With "An Unusual Texas Tourist Attraction: Famous Trees of Texas," I wrote an article about the role trees have played in history as meeting places, landmarks, and the many other ways in which trees have interacted with the history of the people of Texas. That article deals with the "family friendly" trees associated with Texas history. However, as with most places on earth, Texas has its share of trees associated with a much darker side of history, and many trees that are intimately linked to various battles or events associated with the Texas War for Independence from Mexico, which started near the town of Gonzales, Texas. Visiting these famous trees is an unusual vacation or field trip, and will take you not only to famous places in Texas, but to out of the way places as well, and on the drive you will be sure to enjoy all the beautiful Texas scenery (no, that's not a joke. There's much more to Texas than cowboys!).

If you do plan to visit these famous trees, please be aware that some of the historic trees are now on private property, and you should be careful to respect the privacy of the owners by calling to arrange to visit the tree (you would not want to tresspass on private property to visit a hanging tree). Please do not get arrested for trespassing! For older children who are studying the Texas War for Independence from Mexico, these trees which mark the places of important historical events make a great field trip or educational summer vacation, and if your children are old enough to see the Alamo, Goliad, Gonzales, the San Jacinto Monument or other places linked to this event in Texas history, then they will surely enjoy exploring these lesser-known sites as well. Even if you are just a Texas history buff, you will be sure to enjoy your visit to these trees and learn to appreciate an unusual approach to Texas history.

  • Bandera Tragedy Tree, where eight innocent armed civilians who cooperated with Confederate patrols were robbed of almost a thousand dollars, and then, one by one, lynched in a horrifying scenario (there is some speculation among historians that this episode might have started out humourously, and ended badly);
  • Ben Milam Cypress, from which the great Texas patriot (although technically a citizen of Mexico), Ben Milam, who was imprisoned in Mexico multiple times for the cause of Texas freedom, was assassinated by a Mexican sniper hiding in its branches;
  • Burnt Oak, where the newly formed Texas army camped out just after the Battle of Gonzales, the battle that began the Texas War for Independence from Mexico;
  • Cart War Oak, where a number of racist Texans perpetrated a terrifying series of attacks on innocent Mexican civilians who were engaged in a price war with the Texans, that ended in the death of seventy-five Mexicans, and the hanging of the racist Texans involved;
  • Deaf Smith Oak, from whose branches Texas hero Erastus "Deaf" Smith spied upon the Mexican army during the Texas War for Independence from Mexico;
  • Dueling Oak, where two Kentuckian brigadier generals in the Texas army during the Texas War for Independence from Mexico attempted to settle their dispute over who outranked whom;
  • Halletsville Hanging Oak, (one of the many infamous "hanging trees") where a Native American called "Pocket" was hanged for murdering several people. His hanging was attended by several thousand people, men, women and children;
  • Kyle Hanging Tree, another of the infamous "hanging trees," where an unidentified man was found hanged for an unknown reason;
Kyle Hanging Tree
Credit: Public Domain

 

  • Las Cuevas Ebony, the scene of robbery, banditry, cattle rustling, smuggling, and illegal immigration for many years;
  • Muster Oak, where soldiers were gathered to assemble before they went off to battle, and took the time there to say goodbye to their families, wives and sweethearts;
  • Page's Tree in Clarksville, which was so famous as one of the hanging trees, that all it took was to point out the tree to government agents and other people the townsfolk did not want to disturb them to get them to leave;
  • Ranger Oaks, where the Gonzales Rangers, forerunners of the famous current Texas Rangers, (yes, like the one that Chuck Norris played in Walker, Texas Ranger) were accustomed to meet;
  • Runaway Scrape Oak, where General Sam Houston, in command of the Texas Army, convinced Texans to flee by the thousands before the arrival of General Santa Anna and his soldiers, burning houses, fields, crops, and supplies in their wake (today called the Runaway Scrape), to deprive the Mexican army of shelter and supplies, and gather soldiers together so that they could gather strength and turn on him in the Battle of San Jacinto;
  • Tombstone Oak, the burial site of the most notorious outlaw in Texas, who later turned his life around and then went on to become a respected sheriff;
  • Urrea Oaks, where Colonel Urrea captured Colonel Amon B. King and his men, and led them to Goliad, where they were massacred just a week later, after the Battle of Goliad.

While none of these trees has a pleasant history (see the other article for trees with a more pleasant story attached to them), these trees played a small but significant part in Texas history. If you are on a family vacation, you may wish to water down the history of the trees for younger children, but some of these trees are so important that they should not be missed if you are going to be close enough by to see them!

Try out the map that has pictures of each of these trees, a marker where each tree is located, a link to the history of the tree (with a number to call if the tree is on private property), and more. Even without planning a vacation specifically to visit the trees, it is worth your while to check the map if you plan to visit Texas, to see if you will pass nearby to a famous tree. You can amaze your fellow travelers with your intimate knowledge of the darker side of Texas history!

Famous Trees Of Texas
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(price as of Jul 25, 2015)
A thorough historical guide to the famous trees of Texas.