July 4, 1918
The fact that Juniper Swamp is the depository of enormous quantities of peat has again been brought to public attention through its rediscovery in excavating for the roadbed of the N Y connecting RR which runs directly through the swamp. The bog covers an area of about 100 acres and is located between Johnson Ave. and Juniper Swamp Rd. on the north and south and Juniper Ave. and Dry Harbor Rd. on the east and west. The peat bed is from 10 to 15 ft. thick. The peat is reddish brown, pretty thoroughly decomposed a few feet below the surface and seems to be of excellent quality. It constitutes 42,000,000 cy. ft. of easily accessible material which merely needs cutting out and drying to provide good fuel for thousands of families.
The importance of the bog was first pointed out by Roland M. Harper of College Point who contributed an interesting note about it to the Journal of the American Peat Society in January last. He mentions that, according to certain references in Thompson's “History of Long Island ” 1843, some peat was taken from this bog in the first half of the 19th century but, as peat has never been very popular in this country, the exploitation did not progress very far. The bog lay unnoticed for nearly three-quarters of a century until in 1916 contractors building a freight connection between the New Haven and Long Island railroads located their line right across the middle of it and have since completed a cut through the bog in such a way that the bog water is being rapidly drained off. The peat which remains will therefore soon dry out and will then be in danger of catching fire from an engine spark and being entirely wasted.
Peat is disintegrated and partially decomposed vegetable matter – vegetable mud. It collects in and fills up swamps under favorable conditions. Vast deposits are known in temperate and cold climates. It is not found in warm localities for there the decay of vegetable matter is too rapid. The formation of peat illustrates the conditions under which coal originates.
The rate of growth of a peat bog is often from one to four in. a year , the depth varying from 10 to 20 ft. When dried in the open air, peat forms a valuable domestic fuel and its value is greatly enhanced by compression into small blocks of briquettes, whether alone or in mixture with coal dust. In times and countries where the forests could not supply sufficient fuel, men have turned to peat to take the place of wood for burning. Peat was burned to some extent in the US during colonial times and even later until the progressive cheapness of anthracite coal led to the abandonment of local fuel. But the present generation of Americans does not know of the extent of the peat deposits in this country or their value. It has been estimated that there are 15,000,000,000 cu. ft. of peat in Massachusetts alone, while the Great Dismal Swamp of Virginia and North Carolina, 40 miles long by 25 wide, is practically an inexhaustible storehouse of the material.
Peat has been commercially unsuccessful in the past due to its bulkiness which makes it difficult of transportation and to the cheapness of coal. By various devices, however, there can be procuced from this vegetable mud a compact material fairly comparable in quality with lignite or the poorer bituminous coals. Charcoal made from compressed peat is superior to wood charcoal and even compares favorably with coke. That obtained from uncompressed peat is used to temper cutlery etc. and as a deodorizer and antiseptic. In agriculture, too, peat is important for 3 reasons: it takes good fertilizer, is valuable as an absorbent material when with refuse and helps to retain moisture when mixed with dry, sandy soils.