendship, Maine:             Friendship Museum.