A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from September 06, 2007
Treaty Oak (of Austin)

Is the “Treaty Oak” of Austin fact or fiction?

The Treaty Oak is located in Austin in a city park of Baylor Avenue, between Fifth and Sixth Streets. The tree is believed to be more than 500 years old, and it is the only survivor of a group of trees that was known as the Council Oaks. Allegedly, Stephen F. Austin signed a boundary agreement with Indians underneath this Treaty Oak.

There have been many “Treaty Oaks” in American history. An agreement between Thomas Pell and Chief Wampage in 1654 in Westchester County, New York, was also under a “Treaty Oak.”

The earliest cited reference to Austin’s “Treaty Oak” appears in 1925, when the tree was threatened and then was saved, with the help of a large publicity campaign.


Wikipedia: Chief Wampage
Chief Wampage, also known as Anhõõke, was the Native American who was Chief of the Siwanoy Tribe in Westchester County, New York.
He made a treaty with Englishman Thomas Pell for about 50,000 acres (200 km²) of land reaching from what is currently the Bronx, west along Long Island Sound, to the Hutchinson River. It was signed under the Treaty Oak near Bartow Pell Mansion in Pelham.

Historic Pelham
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
Information About Thomas Pell’s Treaty Oak Published in 1922

In 1922, Frye Publishing Company released a book by Katharine Stanley Nicholson entitled Historic American Trees. The book included a passage about Thomas Pell’s Treaty Oak that once stood on the grounds of the Bartow-Pell Estate. Beneath that tree, according to tradition, Thomas Pell signed a “treaty” with local Native Americans on June 27, 1654 by which he acquired the lands that became known as the Manor of Pelham. Below is the passage from the book.

“THE PELHAM OAK
In 1654, Thomas Pell, of Fairfield, Conn., bought property north of the Harlem River, ‘embracing all that tract of land called Westchester,’ in what is now New York State. Beneath the shade of a large white oak, which has ever since been called by his name, the deed was signed by the Indian Chiefs Manninepol, Annhook, and five other Sachems [sic] from whom he purchased the land for ‘two guns, two kettles, two coats, two adzes, 2 shirts, one barrel of cider and 6 bits of money’ [sic]; the value of the payment is estimated to have amounted to eight pounds, four shillings and six pence [sic]. 

Handbook of Texas Online
TREATY OAK. The Treaty Oak of Austin is located in a small city park on Baylor Avenue between Fifth and Sixth streets. The live oak is believed to be more than 500 years old, and its branches span over 128 feet. It is the only survivor of a group of live oaks known as the Council Oaks. Though proof is lacking, it is said that Stephen F. Austin signed the first boundary agreement between the Indians and the settlers under these trees. According to legend, Indian women would drink a potion made from the leaves of the Treaty Oak during the full moon to ensure their men’s zeal and safety in battle. In 1927 the Treaty Oak was admitted to the American Forestry Association Hall of Fame for Trees and declared the most perfect specimen of a North American tree. The land where the tree grows belonged to the W. H. Caldwell family from 1882 to 1937. Mrs. Caldwell offered the land for sale for $7,000 in 1926 because she could no longer afford the taxes. When efforts by patriotic groups to induce the state legislature to buy the land for a park failed, it was feared that the tree would be cut down by some future developer. The Austin City Council finally bought the land from T. J. Caldwell in 1937 for $1,000. In 1989 Paul Cullen poisoned the Treaty Oak with Velpar, which is specifically designed to kill hardwood trees. In spite of extensive efforts, only about one quarter of the tree was saved. Cullen was tried and convicted of felony criminal mischief and sentenced to nine years in prison.

Wikipedia: Traty Oak (Austin, Texas)
The Treaty Oak, a once-majestic Southern live oak in Austin, Texas, is the last surviving member of the Council Oaks, a grove of 14 trees that served as a sacred meeting place for Comanche and Tonkawa Tribes. Forestry experts estimate the Treaty Oak to be about 500 years old and, before its vandalism in 1989, the tree’s branches had a spread of 127 feet. The tree is located in Treaty Oak Park, on Baylor Street between 5th and 6th Streets.

Austin Parks & Recreation Department
Treaty Oak Project
The Treaty Oak tree is located on Baylor Street between 5th Street and 6th Street. Because of the Treaty Oak has a long and colorful history, the Treaty Oak Project began in 1991, about two years after the tree was poisoned.

The City of Austin’s Urban Forestry Board determined that any process undertaken with the Treaty Oak in the future should be based on one of the following: memorialization, education or fundraising. Fundraising proceeds, they determined, should be used to plant additional trees in public areas of Austin through the Planting For The Future Fund. City staff has attempted to integrate the three mandates of the Urban Forestry Board during the course of the project.

The park hours are from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. The small live oak next to it is a clone of the Treaty Oak.

Treaty Oak History
PRE-TEXAS HISTORY OF TREATY OAK - The Treaty Oak is a living symbol of history. For five centuries it has survived searing summers, dusty droughts and whistling winds, and has drawn it sustenance from the very depths of Texas soil. It is the last survivor of a grove of fourteen trees known to local Indians as the Council Oaks. The original inhabitants of the area regarded it as a Tree-God. It was a temple of worship for the Commanches and Tonkowas. In the shade of the oak’s wide spreading branches, the Native Americans would meet to dance the war dances, smoke the peace pipe, and celebrate feasts and religious ceremonies. Myths and magic surrounded the tree. Tejas Indians believed that a brew from the acorns mixed with wild honey brought back from battle the lovers to maidens who drank the potion.

TREATY OAK AND EARLY TEXAS HISTORY - The Treaty Oak has also played an important and romantic part in the history of the Lone Star State. Alhough there is no known documentation of the fact, and it has not been shown that he was ever in Austin, one persistant legend has the Father of Texas, Stephen F. Austin, signing the first boundary treaty with the local Indians under the tree, and hence its name. The treaty was needed after Indians carried off and killed a small boy and girl found wandering by nearby Shoal Creek and in 1841 when the first county judge went past the grove in search of stray cattle and was killed by a Commanche war party.

THE TREATY OAK’S FAME GROWS - As the Capitol of Texas developed into a burgeoning city, the members of the Council Oaks fell one by one, and by the 1920’s the Treaty Oak itself was threatened. In the late 1920’s the hallowed ground where the tree is located was offered for sale with the possibility of the tree being cut down. A cry to save the Treaty Oak was heard across Texas. Women’s organizations took up the cause and aroused public interest through speeches and letter writing campaigns. So great was the call that the Treaty Oak was added to the American Forestry Association’s compilation of famous and historic U.S. trees in 1929. In the 1930’s, an entire edition of the Poets’ Scroll poetry magazine was dedicated to arousing patriotic duty and responsibility to preserve the tree. Finally, in 1937, the City of Austin recognized the level of emotion and with funds raised, purchased the lot to “stand as a living and fitting symbol of the mighty state it has watched develop.”

TREATY OAK RECENT HISTORY / POISONING - In recent years, the small one-quarter acre lot around the tree has been the site of weddings, school outings, picnics and is one stop on the Greyhound Bus Tour of Austin. In 1989, the tree was deliberately vandalized with massive amounts of poison. As the tree slipped into critical condition, a blank check was written by Texas industrialist Ross Perot and experts were summoned. As the world watched, intensive care was administered in a desperate battle to save the tree. On the national and international electronic news media, on the front pages of international newspapers and in news magazines across the globe, the world wondered and waited. The culprit was arrested, tried and convicted for his crime. While he could have received life in prison, the jury sentenced him to nine years. His reason? Unrequited love. The efforts to save the tree were successful and today about 35% of the tree remains. In 1997, the Treaty Oak produced its first crop of acorns since the poisoning. The acorns were collected and germinated. In 1999, all the Baby Treaty Oaks found homes in Texas and other states thus ensuring its continuing legacy.

TREATY OAK’S IMPORTANCE FOR TODAY - With all of its worldwide fame, the Treaty Oak has truly become a symbol of our time. It is a symbol of nature versus our modern technology. It is a symbol of our compassion and concern. And it is a symbol of strength and permanence in an age of increasing vulnerability and change. The Treaty Oak is Austin’s own nearly immortal hero who will continue to give its gifts to the community long after it is gone. It will give the gift of trees - trees planted in its memory purchased with funds raised from the sale of objects and items made from trimmed Treaty Oak wood - wood from limbs that have shaded Texans for 500 years.

27 October 1870, Pittsfield (MA) , pg. 1:
The old Indian Treaty Oak of Longmeadow has fallen from age. Its circumference was twenty feet.

8 December 1879, Philadelphia Inquirer, pg. 3:
A giant white oak tree, beneath which the last treaty with the Cherokee Indians was signed, by which they gave up their lands and moved west of the Mississippi, still stands near Oglethorp, Ga., and is a conspicuous landmark. it is known as the “Treaty Oak,” and has been preserved on account of its associations.

21 October 1906, The State (Columbia, SC), part II, pg. 22:
A TREATY OAK.
(Hopewell, South Carolina treaty of November 23, 1785, with Cherokee—ed.)

9 May 1925, Dallas Morning News, part 1, pg. 4:
TREATY OAK MAY
SOON BE DESTROYED

HISTORICAL TREE IN AUSTIN
PREVENTS SELLING LOTS
FOR BUILDING.
By The Associated Press.
AUSTIN, Texas, May 8.—Treaty oak, one of the most famous trees in Texas history, will soon be destroyed, unless the city or some historical organization will pay for the upkeep of the lots occupied by the tree, Mrs. Walter H. Caldwell, owner, said Thursday. The tree, measuring over 100 feet in breadth, stands on two lots owned by Mrs. Caldwell.

Stephen F. Austin in the first days of this city signed a treaty with an Indian tribe under the shades of the tree. Under the treaty no Indians should come nearer the settlement than the tree and no white man should go beyond the tree into Indian territory. Pacts were signed, battles planned and general conferences were held under the widespread shade of Treaty oak by the founder of Austin and other contemporary leaders of his time.

9 August 1925, Dallas Morning News, section 7, pg. 2:
Texas’ Famous Tree:
Under 500-Year-Old Tree in Austin, the Father of Texas Signed Compact That Fixed Boundary Line Between Land of Red Men and the Town of Austin—Its Life Now Threatened.

(OCLC library record)
Title: Treaty Oak poems.
Author(s): Townsend, Estil Alexander,; 1872-1932. 
Publication: Howe, Okla. : Scroll Press,
Year: 1928
Description: x, 61 p. : ill., port. ; 20 cm.
Language: English
SUBJECT(S)
Named Corp: Treaty Oak—Poetry. 
Geographic: Texas—History—Poetry. 

(OCLC library record)
Title: The tree that would not die /
Author(s): Levine, Ellen.
Rand, Ted, ; (Illustrator - ill.)
Publication: New York : Scholastic,
Year: 1995
Description: 1 v. (unpaged) : col. ill. ; 29 cm.
Language: English
Standard No: ISBN: 0590437240 :; 9780590437240 LCCN: 94-8394
SUBJECT(S)
Descriptor: Treaty Oak (Austin, Tex.)—Juvenile literature. 

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (1) Comments • Thursday, September 06, 2007 • Permalink


While on a visit to Austin our friends took us by and pointed the tree out to us, telling us about a treaty made under it.  Never hearing about it before we just thought that was nice, but now reading here, I wish there was a picture and the next time we go to Austin, I will make sure we stop to give it Honor, my ancestors may have sat under it for I am 4/4 Comanche, and its said my G.G Grandfather was from S. Texas. Udah, Thank you for this History lesson.

Posted by Beverly Sapcut Isaac  on  06/19  at  09:16 PM

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