“Our happiest moments as tourists always seem to come when we stumble upon one thing while in pursuit of something else.” -Lawrence Block
Back in 2013 I took a world wind tour of Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston, South Carolina. I happened to notice a very large tree that made me take pause... but after all, I was there to see gravestones, so I continued on without spending much time viewing the tree.
As a collector of all thing cemetery related, I located a postcard some time later that featured Magnolia Cemetery.
To my surprise, it portrayed the same giant oak that I had stumbled upon the year before. The postcard had been published at the turn of the 20'th century and was postmarked 1908.
The card referred to the tree as the "Old Oak" of Magnolia Cemetery. It estimated the tree's height at 40-60 feet while branches spread some 100 ft. outward from the tree. The trunk was quoted at over 20 ft. in diameter.
How had I overlooked such a gem within a cemetery?
In 2016 I made plans to once again visit Magnolia cemetery and this time I wanted to pay homage to this spectacular specimen.
More than 100 years after the postcard of this amazing ancient oak was mailed, there I stood in front of it, once again. But this time, I had done some research on the tree.
The oak had definitely grown even larger. The horizontally reaching limbs, easily seen in the old postcard, are so large and heavy now that they lay spreading across the ground. The current bough spread is estimated at 117 feet, the trunk circumference is approximately 25 feet and the trees height is 60 feet plus.
To get an idea of exactly how huge this fabulous oak is, look closely at the picture on the left. That is me standing just to the right of the tree!
Aging gracefully hasn't been an easy process for the old Grandfather Oak, as it is nicknamed. In 1989, Hurricane Hugo hit South Carolina. The oak was quite badly damaged. Mead's Tree Service was quickly called in to save the tree, if possible. Years later now, the tree is flourishing. One has to look in the back of the tree for the signs of the hurricane's wrath.
So, by now you must be wondering... just how old is this tree?
Magnolia Cemetery was founded in 1850. Before there was a cemetery here, these grounds were the estate of Col. William Cunnington a close friend of Gen. George Washington, who had on occasion, attended dinner parties here. No doubt taking notice of the massive oaks and magnolias alike.
Estimates of the tree's age put it somewhere near 800 years old, some argue possibly even older!
The photo to the right was taken in 1898 by Clarke Studio just after a snow storm.
It looks identical to the postcard that took me on my journey back, proving yet again, you never know what treasures you will discover inside America's Great Cemeteries.