Historic tree to grow in Hancock

by Geoff Fox

A the descendent of a tree that saw the seeds of the American Revolution planted was itself planted in Widmeyer Park last Thursday, September 27, by the Hancock Lioness Lions Club.

The tree is a tulip poplar and a descendent of a tree that stood in Annapolis for close to 400 years before it died in 1999 from damage caused by Hurricane Floyd. This tree, called a Liberty Tree, was the last surviving Liberty Tree from the original 13 colonies.

When it was alive, the Liberty Tree in Annapolis was considered the largest known of its species in the United States at a height of 124 feet with a circumference of 26 feet, and a spread of 117 feet.

A Liberty Tree was a gathering place for Sons of Liberty groups throughout the American Colonies and from those meetings and discussions the American Revolution was planned.

Under the Annapolis tree, American revolutionaries advocated for independence from Great Britain during the Stamp Act of 1765.

The original tree stood several blocks from where George Washington resigned his military commission as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army on December 23, 1783 at the Annapolis State House. Samuel Chase and William Paca gathered under the tree for meetings. The two men were later signers of the Declaration of Independence.

Francis Scott Key, author of the Star Spangled Banner, often walked under the branches of the tree as a student at St. John’s College in 1790.

Now, almost 260 years since the revolutionaries met under the tree in Annapolis, a new generation of Americans in Hancock will gather to decide the future of Hancock and America.

At the August Lions Cabinet Meeting, it was brought to the groups’ attention the seedlings from the Liberty Tree were available, said President Jeanne Ward, and if any club would want have a seedling planted in their town, they could.

“So we contacted them and we thought a beautiful place would be the Widmeyer Park because our Lions Pavilion is also in the park and we thought it would add to the beauty and hopefully improve the environment,” Ward said.

The tree, which was about two feet tall, was planted along the bank of the Little Tonoloway Creek across from the play equipment.

A crew from the town took care of the digging the hole and filling in around the tree.

Champ Zumbrun of the Allegany County Forestry Board takes a measurement of the hole dug for the Liberty Tree that would be planted along the Little Tonoloway Creek in Widmeyer Park.

Members of the Hancock Lioness Lions Club gathered in Widmeyer Park to plant a new Liberty Tree along the banks of the Little Tonoloway Creek. On hand were (left to right) Faye Conley, Gerald Chalupka, Mary Chalupka, Wilma Smith, President Jeanne Ward, Champ Zumbrun of the Allegany County Forestry Board, Pat Spinol, and Lewis Miller.

Champ Zumbrun, a member of the Allegany County Forestry Board and a member of a Lions Club in Allegany Couny, said since 2009, there have been over 100 Liberty Trees in Maryland alone, but there have been trees planted in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.

He added there have been trees planted in the ancestral home of the seedlings in Annapolis and St. John’s College.

Zumbrun, who is a retired forester, said the planting of Liberty Trees is a project from the Forestry Board.

“We’re trying to keep this going on because I think it tells a great story about American history,” Zumbrun said.

He added when kids are at the tree planting events, there’s an environmental message and the importance of trees and what they provide for humans and the communities.

The tree also acts as a small contribution to pass on our heritage to the next generation.

As for protection, a cage was placed around the tree to protect it from any hungry deer that may wonder up to it.

With the emerald ash borer and other tree diseases effecting trees in the area, Zumbrun said so far there are no pests or diseases that would harm the tulip poplar tree.