Thursday, February 27, 2014

RESPECTFUL WITNESSES SAID GOODBY TO A VENERABLE OAK TREE ON OCT. 1, 2008...

     
ON "THROWBACK THURSDAY" TODAY, 2-27-2014, I POSTED A PHOTO ON FACEBOOK OF AN OLD OAK TREE THAT NO LONGER EXISTS. SOME PEOPLE ASKED THAT I TELL THEM MORE ABOUT THAT TREE. 
   
 BY INVITATION FROM CONCORD TOWNSHIP TRUSTEES, I PRESENTED THIS TRIBUTE ON OCT. 1, 2008, AT A PRE-CUTTING CEREMONY FOR THE OLD OAK TREE AT TOWN HALL CAMPUS. NOW I SHARE A DRAFT OF THAT TRIBUTE SO YOU CAN "MEET" THAT OLD TREE THAT STOOD SO LONG AND NOW IS GONE.---Rose Moore
 
    THIS IS A EULOGY to an old friend. We are paying well-deserved respect to the old oak tree on our Town Hall campus. The tree has seen a lot of history since it sprouted in the 1600s. It sprang from a tiny acorn that perhaps was carried to this site by a chipmunk or an Indian child.
     It set its roots before the white man was present on these Great Lakes inward lands, and it was still a sapling when the French began to trade and trap and roam our forests. The oak was present here in 1795, when the Greenville Treaty deeded most of the Ohio country to the United States. 
     It was here a few years later, when General Simon Perkins' Connecticut Land Company surveyors cut the Girdled Road from Pennsylvania through this land that would become known as our New Western Reserve. And the oak was here as well when our settlers found this territory to be a land so thick and dark with trees, they had to follow creek beds to what would be their home sites.
      This oak tree had achieved some of its height and breadth in 1800, when Trumbull was established as a county in the Northwest Territory; and in 1803 when Ohio became a state; and in 1805 when Geauga County was separated from Trumbull County. And it would still be growing strong in 1840, the year Lake County would separate from Geauga, and Concord would separate from its mother Painesville Township to become a township in its own right.  
       The tree stood sturdy at its Concord Township intersection, known in early times as Wilson's Corners, when our roads were merely dusty paths along which homemade wooden wagons were pulled by oxen, and stage coaches carried human passengers and mail.
     WELL INTO ITS second century, in 1802, the tree was standing tall a mile north of Girdled Road when the Perkins Camp was host to the election that chose our delegates to the Territorial Legislature and the Ohio Constitutional Convention. In that same year, the tree was present when Concord's first settler, Thomas Jordan, purchased 100 acres along the creek now known as Jordan. There Jordan built a home and sawmill, then sent for his family, and soon many others would follow, perching their homes and water-wheel-powered mills along our many waterways.
      It was then that Concord became an industrial behemoth in the region, shipping its pioneer goods from here to Buffalo. We had the streams and up-and-down topography needed for the crucial water power, but there were difficulties in the summer droughts, and the winter freeze-ups often shut production down. When the more reliable steam power made waterwheels obsolete, Concord's industrial base faded and was replaced by farms, and the oak tree saw it all. As the 20th century moved along, the oak would be increasingly surrounded by a different sort of Concord... a residential community, as it is today.
      Our oak stood within earshot of the circuit riding preacher Rev. Ira Eddy when in 1818 he established his Methodist Episcopal Church meetings in an old log cabin near the township commons. The oak was witness when that old log cabin was followed later by a real church building for the congregation at this intersection, with sheds to shelter horses in inclement weather while families worshipped. Then the congregation merged with Methodists in nearby Painesville, and the building was demolished, but the oak still stood.
     In 1820 Concord's first adult burial, that of 38-year-old Lucinda Merrill, took place north of the intersection, well within sight of the oak. Lucinda's memorial obelisk still stands in that cemetery land, which was deeded to the township by the owners, Simeon Winchell and Zenas Wilson "for the sum of one dollar... provided their sheep were allowed to pasture there and would do no damage."
      IN 1824, WHEN Concord's first post office was established on this property, with Zenas Wilson as the postmaster, Concord's people picked up their mail there. They often rested underneath the oak and socialized with neighbors before returning home. Then in 1831, the land's original owner, Daniel Coit, who had never set foot on this land, donated the property to the community for use as a central commons. Our oak stood witness to the community's celebration of that important gift.
     In 1840 the oak stood tall enough to be observed by workers building Concord's one-room Stone School House No. 1, in a new Concord School District. The tree was visible in recent years as well, when that building was restored. The oak was present too in 1870, when this township's one-room meeting hall was built here. Today that room is still used for our meetings, as the venerable core of a much-enlarged Town Hall.
      In 1923, the oak tree watched the action across the road as students of all of Concord's one-room schools moved into a new brick central building and our schools became a part of Painesville Township School District. The happy sounds of Concord's elementary students on the playground could be heard by anyone who stood beneath the oak tree, and then in 1982 the Painesville Township Schools closed that and several other elementary buildings.
      The tree was present and still strong in 1948 when the Concord Township Fire Department was formed, and it watched as that department and our road department grew steadily, and facilities were built for both.
        In 1971, our Concord families gathered in the shadow of the oak tree for our first Concord Community Day, with its simple family games, hot dog roast and fire-hose fight between the firefighters of Concord and Leroy. That same year, the Big Creek Civic Association funded and built the playground that still exists near the tree.    
      On Aug. 31, 1975, as the U.S. Bicentennial Celebration approached, the tree was proudly present when the joint event merged Community Day with a dedication ceremony for our big addition to Town Hall. This was also the date of our first Community Day parade. Soon Community Day would be an annual event and consist of an entire weekend.
       IN THE 1980s, as the tree showed signs of age-related stress, trustees began a trimming and fertilization program advised by arborists. This increased the old tree's lifespan by at least three decades.
        Within the past few years, the tree slipped into a swift, unstoppable decline and presented dangers to the people who were drawn to it. Concord built a fence around it to protect it and the public. Some acorns from this great old oak tree were given to the Holden Arboretum, with hopes a sapling could be raised from the acorns.
     And now this evening, with the life-blood fully gone from the old tree's roots and branches, the unavoidable removal of its skeletal remains are scheduled. We hereby choose to note the tree's demise and formally honor it's long presence here and its entwinement with and witness to our history. And we say a sad goodbye.
 
POSTSCRIPT: IN THE EARLY MORNING AFTER THIS SPEECH, I WITNESSED THE NECESSARY CUTTING OF THE TREE. MANY MEMBERS OF THE COMMUNITY WERE THERE AS WELL, AND TRUSTEE CONNIE LUHTA GAVE THE TREE A HUG BEFORE THE WORK COMMENCED. I DOCUMENTED THAT MOMENT WITH A PHOTOGRAPH, WHICH I HAVE ATTACHED TO THIS BLOG FOR YOUR VIEWING.  
I'VE ALSO INCLUDED THE "THROWBACK THURSDAY" PHOTO OF THE LITTLE GIRLS WITH THE TREE. THE GIRLS HAVE GROWN; THE TREE IS GONE!--Rose Moore