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Texas | Columns | Bob Bowman's East Texas

Big and Historic Trees

by Bob Bowman
Bob Bowman
When Arbor Day rolls, East Texans can take pride in a special collection of unusually large and historic trees.

One of our most unusual trees, ironically, is one that isnšt a native of Texas. The Hubbard Ginkgo in Tyler, located on the lawn of City Hall, was brought to East Texas from Japan by Ambassador Richard Hubbard, a Tyler resident, and planted in 1889.

At Athens, the Pioneer Oak -- a giant southern red oak -- has been estimated to be 320 years old. The oak is located a block east of Athens' courthouse square on the north side of U.S. Highway 175.

East Texas, naturally, has a few national champion trees, past and present.

Near Mineola are three champs growing on the lands owned by one family -- Mark, Will and Billie Godwin. A 110-foot black gum is a national and state champion, a 66-foot tall Hercules Club tree is also a state champ, and a 61-foot blackjack oak is a state champion, too.

One of the dethroned natonal champs in East Texas is a black gum growing deep in the Sabine River bottomlands on the bank of Eight Mile Creek near the Harrison-Panola county line.

The national champion honey locust is located on the Alabama-Coushatta Indian reservation between Livingston and Woodville. It stands 112 feet all, has a circumference of 81 inches, and a spread of 43 feet. The locust is a good bee tree and has been used to make railroad ties and fence posts. Its seed pods are enjoyed by cattle and deer.

The national eastern red cedar stands north of Pinehill in Rusk County. It measures 196 inches in circumference. Red cedar has been cultivated since 1664 and its aromatic wood is popular as an insect repellent.

Guarding some of East Texas' earliest man-made structures, the Caddo Indian mounds of Nacogdoches, is the Indian Mound red oak. Youšll find it north of the downtown area.

Nacogdoches also has another historic tree, the Old North Church oak, which stands just north of the city. As early as 1832, settlers in the community met and worshipped under the tree. In 1835, a ten-acre site around the tree was set aside as a cemetery and churchyard. In 1838, only two years after Texas won its independence from Mexico, the first Baptist church in Texas was organized on the site.

Pine trees, of course, are the most recognizable trees in East Texas. The national champion longleaf pine also stands on the Alabama-Coushatta Reservation. It was crowned only because the previous national champ, was downed by a hurricane. It once stood in a small park beside Farm Road 2024 five miles west of Hemphill, but the park is still a great place to see large longleafs.

Several other stands of large pines are worth seeing. The most accessible are the old pines on the campus of Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches and the Longleaf Pine Park on Farm Road 62, just off US 287, about a dozen miles east of Corrigan.


Š Bob Bowman
All Things Historical April 11, 2004 column
The column is provided as a service of the East Texas Historical Association. Bob Bowman is a former president of the Association, a member of the Texas Historical Commission, and the author of 30 books about East Texas.


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Texas Escapes, in its purpose to preserve historic, endangered and vanishing Texas, asks that anyone wishing to share their photos of Texas historic trees, history or Texas vintage/historic photos, please send as email attachments to history@texasescapes.com.


 

 

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