This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
AN interesting Volume might be written upon this subject, full of romance and stirring incidents, connected with the early days of the colonies. Many of the old landmarks bare passed away ; time, or the axe of the modern improver, has laid them low, and in a few years the remaining ones will have departed and he soon forgotten, or only thought of in traditions of the past. Europe boasts of her lordly trees, and the skill of her scientific horticulturists is taxed to the utmost to invigorate and prevent from decaying some noted and historical tree. The oldest tree in Europe is the Cypress of Somna, in Lombardy. It flourished in the reign of Julius Caesar, and is, therefore, nearly two thousand years old. It is one hundred and six feet in height, and twenty feet in circumference. Napoleon, who had no great respect for sacred things, in his march through Italy, altered the plan of his road over the Simplon, to avoid injuring this tree; this, in our estimation, atones for many of his acts of vandalism. A few years ago we could boast of a still more ancient tree, the Wellingtonia Gigantica; or, as it should more properly be called, the Washingtonia Gigantica, the famous big tree of Calaveras county, California. This mighty monster of the forest has passed away.
The Indians had, for ages, been in the habit of assembling under this tree upon their return from the chase or foray, and while relating their exploits, the squaws were cooking their food at its base. In course of time it became so much decayed that it was cut down, in 1850. It measured, in length, 300 feet, a portion of its top having been blown off some years previous. It measured, in circumference, over 90 feet. One section of it was hollowed out and sent to the London Exhibition. In this section a party of six sat down and partook of a repast. The bark of this monster tree was eighteen inches in thickness. Among the trees now standing in the valley, may be mentioned the Sentinels, 300 feet high and 69 feet in circumference, and the Pioneer's Cabin, 318 feet high and 73 feet in circumference. In contrast to this noble tree is the StuntedPine, called by travelers the One Thousand Mile Tree, from the fact of its being the only tree between Omaha and Salt Lake City. On this account it is celebrated.
At Roxbury, Mass., an Elm tree one hundred and fifty years old was cut down a few months ago, it having become so decayed as to be considered unsafe. All means should have been used to preserve this tree, for on one of its limbs the lamented Warren hung his scythe when he left his swarth to lay down his life for his country. The past year an Elm tree was cut down in Vermont, with a trunk measuring seven feet in diameter, two feet from the ground. It was three hundred years old, and made thirty-six cords of wood. The historic old Elm of Boston still stands, the pride of the Hub. The storm of 1860 shook it severely, and still later, in 1869, it lost several of its limbs. This is supposed to be the oldest tree in New England, it having been found there a sturdy and vigorous tree, by the founders of the Colony. This tree would, no doubt, have perished long since, but for the care bestowed upon it.
In front of the City Hall, New York, stood an old Elm tree, not much larger than its fellow trees, but interesting, from the fact that it had been the gallows upon which several patriots had met an ignominious fate during the reign of Provost Marshal Cunningham, of infamous memory. This tree was surreptitiously "removed one night, a few years ago, on account of its interfering with the movements of the military, when being reviewed by the civil dignitaries of the city. Within a short time the city has lost another old landmark, the old Varian Buttonwood, which stood on the sidewalk on Broadway, near Twenty-sixth street. This tree was planted between the years 1625 and 1630, thus making it two hundred and forty years old. It was the only surviving one of a row which had been planted by one of the old Dutch settlers. This part, of what is now the centre of the city, was then considered almost as far in the country as Yonkers is at the present day. The old tree became decayed, in consequence of its roots being confined by pavements and stone walls, and was cut down, much to the regret of the old citizens, and the relief, no doubt, of the proprietor of the house before which it stood.
If proper care had been taken of this tree, it would probably have stood for another century.
The most interesting tree in New York was the Stuyvesant Pear tree, planted by the sturdy old silver-leg Governor of New York, or New Netherlands, as it was then called. What is now one of the great thoroughfares of the city, and within a stone's throw of the noble Cooper Institute, was then the Bowrie farm of Peter the Headstrong. This tree was imported from Germany in 1647. It blew down several years ago, and its place is supplied by a scion taken from it. This tree possessed great vitality, and was sufficient proof that fruit does not degenerate through age. We have seen it filled with snowy blossoms and fair-looking fruit up to the year of its fall. At the corner of Twenty-fourth street and Third avenue, stood, until the year 1860, a celebrated Willow tree, which had a romantic history attached to it. A friend of Pope's sent him a box of figs from Smyrna. Upon opening the box he. found a small twig, which he planted. It grew, and in course of time it became a vigorous tree. When the Revolution broke out in this country, and King George sent his hirelings to crush it, some of his officers came to make a long stay, calculating to take possession of some of the conficated estates of the rebels.
One of the officers brought a few twigs of this Willow from Pope's garden at Twickenham. Upon arriving in this country he soon saw the situation, and as there had been no confication of land, nor, in fact, any likelihood of there being any for some time, he presented his cutting to Mr. Curtis, Washington's step-son. They were planted by him, on his demesne in Virginia, and grew finely. After the war, General Gates came to New York, and settled on a farm at a place then called Rose Hill. He brought slips from these trees, and planted one of them at the entrance to his grounds, and there it stood for eighty-four years. This tree was, no doubt, the parent stock of a large portion of what is commonly known as the Weeping Willow of this country.