I am relating to the trees that grow here, I am sure that there are areas where the growth habits vary for many different reasons, even here the original white pine grew in denser growth areas and to survive had to stretch skyward quickly to get their crowns above the surrounding cover, these were lovely tall trees, and had very little taper from bottom to the top
Second and third growth pine did not have to compete in the same manner so the mature trees ended up shorter and with more lower limbs
This situation created a problem because to reconstruct period buildings it was extremely hard to obtain similar logs to work with
For a three bay English barn that I reconstructed, the lower sills were 12" square 36 feet long and were hemlock-These trees when we found them near the Quebec border with Ontario, were for our area really majestic trees--before harvesting I recorded their bottom diameters at 43" near ground level, and being unable to exactly calculate their girth at 36 feet took a gamble that the measurement at that point would square 12"--it ended up that they held their size well, and after hewing had very little waney edge to deal with
The same woodlot yielded the remainder of the logs that we needed for the reconstruction, and we also harvested a few extra just in case of a need for an extra timber--as it turned out we in fact needed a replacement timber for one of the 10" by !2" by 30 foot cross ties, due to a framing error that created a timber too short by 3"
I honestly have to admit here that I hated to cut down these majestic trees, but no doubt they were nearing their life span, and were many feet higher than their surrounding mates, making them subject to high wind damage
As one last note--what a wonderful display the hewing of these logs presented to the thousands of people that passed by, over the year and half the hewing took place--as the timbers were finished they made their way to the framing area close by so the whole story could be followed along in natural order.
As I mentioned before many Mennonite families passed by and quietly took in the work in progress, talking and explaining to their children what was happening--they seemed to really understand the spectacle unfolding--other families seemed to enjoy the hustle and bustle but from a different perspective I suspect
For ourselves the workers--being able to be part of a living history exhibit was not measureable in any way, but is an experience that will always be with me.
Splitting trees as you mention was not very often done except in certain cases, and these that I noted was floor planks in barns, split from squared timber, and sidewall timbers in log houses from very large cedar logs
pit sawing to obtain planks and boards was also practiced prior to the introduction of vertical blade saw mills, and by the very early settlers