Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Tree That Owns Itself

Notwithstanding the heat of an Athens afternoon, our hostess, Jane, was willing to take some cousins to check out the historic houses built during the 1800's. We walked down Dearing Street trying to figure out the Federal, Victorian, Greek Revival, and Italiante style houses, many of them dragged up the hill to Dearing in lieu of tearing them down when the more commercial areas were developed. Good for them! Athens was off the path of Sherman's scorched earth trek to the sea, no reason to have them then succumb to capitalism. I won't bore the reader with photos of the houses - Lord knows I have enough of those from Savannah - as a more famous sight lies at the end of the street where the cobblestones of Finley meet Deering, the tree that owns itself.

It seems this Athenian guy, Colonel William Jackson, deeded the white oak tree to itself in 1832 when he sold off the rest of the property.
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.
Don't you wonder what happened here that the Colonel loved the tree this much, maybe something romantic, or was he just peculiar?

The original tree was already at least a century old when it was deeded, growing before any of these houses were built, and in 1942 the tree died from old age, maybe helped along by a storm. The town planted an offspring grown from one of its acorns, cares and advocates for it, and doesn't collect any property taxes. The big guy is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has his own Facebook page, YouTube video, and book by the same title.

We like quirky towns.


Joan Perry; Sidewalk Curator said...

How fun!

Did you know SC has God's Own Acre? It is at the healing Springs in Blackville. The ground is deeded to God.

Pat said...

I like that it has its own Facebook page!

Katharine said...

It took a little doing, but I found the history of the Healing Springs, deeded in 1944 to God.


Patty, you can leave the tree a message on Facebook. He has lots of friends.