Tree Notes is about trees -- especially native trees, trees for wildlife, and trees in history.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Big white oak trees of the past

Giant oaks of the primeval forest

I came across an item in an old newspaper about a very large white oak that was harvested in Breckenridge County, Kentucky. It piqued my curiosity, so I located the stories of a few more big oaks that were cut from the virgin forests of the greater Ohio River valley. I've quoted four of the news items below.

As large as these white oaks were, they did not rival the size of a white oak that was cut in Holden, West Virginia, in 1938. That giant was reported to be the largest white oak in the world. It was 9 feet in diameter and nearly 100 feet tall, and it was estimated to contain 15,000 board feet of lumber.

Big Oak Log

It required ten horses to haul a big white oak log which was brought to town last week, by T. W. Sanders, to be shipped to Evansville[, Indiana, down the Ohio River]. The log measured out 1,519 feet, was 49 inches in diameter at the small end and 54 inches at the large end. It belonged to the timber firm of Cooper & Williams and was cut on a tract of land near Tar Springs. One of the finest lot of oak timber ever cut in the county was hauled to town this year from this tract of land, many logs out of several hundred averaging a thousand feet by measure.

Source: The Breckenridge news. (Cloverport, Ky.) November 02, 1904

Paris, [Kentucky,] May 17 [1900].--A big oak that has for many years been an object of Riley Howse in Nicholas county has been sold to Ossian Edwards, of Paris, for $110. It measured forty-five feet in circumference and seven feet five inches in diameter. Large crowds witnessed the fall of the monster tree.

Source: Crittenden press. (Marion, Ky.) May 24, 1900

A Big White Oak
From the Chicago Tribune

A short time ago a New-York firm sent an agent to Scottsburg, Ind., to purchase a large white oak tree, which measured 27 feet in circumference. They bought the tree for $75, and set to work to get out as large a board as possible. The tree was felled and ripped up by means of a crosscut saw. They got out one board that was 10 inches thick, 5 feet 2-1/2 inches wide at the butt and 4 feet 8-1/2 inches wide at the top and 32 feet long. This board was loaded upon a broad-tread wagon to which two yoke of oxen and eight horses were hitched, and it took one whole day to remove it one and a half miles. This was probably the largest white oak tree in the United States.

Source: The New York Times, April 7, 1889

The largest white oak tree ever cut in the United States came out of Trumbull county, Ohio, a few years ago. It was delivered to a timber mill, and measured 62 feet in length and seven feet through, and contained 7,365 feet of lumber, board measure. It was located by Mr. Helman's buyers on C. K. Shipman's farm in Gustavus, Ohio, and $100 bought it. The Helman Company dressed the stick down to 30 x 30 inches, 62 feet long and shipped it to New York, where it is now used as a dredge anchor.

Source: Reading Eagle, Feb. 2, 1908

3 comments -- please add yours:

ECD said...

It's like reading a news article about the cathedrals of Europe being dismantled for their stones and glass.

rscarbro100 said...

Bob wills a staff writer for the Beckley register newspaper measured the Jarrell tree as he called it in Peachtree of the Marsh fork in Raleigh county in 1969 4 1/2 feet above ground 24 feet & 1 inch in circumference with a diameter of 92 inches.

Ronnie Scarbro
Fairdale, WV

rscarbro100 said...

The Mingo was 19 feet & 9 inches in circumference measured 4.5 feet above ground. The Jarrell Tree or Peach Tree oak as I call it was 24 feet & 1 inch 4.5 feet above ground. A diameter of 92 inches or 7 feet 8 inches through. It height was est. about 135 feet or more. Some how it fell through the cracks. My information about it & a picture was sent to the WV big trees association program. I hope it gets some recognition it never got. You can clearly see from the picture of it, it was much bigger than the Mingo.

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Enrich your life with the study of trees.

"The power to recognize trees at a glance without examining their leaves or flowers or fruit as they are seen, for example, from the car-window during a railroad journey, can only be acquired by studying them as they grow under all possible conditions over wide areas of territory. Such an attainment may not have much practical value, but once acquired it gives to the possessor a good deal of pleasure which is denied to less fortunate travelers."

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Print references I frequently consult

Benvie, Sam. Encyclopedia of North American Trees. Buffalo, NY: Firefly, 2000.

Brockman, C. Frank. Trees of North America: A Guide to Field Identification. Ed. Herbert S. Zim. New York: Golden, 1986.

Cliburn, Jerry, and Ginny Clomps. A Key to Missouri Trees in Winter: An Identification Guide. Conservation Commission of the State of Missouri, 1980.

Collingwood, G. H., Warren David Brush, and Devereux Butcher. Knowing Your Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1978.

Dirr, Michael. Dirr's Hardy Trees and Shrubs: an Illustrated Encyclopedia. Portland, Or.: Timber, 1997.

Elias, Thomas S. The Complete Trees of North America; Field Guide and Natural History. New York: Book Division, Times Mirror Magazines, 1980.

Grimm, William Carey. The Book of Trees;. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole, 1962.

Hightshoe, Gary L. Native Trees, Shrubs, and Vines for Urban and Rural America: a Planting Design Manual for Environmental Designers. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1988.

Little, Elbert L. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees. New York: Chanticleer, 1996.

Martin, Alexander C., Herbert S. Zim, and Arnold L. Nelson. American Wildlife and Plants. New York: McGraw Hill, 1951.

Mitchell, Alan F., and David More. The Trees of North America. New York, NY: Facts On File Publications, 1987.

Randall, Charles E. Enjoying Our Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1969.

Settergren, Carl D., and R. E. McDermott. Trees of Missouri. Columbia: University Extension, 1995.

Sternberg, Guy, and James W. Wilson. Native Trees for North American Landscapes: from the Atlantic to the Rockies. Portland: Timber, 2004.

Wharton, Mary E., and Roger W. Barbour. Trees and Shrubs of Kentucky. Lexington: University of Kentucky, 1973.

Wyman, Donald. Trees for American Gardens. New York: Macmillan, 1965.

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