Exline Big Oak Tree

The “Exline Big Oak Tree” (Swamp Chestnut Oak) is located on the grounds of the Tommy and Exline (Watkins) Davis Estate, Dumas, Desha County. This historic oak tree dates back to the early days of this community (c. 1700s) in Dumas, Arkansas. Tommy and Exline Davis lived on this site where this landmark oak tree is located. It has seen many historic milestones in his estimated life of over 325 years, from pioneer life, slave trade and Civil War activities in association with the Arkansas Post, slavery abolishment (1863), Ku Klux Klan (1860s, 1920s), to Civil Rights changes to present day Dumas. It is reported that this landmark tree was a „hanging tree‟ by the Ku Klux Klan, the tree is a geographic marker for the area for determining land settlement, and now is a popular meeting location for community multi-racial celebrations.

This tree is named after the given slave name of the owner‟s wife, “Exline,” to which she later added the family maiden name of “Watkins”. It is a landmark and referred to in the community as the “Big Tree” or the “Exline Tree.” Because of its popularity in the community, it has been treasured due to its cultural and historical roots in the community. It is a symbol of slavery and its history to the region. It is reported that the Ku Klux Klan used this tree and its location to gather, and hang, whip and punish Negros. After slavery was abolished, African-Americans settled in the area and purchased property including the Davis family who purchased the site where this tree is located. Since that time, in the 1950s, the Davis family partnered with the Desha County Cooperative Extension Service to help protect the health of this old tree so that it would continue to thrive. The County provided annual inspections and developed a treatment program to preserve the life of this tree to continue as a landmark of historic fabric of the community. In recent years, the tree site has been used for political campaigns, picnics and musical events as well as a park for the neighborhood.

It is currently threatened due to Highway 54 expansion (planned in 2011) with the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department (AHTD).  The expansion is planned to come within 45 feet of the historic tree (road stake line is 23 feet from the tree) and the tree‟s spread is 110 feet which indicates that its roots extend and probably double that spread distance. AHTD „could‟ expand to the other direction, however, there is a historic building in that direction and they have decided to move the expansion towards the tree which will threaten the historic tree (which can‟t be relocated) instead of towards the historic building (which can be relocated). This development will jeopardize the historic tree and the community and surrounding area is quite concerned. It is our understanding that a lawsuit is underway this summer in regards to this matter.

Location: Tommy and Exline (Watkins) Davis Estate, Dumas
Registration: February 7, 2011
Species: Swamp Chestnut Oak

Abraham Block Pecan

Abraham Block Pecan is located on the grounds of the historic Block-Catts house site, Washington, Hempstead County. Abraham Block was a prominent merchant in Washington and Abraham (1780-1857) & Frances Block (1796-1871) were the first permanent Jewish settlers in Arkansas. Mr. Block came to Washington in 1823 and began to build his family‟s house which was a Federal “I-style” house with an entrance hall and a room on either side which is repeated upstairs. The Pioneer Washington Restoration Foundation gave the Block house to Arkansas State Parks. The name “Catts” was added to the name of the property in honor of Erwin Catts who donated the house and grounds to the foundation in 1958.

This pecan tree dates back to the early days of this historic town and is located next to the original house that Abraham Block built (completed, c. 1828). This tree could date back to the time of building his house (customary in the town) or could predate the house. Abraham & Fanny Block met and were married in Richmond, VA. Abraham Block served in the War of 1812 and was referred to as “Captain” Block. Abraham Block heard from his cousin in St. Louis, Eliezer Block about the booming trade with Mexico and trade on the Southwest Trail, south of St. Louis and the town of Washington was the epicenter of this trade. He left his pregnant wife & 6+ children behind to move to Washington & get established. His family moved there after he finished the home in Washington in 1828.

Location: Historic Washington State Park
Registration: February 7, 2011
Species: Pecan

Martin Cemetery Trees

Martin Cemetery Trees include four Cherrybark Oaks and one Eastern Redcedar and are located on the grounds of the historic Martin Cemetery, Little Rock, Pulaski County. The Martin Cemetery is the oldest community cemetery (c.1834) in Pulaski County, near Mabelvale, in southwest Little Rock. The cemetery was originally started by the Martin family when the area was called “Forsche.” In addition to be a historic cemetery, there are over 1,500 graves in the cemetery, several of which are significant. Five trees were identified in relation to persons buried there: “Hopkins Cherrybark Oak” – in honor of J. Frank Hopkins, founder of the Sigma Nu fraternity; “Heinke Cherrybark Oak” – in honor of Ernst F. Heinke, German immigrant; “Bagley obelisk Cherrybark Oak” – in honor of Mr. Bagley, next to his obelisk; “Wilder  Cedar” – in honor of William Green Wilder, and “Woodmen of the World Cherrybark Oak” – in honor of Mr. L. O. Dilworth, next to the last intact “Woodmen of the World” monument by his grave.

Location: Martin Cemetery, Little Rock
Registration: February 7, 2011
Species: Cherrybark oaks &, eastern redcedar

Lakeport Plantation Historic Trees

In 1831, Joel Johnson moved from Kentucky to the Arkansas Delta with 23 slaves and purchased the initial land of what later became known as the Lakeport Plantation. He originally lived to the south of the current plantation house. The House was built in ca. 1859 where Joel‟s son, Lycurgus Johnson later lived with his wife, Lydia (Taylor) as owners of the plantation.

It is the last antebellum Greek revival style plantation House in Arkansas along the Mississippi River and is surrounded by working cotton fields since the 1830s. By Joel‟s death in 1846, the combined total of the plantation was 4,400 acres of land and 155 slaves. The Johnson family lived on the plantation from 1831 -1917. In 1930, the Johnson family sold the plantation to the Sam Epstein family of Lake Village. In 1931, the current levee was built between the river and the House site (earlier remnant levees date back to 1840s). Through the years, the House was occupied by farm managers until the 1970s.

In 2001, the House was donated to Arkansas State University by the Sam Epstein Angel (Sam Epstein‟s grandson) family and it was historically renovated from 2003 – 2007 and reopened in 2007 as a museum. The House was listed on the National Historic Register in 1974, designated as an official project of the “Save American‟s Treasures” program of the National Parks Service & National Trust for Historic Preservation and the plantation is listed as an Arkansas Delta Heritage Site.

The historic trees dating back to the time of the plantation include: Pecans (3), Black walnut (1), Eastern Redcedars (2-4), Southern magnolias (4), Sweet bay magnolia (1), and Live oaks (2) and help tell a story of plantation life of the Mississippi River Delta, pre-Civil War and postwar era.

Location: Lakeport Plantation, near Lake Village
Registration: October 1, 2009
Species: live oaks, southern & sweetbay magnolia, pecans, black walnut, eastern redcedar

Henderson War Memorial Holly Trees

Memorial holly trees were planted throughout the Henderson State University campus in Arkadelphia in memorial of their students and/or faculty who died during the following wars: World War I (1914-1918), World War II (1939-1945), Korean Conflict (1950-1953), and Vietnam Conflict (1961-1975).

The memorial tree plantings began with the “Memorial Grove” (located next to the Hule Library at the entrance of the campus, see photo and map), which consists of holly trees that were planted around 1919 as a memorial to Henderson six students & faculty who died in combat in World War I (five students and one former football coach). This memorial tree planting continued at various locations around campus for the Henderson students & faculty who died in World War II (40), Korean Conflict (count not sure at this time), and Vietnam Conflict (9) which total over 55 honorees from this university who died in active duty. The last planting ceremony was held 35 years ago on April 20, 1974.

The student body assembled on the front campus where they heard a former student and professor, Farrar Newberry, proclaim: “We build a memorial not of stone, not of bronze, but of the living tree – and this is symbolic of the service they performed for Henderson, France, and the world.” A tribute was paid to each of the six with the planting of that number of holly trees in a circle on the front lawn called the “Memorial Grove”.  Each tree was consigned a caretaker: four to the college‟s classes, and one each to the academy and faculty.  This simple tribute prompted inquiry from the American Forestry Association, and the memorial trees were registered by that organization on its national honor roll.

The tradition of planting memorial holly trees on the campus continued for the Henderson students dying in World War II, the Korean, and Vietnam conflicts.  Some 40 Henderson students and the president of the school died during World War II.  For World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, trees were not planted for each person, but a number of holly trees were planted over the campus to fill in as needed.

The last ceremony was held April 20, 1974 for the nine (9) men who lost their lives in the Vietnam conflict. The following tribute was composed and read by the late Professor Emeritus Amy Jean Green: “We remember when the world was young and they walked this campus, young happy, full of sprizerkturm, the joy of living.  We remember them with tender love, and because we remember, we dedicated the holly trees planted on the hills and in the ravines of our beautiful campus.  We hereby dedicate these Hollies to the memory of Henderson‟s sons who have given their lives in past wars.  May we keep this institution strong, strong, and prove that we – and it – are worthy of the sacrifices of these young lives. AMEN”

The Holly tree has always been used for memorial plantings on campus – American Holly (Ilex opaca). Information provided by Dr. John G. Hall, Professor Emeritus of History and the managing director of the Henderson State University Foundation. His book: Henderson State College: The Methodist Years, 1890-1929 provided a valuable resource.

Location: Henderson State University, Arkadelphia
Registration: June 11, 2009
Species: American Holly

Kerry McLeod Memorial Mug Tree

Tree owner, Clara Byler Weir has lived through some hard times during her life. In 1964, her husband, Mr. McLeod left her when their three sons were 9 (twins) & 11. She remarried in 1977 to Gene Byler. In 1994, one of her twin sons, Kerry, moved back home for her to care for him through a chronic illness.

One morning in 1996, as his disease progressed, out of desperation to hold onto her sanity, Clara nailed her coffee cup to her tree in the front yard. What followed was unexpected; people started donating mugs to nail to the tree. She also threw shoes into the top of the tree and would shop at yard sales for more shoes for the tree. This whimsical act provided an outlet for her stress and sadness and had a surprising affect of generating smiles to those who passed by the tree. It brought smiles to everyone and people wanted to be a part of the tree’s  transformation. More mugs were donated with 368 mugs by 1997 and it grew into “The Mug Tree” as a local landmark.

After her son died in 1997 at the age of 41, they moved to live with her son’s twin brother, Perry in Cassville, Missouri where they had two Mug Trees with over 372 mugs. They moved back to Arkansas in 2000 to their current Batesville address and she began another Mug Tree to honor her late son and bring awareness to AIDS. In 2001, she had 400 mugs. As of March 2009, she has 805 mugs on the tree and they have spread to the porch. She only provided the first mug and the rest have been donated through the years.

In May 2007, KATV 7 News did a piece on the “Mug Tree” when she had 506 mugs on the oak tree. Just prior to that piece, a folk grass duo called “Still on the Hill” by Kelly Mulhollan and Donna Stjerna from the Fayetteville area discovered Clara and her story from Colleen Jackson at Lyon College in Batesville when they were doing a performance in mid-April 2007. They went by to see Clara and The Mug Tree and decided to add her story to their collection of stories of people of the Ozarks for a history project. They began to write a song about her and the tree as they sipped ice tea on her porch. The project by the folk grass duo is funded by the Department of Arkansas Heritage and includes a cd and booklet with stories and lyrics called “Ozark, A Celebration in Song”. In addition, there will be a film of live performances produced by Jones Television of Donna’s songs about the characters they met on their travels, including the Mug Tree.

The Mug Tree brings smiles to the passer-bys, young and old; black, white or brown; rich or poor; and speaks a message of love and awareness of AIDS. It is certainly a good candidate for a famous and historic tree. In addition, the Mug Tree has another claim to fame with its own song and part in a documentary film.

Location: Batesville
Registration: June 11, 2009
Species: Oak Spruce

North Little Rock Laman Live Oak

This tree was planted in the 1920s in its current location along with 4 other live oak trees after being grown in a nursery from acorns given to the owners of the world-renowned Vestal Florist and Nursery at a civic meeting at the turn of the century. As a resident of that neighborhood as a child, William F. „Casey‟ Laman (b. 1913) and his neighborhood friends used to hang out under this tree and remembers when he was a pre-teen that is was a huge tree which indicates that it was probably grown at the turn of the century (this fact is still under research). This tree is estimated to be well over 90 years old and believed to be as old as when the city which was incorporated in 1904 (105 years ago). Because of that historical connection, this tree was designated as the City‟s “Official Tree” on March 19, 1990 and its surrounding land was deeded to the tree which was signed by the Mayor Patrick H. Hays (currently the mayor) and then-Governor Bill Clinton (later former President). The property that was deeded to the tree is called “Live Oak Park” and managed by the City‟s Parks Department. Community activist Audrey Burtrum-Stanley was also involved in helping it become the city tree. At this time, it appears to be the only official city tree in the state.

In addition to its age and owning its own piece of land, this live oak has horticultural significance since its species doesn‟t usually grow so far north. This tree also tells a story of life in the 1920s. It was a significant tree on the edge of the Baring Cross neighborhood where families lived who worked in relation to the railroad and was a safe place for the kids to hang out. The events that the tree witnessed were significant times in our nation‟s history including the depression and the war that shaped their lives. This tree is personally sentimental to city leader Casey Laman. It told „his‟ story of romance in the 1920s, primarily because he would meet his girlfriend, Arlene Ellis (1915-1998) there when she was 12 & he was 14 and who later became his wife of 63 years. He describes the tree and the bench underneath it as „their tree‟ and „their bench‟ and was the place of their first kiss. He became active in politics when he had concerns about the issues in the community such as with the schools and later with the development in the city. And he watched over their tree.

This tree also played a part in the development of the city. William Fewell “Casey” Laman served as NLR Mayor two terms for 16 years: 1958-1972 and 1979-1980 and during both of his terms, he was active to help save this particular tree. The first time it was saved from demolition was in the late 1960‟s when it stood in the way of construction of a drainage ditch for a major storm sewer line from the west. The second time it was saved was when widening improvements were made to Pike Avenue, also while Casey Laman was the mayor, and he redirected the development to avoid the tree. He has been the guardian of this tree and the guardian of his story of romance and family, the story of his Baring Cross neighborhood and his city which the tree symbolizes. This tree not only retains a slice of nature to help reduce our stress and reduce global warming, but also reminds us of the cultural and historical changes that have occurred during its lifetime.

Location: Live Oak Par, North Little Rock
Registration: June 11, 2009
Species: Live Oak

Hot Springs Old Growth Forest Stands

On August 25, 1916, Congress established the National Park Service (NPS) and Hot Springs Reservation came under its administration & was set aside by Congress in 1832. This makes Hot Springs National Park the oldest unit in the national park system, 40 years older than Yellowstone National Park. Stephen T. Mather, head of the new organization, took a serious interest in the development of the site and it led to its designation as the eighteenth national park on March 4, 1921.

According to Stephen Rudd, Natural Resources Program Manager at Hot Springs National Park, when the Congress of the United States set aside Hot Springs Reservation in 1832, they set a new precedent on a global scale. No other governing body, foreign or domestic, had ever set aside a piece of real estate for the expressed purpose of preserving and protecting a unique natural resource. This, of course was the park‟s geothermal spring complex. That concept and, indeed, even the verbiage would become an integral component of the Organic Act of 1916 and essentially the credo of the newly created National Park Service (also in 1916).  As far as Stephen is aware, no other NPS area is specifically charged with the responsibility of ‘giving away’ its primary natural resource in an unaltered state throughout perpetuity.  That was part of the park‟s somewhat unique enabling legislation and is still valid today.  While Yellowstone was, in fact, the first National Park in this country, this park has the distinction of predating them by 40 years although Hot Springs didn’t enjoy actual National Park status until 1921. This area has been under some form of federal protection for over 175 years. This enabling legislation also addresses the need to preserve and protect the recharge area that ultimately feeds those springs.  One of the primary reasons the old growth stands remain largely unfettered by man is that absolute mandate. These upland forest communities essentially predate European influence as they have been protected by federal authorities since the area started to become colonized back in the early 1800s. All of this protection has preserved these old growth forest stands in a forest so close to an urban area.

Several trees within two old growth forest stands of oak/hickory/pine forest within the national park were core-dated by the Department of Geography, University of Arkansas and were found to be over 400 years old at that time (estimate they did the core work in 1985, this fact is under verification). If the cores were done in 1985, the trees were dated around 1585, ± 30-50 years. One site, North Mountain area, is accessible from the North Mountain Loop, or the Dogwood or the Goat Rock Trails and the other site, Sugarloaf area, is near Balanced Rock along the Sunset Trail just west of the Cedar Glades summit. These old growth forest stands cover approximately 220 acres ± and are considered significant old growth trees for this area and our state.

Location: Hot Springs National Park, Hot Springs
Registration: Feb. 13, 2009
Species: Oaks, hickory, pine forest

Central High School Commemorative Garden Trees

Across the road from the school and the visitor center (north and west, respectively), is a Commemorative Garden dedicated to the Little Rock Nine & future students. The garden was designed by Michael R. Warrick (UALR sculpture artist/professor) & Aaron P. Hussey (UALR sculpture graduate, now in Baton Rouge, Louisiana). The garden was dedicated in September 25, 2001. Nine trees and nine benches within the garden symbolize the strength of the Little Rock Nine students and line the winding garden path to the center plaza. The garden offers a place to contemplate the past, present and future. The center circular plaza features the triumphant arches depicting the school‟s architectural features including the four school entrance guardian sculpture figures – Ambition, Personality, Opportunity and Preparation. On the interior faces of the arches display photos of Little Rock Central students past & present. According to the main contributors to the sculpture, Dr. and Mrs. Tom Bruce, the garden sculpture represents the “the Spirit of Central High” and the garden‟s purpose is to “celebrate the ability of people to overcome adversity and to recognize and honor triumph of the collective good over the betterment of a few.”

This nomination recognizes the nine symbolic red maple trees and the pre-existing witness trees, such as the existing persimmon, that were there during the time of the Central High Crisis.

Location: Central High National Historic Site, Little Rock
Registration: February 13, 2009
Species:  Oaks, maple, persimmon

Jernigan State Christmas Tree

The Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana) is a native tree to Arkansas and was presented to the state from the Weyerhaeuser Company. It was planted in 1976 during the Secretary of State George O. Jernigan Jr‟s term and he chose it to serve as the state‟s official Christmas tree.

It was planted on the Capitol grounds on the east side near the front capitol steps on November 23, 1976 “for the people of the state of Arkansas as a „living‟ Christmas tree”. At the time of the planting, it was 35 years old with a height of 25‟ which would make is currently 67 years old as of last November. It has been known as the “Jernigan Tree” and as the “State‟s Christmas Tree”. A plaque was placed by the tree which reads: “Eastern Red Cedar from Saline County presented by Weyerhaeuser Company to Secretary of State George O. Jernigan Jr. Planted November 23, 1976 for the people for the state of Arkansas as a “living” Christmas tree. At the time of planting, Age: 35 years with height of 25’.”

Location: East side of Capitol grounds, Little Rock
Registration: February 13, 2009
Species: Eastern Red Cedar