Famous Trees of Texas – The Borden Oak

You know that most trees get taller as they get older, but not The Borden Oak, one of Texas’ most famous trees. As time has gone on, the Borden Oak has lost about five feet of height. Why? Well, after the great Galveston storm of 1900, which was one of the worst natural disasters in our country’s history, engineers agreed that two major tasks had to happen.  These were that a massive sea wall had to be built along the Gulf front and the grade level of Galveston Island had to be raised.

The expense was massive, but it was all completed by July 1904. While the seawall was under construction, the grade raising was also under way. Every water line, railway track, and building in an area 40 blocks long and 20 blocks wide including St. Patrick’s Catholic Church and Grace Episcopal Church had to be raised and filled underneath with anywhere from 2 to 17 feet of sand and shell which was dredged from the bay.

The Borden Oak is one of the few trees that survived the grade raising as well as the storm itself. At the time of the Great Storm, the tree was the property of Thomas Henry Borden. His brother, Gail Borden, invented the process for condensing milk. Thomas Henry Borden’s daughter, Mrs. S. M. Sias of Houston, said her father was determined to save the tree when the grade raising began. He had a dike constructed to keep the salty fill from poisoning his precious tree. He hauled fresh water from the cisterns and wells and kept the salt washed out of the seepage that crept into the roots. After the grade raising was done, the salt dissipated from the soil. Then, Mr. Borden gradually filled the well around the tree.

As a result, the base of the Borden tree is about five feet below the present ground level. Isn’t that amazing? Mrs. Sias fondly remembered playing on the tree with her sister as a child. In 1972, when a new home was planned for the lot on which the tree resided, the Galveston Historical Foundation purchased a permanent deed restriction from the new owner to protect the tree from damage or destruction. The Borden Oak remains alive and well today.

Do you want to keep your trees safe from damage or destruction? Contact us at Austin Tree Service. We can be reached at 512-341-8888.