The Tree That Owns Itself

Several years ago, when my son was attending the University of Georgia, I drove over for an afternoon visit and a little shopping. As we were driving around Athens, doing a little sightseeing in the historic neighborhoods, my son turns to me and says, “Do you want to see the tree that owns itself?” Huh? “What did you just say?” He looks at me and repeats, “Do you want to see the tree that owns itself?” “Surrrreee,” I said…thinking the hot Georgia sun had done fried his brain! ๐Ÿ˜‰

The south has always been known for it’s quirky superstitions and colorful characters…so, you’d think, having grown up here, I’d be ready for ‘most anything. We drove slowly up Finley street, the only remaining cobblestone street in Athens.

As we approached the corner of Finley and Dearing, I saw it. There, growing right smack in the middle of the road, was a lone White Oak. The two lane road narrowed down to a single lane that snaked its way around the right side of the tree. We sat and waited patiently as another car coming from the other direction, squeezed its way around the tree. Then, it was our turn to squeeze by, with the road once again becoming two lanes.

Below…a view of the tree from the other side. The paved lane you see on the right is a driveway to a home not too far from the famous tree.

I was enthralled. How was it that a tree came to be growing in the middle of a road, completely and totally obstructing the normal flow of traffic, forcing all those who chose this path to slow down and give the tree its due respect? My son filled me in on part of the legend of the tree…here’s a blurb from Wikipedia that explains:

The Tree That Owns Itself is a white oak tree, widely assumed to have legal ownership of itself and of all land within eight feet (2.4 m) of its base. The earliest known telling of the tree’s story comes from a front page article titled “Deeded to Itself” in the Athens Weekly Banner of August 12, 1890. The article explains that the tree had been located on the property of Colonel William Henry Jackson. William Jackson was the son of one James Jackson (a soldier in the American Revolution as well as a Congressman, U.S. Senator, and Governor of Georgia), and the father of another James Jackson (a Congressman and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia). He was the brother of Jabez Young Jackson, also a Congressman. (William Jackson was reportedly a professor at the University of Georgia and is sometimes given the title of Doctor; the nature of his military service and the source of the title Colonel are unknown.) Jackson supposedly cherished childhood memories of the tree and, desiring to protect it, deeded to the tree ownership of itself and the surrounding land. By various accounts this transaction took place between 1820 and 1832. According to the newspaper article, the deed read:

“I, W. H. Jackson, of the county of Clarke, of the one part, and the oak tree . . . of the county of Clarke, of the other part: Witnesseth, That the said W. H. Jackson for and in consideration of the great affection which he bears said tree, and his great desire to see it protected has conveyed, and by these presents do convey unto the said oak tree entire possession of itself and of all land within eight feet of it on all sides.”

The original tree was said to have fallen in the midst of a bad storm in 1942, and a new tree was grown from one of its acorns and planted in the same location. The current tree is sometimes referred to as the Son of The Tree That Owns Itself.

Wikipedia states: The original oak fell on the evening of October 9, 1942, following a long period of decline. The tree’s poor condition had been known for years, and within days of its collapse a move was under way to replace the fallen tree with a “son” grown from one of its acorns. One account suggests that the tree had actually died several years before it collapsed, the victim of root rot. The tree was over 100 feet (30 m) tall and was estimated to be between 150 and 400 years old when it fell. Both trees have appeared in numerous national publications, and the site is a local landmark in Athens.

There’s an old plaque at the site that has become very weathered over the years. The stone faintly details a passage from William H. Jackson’s deed to the tree. It has become difficult to read…

So, at some point, another plaque was placed nearby with the same passage.. It states:

FOR AND IN CONSIDERATION
OF THE GREAT LOVE I BEAR
THIS TREE AND THE GREAT DESIRE
I HAVE FOR ITS PROTECTION
FOR ALL TIME, I CONVEY ENTIRE
POSSESSION OF ITSELF AND
ALL LAND WITHIN EIGHT FEET
OF THE TREE ON ALL SIDES.

WILLIAM H. JACKSON

Wikipedia adds: Regarding Jackson’s deed, one writer noted at the turn of the last century, “However defective this title may be in law, the public recognized it.” In that spirit, it is the stated position of the Athens-Clarke County unified government that the tree, in spite of the law, does indeed own itself.

You may read more about The Tree That Owns Itself, HERE, at Wikipedia. It also has it’s own Facebook page with 4,606 Fans. No kidding! If you’d like to become a Facebook Fan of The Tree That Owns Itself, click HERE. ๐Ÿ™‚

Welcome to the south…where anything is possible. I truly can’t think of any other place I’d rather live. ๐Ÿ˜‰

 

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Comments

  1. ABeachCottage says

    wow, quite an incredible thing!! enjoyed the post, Susan, love that last shot, looks like something out of a BBC Period Drama…

    happy weekend sarahx

  2. What a lovely story! Thank you, Susan, trees are worth it!

  3. What a great story!

  4. Karen at Nittany Inspirations says

    Susan, this is a delightful story. I love tales like this. It's nice that when the original tree fell that they didn't think, good we can not straighten the road.

  5. Susan Wicker says

    Good morning, Susan! That was a great story. The tree that owns itself is quite lovely and has a fascinating history. Great photos! Thanks for your blog and all the helpful hints you gave, too. I'm reading how to enlarge photos on a blog and your suggestions are very helpful. Thanks so much and have an absolutely wonderful day! Sincerely, Susan from writingstraightfromtheheart.blogspot.com

  6. I love this story! Thanks so much for sharing it, Susan. I have never heard of this lovely tree. It is beautiful and the story behind it is enchanting.

    xo
    Claudia

  7. Nina Patricia @ The Adventures of Nina Patricia says

    And this is why I have a burning desire to move to the south! Thanks for sharing this story.

  8. This tree has an amazing story– thank you so much for sharing it!

  9. Blogging To A Better Bonnie says

    I love old trees! I can't think of a better gift to give a tree that gives us so much (oxygen, shade, beauty) than to give it ownership of itself. What a wonderful story!

  10. I'm so glad to see this! The husband and I recently took our HS senior to tour UGA. Much had changed in Athens since our own college days. We tried to find the tree that owns itself, and for the life of us, we couldn't find it.

    Can't wait to show her this post!

  11. susan this is so interesting, I love trees and to think of one owning itself is so intriguing. I am glad that Mr. Jackson protected his childhood memories of that tree. I hate when trees are taken down for our modern conveniences. Great Post,really enjoyed reading it,Kathysue

  12. marty (A Stroll Thru Life) says

    This is so interesting. So much history in the south and all so quirky and interesting. Hugs, Marty

  13. Pocono Dreamin' by Renรฉe Hoover says

    This is a Great! story. It has brought a huge smile. Thank you for taking the time to do this post.

  14. Love this post! Thank you!

    Mary
    From Virgina, who is enjoying our first big snow of the year!

  15. Terri(TerriBoog) says

    What a great story! I am going to show this to my boys – they'll love it!

  16. Susan, what a wonderful tale. I love and respect old trees. Surely anyting this old and magnificant has a life time of stories to share. Thank you for sharing this one! Treaty Oak in Austin is an amazing tree with quite a history.
    Happy Saturday to you!

  17. Susan, I do love old trees and hadn't known of this one in Athens even though my son went to UGA. Thanks for sharing this lovely story. We'll have to visit the tree the next time we are in Athens.

  18. love stories like this in this crazy world we live in now. Thanks Susan. Have a great weekend!

  19. That's really neat! Thanks for sharing that with us.:)

  20. Thank you Susan! Love this story…my sister went to UGA but I never heard this story…I went to "The W". Reminds me of when the farmer that abutted our property in Oklahoma told us he would be removing a giant oak tree on the property line. We said, we will sue if you do..half that tree belongs to us! Today, 28 years later, the tree still stands even though we sold our home there!

  21. I love quirky little bits of trivia about our great country. It is nice that the tree is walled and fenced in for protection from foot traffic, as well as automobiles.

  22. Melissa Miller says

    Oh that is so neat Susan! It is really beautiful.

    Stay warm! ~Melissa ๐Ÿ™‚

  23. Annesphamily says

    What a delightful story! Reminds me of the poem by Joyce Kilmer "Trees". What an awesome creation. Always proof for me that GOD indeed exists and He shares his works of art with all of us! Thank you for sharing.

  24. that is just nothing short of, Cool!

  25. What a great story! Please give us more interesting tidbits of history like this. You do such a great job!

  26. Terrific story. Thanks so much for sharing it.

    Joanie

  27. What a fun story. My daughter and son in law live in Athens and on my next visit I will go see the tree that owns itself! Looking forward to meeting you next Friday.

  28. How cool is that? Thanks for sharing it with us Susan.
    Tracy

  29. I love history Susan. Having been from the KY I totally relate to your southern heritage. Local stories legends, lore abound in the south and what the people who went before us did is truly fascinating.

  30. Susan,

    Thanks for sharing this! We go to Athens several times a year (Hubby is UGA Grad)and visiting this tree is always a treat! Great Post!

    Holly

  31. Oh Susan …. I love the story and the photos. An exquisite tree full of history and majestic bearing. Thank goodness it was never destroyed.

  32. laurie @ bargain hunting says

    How interesting! Susan, this story is amazing. Thank you for sharing it with us. laurie

  33. Tales From My Empty Nest says

    Interesting story. My daughter is considering graduate school at the University of Georgia. Love & blessings from NC!

  34. What an enchanting story! That's the type visitor attraction my husband and I like to see when we are RVing. That might make a trip to Athens necessary. Thanks
    Sharon

  35. Now that's a great story!! I love trees and if I'm ever in Athens I will definitely have to visit this monumental tree! TFS.

    Miss Bloomers

  36. This is a wonderful story, thank you for sharing it with us. I love oak trees and to know of this one, well I am charmed.

  37. Kate @ Sensational Color says

    I really enjoyed the story and have filed this away for retelling. Thank you for sharing such an interesting tree and the history behind it. Happy Pink Saturday.

  38. Hey Susan, great post. What a great story that I have never heard before and I'm not that far from Athens. Just wanted to let you know I have jumped into blogland today. Still not real sure what I am doing. I hope I can figure out how to link to your Mr. Linky for Monday and I have pictures of how I refinished the chest in today's pics. I have so much to learn, but looking forward to it.

  39. Sewconsult says

    As towns have grown into cities, cities into Metropolitans, it's wonderful to see where respect of a tree has been preserved.
    Beckie in Brentwood,TN

  40. Kate @ That's What Living Is To Me says

    Thanks for sharing this. I grew up in Georgia, and stories like this are one of the reasons I love the south!

  41. Mid-Atlantic Martha says

    How charming this all is — how wonderful that this tree has been preserved and given it's due respect!

  42. tales from an oc cottage says

    How cool is that! And so American! Love it!

    m ^..^

  43. lostpastremembered says

    I just found your blog!!! What an amazing story… a land owning tree… does it have to pay taxes? Thanks for the great story!

  44. Susan,

    That is wonderful and amazing. As others have said, this sort of story is one of the things I love about the south.

    I have lived in the Duluth, GA area for 30 years and had never heard about this tree and it is just the sort of story I love, so I'm surprised that no one told me. My daughter-in-law graduated from UGA with a degree in Forestry and she never mentioned a word! This calls for a special trip to visit the tree – when the weather gets a bit nicer.

    Thanks for sharing.

    gloria

  45. What a fab TREE!!! And what a lovely post!!!

    Just came over to tell you I am having a fab Le Creuset cookware GIVEAWAY!!

    For details see:

    http://birdcrafts.blogspot.com/2010/01/blog-celebration-and-le-creuset.html

    And good luck!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  46. Sue (Someone's Mom) says

    What a wonderful story. I really want to live in the south one of these days myself.

    Sue

  47. Practically Precious says

    I was so excited to see this post. I grew up here in Athens and I work at UGA. I pass the cobblestone street all the time and haven't gone up to see the tree in a while. Athens is full of quirky little things like that. If you are coming to visit, the campus in the spring with all theblooming trees makes a trip from anywhere worth it!

  48. I love it! What a great story and a beautiful tree!
    teri

  49. What a neat story!

  50. Jan Arringdale says

    I have an unrelated comment. After viewing your winter decorated conservatory, I had my sweet son-in-law make one for me. It turned out beautifully. But I was wondering if you had any Valentine deocrating ideas for it. I very much admire your decorating skills. Any help would be aprreciated!

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