The Torture Tree, Cuylerville, NY

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Erik Danielsen
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The Torture Tree, Cuylerville, NY

Post by Erik Danielsen » Tue Oct 31, 2017 6:07 pm

Right beside western NY's Route 20A, also appropriately named "Big Tree Road," stands a monumental Bur Oak that was present at the time of the revolutionary war- and was an unfortunate party to some of its violence. The Sullivan Expedition was mounted to rout the Senecas, powerful allies of the British in the Genessee Valley and westward to Lake Erie. Sullivan and his forces systematically burned Seneca Villages and destroyed crops in the field in pursuit of their objective. It is no surprise that two advance scouts captured by Senecas, named Boyd and Parker, were not treated kindly. After being questioned, they were tortured to death, and the details on the record are not for the faint of heart: Boyd, in particular, had one end of his intestines nailed to the tree and was forced to run around it, not exactly a pleasant way to unwind after a long day.
The Torture Tree. See tiny human at base for scale.
The Torture Tree. See tiny human at base for scale.
Later the dead scouts were discovered by the main party, given a funeral, and reinterred. Later they were moved to Rochester's Mount Hope Cemetery. There's a big bronze plaque where the bodies were found. There's an additional plaque on a sign by the tree, recognizing its historical significance. And it's quite a tree! Based on my measurements I believe it's the same Livingston County tree listed as state co-champion Bur Oak (with 393 points, but height and spread are exaggerated). I visited on rainy Sunday 10/29/2017 and came up with the following numbers:

84.6' tall - 22.5'cbh - 104.6' Average Crown Spread - 119.1' Maximum Crown Spread - 380.7 Big Tree Points
The other side of the Torture Tree.
The other side of the Torture Tree.
Nearby are some big trees in a more natural area on the floodplain. I measured the two remaining stems of what appears to have originally been a very large 3-stem cottonwood, as well as a nice Silver Maple that's lost a lot of its Crown.

Eastern Cottonwood fusion, height listed is for larger stem
105.3' 15.3'cbh / 15.1'cbh

Silver Maple
82.3' 14.5'cbh
The uphill side of the cottonwood fusion. Again see tiny human for scale- these were very impressive.
The uphill side of the cottonwood fusion. Again see tiny human for scale- these were very impressive.
The downhill side, where the fusion and missing third stem are more apparent.
The downhill side, where the fusion and missing third stem are more apparent.
The Silver Maple.
The Silver Maple.

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Lucas
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Re: The Torture Tree, Cuylerville, NY

Post by Lucas » Tue Oct 31, 2017 6:50 pm

http://www.columbiatribune.com/91232fe2 ... b92ae.html

"The new measurements cut the McBaine tree’s point total to 401 from 410, but Grueber said it remains the state champion."

That is close to the McBaine tree. Nice one.
We travel the Milky way together, trees and men. - John Muir

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ElijahW
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Re: The Torture Tree, Cuylerville, NY

Post by ElijahW » Tue Oct 31, 2017 6:52 pm

Very interesting, Erik. This summer I passed by Big Tree Rd. while driving for work, and wondered what was down there. I guess I should have gone back. That’s some oak, with significant history. The Sullivan campaign was an ugly thing. Thanks for sharing the story.

Elijah
"There is nothing in the world to equal the forest as nature made it. The finest formal forest, the most magnificent artificially grown woods, cannot compare with the grandeur of primeval woodland." Bob Marshall, Recreational Limitations to Silviculture in the Adirondacks

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Erik Danielsen
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Re: The Torture Tree, Cuylerville, NY

Post by Erik Danielsen » Tue Oct 31, 2017 7:22 pm

Elijah,

Big Tree Road actually goes all the way to Orchard Park at one end and I'm not sure how much further East. It's named for the Treaty of Big Tree, which concluded the Sullivan Campaign. Apparently the treaty was signed under a gigantic oak in Geneseo, nearby. The Big Tree itself apparently died, as I've seen a photo from the 1930s of a section of it on display in Letchworth State park. I don't know if they still have it somewhere.

Lucas,

Nice article! I wonder where the species would be likely to max out. In my mind, it's neck-and-neck with White Oak for having the greatest size potential of the white oak group.

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Larry Tucei
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Re: The Torture Tree, Cuylerville, NY

Post by Larry Tucei » Wed Nov 01, 2017 3:39 pm

Erik- Super Burr Oak and the History is really interesting. That is a really large Silver Maple as well. Larry

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