Famous Trees of Texas – Bloys Symbolic Oak

In Jeff Davis County, there’s a gray oak that’s come to symbolize religious freedom. Picture this. It’s October 10, 1890. A man stands on an Arbuckle coffee box. He’s using it as his pulpit. There are rough planks across sawhorses for pews. The oak serves as a tabernacle for the congregation. It’s a “cowboy” camp meeting. The Reverend William J. Bloys is a Presbyterian home missionary. He’s devoted himself to the camp idea for nearly 30 years, and he’s here, conducting a three-day meeting.

The site of this camp meeting was Skillman’s Grove, which is about 17 miles southwest of Fort Davis on Highway 166. The meeting may have come about because at an earlier worship service at the John Z. Means Ranch, Mrs. Means had a wish that ranch neighbors could meet at least once a year and worship together. Later that year, 21 children and 27 adults assembled under this ancient oak tree for that first camp meeting.

In subsequent years, the meetings would be held in a gospel tent and, after 1912, in a wooden building. Today, the week-long assembly has an average daily attendance of 1500 men, women and children. The camp meetings became ecumenical shortly after the first meeting. By 1904, the Bloys Campmeeting Association was formed. It was comprised of four religious denominations – Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist and Disciple. At the chartering meeting, the hat was passed around and over $1500 was collected. That money was used to purchase the 640 acres of land including Skillman’s Grove. This includes the tree under which the first service was held. It became known as the Bloys Symbolic Oak.

The tree itself is structured in a beautiful way. About two feet above ground, its four main limbs unite to form a single stout trunk. Some believe those four limbs symbolize the four different churches that have come together for the meetings these many years. Each of the four denominational ministers preaches once each day in a planned rotation. In addition to the preaching, special music by great musicians and congregational singing makes for a truly inspirational seven day experience. The continuation of this religious meeting is in honor of John and Exa Means as well as Reverend Bloys who made it happen under the old oak tree so many years ago. Please respect the tree, as its on private property. It’s best to view it from the road.

To learn more about famous trees of Texas, stick with our blog. We try to update regularly in addition to our other content. If you have questions about your trees, don’t hesitate to contact us at 512-341-8888.

 

Famous Trees of Texas – Ben Milam Cypress

benmilamcypresssanantoniotx508tjnsn2The Ben Milam Cypress has quite a history. Located on San Antonio’s famous Riverwalk, the Ben Milam Cypress can be found between E. Commerce and East Houston Streets on the east bank of the San Antonio River in downtown San Antonio. Who was Ben Milam, and why is this tree so important?

Ben Milam was a native of Kentucky and a veteran of the War of 1812. He came to Texas via New Orleans. He made a living trading with Comanche Indians along the Colorado River. Eventually he began working with the revolutionaries who were seeking their independence from Spain. This did not bring good fortune to Milam. He was imprisoned in Mexico City but later released through the efforts of the U.S. minister. He returned to Mexico after its independence from Spain in 1824. He was now technically a Mexican citizen and became a colonel in the Mexican army that year.

By the year 1835, Milam was back in Mexico seeking titles for those who had settled in the dual states of Coahuila y Texas. Unfortunately, he had bad timing. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna had just overthrown the new government of Mexico. He established a dictatorship. Milam was captured and was again imprisoned, but this time in Monterrey.

Colonel Milam escaped the Mexican prison in Monterrey. We are not sure how. He crossed the Rio Grande in October of 1835. It was by chance that he discovered the troops under command of George Collinsworth. This is when he became aware of the Texan Revolution. Milam, who was serving as a private in this new war, helped capture Goliad and marched with the army against San Antonio. It was held by Gen. Martin Perfecto de Cos and his troops.

Milam became discouraged to find out that many of the Revolutionary Army troops decided to abandon the attack on San Antonio until springtime. Milam made a plea to the troops, asking “Who will go with Old Ben Milam into Bexar (San Antonio is in Bexar County)?” Three hundred volunteered and the siege began on December the 5th at dawn.

As you can imagine General Cos was not happy. During the house-to-house fighting, Milam entered the backyard between the Veramendi Palace and the river to confer with Francis W. Johnson. As he crossed the high-walled courtyard, he was hit in the head with a rifleball and killed instantly. The Mexican sniper used a twin cypress tree to conceal himself from Milam and other Texians. The tree became famous as the Ben Milam Cypress.

Maybe your tree isn’t historic – yet, but we still find it important. Give us a call at Austin Tree Service at 512-341-8888 and we’ll help you keep your tree healthy. We can’t wait to hear from you.

Famous Trees of Texas – Bell County Charter Oak

Bell County Charter OakBell County is in east central Texas. It’s located along the Balcones Escarpment about forty-five miles north of the Capitol in Austin. The county is bordered by Coryell, McLennan and Falls counties on the north. Bell is bordered by the east by Falls and Milam counties, on the south by Milam and Williamson counties and on the west by Lampasas and Burnet counties. Belton is the third largest town in the county and currently serves as the county seat. It is about sixty-five miles away from Austin.

The Bell County Charter Oak stands along the east bank of the Leon River, close to the city of Belton. It’s on private property so please respect privacy by viewing the tree from the road. The Bell County Charter Oak was the spot chosen for the first election in Bell County. At the time, it was located nearly 50 yards east of the log cabin home of William F. Hill and about 200 yards south of where the Old Military Road crossed the Leon River.

On that historic day in either April or May 1850, the oak stood strong as three men were voted as special judges and thirty of forty others voted for five special commissioners. The commissioners were tasked with organizing the new county. They had to survey it, locate a county seat, figure out the town site, sell lots at public auction and see to the erection of public buildings.

Organization of the county was completed August 1, 1850. The county seat was originally located on Nolan Creek, west of the Bell County Charter Oak. It was named Nolanville. On December 16th the following year, the seat was moved to Belton. The county itself was named in honor of Texas’ third governor, Peter Hansbrough Bell.

Many years have passed since Mr. Hill’s cabin was claimed by the river. The Bell County Charter Oak still serves as a living reminder of the first election held in Bell County.
Got oaks that needs taking care of? Call Austin Tree Service at 512-341-8888 so our certified arborist can come out and take a look and determine the best course of action to take.

Famous Trees of Texas – Baptist Oak

Tamu.EduThe Baptist Oak, located at 248 S. Chilton Avenue in Goliad, Texas, is a true testament to religious freedom. It was here, in 1849, that the first Baptist Church west of the Guadalupe River was organized. The date was May 7th. Reverend John Hillyer, acting as the moderator, met with eleven others under the live oak.

His followers, who helped establish this church, were Mary Hillyer, the Reverend’s wife, their two children, Ann and Hamilton Hillyer, William H. Crow and his wife, Philania Crow, Pryor and Mary Lea, George G.  Brightman, Emeline Russell and the Hillyer’s servants, Jacob and his wife, Eliza. Two years earlier, Reverend John Freeman Hillyer arrived from a pastorate in Galveston. A college-trained man from Georgia, Reverend Hillyer had four academic degrees.

Education was very important to the Reverend, who was also a physician and an educator. He came to Goliad to establish a college for women. He operated a female school in the old Aranama Mission. The school opened in February 1849 for ten month terms. Hillyer Female College, as it was called, offered instruction in Greek and Latin, piano, drawing, painting, and needlework. The college was only in operation for three years.  It was then replaced by Aranama College.

Hillyer Female College would not have happened at all without the help of Baptists in Goliad. Hillyer thanked them by beginning the first Baptist Church in Goliad under the Baptist Oak. The Baptist Oak still stands strong and is open for public access. The Baptist Oak signifies religious freedom and the beginning of a strong Baptist presence in the Goliad area. It’s a great testament to faith and a wonderful reminder of a great man’s commitment to his religion and education.

People still visit the Baptist Oak today to remember the great creation of a Baptist church in Goliad. The tree stands tall and true much like the faith of the folks who built the original church. We, at Austin Tree Service, admire the strength of the tree and its symbolic representation of religious freedom. To have your oaks treated well, give us a call at 512-341-8888.

 

Famous Trees of Texas – Auction Oaks

Courtesy of TAMU
Courtesy of TAMU

It was January 1839. On the fourteenth of that month, while Houston was still capital of the Republic of Texas, an Act of Congress passed directing Sam Houston’s successor, President Mirabeau B. Lamar, to choose a new site for a new capital of the Republic. The new site was supposed to be between the Trinidad and Colorado Rivers, above the San Antonio Road.

President Lamar chose the Capitol Commission to find just the right spot for the Republic of Texas’ new capital city. They picked the site, then known as Waterloo. It was situated on the east bank of the Colorado River in Bastrop County.

Judge Erwin Waller, who was a veteran of the War for Texan Independence, was appointed as the agent of the Republic. His job was to lay out the capital city. The city would be named after Stephen F. Austin. Judge Waller set aside the most valuable lots for the capital and government buildings. He then sold not more than half of the remaining lots at a public auction.

In May of that same year (1839), the judge and a surveyor by the name of William H. Sandusky went to Austin. They took 200 construction workers with them to build the new capital city. They established two camps. One was on Waller Creek. The other was at George Durham’s spring. Sandusky marked off a square mile, which is the same as 640 acres, on the bluff of gradually rising land. It overlooked the river.

Then, Sandusky got to work on establishing streets and laying out lots. He set aside lots for a hospital, churches and a university. There were also lots for the president’s house, a capitol, government buildings and homes. It was a beautiful little capital that has grown by leaps and bounds into a thriving metropolis today.

In the shade of the live oaks, now known as the Auction Oaks, located in Republic Square near the intersection of 4th and St. Antonio Streets in what is now downtown Austin, they held a public auction for the remaining lots. It was near Durham’s spring at the time.      Sherriff Charles King of Bastrop acted as the auctioneer and sold 301 city lots.  The grand total paid for the lots was $182,585. It was almost enough to pay for the government buildings that were built.

You can see the Auction Oaks in Republic Square. We think they’re beautiful examples of live oaks. If you have a live oak that needs attention, don’t hesitate to contact Austin Tree Service. Our certified arborist would be happy to assist you. We can be reached at 512-341-8888.

Famous Trees of Texas – Goose Island Oak

Big_treeTexas’ largest tree by girth, the Goose Island Oak is located on the Gulf Coast near Rockport, Texas. In the 1960s, this tree, which has been used as a hanging tree, a pirate’s rendezvous and a ceremonial site for the cannibalistic Karankawa Indians, was named the largest live oak in America by the organization American Forests.

Found inside on the Lamar Peninsula within Goose Island State Park, the estimated age of the tree is 1,000 years old. Legend has it that the Goose Island Oak was once a place where the Karankawas, who were cannibalistic, devoured their enemies and members of their own tribe. The fierce Comanche Indians were also reported to use the tree as a rendezvous point.

Earlier visitors to the Goose Island Oak could have included the Spanish explorer Cabeza de Vaca in 1528 and Sieur de La Salle in 1684. Governor Alonso de Leon arrived in 1689, looking for de La Salle. He found the ruins of St. Louis instead and rescued the only three survivors of La Salle’s colony from the Karankawas.

This large tree is sometimes called the “Bishop’s Tree” because a Catholic bishop’s home or chapel stood nearby in the abandoned town of Lamar. The name “Lamar Oak” was probably taken from the name of the town nearby. Lamar flourished in the 1830s. Now, we know the tree simply as the “Big Tree.”

In 1966, this national champion live oak measured 421 ½ inches in circumference. It was also 44 feet high and had a crown spread of 89 feet. You can find the “Big Tree” at Goose Island State Park near Rockport. There are signs inside the park that direct park visitors to the tree.

As mentioned before, the tree’s age is estimated at over 1,000 years old. However, no sample has been taken. It’s only a matter of time before technology can estimate its actual age. The tree has an unusual branching pattern which is probably related to the near-continuous gulf breeze.

For more information on the Goose Island Oak, you can read up on it on the internet. For help with your existing trees in your yard, please contact us at 512-341-8888. We can help keep your trees healthy and safe.

Famous Trees of Texas – The Treaty Oak

TreatyOakThe once majestic Treaty Oak is located in a small city park in Austin, Texas close to the east bank of the Colorado River. Believed to be more than 500 years old, the Treaty Oak is the only survivor of a group of live oaks, referred to as the “Council Oaks”. Sacred to the Comanche and Tonkowa Indians, these trees saw peace and war parties initiated. Religious ceremonies were held in which the acorns of the tree were used to make a special tea. It was believed that the tea protected warriors in battle.

Legend has it that Stephen Austin signed the first treaty between the Anglos and the Indians, setting up boundaries between the two in the 1830s. At one point, the tree spanned 127 feet in diameter and was a witness to naps, picnics, feasts, proposals, marriages and more. It is believed that Sam Houston sat underneath the tree after he was expelled from the governor’s office at the start of the Civil War.

In 1927, the Treaty Oak was nominated into the American Forests’ Hall of Fame for Trees in Washington, D.C. It was considered the perfect specimen of a North American tree. It had been owned since the 1880s by the Caldwell family. In 1926 W.H. Caldwell’s widow offered the land for sale for $7,000. Finally, in 1937, the City of Austin purchased the land for $1,000 and installed a plaque honoring the tree’s place in Texas history.

In 1989, the Treaty Oak was poisoned by a troubled young man who wanted to hold onto his girlfriend. He thought that if he killed the spirit of the tree the girl would not seek out another man. The poison was a powerful hardwood herbicide called Velpar. Lab tests showed that there was enough herbicide used to kill 100 trees. When people learned that the Treaty Oak was ill, they sprang into action. Former presidential candidate Ross Perot wrote a blank check to fund efforts to save the tree.

The vandal was caught after DuPont, the makers of Velpar, issued a $10,000 reward to capture the poisoner. His name was Paul Cullen and he was sentenced to nine years in prison for his crime. Arborists feared the tree would die; but, with lots of loving care, it survived. Many limbs had to be pruned and the tree is not as big as it once was. However, it’s survived and in 1997 it began to yield acorns again. The acorns were collected and germinated. In 1999, the baby Treaty Oaks found homes in Texas and other states thus ensuring that the Treaty Oak will survive in the future.

Today, the Treaty Oak survives and is a symbol of strength and endurance. It’s estimated that about 1/3 of the original tree remains. What has survived is strong and may thrive for another 500 years. The Treaty Oak is on the east side of Baylor Avenue, between Fifth and Sixth Streets. There’s a marker erected in front of the tree.

Does your tree need some TLC? Contact Austin Tree Service today. We’ll be happy to come out and take a look.