“We’re on Elm Street in Montpelier,” Mike Hoey said. “To be exact, Steve, we’re within the Elm Street Cemetery, but the namesake of both the cemetery and the street is what brings us here.”

“Absolutely, Mike,” Vermont Historical Society executive director Steve Perkins said. “We’re talking elm today — elm trees, Elm Streets — and I think everybody who lives in Vermont has probably driven on an Elm Street or walked on an Elm Street. The American elm tree is native to New England.

“The native peoples who live here used the elm trees for medicine and whatnot, but the Anglos who moved here, it gave them a sense of home because there are elm trees in England and they’re used for all sorts of things in England. But they quickly found out that elm trees in the U.S. — the American elm wasn’t as good for furniture building or house building or shipbuilding or anything else.

“People would plant an elm tree when they bought a house or built a house or they got married, and as people from New England moved across the United States, they planted elms as they went and they became a marker of sorts. ‘Meet me at the elm.’ ‘Meet me at the elm in front of the courthouse.’ Or George Washington signed a treaty under this elm tree, or (the Marquis de) Lafayette planted this elm tree when he came to visit.

“This is a gavel made with the wood of the Lafayette Elm, and this was from Concord, New Hampshire. When it came down and when it died, they chopped it up and gave the wood to various folks. This was used by a judge in New Hampshire whose family ultimately came to Vermont, and it ended up with us at the Vermont Historical Society.

“A very famous elm tree, the Washington Elm in Cambridge, Massachusetts; when that came down, the state of Massachusetts actually chopped up pieces of that elm and sent it to other states — every state, in fact, at the time — and so we have a chunk at the Historical Society. It has a plaque on it. (Nathaniel) Hawthorne and (Henry David) Thoreau — they always wrote about elm trees.”

“You’ve got (the play) ‘Desire Under the Elms’ (by Eugene O’Neill) in literature; absolutely,” Hoey noted. “One of the main reasons why you can’t see any elm trees here on Elm Street in Montpelier currently, or in a heck of a lot of other places, has to do with an arboreal disease that a lot of people will have heard of.”

“By the end of World War I, this fungus came about in Europe,” Perkins continued. “We now call it Dutch elm disease. It didn’t come from Holland; it was Dutch scientists that discovered it. The U.S. tried really hard — the Department of Agriculture — to not have that disease come to the United States.

“European elmwood which was sent to the U.S. for furniture making — remember, American elm is horrible for making anything out of — brought the fungus over and really, by the 1950s, it had just exploded and we lost almost the entire elm population here in the United States.

“There are still some elm trees out there. Some were naturally resistant and the Nature Conservancy, especially, has a big project that they’re working on, breeding these resistant trees. Right in front of the Bennington Museum, (there’s a) beautiful huge American elm tree that did not succumb to disease.”