Saving the Witnesses to Tell Their Tales
~ Samantha Lewis
When speaking about the environment there are many subjects to talk about: saving habitats, regenerating wildlife populations; cleaning up the oceans of the world, etc.
And when it comes to history, there are organizations working to make sure our past does not waste away. Buildings are being saved so that generations can walk through them one day and be told the tales of heroism, darkness, battles, and freedom that went on inside the walls. It’s important to remember, however, that a great amount of American tales reside in nature. There are living objects that need to be found, cataloged and preserved so that generations can see, study and learn about the history that took place around them.
These are the trees. More and more we are hearing about the ‘moving of heritage trees’ and the work that’s being done by many people to save the trees from death as well as industry. Just like buildings that have been preserved and protected from being knocked down so that a new shopping mall can be put up in their place, trees should also be protected, especially considering the amazing tales they own.
The ‘Survivor Tree’ located in the heart of Oklahoma City’s downtown area has looked upon this place for over 90 years, and it’s tale is one of surviving danger at its worst. This is a recent tale of courage, because this is the tree that sat in peace and quiet until 1995, when the Federal Building was bombed and 168 people lost their lives. After the hideous attack, this tree was almost chopped down – ending a long lifespan. Thankfully, it was able to be left, and remains a witness to one of the worst acts of mankind.
Another true survivor calls Galveston home. The ‘Borden Oak’ is a famous one that actually remained standing after the Great Storm of 1900. From them on, it has stood tall against hurricanes and droughts, constantly proving that no matter what hit Mother Nature delivers, there are things that will never bow down.
Now…we head all the way back to 1713, to the Old Evergreen Tree in Lee County, Texas. It is said that the earliest white visitor to pass near the tree was explorer Louis de St. Denis, who was responsible for surveying El Camino Real, which is now State Highway 21. Here sat the earliest pioneer community in Lee County, Texas; and even though the original settlers have long since departed, the tree stands to remind one and all of the past.
Tombstone Oak in Uvalde sounds menacing. It should; its claim to fame is being the site of John King Fisher’s grave. This was one of the most respected and feared men in Texas at one time. Charges of everything from theft to murder were attributed to this man. But after the ‘bad’ had come to an end, Fisher actually turned his life around and became a deputy in Uvalde. Losing his life to outlaws, Fisher was originally buried by this tree, before his cast iron coffin (with a glass viewing panel) was exhumed to reside in the town’s cemetery.
For the ‘bad’ you need the ‘good’ and the huge, 65-foot-tall Angel Oak has provided beauty to John’s Island, South Carolina for almost 1,500 years. An American before Columbus even came to our shores, the Angel Oak dates back to 1717, and is on record for being one of the oldest things still living east of the ‘Ole Miss.
If you need history, the Johnny Appleseed Apple Tree is also out there for you to marvel at. It was a man named John Chapman who, in 1774, believed that man and nature could live together in harmony. A near-fatal accident brought about a vision of fruit-lined streets in Heaven, and Chapman followed the vision, planting apple tree orchards that would provide food for settlers traveling west. His ‘good’ cause allowed a farmer to take home and plant their own apple tree in order to keep paying Chapman’s kindness forward. But the original remains.
And when it comes to history, there is one tree that has a tale attached to it that represents one of the most renowned historic moments of all time. The Gettysburg Address Honey Locust is a true landmark that people wish could talk about what it saw in 1863… The Civil War battle had ended, and the state’s governor commissioned a lawyer to acquire land for a soldiers’ cemetery to honor the brave. Cemetery Hill, one of the battle landmarks along the Union line, was dedicated. And President Abraham Lincoln gave the most well-known speech of all time about the courageous sacrifices of the soldiers who died there. A lone locust, the honey locust, stood by listening and watching this amazing man speak. Still standing, this tree is a memorial sitting on a prominent hilltop one hundred yards from the spot where Lincoln spoke.
Everyone and everything has their own tale; and the goal of saving the trees – the true witnesses to some of the most amazing moments in our history – should be a goal everyone shares.