Passing of an Iconic American Chestnut Tree

Published November 1, 2021

A large American chestnut tree in Sherwood, Oregon, more than six feet in diameter, has succumbed to old age. The passing of such a large tree in current times is a rare event. The tree that died was planted in 1885 by a farmer named Hicks. A nearby second tree planted by Hicks, four feet in diameter, survives. The article, “Back from the Brink,” published in the February 1990 issue of National Geographic Magazine featured the trees. Francis Boone was the caretaker of the two trees growing on the property where he and his wife June lived. It is appropriate that Francis Boone, the sixth great-grandson of frontiersman Daniel Boone, took care of the two trees.

Members of The American Chestnut Foundation and others have sought out the trees to admire them and stand beneath their boughs. Recently one of those visitors reported to me that the larger tree died not long ago. I included a picture of the two trees in an article I wrote for the Winter 2017 issue of TACF’s Chestnut magazine titled “American Chestnut Trees in the Pacific Northwest.” (The article can be found here, pages 3-5.)

This visitor learned from the current landowner that wood from the dead tree might be salvaged. Further, the salvaged wood might be used to make benches to place under the remaining tree as a memorial to Francis Boone. He said the owner was looking for a contractor to evaluate the tree and salvage wood from it. I contacted the owner of an urban lumber company in Charlotte, was referred to his counterpart in Portland, Oregon, talked to him by phone, and ask that he contact the property owner for potential assistance. I appreciated the reference given me by the urban forester in Charlotte. He appreciates the value of salvaged American chestnut wood. Hopefully, people in the Pacific Northwest might learn to share that same appreciation. I never learned if the wood of a large, four feet in diameter American chestnut tree growing in Portland, Oregon was salvaged after the property owner had it removed.

The champion American chestnut tree in Oregon, located in Gladstone, is 99 feet tall, has a circumference of 19 feet (or 6 feet in diameter), and has a spread of 95 feet. I will check it out during my next visit to Oregon.