Behind the Name

The Story of the “Treaty Oak”

According to legend, this live oak stood as a witness to a treaty between Indians and the Anglo settlers. The man representing the settlers was reputed to be none other than the “Father of Texas” Stephen F. Austin himself. There has been no hard evidence that any such treaty took place – but it makes a good story – and it may have helped save the tree.

The tree had been one of many that were collectively known as “The Council Oaks”. A imaginary line then ran through the cluster was supposed to be a boundary-line between Indians and settlers.

In 1927 it was proclaimed to be “The most perfect specimen of a North American tree” and was inducted into the American Forestry Association’s Hall of Fame in Washington-on-the-Potomac.

In 1937 it was nearly cut down by the owner. When he was told it was “the most perfect specimen of a North American tree” he was impressed. He started back to cutting it down – but with an appropriate display of reverence. They tried to reason with him and they appealed to his civic pride, but in the end, it was cash money that saved the day. The tree became city property.

A stately marker was installed and the tree just grew there on Baylor Street minding its own business and providing housing for generations of birds until sometime in the 1980s when a drum of powerful herbicide was poured at its base. The person responsible was apprehended and served hard time. The tree’s future looked bleak at best.

The ground was treated, neutralized, and some was replaced. The tree was fed and injected and half of the crown was removed. It shed most of its leaves while it was in shock and it wasn’t known for many months if it was going to send out new growth.

The experts performed nothing short of a miracle in restoring the tree to health.

Following a tradition of utilizing historic wood, the limbs were cut into gavels and souvenir discs.

The tree lost the shape that once made it a perfect specimen – but it’s still here. It would be nice if another marker was placed near the tree to tell of the enormous efforts that saved it from near-certain death.

Even without proof of a treaty – the Treaty Oak has been admitted into the Texas Live Oak Society.

– John Trosser