By Greg Ritchie
HOUSTON COUNTY – The Houston County Historical Commission (HCHC) needs some help to unravel a mystery involving a pecan tree planted almost 50 years ago. And The Messenger is certain there is someone out there who has the answer.
It all came to light – like many mysteries – by accident. Crockett City workers were cleaning up in Davy Crockett Memorial Park when they noticed something half buried in the ground. Hard, metallic – strange, they thought, that they hadn’t come across it before.
Unfortunately, people dump things in the park all the time and the workers didn’t think much of it, until they pried it from the ground, wiped off the wet earth and read the words they saw written on the heavy, metal rectangle:
“HOUSTON COUNTY’S ‘LIBERTY TREE’
PLANTED JANUARY 23, 1976
CROCKETT BICENTENNIAL COMMITTEE”
Where in the world had this been the last 47 years? Why had it only now come to light? And where was this Tejas pecan tree and where did it go?
Wanda Jordan from the HCHC was able to come across a newspaper article from the time showing the planting and dedicating of this “liberty tree” during the bicentennial celebrations in 1976 – 200 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
Not quite a murder mystery, sure, but it seems a little piece of our Houston County history was destroyed and forgotten, only to be unearthed years later.
Houston County Judge J. B. Lively led the dedication along with then-County Commissioner Rayford Gallant, Kennard Mayor Roscoe English, along with members of the Daughters of the American Revolution and Crockett Redbud Garden Club.
Jordan contacted several of the local experts on Houston County lore, but none of them seemed to remember the tree, or the planting and ceremony that year.
The real question is, what happened to the tree and why did no one notice the commemorative plaque had fallen? Was it cut down to make space for the basketball courts? Was it knocked down in a storm and the plaque accidentally buried under the debris?
No one, so far, has an answer. Jordan and this newspaper, though, would like to know. Were you there that day at the dedication and planting of the tree? Do you remember a news story or local gossip about what happened to it?
Jordan has secured a replacement tree, which is already 12 feet tall and will need to be transported to Crockett where the HCHC plans to replant a Tejas Pecan in the park and re-attach the old sign, at least somewhere near where it once must have stood.
They are open to ideas of when and where – the City of Crockett confirmed to this reporter their support to plant the new tree in the park. The tree must be planted after the first freeze; maybe Jan. 23, 2024 – 48 years to-the-day after the original tree was set – might be an appropriate date.
We can always use another tree, and always use a reminder of our independence and what the tree of liberty should stand for, even in modern times.
The men and women who planted the original tree never suspected both the tree and the plaque would somehow disappear, only to be found in far-away 2023. The county can honor their memory by replanting a tree in the park, maybe with our own little addition to the original plaque.
If you have any information to add or can help make a small donation to help get the tree transported and planted, please contact either the HCHC or The Messenger.
Greg Ritchie can be reached at [email protected]