The old oak tree, a landmark at S. Fifth and Seminary streets near the new high school, is again attracting attention and efforts are being made by interested persons and local clubs to have the tree properly trimmed and repaired.
(Note: The new high school referred to above was Rockport High School which opened in 1957. The building was later used by South Spencer Middle School and in 2008 houses the Lifetime Learning Academy along with other educational institutions. A sign now stands where the old oak once grew.)
Little work has been done on the tree in recent years and there have been occasional evidence of decay along with falling and broken branches. The tree, regarded as possibly the largest in Indiana and one of the largest in the country, is handsomely shaped and has been admired by visitors to the city for many years.
The late Sam Logsdon, veteran florist, tried to draw attention to the tree's need for repairs in his weekly column on the activities of the Rockport Kiwanis club. His efforts met with little material support during his lifetime but did create interest in the situation. Now it seems that Mr. Logsdon's hopes will be realized.
Supporters of the project have been soliciting assistance and it is hoped local citizens will "chip in" with enough funds to pay for the work needed on the tree.
Edgar Lott, state extension forester, answered a recent inquiry on the huge tree as follows: "The American Forestry Association does conduct a Big Tree contest and annually publishes the list of the big tree champions in the United States. According to this list (published in the American Forest Magazine in April, 1956) there is a large Southern Red Oak in Cumberland, Maryland, which is the largest reported to date. This tree shows a circumference of 24 feet 11 inches, a heighth of 122 feet and the spread of the crown is reported as 132 feet. It is interesting to note that the tree (in Rockport) is not too far from the same measurements as this champion tree. It would be my guess that this tree is a champion for the state of Indiana for this species."
County Agent Lewis Cooper says that the local tree is 82 feet in heighth and its spread is 123 feet. The circumference of the trunk, measured about four feet from the ground, is 23 feet 10 inches with a diameter there of 7 feet 3 inches.
Mrs. Charles Hill, who lives in the neighborhood on Seminary street, says that 25 years ago the tree's circumference was 17 feet 3 inches and the diameter was 5 feet 4 inches.
Its age is estimated at 225 years, the variety, Southern Red Oak (Quercus Falcata).
The conservation committee of the State Society of Daughters of the American Revolution recently asked local chapters for photographs and information on large trees throughout the state. Miss Myrtle Posey, investigating the tree's background in connection with this request, offers an interesting bit of history. Units of the home guard were stationed at the tree during the Civil War with other unity located between there and the river as a precaution against rebel raids.
Persons interested in preserving this beautiful tree are invited to support the repair project with donations in any amount. These may be given to any of the following.
Miss Georgia Richardson at the Style Shop, representing the Business and Professional Women; Mrs. Joyce Brown at the Occidental Hotel, for the D.A.R.; Russell Bates at Tresslar's; Miss Sandra Martin at The Journal; Mrs. Betty Bauman at The Democrat, for Home Managers Club; Mrs. Ben Blume at Payton's for the Garden Club; Tom Fortune, Rockport Loan and Savings office, for the Spencer County Historical Society; Mrs. Jennie Squier, for the Woman's Club at the Occidental hotel; and Joseph Wiener at Weil's store.
Another similar article appeared in The Rockport Democrat, February 28, 1958. It was titled Rockport, Spare This Tree!