Wednesday, March 15, 2017

600 Hundred Years Old . . .

That's the age of the oldest White Oak tree in North America and it's located only 30 minutes from our house. It's been in the news lately because it has finally died and will be cut down next month. 

The tree had been standing for nearly 300 years before the Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church was built in 1717.  

Such an impressive sight! Its branches spread 150 ft. and it's about 100 ft. tall.


George Washington is said to have picnicked under its shade and Gen. Jean Baptiste de Rochambeau's troops passed by it on their way to the Battle of Yorktown, VA, in 1781. 


In the 1930s three tons of concrete were poured into its cavity and steel rods and cables were installed to support the weight of its branches.


The good news is that another already established 25' white oak grown from this tree's acorns at a local college will be planted on the property. So it will continue to live on :)  

Due to the tree's instability the cemetery has been cordoned off to prevent curious onlookers like me from wandering around :) But I did take a couple of gravestone photos like this one of Rev. Samuel Kennedy who served as the fourth pastor of the church from 1751-1787.

Next to Samuel is his wife, Sarah, who died in 1787.

Near the foundation of the church stands this early sandstone marker of John McCollum who died April 18, 1760 at the age of 103! His epitaph reads:

You old, you young, you middle aged, great and small, 
Take my advice, be ready for death's call. 
I once was young and many days did see, 
I dyd when old, no age from death being free. 
I'm now Intwom'd in earths dark cavern lye, 
Conquered by death. Make ready all to dye. 

And as I was getting ready to post this blog I remembered a poem my grandfather had painted on the wall in the basement of his house. Here it is:

I think that I shall never see
A poem as lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
                            -- Joyce Kilmer 

I'll have some quilt news next week :)

Copyright 2017, Barbara Schaffer 


  1. Wow, that has always been one of my favorite poems. I think that is wonderful that your grandfather had it painted on the wall! I learned from my grandfather (half Native American) to always thank a tree whenever I took anything from it, even if it was simply to hang my coat from its branch. I am sorry for the loss of this fabulous tree. We had a 240 year old Elm that had to come down (a few towns from me) and it was so sad. The tree was named Herbie! Thanks for sharing this.

  2. That's an amazing tree! If trees could talk, right? I love those old headstones.

  3. There's something sad about loosing a tree no matter it's age. But this one has lived a glorious life and seen so much. Interesting sentiments on the grave markers.

  4. Oh I love that poem. I haven't read it in years - thank you.
    What a sad end to such a old grandaddy in the graveyard. Nice that you documented it here. How happy that a family tree is replacing it. :)
    Thanks for the memorial details too, they are always interesting.

  5. I was wondering about the headstones wrapped in plastic. Is that to protect them from the weather/elements? I live in sunny California and I've never seen that before.


    Melissa Raddetz

    1. Good question! I just called the church office and was told exactly what you thought. It serves as protection from the cold weather and will be removed once the weather warms up. Hopefully, that's soon!

    2. Thanks Barbara! I really enjoy your blog a lot. Interesting that only a few were covered...

  6. Old John and Mary Bern McCollum are my 7th Great Grandparents. They were banished by the King to "Plantations abroad" (as opposed to death or prison) for their Presbyterian religious beliefs from Scotland.