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La Vernia loses historic tree

 
La Vernia loses historic  tree
THERESA MORRIS CASS Genevieve Cass, 11, the great-granddaughter of Mary Scull and her late husband, Ross, embraces the trunk — approximately 213 inches in circumference — of the Deaf Smith Oak on the family’s property near La Vernia. Though part of the trunk remains upright, the rest of the tree has fallen, a victim of the Texas drought.

Children across Texas have heard the story during history lessons, how Erastus “Deaf” Smith climbed a live oak tree in October 1835, spied on Mexican troops camped along the Cibolo Creek, and reported back to Stephen F. Austin’s army of Texians. His efforts are recorded in our history books.

But the famous tree he climbed to keep the Texas army safe has fallen -- to the ravages of time and the prolonged Texas drought.

The venerable live oak, long part of Texas lore and legend, has stood all through the decades on the Circle N Dairy property, owned by Mary Scull and her late husband, Ross, and originally owned by his grandparents.

Mary’s granddaughter, Theresa Morris Cass, contacted the La Vernia News Oct. 20, with the sad news the tree had fallen.

Though a large portion of the trunk remains upright, most of the tree -- among the list of Famous Trees of Texas -- gave up its fight this past weekend.

“Losing this tree really makes me sad,” said local amateur historian Shirley Grammer. “For the past 25 years, I have viewed this tree as a giant in our history, but delicate in structure.”

“Losing a tree like that lessens our connections to the state’s history and our pre-history,” said Chris Florence with the Texas Historical Commission. “We definitely view it as a loss.”

His thoughts mirrored those of Gretchen Riley with the Texas A&M Forest Service, which maintains the list of Famous Trees of Texas.

“Oh, so sorry,” she said, when told of the tree’s demise. “We knew it was feeling its age. The Deaf Smith Oak was one of the few remaining tangible connections to that exciting time in Texas history -- the fight for Texas Independence. Famous Trees of Texas cross generations and connect us with our ancestors and the incredible times in which they lived. Being able to stand where our forefathers stood and touch the very tree they touched helps bring history alive to current -- and hopefully, future -- generations. Texas A&M Forest Service is saddened to hear of the loss of the Deaf Smith Oak; it is irreplaceable.”

Elaine M. Stephens, president of the La Vernia Historical Association, said the tree lives on in a sapling planted by Master Gardener Iris Seale adjacent to the La Vernia Heritage Museum. The sapling was grown from an acorn from the Deaf Smith Oak tree.

 
 
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