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Old Oak grows in Tusculum

By Jim Conrad, jconrad@wcyb.com
Published On: Oct 25 2012 04:36:21 PM CDT
OLDOAK
TUSCULUM, Tenn. -

One of the oldest trees in Tennessee grows on the campus of its oldest college, Tusculum College near Greeneville. It's been added to the Urban Forestry Council's landmark and historic tree register.

But could this old oak tree be the champion tree for the state of Tennessee in both size and age? That's what we wanted to find out.

The Tusculum College campus is surrounded by majestic oaks, but there's one in particular that pre-dates Tennessee's oldest college itself. It's simply known as the "Old Oak." It could in fact be the oldest in the state.

That fact was brought up when a couple visited the campus on other business and the husband noticed the tree. "His wife had a meeting with our archivist and they were doing something completely separate from this. He was a tree guy and he saw the tree and he said, 'You know, I think that tree could be a contender for the champion tree of Tennessee,'" Says Dollie Boyd, Director of Museums for the college.

There are pictures of the campus dating back and in one picture there's the old oak. "I knew the tree was old because we had a picture of the tree out in font of the museum from a picture taken in 1875," Boyd said.

So an application was made to add it to the landmark and historic tree register. Students measured the tree and Tom Simpson, the state's forestry ranger, paid a visit. "He said it was probably between 250 to 300 years old. Of course he's experienced in these sorts of things so I would take his word for it. We know for sure it was a large mature tree in 1875," says Boyd.

At that age the tree predates the college, the town of Greeneville and even the state of Tennessee. So how could it remain for so long? "Luck, you know sometimes old buildings survive through luck I suppose old trees do as well. The fact that it's been healthy this long, it's proximity to this building," she said.

And it may soon be known throughout the state. "The forester said that it could be a contender for the champion tree of Tennessee which would mean not only is it historically significant and a landmark but it's the largest living example," she added.

And the keeper of more history than any of us will ever know.