Landmark, Historic, and Heritage Tree Registry

A Landmark Tree is commonly recognized as an established and familiar feature of the community, confirmed as a significant part of the community’s heritage, or planted to commemorate special events or community leaders more than fifty years ago.

A Historic Tree has been a direct witness to a historic event or cultural movement significant nationally, regionally, or within the state and confirmed to date to that time.

A Heritage Tree is a fallen member of the registry whose contribution to the history and heritage of Tennessee deserves preserving. MORE

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  • More than 150 images including 68 notable, champion, and registry trees
  • Fascinating facts about notable tree species
  • Legends and tales of landmark and historic trees in East, Middle, West Tennessee MORE
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Tree Registry Map
Adair Oak of Fountain City
Knoxville, Knox County Adair Oak of Fountain City Quercus alba

While James White established White Fort (which would later become Knoxville), his friend John Adair established Fort Adair in 1788 just north in Grassy Valley. The land had been given to Adair by the governor of North Carolina for his services in the Revolutionary War, and the town that grew there became Fountain City.

Originally known for large Methodist camp meetings as well as state and local political rallies, the community saw the development of a hotel, college, library, and a post office. The old white oak is near the original site of the fort and forms the burial site for John Adair.

Historic Tree, 2016 • Nominated by Jim Cortese • Photograph by Nick Bridgeman
Alvin C. York Wedding Beech Grove
Pall Mall, Fentress County Alvin C. York Wedding Beech Grove Fagus grandifolia

Situated on a ridge overlooking the Valley of the Three Forks of the Wolf River in Fentress County, a beech grove stands as a living monument to one of Tennessee’s best-loved sons, Sergeant Alvin York. He became one of America’s most celebrated military heroes for capturing 132 German soldiers in the Argonne Forest of France on October 18, 1918. Sergeant York’s remarkable feat was rewarded with more than forty Allied decorations, including the Congressional Medal of Honor and the French Croix de Guerre. He returned home a national hero and captured the hearts of the nation.

On June 7, 1919, he married his long-time sweet-heart, Gracie Williams, on the family farm overlooking the Wolf River. The Governor of Tennessee, A.H. Roberts, performed the wedding in front of a crowd of hundreds, many of them traveling two days or more to witness the famous event. The ceremony was held on a series of rock ledges that formed a spacious amphitheater surrounded by large beech trees.

Remnants of that original beech grove remain there today, the largest over 108 inches in girth. Many of the trees have suffered from storm damage and the ravages of time but still stand as witnesses to this historic event.

The beech grove is on family-owned property not far from the Alvin York burial site.

Historic Tree, 2003 • Nominated by Jim Cortese and Steve Roark • Photograph by Scott Winningham
Andrew Johnson Willows
Greeneville, Greene County Andrew Johnson Willows

These nationally famous willows are located at the old home site of President Andrew Johnson in Greeneville, now a national historic site. The original tree was grown from a slip of the willow tree at the grave of Napoleon on the Island of Saint Helena. Captain William Francis Lynch, a naval officer and explorer, harvested the slip while touring the West Indies in the 1850s. On his return he gave the slip to then-Congressman Andrew Johnson, who planted it near the old gum spring at the rear of his residence.

One section of the willow was presented to the National Historical Grove in Anacostia Park, Washington, D.C., on April 21, 1934. The trees growing on the home site were planted from scion wood, harvested from the original tree. In 1976 the willows were listed in the American Forests’ book Famous and Historic Trees by Charles Randall and Henry Clepper.

Landmark Tree, 2012 • Nominated by Jim Cortese • Photograph by Kendra Hinkle
Andrew Lytle Dawn Redwoods
McMinnville, Warren County Andrew Lytle Dawn Redwoods Metasequoia glyptostroboides

On the Monteagle Sunday School Assembly grounds stands a grove of some of the oldest known species of trees in the world.

Dawn redwood has been found in fossil form dating back one hundred million years ago and was once native to most of North America. It was thought to be extinct until some trees were found growing in a remote valley in central China. In 1947 the Arnold Arboretum sponsored an expedition to the area and the collected seeds were brought back to share with nurseries, including some in McMinnville.

Native Tennessean Andrew Lytle, a literary giant who helped form the famous Southern Agrarian Writers, lived in his ancestral log home in Monteagle and taught for both the University of the South and Vanderbilt University. He was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1956 for his book The Velvet Horn.

In 1964 Lytle planted the dawn redwoods in memory of his wife, Edna Barker Lytle, in front of the Harton Dining Hall on the MSSA grounds. The trees have become a living tribute.

Historic Tree, 2006 • Nominated by Susie Ries • Photograph by Jan Stinson
Battle of Franklin Osage Orange of Carnton Plantation

Battle of Franklin Osage Orange of Carnton Plantation
Franklin, Williamson County Battle of Franklin Osage Orange of Carnton Plantation Maclura pomifera

The Carnton House was built in 1826 by former Nashville mayor Randal McGavock on a 1,400-acre plantation south of the city. The garden site at the side of the house featuring the specimen osage orange tree and several cedars was developed in 1847.

On November 30, 1864, the Army of Tennessee under the command of Confederate Lieutenant General John Bell Hood slammed into the entrenched Union army under the command of Major General John Scofield at the limits of the town of Franklin. The disastrous battle resulted in the Confederates losing 14 generals, 55 regimental commanders, and almost one-third of their army. The Union army then made its way to Nashville to reinforce that city.

The Carnton House stood less than one mile from the major battle front of Franklin and was used during the battle as a Confederate hospital. At one time during the battle the bodies of four Confederate generals were laid on the back porch of the house.

The huge osage orange in the old garden site is just under seven feet in diameter and 90 feet tall.

Historic Tree, 2015 • Nominated by Justin Stelter • Photograph by Robert M. Clutsam
Battle of Nashville Chinkapin Oak
Nashville, Davidson County Battle of Nashville Oak Quercus muehlenbergii

On December 15–16, 1864, the Battle of Nashville was fought on a 1,500-acre tract of land known as the “Noel Place,” the residence of Oscar Fitzallen Noel and Sallie T. Noel. Both armies of the conflict occupied portions of the farm: The Confederates constructed breastworks diagonally through Noel Place, and Federal cannons heavily damaged the residence. When the Southern troops fell back, the Federals took possession of the house and converted it to a field hospital.

The chinkapin oak on the farm was documented through the years to have been a large tree during the Battle of Nashville. It now stands in the Battle of Nashville Monument Park on a two-and-a-half-acre tract bounded by Battlefield Drive, Granny White Pike, and Clifton Lane. A tall monument stands near the tree, recognizing those who clashed there in 1864.

Historic Tree, 1999 • Nominated by James Sommerville • Photograph by Maury Miller III
Bicentennial Oak of Vanderbilt
Nashville, Davidson County Bicentennial Oak of Vanderbilt Quercus macrocarpa

This large bur oak is the only tree on the Vanderbilt campus known to predate the university. A landmark throughout the history of Vanderbilt University, it stood originally on the 1874 farm of Bishop Holland McTyeir. It was recognized in 1974 as being over two hundred years old with a plaque designating it as the Bicentennial Oak.

The oak is one of the three largest trees on campus, with a diameter almost five feet and a crown spread of nearly a hundred feet. It is featured in the book The Trees of Vanderbilt and has its own webpage.

Landmark Tree, 2016 • Nominated by Dr. Steve Baskauf • Photograph by Dr. Steve BaskaufBicentennial Oak of Vanderbilt

Dean of Engineering Olin Landreth and his wife sit on the back porch of Old Central next to the oak in the 1880s.

This view from Kirkland Hall from between 1890 and 1920 shows Benson Science Hall in the foreground and the Bicentennial Oak to right of Old Central. Vanderbilt Bioimages, Dr. Steve Baskauf

Birthing Tree
McMinnville, Warren County Birthing Tree Quercus alba

Standing as a silent sentinel to the town, this enormous white oak welcomes travelers into the city of McMinnville.

The Birthing Tree is steeped in local folklore and served as a local landmark for settlers passing through the area. Travelers from North Carolina, Kentucky, and Virginia passed through Knoxville on the Old Kentucky Trail. These trails converged at Rock Island (the closest city at that time) and then passed under the spreading branches of this giant tree before continuing south to Alabama.

The huge oak was a well-known meeting place for these weary travelers. Some waited for long periods of time for fellow settlers to join them. Others lingered because of bad weather or lack of supplies.

Local families recount stories of grandparents who knew someone born at the tree due to the extended delays. Many family meetings have been held at the tree. At one time it was thought to have been part of the infamous Trail of Tears, although local historians discount this. The tree has been the subject of numerous local stories and rumors for over 150 years.

The tree rises 81 feet tall and has a crown spread of 130 feet, with several lower limbs larger than many trees.

Although the Birthing Tree stands on a private residence, the owners donated the tree to the City of McMinnville in 2012.

Landmark Tree, 2000 • Nominated by Nick Kuhn • Photograph by Bruce Atnip
Bonny Oaks  Willow Oak
Chattanooga, Hamilton County Bonny Oaks Willow Oak Quercus phellos

The Bonny Oaks Willow Oak stands in Hamilton County on land once occupied by the Cherokee Indians. Colonel Lewis Shepherd originally settled in the area, and in 1840 Colonel Jarrett G. Dent built the Dent House (now on the National Historic Register) on the property.

Captain C.C. Peak owned the property in 1867 and named it “Bonnie Oaks” for the stately oak trees that surrounded the homestead. This willow oak dates to before 1854 when the Bonny Oaks Orphanage was established to teach agrarian skills to children and included a working farm.

The enormous tree is on property owned by the Hamilton County Parks Department.

The Dent House is in the National Register of Historic Homes.

Historic Tree, 2000 • Nominated by Kelly Jackson • Photograph by Edward L. Bowen
Burnett-Thomas Garden Holly
Pittman Center, Sevier County Burnett-Thomas Garden Holly Ilex opaca

This American holly is the remnant of the renowned Burnett Garden. The Burnetts were co-founders and early leaders of the Appalachian community of Pittman Center, settled in 1784 along with the Smoky Mountains. In 1919 a Methodist missionary preacher, Dr. John Sevier Burnett, established a center for education and health needs of the Appalachian people. He helped establish a school, goodwill store, post office, medical clinic, farm, and several orchards.

Burnett-Thomas Garden Holly

The holly is at the center of the town of Pittman Center in 1937.

The garden became a focal point of the community, and Dr. Thomas continued the tradition by planting the holly tree, along with many other landscape plants.

In 1974 the community was recognized as Pittman Center, a town of about 500 people, and much of the history of the area has been preserved through the efforts of city officials. Today it is recognized as one of the few remaining original Appalachian communities.

Landmark Tree, 2016 • Nominated by Mayor Glen Cardwell • Photograph by Steve Springer
Carahills Family Sycamore
Gallaway, Fayette County Carahills Family Sycamore Platanus occidentalis

This grand old sycamore, a contender for the largest in the state at seventeen feet in circumference, has been estimated to be two hundred years old. Many Native American artifacts have been found beside the tree, leading most to consider it an early settlement tree.

Most of the community remembers generations of cattle and farmers using the shade of the tree every summer. The Carahills II Manor wedding chapel was developed adjacent to the tree so that couples could be married near it.

At a public ceremony at the tree on March 5, 2010, the town of Gallaway celebrated its first Arbor Day by planting a young sycamore. Mayor Nick Berretta presented a plaque naming the old sycamore the Carahills II Family Tree.

Landmark Tree, 2010 • Nominated by Carrie Nivens • Photograph by Karen Davenport
Carriage Drive Cedars
Nashville, Davidson County Carriage Drive Cedars of the Hermitage Juniperus virginiana

The six large eastern red cedars form the old 1838 carriage entrance drive to the mansion at President Andrew Jackson’s beloved home, The Hermitage. The design of the driveway with its row of cedars was created by Jackson’s daughter-in-law, Sarah York Jackson, and Ralph Earl, a portrait artist in residence there.

The tornadoes of 1923 and 1998 destroyed many of the original trees on the property, but six cedars along the carriage drive are the oldest remaining cedars of that 1838 planting. The earliest photographic evidence of the cedars was found in a 1905 picture of the mansion.

The cedars have witnessed visits by many foreign and national dignitaries, including the visits of Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, and Ronald Reagan.

Landmark Tree, 2015 • Nominated by Tony Guzzi • Photograph by Tony Guzzi
Cedar Lane Cedars
Knoxville, Knox County Cedar Lane Cedars Juniperus virginiana

When Knoxvillian James McMillan planted dozens of red cedar trees along both sides of his 600-acre farm in 1844, he never envisioned that they would survive to become a living legacy of the area. Only about ten of the cedars remain today, but they form a streetscape for the road named after McMillan’s efforts, Cedar Lane.

Well-known by most Fountain City residents, these 150-year-old cedars were honored in the 1994 Knoxville Dogwood Arts Festival as the finest example of old cedar trees in Knox County. The largest cedars of the group line Cedar Lane in front of Saint Joseph’s School.

Landmark Tree, 2001 • Nominated by Jim Cortese • Photograph by Nick Bridgeman
Cherokee Oak
Putnam County Cherokee Oak Quercus alba

This white oak stands on the Old Walton Road, one of only two Middle Tennessee roads that nineteenth-century pioneers used as wagon roads. (The other was the Chattanooga–McMinnville Road.) The Old Walton Road between Brotherton and Buck Mountain was part of the Trail of Tears in 1830.

Landmark Tree, 2008 • Nominated by Rebecca Gay Lane and Patrick Haller • Photograph by Scott Winningham Frances Hammock

According to local legend, the tree was named in honor of a full-blooded Cherokee woman, Frances Hammock, who escaped from soldiers after her wagon broke down by hiding in a cave nearby. She later married Isaac Swallows, and they made their home in Brotherton. Their union would result in hundreds of descendants in the Upper Cumberlands, many of whom live there today.

The tree was a regular resting site for the famous Willis Hyder, one of the last United States Mail horseback carriers, featured in a 1947 Nashville Tennessean article. Hyder and his horses carried the mail on his twenty-six-mile route from 1908 until his retirement in the early 1950s.

Commons Elm
Norris, Anderson County Commons Elm Ulmus americana

Within the English Commons of the city of Norris stands this magnificent American elm. Planted by the Tennessee Valley Authority in mid-1930 when the town was built, the tree is over eighty years old and stands some 83 feet over the Commons.

Norris, the first planned community in the country, was the first Tree City USA in Tennessee, certified in 1979. State Forester Max Young presented the Tree City flag within the shadow of this elm in 1980. The Norris Tree Commission is responsible for its care and protection. Through careful maintenance and pruning, the tree has survived the ravages of Dutch Elm disease and weather.

This tree in front of Norris Middle School remains a hallmark tree for the community.

Landmark Tree, 2007 • Nominated by Norris Tree Commission • Photograph by Jack Mitchell
Daniel Boone Beech
Madison County Daniel Boone Beech Fagus grandifolia

A large beech tree overlooks an old Chickasaw Indian trail that once ran near the Middle Fork of the Forked Deer River. According to historic researchers, this tree is the only known remaining tree in Tennessee that contains carvings from Daniel Boone, which date back to 1776.

In addition to Daniel’s carvings are those of his brother, Edward Boone, and a family friend, Micajah Callaway, known to be frequent companions of Boone’s early exploration and hunting trips. The early pioneer symbols carved on this tree give credibility to the time period and provide evidence of good trapping on the nearby river, an important point for early settlers.

The tree has been aged at over five hundred years old, and stands in a field on Old Medina Road in Madison County.

Historic Tree, 2004 • Nominated by Jim and the Reverend Richard Cortese • Photograph by Karen Davenport
Delap Beech
Jacksboro, Campbell County DeLap Cemetery Civil War Beech Fagus grandifolia

During the Civil War, the 58th North Carolina Confederate Regiment was assigned to guard Big Creek Gap of the Cumberland Mountains, now the towns of LaFollette and Jacksboro. The regiment suffered greatly from diseases in the bitter winter of 1862–1863. Fifty-two soldiers were buried in an old DeLap family cemetery overlooking the Powell Valley. Within that cemetery, the old American beech was carved with a slash for each of the soldiers interred there and the word “Boothill.”

The graves were marked with jagged fieldstones or sunken plots, and the cemetery was almost lost to neglect. In 2002 the Campbell County Historical Society rediscovered the cemetery and began a five-year restoration project. The cemetery was thoroughly cleaned of brush and new markers were placed on the graves after the identities of the soldiers were researched through regimental records. The beech was discovered still standing as a silent sentinel to the final resting place of these young men.

The cemetery is designated as a memorial Civil War cemetery and stands on a hill overlooking the town of Jacksboro on DeLap Lane. The grove includes cedars, baldcypress, and ginkgoes.

Landmark Tree, 2008 • Nominated by Campbell County Historical Society • Photograph by Tom Simpson
Four Seasons Ginkgoes
Harrogate, Claiborne County Four Seasons Ginkgoes Ginkgo biloba

Four large ginkgoes were specified in the 1892 landscaping plans of the grand and glorious Four Seasons Hotel in Harrogate. Originally designed as a health resort and spa for the wealthy coal and iron businessmen of nearby Middlesboro, Kentucky, this lavish hotel stood four stories high with seven hundred rooms. The grand opening on April 12, 1892, saw trainloads of distinguished visitors, including names such as Vanderbilt and Roosevelt. Unfortunately, the stock market crash in May 1893 resulted in the famous hotel closing after only a year.

The 580 acres of land surrounding the hotel near historic Cumberland Gap were sold in 1900 for construction of Lincoln Memorial University. The town of Harrogate began as a bedroom community to the wealthier Middlesboro, but the town and the college were soon inescapably linked.

The ginkgoes became famous landmarks for the college—the largest stands ninety feet tall and over thirteen feet in circumference. The trees stand between Duke Hall and the Harold Finley Learning Resources Center.

Historic Tree, 2009 • Nominated by Steve Roark, Harrogate Tree Board • Photograph by Thomas D. Mackie Jr.
John Shanks White Oak of Jonesborough
Jonesborough, Washington County John Shanks White Oak of Jonesborough Quercus alba

This giant oak likely was present when Jonesborough, the oldest town in Tennessee, was formed in 1779. The first written evidence of the tree is found in an 1884 land deed for Washington County where it is mentioned as a boundary tree.

The giant oak is currently listed as the state co-champion white oak with a circumference exceeding 22 feet, a height over 112 feet, and a crown spread of an impressive 129 feet. The tree has been mentioned in numerous newspaper articles through the years and was the focus of a 1970 poem by the Reverend T.O. Willis of the Jonesborough United Methodist Church.

In 2002 the Town of Jonesborough officially declared the old white oak a Heritage Tree, affording it protection under city law.

Landmark Tree, 2015 • Nominated by John Shanks
Meigs Line Oaks Below: The Meigs Line, shaded in red
Map
Blount County Meigs Line Oaks

During the early settlement years of Tennessee, President John Adams commissioned Colonel Benjamin Hawkins, General Andrew Pickens, and General James Winchester to survey a line from the then-southern terminus of the United States at Fort Southwest Point (Kingston) to Mount Collins.

The survey crew was formed with 20 Cherokee axemen, three Cherokee chiefs, and 60 men in a military escort. The survey line ran 60 miles through the wilderness and was to form a boundary between the Cherokee Nation and the white settlers and reduce bloodshed over treaty disputes. The line became known as the Hawkins/Pickens Line of 1797 but only caused more confusion and disagreements on both sides. In 1802 the US Government commissioned Colonel Return Jonathan Meigs and Thomas Freeman to re-survey the line partially again from Meigs Mountain in Blount County to Meigs Post on Mt. Collins and then into North Carolina. The survey line then became known as the Meigs Line.

The three oaks on Big Springs Road in Blount County were planted in the 1797 survey line and are directly on the old original survey bearing that took Hawkins/Pickens some 11 weeks to finish. The trees are white and post oaks, and the largest is over 38 inches in diameter. There are three other oaks also on the survey line on Oak Grove Road in Lenoir City, although the middle tree died and fell a few years ago at that location.

The trees are featured in the 2009 book Meigs Line by Dwight McCarter and Joe Kelley.

Historic Tree, 2015 • Nominated by Jim Cortese  
Montvale Grove

Montvale Grove
Maryville, Blount County Montvale Springs Tree Grove

Few areas of East Tennessee are as well-known as Montvale Springs, on the side of Chilhowee Mountain. A log hotel was built on the site in 1832. Woodville, the first novel published in Tennessee, was written there by Charles Todd.

In 1853 Asa Watson razed the log hotel and constructed an elegant three-story frame building with seven gables. Numerous cottages were built nearby. The 1850s grove contains cedars, baldcypress, and ginkgoes. Watson imported rare trees from Japan and California and planted them on the ten to twenty acres of the site.

The Montvale Springs Hotel was the leading antebellum mineral springs resort in East Tennessee and the only major resort hotel built in the mountains of Blount County prior to the Civil War. It was so well known it was often referred to as the Saratoga of the South. The hotel burned in 1896, was rebuilt in 1898, and burned again in 1933. In 1947 the YMCA purchased the 364-acre property to use as a summer camp and ran one of the best-known camps in the region for fifty-nine years. The camp closed in 2005, and Harmony Family Center purchased the property in 2011.

Many of the trees planted by Asa Watson stand on the property today.

Landmark Tree, 2012 • Nominated by Evelyn Wilcox • Photos by Beverly Gonzalez, Harmony Family Center
Moon Trees

Moon Trees
Elizabethton, Knoxville, Sewanee Moon Trees

On January 31, 1971, Apollo 14 lifted off from Cape Kennedy on its way to the moon. Aboard were Alan Shepard, Ed Mitchell, and Stuart Roosa. Each astronaut was allowed to take some personal items aboard, including Commander Shepard’s historic golf club. Roosa, at one time a smoke-jumper with the United States Forest Service, took aboard seeds from redwoods, Douglas firs, sycamores, loblolly pines, and sweetgums to research the effects of weightlessness on the growth of plants.

Upon his return to Earth, Roosa gave the tree seeds to the Forest Service, where they were planted in nurseries in Mississippi and California. In 1976, seedlings were distributed in celebration of the Bicentennial to many states. Four came to Tennessee: Two loblolly pines were replanted at Arnold Air Force Base in Tullahoma and at the University of Tennessee Forestry Experiment Station, and two American sycamores were planted at the University of the South in Sewanee and at Sycamore Shoals State Park in Elizabethton. The Tullahoma pine died within two years, but the three remaining moon trees are still alive.

NASA’s records indicate that twenty-three states in the country have living moon trees: thirty-one sycamores, eleven loblolly pines, ten redwoods, eight Douglas firs, and two sweetgums are still standing.

“It was most appropriate that trees—among the oldest things in the world—play an important role in opening other new worlds in space,” said State Forester Max Young in 1976 when he received the trees.

Indeed, few trees in the state are more famous than these three that traveled around the moon and now grow in the soil of Earth in East and Middle Tennessee.

Historic Trees, 2013 • Nominated by Tom Simpson • Photographs by Tom Simpson
New Hope Cemetery Black Oak
Greeneville, Marion County New Hope Cemetery Black Oak Quercus velutina

Just four years after the Civil War a small group of emancipated slaves met at a local schoolhouse on Holly’s Creek. They asked the Reverend William S. Doak, the Presbyterian missionary and president of Tusculum College, about forming a congregation in affiliation with the Presbyterian Church USA.

New Hope Too

In 1875 the church was formed as the New Hope Presbyterian Church, and it became the nucleus for the small African-American community of New Hope, most of whom were former slaves. The large black oak is dated to the town's formation.

New Hope remained viable until the Great Depression. The cemetery is all that remains of a community that witnessed slavery, the Civil War, emancipation, reconstruction, and segregation.

In 2010 a group of citizens met to restore the cemetery and formed the New Hope Cemetery Association. The Big Spring Master Gardener Association later helped restore the property.

Historic Tree, 2016 • Nominated by Big Spring Master Gardener Association • Photograph by Randi Nott
Oaklands  White Oak
Murfreesboro, Rutherford County Oaklands White Oak Quercus alba

This white oak witnessed the occupation and encampment of the Federal forces (9th Michigan Infantry) under Colonel William Duffield in 1862. On July 13, 1862, his unit surrendered along with the entire Federal army around Murfreesboro after a daylong battle with Confederate Colonel Nathan Bedford Forrest’s troopers. The wounded Colonel Duffield became a prisoner of war in the home of Major Lewis Maney (now the Oaklands Mansion), where Federal officers conferred about the imminent surrender.

In December 1862, Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Colonel George W.C. Lee (son of Robert E. Lee) visited the site prior to the Battle of Stones River. After that battle, Murfreesboro returned to Federal control for the remainder of the war.

This magnificent tree, over 250 years old, stands on the grounds of Oaklands Park adjacent to the Oaklands Historic House Museum.

Historic Tree, 2004 • Nominated by Jim Stubblefield • Photograph by Robert Maxfield
Old Forest of Overton Park
Memphis, Shelby County Old Forest of Overton Park

A true island of green surrounded by urban sprawl, the Old Forest of Overton Park stands within the city of Memphis and is a testament to the protection and preservation attitudes of the people.

Part of the old-growth virgin forest that formed Chickasaw Bluffs, “Lea’s Woods”— named for Overton and Ella Lea of Nashville— once covered over 342 acres. Overton Lea was a grandson of John Overton, co-founder of Memphis in 1819 with Andrew Jackson and James Winchester. At the time Memphis acquired the tract for the public good in 1901, the Old Forest was two hundred acres, of which 150 acres remain today.

Designed by the renowned landscape architect George E. Kessler, Overton Park has been listed on the National Historic Register since 1979 and contains such public attractions as the Brooks Museum of Art, the Memphis Zoo, and a golf course.

The Old Forest itself remains an oasis of natural ecosystems. It contains more than 330 plant species, with some of the trees exceeding two hundred years of age. Some 166 bird species have been also been found frequenting the forest. Public trails wind through the tract, and guided nature walks are provided every month.

Overton Park became nationally significant in 1971 for the U.S. Supreme Court ruling known as the Citizens to Preserve Overton Park v. Volpe, pitting the Federal Highway Administration, which wanted to build Interstate 40 through the park, against local desires to maintain the natural ecosystem. After losing two court cases, including in the Sixth Circuit Court, Citizens to Preserve Overton Park filed an emergency motion with the United States Supreme Court, and the group’s final victory became a landmark administrative law case cited in thousands of legal opinions. It was one of the few times that a nonprofit organization won against a federal agency.

Landmark Tree, 2008 • Nominated by Nominated by the City of Memphis (Memphis Park Services Division), Park Friends, Inc., and the Citizens to Preserve Overton Park • Photograph by Suzanne F. Johnston
Tusculum Old Oak

Old Building
Greeneville, Greene County Old Oak of Tusculum College Quercus alba

The Old Oak shares honors as co-champion white oak in the state of Tennessee. Standing over 100 feet tall, with a circumference of twenty-three feet and a spread of 110 feet, the tree is between two hundred fifty and three hundred years old.

The Old Oak has been a defining feature of the Tusculum College campus since 1794. Founder Samuel W. Doak sited what’s now the school’s oldest building in the shade of the tree in 1841. Now known as the Old College Building, it houses the President Andrew Johnson Museum and Library. (Johnson’s effigy was hanged from the oak as tempers flared during the Civil War.)

The college hosted an Old Oak Festival in the 1970s and revived it in 2011.

The Old Oak is behind the left end of the building, circa 1875.

Landmark Tree, 2012 • Nominated by Dollie Boyd • Photograph by Eugenia Estes
Samuel Smith White Pine
Fort Campbell Army Base, Montgomery County Samuel Smith White Pine Pinus strobus

In 1832, seventy-year-old Samuel Smith brought a party of 350 settlers including his family through the Cumberland Gap to settle in Tennessee. He was given a thousand acres of land in Montgomery County as a pension for his service in the Revolutionary War.

In his saddlebags were six white pine seedlings from his native state of North Carolina. He planted them on his home site, on what is now the Fort Campbell Army Base. One of the white pines still stands, overlooking his grave in Samuel Smith Cemetery.

In 1976, in honor of the United States Bicentennial celebrations, soldiers from Fort Campbell undertook a massive operation to clean the gravesite, where they held a ceremony of dedication to the old soldier. A large bronze plaque stands near the tall white pine in tribute to Samuel Smith’s contributions to his country.

Landmark Tree, 2003 • Nominated by Rob Niemann • Photograph by Shane Moore
Scopes Trial Grove Historic Tree, 2007
Dayton, Rhea County Scopes Trial Grove

The small Dayton courthouse became one of the most famous scenes in history with the 1925 Scopes Trial. The trial pitted the three-time presidential candidate and famous creationist William Jennings Bryan against well-known criminal lawyer Clarence Darrow and the American Civil Liberties Union in a test of Tennessee’s anti-evolution law.

Local teacher John T. Scopes became the scapegoat in this epic eight-day battle of legal drama. The trial attracted over two hundred journalists and became one of the world’s most famous court trials. The Scopes Trial remains one of the most intriguing episodes in American history.

In 1977 the National Park Service designated the courthouse as a National Historic Landmark and over one million dollars were spent in a restoration project. Nine of the original trees that witnessed this epic event still survive on the courthouse lawn. These ninety-year-old trees are living reminders of national and state history.

• Nominated by Dr. Richard Cornelius, Bryan College • Photograph by The Herald News, Dayton, Tennessee
Sycamore Valley Overlook Oak
Cheatham County Sycamore Valley Overlook Oak Quercus alba

Back in 1835 when Samuel Watson established the Sycamore Milling Company with power from nearby Sycamore Creek, this white oak stood on a hill overlooking the mill and village. At its height, more than one hundred families existed around the mill, which shifted from cotton and grist to blasting and black powder production.

In 1861 the mill was one of the two largest black powder operations in the South. After the fall of Fort Henry and Fort Donelson in 1862 the mill was shut down by Union forces. Soldiers camped out along the ridge line near the Overlook Oak to prevent Southern forces from gaining control of the valuable powder mill.

In 1873 I.E. DuPont brought the mill back to life and hired civil engineer E.C. Lewis to manage the milling operations. Lewis became influential in Nashville history by organizing the Tennessee Centennial Exposition, which created Centennial Park and the Parthenon. The Sycamore Mill was owned by the DuPonts until it closed in 1904. With it went most of the surrounding village, including all the millworks, the churches, the schools, the store, and all the homes except one. The last remaining home, built in the 1830s, is sheltered by the Overlook Oak.

Historic Tree, 2012 • Nominated by Ken and Tiffany Markus • Photograph by Joseph Gaston
Wildwood Stables Sycamore
Fairfield Glade Resort, Cumberland County Wildwood Stables Sycamore Platanus occidentalis

This impressive tree stands ninety-four feet tall and sixteen feet in circumference, with a crown spread of 165 feet. It was planted in 1864 from a sprout along nearby Daddy’s Creek near the Thomas Center home site. Center became the first superintendent of schools for Cumberland County, his thirteen children perhaps helping him earn the job.

The tree is located near the old Walton Road, which ran from Crab Orchard north of Crossville toward Standing Stone. The road was started in 1795 and completed in 1802. Several famous people traveled the road, including Duke Louis Philippe, later King of France. Center’s home, built around 1859, became a frequent stopping spot for travelers headed to Nashville and westward.

In 1986 the house was nominated for the National Register of Historical Homes. The original stables, along with several horses, were lost in a fire in 1985.

Today the sycamore forms the landscape for the Wildwood Horse Stables in the Fairfield Glades Resort, subject for numerous artists, photographers, and tourists. Newlyweds pledge their eternal love under the tree, and school children have their class picture taken there.

Historic Tree, 2012 • Nominated by John Cannon • Photograph by Scott Winningham
Witness Tree
Nashville, Davidson County Witness Tree of Richland Country Club Quercus macrocarpa

This stately bur oak has witnessed vast changes in Middle Tennessee, standing just one hundred yards from historical Granny White Pike. Buffalo passed on their way to the Great French Lick in present-day downtown Nashville. Creek, Cherokee, and Chickasaw hunters used it as shelter from heat and storms centuries ago.

Travelers including Andrew Jackson, Thomas Hart Benton, John Overton, and John Lea passed this tree, and in 1849 the great oak saw construction of the Granny White turnpike on the old buffalo path.

The oak witnessed perhaps its most dramatic sights in the Battle of Nashville late in the afternoon on December 16, 1864. As the Confederate army began a retreat south on Granny White Pike, the United States Cavalry attacked Confederate Colonel Ed Rucker’s Brigade near the Witness Tree. A fierce battle continued around this tree until the hand-to-hand fighting ended in the dark.

Rucker was wounded and captured with many of his men. That night, the victorious U.S. Cavalry camped under the Witness Tree’s branches.

Historic Tree, 2013 • Nominated by Parke Brown • Photograph by Jan Stinson
Wolf Creek Cypress
Del Rio, Cocke County Wolf Creek Cypress Taxodium distichum

In the mid-1700s Reuben Allen built a log house in the mountains of Cocke County that would eventually grow into first the Allen Inn and later the Wolf Creek Inn. The inn became the terminal of the East Tennessee, Virginia, and Georgia Railroad in 1867; passengers would then travel by stagecoach to Hot Springs and Asheville. Many notable personages, including several United States presidents, spent the night at this famous inn.

The bald cypress next to the original inn was brought from Arkansas for the 1857 funeral of Reuben Allen and became part of the extensive gardens around the inn. The tree stands 105 feet tall, six feet in diameter, and has a crown spread of 70 feet.

Historic Tree, 2016 • Nominated by Descendant Albert Walker • Photograph by Albert WalkerWolf Creek Inn

Wolf Creek Stagecoach Inn in 1890

Wright Forest
Shady Valley, Johnson County Wright Forest Natural Area

Wright Forest Natural Area is the only known example of an extensive white pine and hemlock pre-settlement forest, which originally covered much of the floor of Shady Valley in Johnson County.

The forest is part of a working “century farm,” having been in the same Wright family from a land grant dating to the late 1700s. One of the earliest stewards of this farm was Celia Brown Cole, daughter of the original settler in Shady Valley.

Shady Valley was extensively logged at the turn of the twentieth century, with white pine yields from the forests exceeding one hundred thousand board feet per acre, reportedly the highest yields ever reported anywhere for this species.

Wright Forest Natural Area is the only known remnant of this original forest and covers fifteen acres. Many of the white pines and hemlocks now growing in the forest exceed 150 years of age. One noted tree, felled by natural causes, was reported to have been over two hundred years old.

The forest was included on the Tennessee Register of Natural Areas, under the Natural Areas Preservation Act in 1980. The Society of American Foresters included the natural area on its national Natural Areas Register in 1985, one of only six such white pine/hemlock areas in the country.

Wright Forest Natural Area is located on a private farm in Shady Valley, Johnson County.

Landmark Tree, 1998 • Nominated by Dennis Testerman • Photograph by Dennis Testerman

Landmark and Historic Trees Click for more information

29 Adair Oak of Fountain City Knoxville, Knox County Adair Oak of Fountain City
7 Alvin C. York Wedding Grove Pall Mall, Fentress County Alvin C. York Wedding Beech Grove
21 Andrew Johnson Willows Greeneville, Greene County Andrew Johnson Willows
10 Andrew Lytle Dawn Redwoods Sewanee, Franklin County Andrew Lytle Dawn Redwoods
27 Battle of Franklin Osage Orange Franklin, Williamson County Battle of Franklin Osage Orange of Carnton Plantation
2 Battle of Nashville Oak Nashville, Davidson County Battle of Nashville Basket Oak
30 Bicentennial Oak of Vanderbilt Nashville, Davidson County Bicentennial Oak of Vanderbilt
4 Birthing Tree White Oak McMinnville, Warren County Birthing Tree
3 Bonny Oaks Willow Oak Chattanooga, Hamilton County Bonny Oaks  Willow Oak
31 Burnett-Thomas Garden Holly Pittman Center, Sevier County Burnett-Thomas Garden Holly
17 Carahills Family Sycamore Gallaway, Fayette County Carahills Family Sycamore
26 Carriage Drive Cedars Nashville, Davidson County Carriage Drive Cedars
05 Cedar Lane Cedars Knoxville, Knox County Cedar Lane Cedars
13 Cherokee Oak Putnam County Cherokee Oak
11 Commons Elm Norris, Anderson County Commons Elm
08 Daniel Boone Beech Madison County Daniel Boone Beech
14 DeLap Cemetery Beech Jacksboro, Campbell County DeLap Cemetery Civil War Beech
16 Four Seasons Ginkgoes Harrogate, Claiborne County Four Seasons Ginkgoes
25 John Shanks White Oak Jonesborough, Washington Co. John Shanks White Oak
28 Meigs Line
Oaks
Blount County Meigs Line Oaks
18 Montvale Springs Tree Grove Maryville, Blount County Montvale Springs Tree Grove
24 Moon Trees of Tennessee Elizabethton, Knoxville, Sewanee Moon Trees
32 New Hope Cemetery Black Oak Greeneville, Marion County New Hope Cemetery Black Oak
9 Oaklands
White Oak
Murfreesboro, Rutherford Co. Oaklands  White Oak
15 Old Forest of Overton Park Memphis, Shelby County Old Forest of Overton Park
19 Old Oak of Tusculum College Greeneville, Greene County Old Oak of Tusculum College
19 Samuel Smith White Pine Montgomery County Samuel Smith White Pine
12 Scopes Trial
Grove
Dayton, Rhea County Scopes Trial Grove
20 Sycamore Valley Overlook Oak Cheatham County Sycamore Valley Overlook Oak
22 Wildwood Stables Sycamore Fairfield Glade Resort, Cumberland County Wildwood Stables Sycamore
23 Witness Tree of Richland Nashville, Davidson County Witness Tree
33 Wolf Creek
Cypress
Del Rio, Cocke County Wolf Creek Cypress of Del Rio
1 Wright Forest Natural Area Shady Valley, Johnson County Wright Forest Natural Area
Battle Creek Black Oak
Springfield, Robertson County Battle Creek Black Oak Quercus velutina

This large black oak was part of a parcel of land given by James Watts in 1844 for construction of the Battle Creek Baptist Church, named for the 1780 Indi an massacre of a group of white settlers on the nearby Battle Creek. The one surviving member of the group, a widow named Betty Jones (grandmother of James Watts), hid in the forest for four days before being rescued by a hunter and taken to safety at Eaton’s Station.

The church was organized in 1845 with some of the property utilized as a community cemetery. In 1872, Timothy Demonbreun (son of Jacques Timothy Demonbreun, the first white man to live in Nashville and establish a business), and his wife Mary donated an additional parcel of land for a school house and extra cemetery space. They requested that the land also be used for a Sabbath worship every month for the Methodists, Cumberland Presbyterians, and the Baptists in the community.

The property became a meeting place for several churches in the community over the years, and many wagons were tied to the large oak during church gatherings and picnics.

The oak was over 183 years old when it began to decline in 2006. It was evaluated as a hazard in 2009 and removed.

Landmark Tree, 2005; Heritage Tree, 2010 • Nominated by Anne Crutcher • Photograph by Tom Simpson
Big Cypress of Weakley County
Weakley County Big Cypress of Weakley County Taxodium distichum

Once reportedly the oldest and largest tree east of the Rocky Mountains, this giant of a cypress sprouted out of the Obion River bottomland in West Tennessee some five hundred years before Columbus sailed for America.

The Big Cypress of Weakley County was found in 1949 and measured in 1950 by Division of Forestry employees in a remote and inaccessible swamp that remains flooded most of the year. It stood over 122 feet tall with circumference of 39.75 feet. They noted then that the top had been broken by storms but may once have been 140 feet tall.

The tree has been shrouded in mystery and legend for twenty-five years. Some people placed the tree in Obion County and others had it in neighboring Weakley County.

The cypress was featured in a 1954 American Forest article, where it was called the “Tennessee Titan.” American Forest listed it for many years as the “Reelfoot Lake Cypress,” although it stood some thirty miles southeast of that lake. Most people considered it simply the Big Cypress.

The old tree was hollow at the base with a cavity large enough to shelter four or five men. A man in the nearby town of Sharon once reportedly offered two thousand dollars for the butt log to make it into a service station, although no one took him up on the offer.

It reigned as the national champion baldcypress from 1950 until 1976, when it was struck by lightning and much of the original tree was consumed by fire. Locals reported that it burned for several weeks. In later years the Big Cypress State Park and Natural Area was created to honor and protect the tree, where only a remnant of the stump stands today.

The hollow base of the Big Cypress could hold four or five people.

Heritage Tree, 2010
Chickasaw Treaty Oak
Nashville, Davidson County Chickasaw Treaty Oak Quercus macrocarpa

In 1783, after a long and bloody conflict between the pioneers of Middle Tennessee and resident Indian tribes, the Cumberland District of North Carolina, with the approval of the state of Virginia, authorized Colonel John Donelson, Colonel Joseph Martin, and Colonel Isaac Shelby to arrange a treaty between the Chickasaws and all the southern tribes. The site of the meeting was to be near Fort Nashborough, now Nashville.

After much discussion, the men felt that assembling such a large force of Indians in the fort was not wise. An alternate site was chosen some four miles away from the fort, and in June 1783 the treaty was conducted with Chiefs Piomingo and Mingo-Homa under this large bur oak. The Chiefs ceded a large segment of land on the south side of the Cumberland River, much of it present-day Middle Tennessee.

In later years, the tree became a campsite for many Tennessee soldiers marching off to wars, including Andrew Jackson’s campaign against the Creek Nation in 1813 and the Spanish-American War in 1898. The tree was reported to be six feet in diameter in 1941.

The old tree fell in June 1956. A bronze plaque in the West Park development at Sixty-first and Louisiana Avenues once marked the original location of the oak, but it no longer exists. A small section of the tree can be seen at the State Agricultural Museum at the Ellington Agricultural Center in Nashville.

Heritage Tree, 2009 • Photograph by Jan Stinson
Daniel Boone Beech
Washington County Daniel Boone Beech

Perhaps one of the best-known trees of Tennessee, this beech famously features Daniel Boone's carving: “D. Boon cilled a bar in year 1760”. The tree stood on a knoll east of the campsite of the first white settler in Tennessee, William Bean, and was also used as a hunting camp by Boone.

The Washington County Historical Society held its first meeting at the famous tree and erected a platform. The tree, mentioned in Theodore Roosevelt’s book The Winning of the West, fell in a windstorm in 1907.

Heritage Tree, 2016 • Nominated by Jim Cortese • Photograph courtesy of Michael Toomey, East Tennessee Historical Society
Key Corner Sycamore
Halls, Lauderdale County Key Corner Sycamore Platanus occidentalis

This American sycamore was the starting point for Colonel James Robertson’s 1785 survey of West Tennessee with Henry Rutherford and Edward Harris. Rutherford carved his initials “H.R.” in the tree, which sat on a high bluff overlooking the Forked Deer River, and called the site “Key Corner.” Henry Robertson eventually returned to Key Corner and settled there in 1819.

In 1880 the community rallied to save the old tree, which had fallen into the river. The attempt failed even with eight oxen pulling on the tree. After sawing off the top, the body of the tree was made into a monument.

In 1930 the Lauderdale Quarterly County Court appropriated funds for a permanent marker near the site of the tree and a bronze and stone monument was erected. It is believed that the monument also fell into the river, for there is no evidence of it today.

Heritage Tree, 2016 • Nominated by Joe H. Walker • Photograph courtesy of Milton Rice, 1931
Dueling OaksMemphis Commercial Appeal, October 4, 1931
Memphis, Shelby County Dueling Oaks

Although fighting duels was illegal in the State of Tennessee by the early nineteenth century, the Dueling Oaks of Memphis reigned over skirmishes of honor as late as 1870. The oak grove earned its name from its location almost into Mississippi, where dueling was still in fashion. Tennessee gentlemen journeyed by train to the 640-acre home of William Joyner to fight their duels — the earliest recorded between William Gholson and Albert Jackson in 1837, and the last in 1879 between Edward Hamblin and Major Ed Freeman.

Like much of Tennessee, the land around the Dueling Oaks saw extensive activity during the Civil War. It was rumored to be the site of a bloody massacre by Sherman’s soldiers, and the scene of the hanging of a Confederate spy. Nathan Bedford Forrest’s troops staged their 1864 raid on Memphis from near Dueling Oaks.

The land was originally owned by William Measles, a Cherokee who was adopted into the Chickasaw Nation.

Heritage Tree, 2014 • Nominated by Jim Cortese •
King Oak
Bristol, Sullivan County King Oak Quercus alba

This magnificent white oak stood in the DeFriece City Park in Bristol and was alive in 1814 when James King bought the property from Evan Shelby, a major during the Revolutionary War.

The Reverend James King developed the land as a plantation and left many tree groves as shady areas for picnics for his slaves and his family through the years. Even long after all his slaves were freed and the Reverend King had died in 1867, the family continued to use the groves for their picnics. During the Civil War a company of Federal soldiers camped under the King Oak for several days and lived from the produce, including livestock, of the plantation.

Many of the original trees were felled during the 1870s to make room for the development of Bristol. The lumber was used to build many of the old homes in the town, including King College. Some of the wood was also used for Simon’s Carriage and Wagon Works, which also stood nearby. However, the land around the King Oak was spared and donated to the city to be used as a park.

The tree lost part of its trunk in a storm in early 2008, exposing a large internal cavity. Vandals set the tree on fire in late 2008 and soon afterward the tree was evaluated to be a hazard to the public. The King Oak was reluctantly removed by the city later that year.

Heritage Tree, 2005 • Nominated by • Photograph by Denise Retallack
Natchez Trace Pecan
Natchez Trace State Forest, Carroll County Natchez Trace Pecan Carya illinoinensis

After General Andrew Jackson’s victory over the British at the Battle of New Orleans on January 8, 1815, some of his soldiers returned to their homes in Tennessee over the Natchez Trace. Originally a forest path, the five-hundred-mile road, first beaten through the wilderness by buffalo, then by Indians, frontiersmen, armies, and settlers, extended from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee.

Among Jackson’s troops was a soldier who carried some pecan nuts home from Louisiana. According to legend, when he camped overnight at what is now Natchez Trace State Forest, he met a girl named Sukie Morris, who lived nearby. The soldier gave her some of the pecans, which she planted. One of them grew to become the Natchez Trace Pecan, at one time the largest documented pecan tree in the United States.

The old pecan stood on the Camden Road, in rural Carroll County in the Natchez Trace State Forest. The tree was over 183 years old when its poor health forced foresters to remove it in the summer of 2008.

Historic Tree, 1998; Heritage Tree, 2009 • Nominated by Gene Hyde • Photograph by Christy Pepper
Pemberton Oak
Elizabethton, Carter County Pemberton Oak Quercus alba

The soldiers of five wars encamped under the branches of this historic tree. The most famous were members of a Revolutionary War pioneer muster that helped change the course of the patriotic cause.

In September 1780, Colonel John Pemberton assembled his command under the oak to march his volunteer army to Sycamore Shoals, now Elizabethton. He was joined there with units from Virginia under the command of Colonel William Campbell and Colonel Arthur Campbell. The combined army arrived at the Watauga Settlement on September 25. After joining units from the area, the entire force departed to march over the mountain to South Carolina toward fame and history.

On October 7, 1780, the patriot army of eleven hundred men surrounded British Colonel Patrick Ferguson and his men on King Mountain. The resultant patriot victory changed the course of the war, forcing British General Cornwallis to abandon his plans in the South.

This white oak was owned by descendants of Colonel Pemberton until it fell in a storm in late summer 2004.

The plaque read: “Under this tree Col John Pemberton mustered his troops for the Battle of Kings Mountain, 1781 Erected by Sycamore Shoals Chapter, DAR.”

Heritage Tree, 2009 • Nominated by Jim Cortese • Photograph by Jim Cortese
Rotherwood Elm
Kingsport, Hawkins County Rotherwood Elm Ulmus americana

This venerable old elm on the banks of the north fork of the Holston River became one of the most famous trees in Tennessee. It stood throughout the early history of the state and witnessed the struggle for statehood from Virginia and North Carolina.

The elm was mentioned in Dr. Thomas Walker’s journal of his surveying exploration in 1748, the earliest known record of a Tennessee tree. It stood only a few miles from the Long Island of the Holston, the beloved sacred ground of the Cherokees. The island and surrounding land, including the tree, were traded to the settlers in the Long Island Treaty of 1777. The elm also mentioned by an early party of French travelers in the area, and Daniel Boone reportedly camped under it on one of his famous journeys into Kentucky.

The river ford near the tree was one of the great early highways between the Valley of Virginia and the Valley of Tennessee until 1818 when the Reverend Dr. Frederick A Ross built a bridge to his lavish Rotherwood Estate, which featured a cotton mill and was known far and wide. The business eventually failed and in 1852, Doctor Ross lost his entire estate.

The old tree, however, remained a landmark in Kingsport until its death in the 1940s.

Heritage Tree, 2012 • Photograph Courtesy of the City of Kingsport Archive
Suttles’ Boundary Oak
Sevier County Suttles’ Boundary Oak Quercus alba

In December 1866, Fredrick Emert purchased 337 acres of land on the headwaters of Walden’s Creek in Sevier County, Tennessee, on the courthouse steps at auction. The deed of Fredrick Emert describes the property as “Beginning at a small white oak and persimmon on the upper side of the main road.” Other deeds dating back to the 1840s referred to the same white oak.

This white oak was added to the Landmark Registry in 2004; at the time the oak was thirty-five inches in diameter and seventy-six feet tall and was marked and painted as a boundary line tree. It stood on the north side of Walden’s Creek Road near the residence of Mike Suttles, a seventh-generation descendant of Fredrick Emert.

The tree fell in a storm in 2006.

Landmark Tree, 2004; Heritage Tree, 2014 • Nominated by Jim Cortese • Photograph by Jim Cortese
Thomas Spencer sycamore

Thomas Spencer sycamore
Castalian Springs, Sumner County Thomas "Bigfoot" Spencer Sycamore

Thomas Bigfoot Spencer, described as a mountain of a man weighing three hundred pounds who left footprints the size of a giant, is credited as being the first Caucasian to settle in Sumner County in what was then North Carolina, nearly two decades before Tennessee became a state. He cleared land, grew corn, and hunted at Bledsoe’s Lick near Castalian Springs — and lived in a giant sycamore tree during the winter of 1778-1779.

The centuries-old tree was reported to be 12 feet in circumference and broken off 20 feet above the ground. Legend has it that Bigfoot would use a ladder to climb into the tree, which was partially hollowed out by the elements, then pull the ladder in behind him and stay safe from attack by animal or intruder.

The tree survived as a popular landmark into the middle of the ninet eenth century. A memorial erected by Daughters of the American Revolution in the 1920s marks the spot where the tree stood, now on the property of Wynnewood State Historic Area.

Heritage Tree, 2014 • Nominated by Jim Cortese • Illustration by Bernie Andrews
Toll Oak
Rockwood, Roane County Toll Oak

In the late 18th century, the Cherokees operated a tollgate near this large oak. Travelers between the Watauga Settlements in Upper East Tennessee and the Cumberland Settlements in Middle Tennessee paid tribute to pass along this path.

Under the agreement of the Holston Treaty, James Glasgow, John Hackett and Littlepage Sims arranged with Chief Tullentuskee of the Cherokee for the boundaries of the Indian reservation and the town of Rockwood. According to legend, these three men planted the oak at the door of the Chief’s wigwam as a symbol of the treaty.

History failed to identify the species of oak, but its heritage has not been forgotten. Indeed, the town of Rockwood and the settlement of Middle Tennessee owes much to this tree.

The tree fell in a storm in 1925.

Historic Tree, 2004; Heritage Tree, 2009 • Used by permission from The Overmountain Men by Pat Alderman, published by The Overmountain Press
Trigonia Elm

Trigonia Elm
Trigonia, Blount County Trigonia Elm Ulmus americana

Standing near the corners of three counties in the Trigonia community of southwestern Blount County, the massive American elm shaded almost a half-acre of land.

It was over 160 feet tall, had a crown spread of 147 feet, and was a impressive 24 feet, 7 inches in circumference. Estimated to be over three hundred years old, the elm was the largest known tree in East Tennessee for many years and was listed as the national champion American elm for more than fifteen years, starting in 1951, and reigned as the Tennessee state champion for twenty-five years.

The tree was once nominated as a national historic monument to the National Park Service, but failed in that attempt. It was then nominated to the National Register of Historic Places and again was rejected because the Register does not include trees. The Tennessee Historical Commission was contacted for designation of the tree as a state landmark, and that too failed.

That did not prevent the tree from being the subject of numerous newspaper and magazine articles, including a 1974 Southern Living magazine story. In fact, few trees have ever had as much public notoriety as this elm.

It was growing on the 288 acres of land that Governor (later President) Andrew Johnson gave to John Montgomery in 1855 as one of the original land grants in the Trigonia community. In later years John’s son, Squire Jim Montgomery, married so many people under the branches of the large tree that he soon became known as the “marrying squire.” In modern times it stood on the property of Willis and Ruth Moore.

The tree became controversial in 1971 when the Tennessee Valley Authority purchased the land surrounding it for the Tellico Dam project. Local support rallied to save the massive tree, although the impoundment of the lake did not flood any of the adjacent land. TVA was sympathetic to the cause and had the tree treated by foresters to help preserve its declining health.

The old tree was struck by lightning in 1978, reportedly several times, and it finally succumbed the next year. The tree was cut down by TVA in June 1980, and sections were distributed across the region. Each one-foot section of the trunk reportedly weighed from five thousand to six thousand pounds. One section of the huge trunk can be viewed in the city park next to the Blount County Courthouse in Maryville and another in the Smoky Mountain Heritage Museum in Townsend.

Heritage Tree, 2011 • Photograph by Deane Stone
Watauga Treaty Sycamore

Watauga Treaty Sycamore
Elizabethton, Carter County Watauga Treaty Sycamore Platanus occidentalis

In May 1772 settlers established the first free government in North America as they formed the Watauga Association. The governmental body provided for the protection of the new colony and organized its own judicial and civil laws.

Under this sycamore tree convened the first court of the Watauga Association that same month. Among the judges were Nashville founder James Robertson and Tennessee’s first governor, John Sevier. The sycamore eventually succumbed to disease and age, and the stump still stands near the old covered bridge in Elizabethton. The John Carter chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution erected a shelter to protect the remains.

The dedication plaque from July 4, 1991, reads: “In 1772, four years before the Declaration of Independence, settlers in the Watauga Valley adopted the Articles of the Watauga Association, possibly the first written constitution in North America. John Carter served as the first chairman not only of the Association but also of the Watauga Court. This judicial body, probably the first English-speaking court west of the Alleghenies, met at this site.”

Heritage Tree, 2009 • Photograph by Tom Simpson

Heritage Trees Click for more information

Battle Creek Black Oak Springfield, Robertson County Battle Creek Black Oak
Big Cypress Weakley County Big Cypress
Chickasaw Treaty Oak Nashville, Davidson County Chickasaw Treaty Oak
Daniel Boone Beech Washington County Daniel Boone Beech of Washington County
Dueling Oaks Memphis, Shelby County Dueling Oaks
Key Corner Sycamore Halls, Lauderdale County Key Corner Sycamore
King Oak Bristol, Sulivan County King Oak
Natchez Trace Pecan Carroll County Natchez Trace Pecan
Pemberton Oak Elizabethton, Carter County Pemberton Oak
Rotherwood Elm Kingsport, Hawkins County Rotherwood Elm
Suttles’ Boundary Oak Sevier County Suttles Boundary Oak
Thomas Spencer Sycamore Castilian Springs, Sumner Co. Thomas Spencer Sycamore
Toll Oak Rockwood, Roane County Toll Oak
Trigonia Elm Trigonia, Blount County Trigonia Elm
Watauga Treaty Sycamore Elizabethton, Carter CountyWatauga Treaty Sycamore

Tree of the Month

New Hope Cemetery Black Oak
Greeneville, Marion County New Hope Cemetery Black Oak Quercus velutina

Just four years after the Civil War a small group of emancipated slaves met at a local schoolhouse on Holly’s Creek. They asked the Reverend William S. Doak, the Presbyterian missionary and president of Tusculum College, about forming a congregation in affiliation with the Presbyterian Church USA.

New Hope Too

In 1875 the church was formed as the New Hope Presbyterian Church, and it became the nucleus for the small African-American community of New Hope, most of whom were former slaves. The large black oak is dated to the town's formation.

New Hope remained viable until the Great Depression. The cemetery is all that remains of a community that witnessed slavery, the Civil War, emancipation, reconstruction, and segregation.

In 2010 a group of citizens met to restore the cemetery and formed the New Hope Cemetery Association. The Big Spring Master Gardener Association later helped restore the property.

Historic Tree, 2016 • Nominated by Big Spring Master Gardener Association • Photograph by Randi Nott