Lead Mine White Oak

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tomhoward
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Re: Lead Mine White Oak

Post by tomhoward » Sun Oct 21, 2018 12:26 pm

North Syracuse where I live, has fine examples of 3 of the main forms of White Oak – open-grown, partly open-grown, forest-grown. The largest open-grown White Oak is a “young” (200 years old) tree at Bear Rd. Elementary School – this tree has a single trunk over 6 ft. dbh, and is about 75 ft. tall. Another large open-grown White Oak is at the NYS DOT (Dept. of Transportation) at South Bay and Taft Rds. This is an older tree, over 5 ft. dbh, and looks the same today as in a c.1920 photograph. There are several other large open-grown White Oaks in North Syracuse, including a nearly 5 ft. dbh tree on Main St. (US Rt. 11), that dates to about 1770.

The largest partly open-grown White Oak (and the largest White Oak I know of in Onondaga County) is in a small patch of woods on a side street, 61” dbh, 105 ft. tall, with a huge spread.

I grew up in North Syracuse next to a wooded area with many White Oaks. The oldest part of this woods, the old growth North Syracuse Cemetery Oak Grove, survives today, but some of the big open-grown White Oaks at the edge of the woods are gone. I remember one magically old gnarled tree, possibly over 5 ft. dbh, at the edge of a field surrounded by young White Pines and by a Sassafras grove. This tree could have been over 300 years old, but there is no way of knowing how old it was – it was hollow, and is now long gone.

North Syracuse contains the only lowland old growth Oak groves I know of in upstate NY – the North Syracuse Cemetery Oak Grove, and the Wizard of Oz Memorial Oak Grove. In these 2 groves, the old forest-grown form of White Oak reaches the finest level of development in this region. The White Oaks in the Wizard of Oz Oak Grove are between 140 and slightly over 200 years old, and up to 112 ft. tall, but the densely packed, gnarly forest-grown White Oaks of the North Syracuse Cemetery Oak Grove, are much older, possibly 300 or more years old. When Joan Maloof saw the forest-grown White Oaks of the Cemetery Grove, she said they are among the oldest White Oaks she’s seen. These White Oaks are not exceptionally large – the largest forest-grown White Oaks in the Cemetery Grove are about 32” dbh, and some of the oldest-looking are even smaller – they are up to 113 ft. tall.

Both oak groves (especially the Cemetery Grove) are on poor soil sites that inhibit growth to great sizes, yet partly open-grown White Oaks at the edge of the Cemetery Grove are up to 42” dbh.


Tom Howard Oct. 21, 2018

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gnmcmartin
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Re: Lead Mine White Oak

Post by gnmcmartin » Sun Oct 21, 2018 5:11 pm

Dan:

Of course, the "report" that this tree is larger than the Wye Oak was, is just a "report," or an opinion. I am not sure what kind of measurements were made, and what standards under which they were made. If I get a chance, I will inquire about the ownership of that land now. It may be that I would have to go to the courthouse to find out who the present owner is. It was about 20 years ago that I was told about this tree. Of course, even if it were not larger than the wye oak, I am sure it must be a very impressive tree. But I can assume that this tree was a "cull," and not deemed worth cutting for lumber. So it must be either short and with low branches, either past or present, or has some other defect. It simply can't be anything like the Leadmine oak, as it was reported to be--if it was, it would have been cut.

I have a very old white oak on my timberland, and it is obvious why it was never cut. It has a short trunk, and at one point one whole side of it was severely damaged, and now it has partially grown over where the injury was so a person could find refuge from a storm inside it. I hesitate to guess how old it might be, but while large, it is not especially noteworthy for its size.

My main point was to emphasize about how many people--private landowners--are reluctant to have their trees known, for fear that any publicity could cause a nuisance, at the very least. I have no doubt that there is the tree I was told about, and that it is remarkably large. I assume that there must be others who have very, very large trees on their land, but who choose not to make any report about them.

--Gaines

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gnmcmartin
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Re: Lead Mine White Oak

Post by gnmcmartin » Sun Oct 21, 2018 5:23 pm

I did a quick Google search, and the landowner where the large white oak is supposed to be is apparently live and well. I won't pursue this tree at this time. If one had a drone, one could find it easily enough. It might even show up on one of the MD or WV (I won't even reveal the state right now) State DNR aerial photographs. I might just talk to the district forester and see if he can pull out the relevant photo for me to look at. But such a request might seem strange, and I might have to explain some good reason for my request. My feeling is that following up on this right now would be awkward, and I might be betraying the confidence under which I was told about this tree, even though that person is no longer living.

--Gaines
Last edited by gnmcmartin on Mon Oct 22, 2018 7:43 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Rand
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Re: Lead Mine White Oak

Post by Rand » Sun Oct 21, 2018 9:26 pm

Well Gaines, even if you tell us those trees were growing on Mars, it would still be nice to see pictures and measurements of them.

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gnmcmartin
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Re: Lead Mine White Oak

Post by gnmcmartin » Mon Oct 22, 2018 7:52 am

Rand:

Agreed! I am a white oak enthusiast, so.... What I might do, if I get a chance that is not too awkward, is ask to see an aerial photo of the place where the tree is supposed to be. But even if I could see on the photo what might seem to be the tree, it could only confirm that there is a big tree there, and little more. But knowing what I do about the owner's feelings, I see no way I can see this tree at this time, even if I swear to secrecy.

--Gaines

DwainSchroeder
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Re: Lead Mine White Oak

Post by DwainSchroeder » Fri Oct 26, 2018 9:33 am

The Lead Mine oak is an intriguing tale. It's a shame that the story and the significance of the actual tree has been greatly overshadowed by the attention given to its misrepresentation in the photos. I have often wondered what the tree was really like. My guess is that it was indeed a very large tree, and that the misrepresentation was simply the result of a prank by someone having some fun. I have Ray Clarkson's book "Tumult on the Mountains" which contains the pictures. I certainly don't blame him for the prank; he was a victim of it.

Back in May of this year I contacted the Tucker County (West Virginia) Historical Society to see if they had any information on the actual tree. They didn't have anything in hand but they put me in touch with someone who had lived in the Lead Mine area all of his life. The tree was cut down in or around 1913 and the gentleman I talked to (by phone) was in his seventies, so everything he knew about the tree was second hand. He was somewhat familiar with the story, but he didn't have any idea on the actual measurements of the tree. He could only say that he had heard that the tree wasn't as big as the pictures indicated. He said that large areas around Lead Mine were timbered out in the early 1900s. The tree grew about a mile or so north of the town of Lead Mine. Some years ago he cut down a second growth tree in the area where he believed the large oak grew and the ring count put that (second growth) tree at germination right in the 1913 time frame. He believed that the Lead Mine oak grew on the ridge top, or maybe just slightly off the ridge on the southwest side of the ridge top at the top end of a hollow. The mountain ridges in that area are around 2500' elevation. I brought up the idea that the tree could have been a chestnut oak instead of a white oak because they are common on ridge top areas and they do get large, and they are sometimes considered and called a white oak. I also discussed with him that I would think the location somewhat down off the ridge top would be more likely to produce a big tree. Trees such as the Mingo Oak grew on a shelf on the mountain slope where they got a constant supply of ground water.

All in all, we had a great discussion, but in the end the final facts are probably lost forever and that adds to the intrigue.

Dwain

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gnmcmartin
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Re: Lead Mine White Oak

Post by gnmcmartin » Fri Oct 26, 2018 2:46 pm

To all Lead Mine oak interested people:

Two items in the reports about this tree not mentioned so far in this discussion are, first, that to fell the tree it was notched on three sides. This indicates that the diameter was too great for the crosscut saws they had available. I will try to find out just what saws were available in WV at the time. The other bit of the reports about this tree is that the "millable" portion of the trunk was taken to Crellin MD, where the mill was capable of handling very large logs. Of course I can't verify either of these reports.

One fact that we must remember is that loggers in those days did not routinely have cameras with them, but they always had measuring equipment, which they needed to buck the logs in the appropriate lengths for the mill. So one can be sure that measurements were routinely taken.

I was in Oakland MD this past week, and visited the museum there, and got the names of a couple of people who could help me find the picture I remember seeing. The misidentified pictures were in that museum, as they are in several others in addition to Clarkson's book, and the curator there agreed that that exhibit should be removed.

As I have said, conclusive evidence of just how large this tree was will never be found. I, for one, believe the reports of an extremely large white oak are "real." I have given my speculations about how the measurements taken could have been made, and why they could well indicate an amazingly large tree, even if they are now rather misleading.

But, if I can find a picture like the one I so clearly remember seeing of the 4 quarter sections of a very large trunk on railroad cars, and if the location and/or the locomotive and cars can be identified as being in WV or MD, I would think that there would be a very good possibility that they were of the reported very large white oak log from the tree felled near Lead Mine.

Now, here is my best hope of finding the picture I remember seeing--there are a fair number of "history buffs" in the general area of lead Mine WV, including Oakland MD, and Tucker County. Now that the pictures represented to be of that tree have been thoroughly debunked, I think it very likely that one or more of these people, who have the resources to do some searching for the picture I remember seeing, will now be quite interested, given that this tree has long been an "item" of local history.

If such a picture can't be found, I will have to assume that I am the victim of a "false memory." I have misremembered things in the past, and so-called "false memories" have victimized many fine people. The image of this picture, which I studied carefully when I saw it, is so clear in my mind that I will be quite surprised if I am such a victim. If no such picture can be turned up, I will apologize and ask for forgiveness.

Of course, such a picture, even if it is very probably of a portion of "legendary" Lead Mine oak, will not provide accurate dimensions. But, if such a picture can be found, it will suggest that at least one report about the tree is very possibly true--that it was so large it had to be "quartered" to handle.

--Gaines

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