Where does the saying “to take to the tall timber” come from and What does it mean?

The expression “to take to the tall timber” is the twentieth century version of the nineteenth century “to break for high timber,” and with the same meaning, i.e., to decamp suddenly and without ceremony.

The original notion, back in the early 1800s, seems to have been literal, to make a break for heavily timbered regions so as to make pursuit difficult.

The earliest “high timber” actually mentioned was, in 1836, along the banks of the Mississippi west of Illinois.