Most West Virginia school children are familiar with the story of the Pringle Tree. According to the legend, two brothers Named Samuel and John Pringle deserted the British army during the French and Indian War and made their way to an area just outside of what is now Buckhannon, West Virginia. This was about 1764. They set up housekeeping in a huge, hollow sycamore.
After four years the brothers found that they were down to only two charges of gunpowder.John Pringle left to find the nearest settlement where he could get more powder while Samuel stayed on at the tree, keeping house I suppose. Well, when John reached a settlement he learned that the French and Indian War was over and that he and his brother no longer were fugitives from the British. He returned with some friends and built cabins in the area, starting a settlement. One of those who returned with John Pringle was John Jackson, who was to become the grandfather of Stonewall Jackson.
The current tree is also hollow in the center, and nowadays there is a fence around the tree to protect it from damage. But you can pick up the seed pods that often fall on the ground around the tree, and maybe you can grow your own Pringle tree. In these economic times, the backup shelter might come in handy. (Photos from flickr and
Mingo Oak which sadly succumbed to either a fungus or pollution from mine waste years before I was born. The Mingo Oak, in Mingo County, WV, was once believed to be the largest white oak known in the US. It's circumference was reported at 30 feet 9 inches and it was judged by scientists to be 584 years old. Apparently it was already over 100 years old when Columbus landed on these shores. The tree was cut with great ceremony on September 8, 1938.
In Tucker County, West Virginia there was a white oak that was known to many for its size. The tree measured supposedly measured 13 feet in circumference at 16 feet above the ground. The tree was cut during the logging boom that swept the state in the early 1900's, a time when the state's virgin forests were almost completely obliterated.
Point Pleasant, West Virginia has several claims to historic fame. Besides being the site of a battle of the French and Indian War, and the home of Mothman, Point Pleasant was also the resting place of many items from one of the 49 boxcars of the "Merci Train" that were donated in gratitude to the US after World War II. According to this website:
"A collection of perhaps two dozen items from the West Virginia Merci car is located in "Mansion House", a hewn log structure built as a tavern in 1796, but now maintained as a museum by the Colonel Charles Lewis Chapter, N.S. Daughters of the American Revolution. The museum itself is in a small state park called Tu-Endie-Wei within the city of Point Pleasant, WV. The name is Wyandotte Indian for "Point Between Two Waters". Also in the park are four French Oak trees, which came in the Merci boxcar as saplings from France. Russell Burge (see above) started some saplings with acorns gathered from the trees in the park and has planted two saplings near the present site of the boxcar in Welch."
(You can find out more about the Merci train boxcar that was given to your state by clicking here.)
Seedlings from the French Oaks, as they came to be called, are still being grown in West Virginia at the Clements Tree Nursery in West Columbia, WV. Apparently these seedlings can be requested from the nursery, because the information about the trees and their history concludes with:
"Become part of living history: Plant a seedling from Clements State Tree Nursery today." If you want to find out more, contact Leslie Fitzwater, Public Information Specialist, 304.957.9342 or 304.541.8102, Leslie.C.Fitzwater@wv.gov
Although the huge trees of the past are almost all gone, West Virginia still has many large trees very much alive. You can see an online list of other big trees in West Virginia here; all state maintain a "Big Tree" list so you can check out your state's list by clicking here.
Photo 1 from www.flickr.com
Photo 2 from www.bucknell.edu
Photo 3 from www.wvculture.org