Once the American chestnut spread from the East Coast to the Mississippi River. The trees grew one hundred feet or more. They grew straight for the first fifty feet and produced great timber. The nuts were a cash crop that western North Carolinians sold at Christmastime. However, in 1904 scientists discovered the blight in New York City that by 1950 had destroyed about four billion chestnut trees. It is considered the largest ecological disaster of the 20th century.