Georgia Magazine - August 2019 - 7

Curious GEORGIA

By Carolyn Crist

TREE THAT

OWNS
ITSELF

The Tree That Owns
Itself in Athens is
sometimes called
the Son of the
Tree That Owns
Itself because it is a
descendant of the
original, which fell
in 1942. Inset: An
inscription in stone
shares Col. William
H. Jackson's wishes
for his beloved
tree's sovereignty.

STANDS TALL
IN ATHENS
CAROLYN CRIST

CAROLYN CRIST

U

niversity of Georgia
(UGA) freshmen often
don't realize that a
celebrity lives a few blocks from
their dorms. Although covered
regularly by newspapers and
magazines around the world and
featured in "Ripley's Believe It or
Not!," this celebrity likes to keep
to itself, quietly guarding a sleepy hill where Dearing and Finley
streets intersect in Athens. In fact, the Tree That Owns Itself may
be one of the most unusual celebrities in Georgia.
When he died in 1832, UGA professor Col. William H.
Jackson deeded the tree "entire possession of itself" as well as
the land within 8 feet of the tree on all sides. The deed was never
tested in court, though property law insinuates it's likely not
legally binding because a person receiving property must have
the legal capacity to receive it.
"Even though the original deed was never located, the
Athens community still protects the tree and land around it,"
says Alvieann Chandler, communications specialist at the
Athens Convention & Visitors Bureau.
The other fun fact that many people don't know: The original 100-foot tree fell during a storm on Oct. 9, 1942. Members
of the Junior Ladies Garden Club (JLGC) gathered acorns from
the site and grew a second-generation tree. On Dec. 4, 1946, the
club members transplanted a 3-foot sapling that grew into the
tree that stands there today, which is sometimes called the Son
of the Tree That Owns Itself. Now the steward of the tree, the
JLGC has a Tree That Owns Itself Committee that oversees the
tree, holds cleanup days and provides the tree with whatever
it needs.
"Being stewards of the tree is an integrated part of the
Junior Ladies Garden Club and our oldest continuing project,"

JLGC President Louise "Tootsie" Adams says.
"We value preserving the story or folklore and
plan to care for the tree for generations to come!"
To that end, the committee members involve their
daughters and granddaughters (the Junior Misses) in caring
for the tree.
The giant white oak towers over the ranch-style and bungalow homes in its neighborhood. Finley Street curves around the
base, narrowing in respect of the tree's 8-foot domain. In fact,
the portion of Finley leading up the hill to the tree is Athens' only
remaining cobblestone street. A retaining wall and ornamental
chain surround the base of the tree, with a stone placard carved
with Jackson's words facing Dearing Street. An older placard
with Jackson's words sits on Finley and bears a small brass
plaque noting that the JLGC planted a descendant of the original
tree in 1946.
Visitors often stop to snap pictures of the tree, which was
placed on the National Register of Historic Places list in 1975,
along with the rest of the Dearing Street Historic District. The
tree also was named an Athens historical landmark in 1988.
Nearby residents don't tend to mind when tourists come to
see their celebrity neighbor, as long as the visits are quick and
reasonably quiet.
"Most people are just curious about it and how it got the
name," Chandler says. "Which of course makes them want to
hear the origin story, because it is a unique title for a tree-and a
unique story."
Carolyn Crist is an Athens-based freelance writer.
www.georgiamagazine.org

7


http://www.georgiamagazine.org

Georgia Magazine - August 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Georgia Magazine - August 2019

Contents
Georgia Magazine - August 2019 - Intro
Georgia Magazine - August 2019 - Cover1
Georgia Magazine - August 2019 - Cover2
Georgia Magazine - August 2019 - Contents
Georgia Magazine - August 2019 - 4
Georgia Magazine - August 2019 - 5
Georgia Magazine - August 2019 - 6
Georgia Magazine - August 2019 - 7
Georgia Magazine - August 2019 - 8
Georgia Magazine - August 2019 - 9
Georgia Magazine - August 2019 - 10
Georgia Magazine - August 2019 - 11
Georgia Magazine - August 2019 - 12
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Georgia Magazine - August 2019 - 17
Georgia Magazine - August 2019 - 18
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Georgia Magazine - August 2019 - 24
Georgia Magazine - August 2019 - 25
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Georgia Magazine - August 2019 - 27
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Georgia Magazine - August 2019 - 33
Georgia Magazine - August 2019 - 34
Georgia Magazine - August 2019 - Cover3
Georgia Magazine - August 2019 - Cover4
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