History is not always about battles: sometimes it is about property transfer, treaties, forming businesses, or other events. If you are a Texas history buff and planning a trip to Texas, there just might be an unusual way for you to experience Texas history -- through its famous trees!
Trees have always played a significant part in the history of Texas and the world. Before towns were established, unusual or large trees were often used as landmarks for people to meet such as for churches, auctions, or duels, or to establish boundary lines for property division. Trees were also used for more sordid purposes, such as the infamous "Hanging Trees" that are scattered throughout Texas and other states. Most of the famous trees of Texas are live oaks, but there are a few exotic species of famous trees in Texas as well: a gingko, a bald cypress, an ebony, cedars, pecans, and hackberries have all played small but significant parts in Texas history. If you are a homeschooler in Texas, or just a history buff planning a trip to Texas, visiting its famous trees is a great way to have a vacation, see a lot of Texas, and learn some unusual Texas history, too!
Here are just some of the trees you can see if you plan a road trip to Texas, and plan to visit the famous trees of Texas.
- The Austin Auction Oak, where the city of Austin auctioned off land and raised enough money to pay for all the public development of the city;
- The Baptist Oak, where the first Baptist Church in Texas was founded, along with the first college for women in Texas;
- The Bell County Charter Oak, where the plans were drawn up for Bell County;
- The Bicentennial Oak, established to have been alive at the time of the signing of the Constitution of the United States;
- The Bloys Symbolic Oak, where people who were Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, and Disciples of Christ gathered to meet together;
- The Borden Oak, the beloved oak that the brother of the Gail Borden (the inventor of condensed milk, and, yes, the family that founded the dairy company) fought to save from the sea;
- The Burkett Pecan Tree Graft, where Burkett was able to establish the Texas papershell pecan industry;
- The Center Oak, in the exact center of the State of Texas according to the 1870 survey;
- The Choctaw Robinson Oak, where one preacher figured out an ingenious way to bring religion to the people he thought needed it most;
- The Church Oak, which has been preserved but is shrouded in mystery and folklore;
- The Courthouse Cedar, which has outlived four courthouses, and is set to outlive the fifth;
- The Goose Island Oak, the largest tree in Texas with a trunk circumference of over three hundred inches;
- The Governor Hogg Pecan, marking the grave of one of Texas' most influential governors;
- The Heart o' Texas Oak, that marks the exact geographical center of Texas in a different way;
- The Hubbard Gingko, a gift from Japan transplanted to Texas;
- The Indian Marker Tree, which Native Americans used to help them navigate the trails of Texas;
- The Kissing Oak, where Sam Houston started a scandal that lives on to this day;
- The Landmark Oak, which Native Americans and early settlers in Texas used to help them navigate around treacherous quicksands;
- The Las Cuevas Ebony, which has survived countless incidents of smuggling, cattle rustling, banditry, and illegal immigration;
- The Live Oak County Charter Oak, where Live Oak county was drawn up (this might be where the county got its name);
- The Log Cabin Oaks, site of the first school and first community center in San Marcos;
- The Masonic Oak, where the masons first met in Texas, and eventually were granted their charter for the state of Texas;
- The Matrimonial Oak, site of numerous proposals and weddings. Even the Native Americans used it for this purpose, so its history as a wedding and proposal site dates back at least the seventeenth century;
- The Million-Dollar Monarch, a pecan found and nurtured by Joseph Cole just after the War Between the States, and a centerpiece of Christmas decorations in Highland Park (watch the short video below for more information);
Story of the "Million-Dollar Monarch"
- The Old Evergreen Oak, which marks the site of the now vanished town of Evergreen, which became a ghost town when it was bypassed by the railroads;
- The Panna Maria Oaks, which marks the site of the first settlers from Poland in the Western Hemisphere;
- The Plainview Hackberries, which mark the site where the town of Plainview was founded;
- The Seiders Oaks, site of the first playground for wealthy Austinites;
- The Traders' Oak, where the first business in the town of Fort Worth was established;
- The Ross Oak marks the spot where what is now the town of Waco was first discovered;
- The Treaty Oak, a beloved Austin tree. There is a legend that couples who meet under the tree will be faithful to each other forever. It was poisoned by a man trying to break up a couple, and two thirds of the tree died. Thanks to many donors who rushed in to help, the tree is recovering;
- The Turner Oak, where a man buried his gold during the War for Southern Secession to keep it from being confiscated, and later used it to help his town recover from the war;
- The Turner Red Cedar, where Zavala County was formed through a grant of land.
These trees all have a "family friendly" history (on the other hand, these famous trees of Texas have a much darker history), and are a great way to learn about little known historical events in Texas. If you are planning to visit these trees, be aware that some of the trees are on private property, and you will have to call and arrange for access to visit the trees. Please respect the private property of the owners!
For planning your trip to see these trees, check out the book, Famous Trees of Texas, which gives pictures, lists locations and contact information, and has directions from the county courthouse in the county where the trees are located. There is also a publicly available and searchable map of the Famous Trees of Texas with markers of each publicly accessible tree, and pictures of the trees, at Google maps. The markers on the map at Google maps link to a page about each tree's history. Even if you are not planning a road trip specifically to see the trees, if you pass near one, you will be able to participate in a little known part of Texas history!