Local Lifestyle, News

“Killer Oak” taken down

by Trish Rudder

A large oak tree about 200 years old had to be removed last week from the front yard of Tom and Vita Hall who live on Route 9 east of Berkeley Springs, not far from U.S. 522.

A massive 75-foot oak tree that was leaning toward Route 9 East was cut down last week. photo by Vita Hall

The oak tree can be seen from across Route 9 from Mike Myers’ house as it was being cut down. photo by Mike Myers

The tree was more than 75-feet tall with a 15.5-feet circumference and was at least four-feet in diameter, Hall said.

“We learned there was history to that tree,” he said.

The Halls have lived in their house since 1989 and the tree was already huge when they moved in.

Their neighbors, Gertie and Junior Payne lived across the street and were in their 80s when the Halls were told the story about the tree that was named the Killer Oak.

“Gertie said in the old days before streets were paved, guys would ride on the running boards of the cars. One day a car was in an accident, and the young man on the running board got thrown into the tree and was killed.”

Another neighbor heard the same story about the tree called “the Killer Oak by old timers,” according to Mike Myers, who lives across the street from the Halls.

Myers said the past neighbors in the 80s told him that the tree was massive when they were kids.

Hall said when the old maple tree in Berkeley Springs State Park succumbed to the storm on Saturday, July 23, and had cracked open and fell across the southeastern part of the park, he became “disturbed” about his own tree, he said last Thursday.

“I was greatly concerned.”

Hall said if the tree fell, it would have taken out electric and utility lines and totally blocked Martinsburg Road, or done serious damage to his own home.

Family friend Joseph Hall, a retired D.C. arborist who moved to Berkeley Springs, has kept his eye on the tree, Hall said.

Over the years, Joe would look at the tree to assess its health. He would say to Hall not to cut a tree down if it still has life. If the tree needed trimming, Joe would do it since Hall could find no one who was willing to climb it.

Hall said back in 2011 he went into the house for something and by the time he came out, “Joe was already at the tree’s top ready to trim it.”

“Joe was in his 60s,” Hall said. “He climbed that 75-foot tree like a monkey.”

A couple of weeks ago, Joe stood in the driveway and said the tree was ready to come down, said Hall.

The tree had to be removed since it was leaning toward Route 9, and Hall was worried even more after the tree in the park fell.

Hall said his oak tree had a hole big enough in the bottom that his five-year-old neighbor could probably stand up in.

On Wednesday, August 10, local company Tree Works began removing the tree and finished cutting it down on Thursday, August 10. The stump needs to come out and the company will grind it down, Hall said.

“We are heartsick that the view has changed,” he said.

The west side of the house was always shaded, he said, and they want to replant a tree once the stump is ground and out of the way.

The oak tree left an offspring in their yard which is 25-feet high and about six inches in diameter, Hall said.

“It’s a healthy sapling,” he said.

Hall said they intended to tell the public that this tree could be the tallest or largest oak tree in Morgan County, but they never got around to it.

The Halls said on Monday they will replant a new tree next spring.