The Tree That Owns Itself
Friday, 8th January 2010 by Alex Turnbull
The white oak tree that stands on the corner of Finley street and Dearing street in Athens, Georgia, has a unique claim to fame – it’s commonly regarded as being the legal owner of the land that surrounds it, and confusingly, the owner of itself.
The story goes that the tree was originally on land belonging to a Colonel William Henry Jackson, who supposedly cherished childhood memories of the tree1, and as a way of protecting the tree, in 1832 deeded to the tree ownership of itself and the surrounding land.
Two stone tablets stand at the foot of the tree, which read:
FOR AND IN CONSIDERATION
OF THE GREAT LOVE I BEAR
THIS TREE AND THE GREAT DESIRE
I HAVE FOR ITS PROTECTION
FOR ALL TIME, I CONVEY ENTIRE
POSSESSION OF ITSELF AND
ALL LAND WITHIN EIGHT FEET
OF THE TREE ON ALL SIDES
WILLIAM H. JACKSON
The inscription is a slight alteration of a quote taken from an 1890 article that appeared in the Athens Weekly Banner, entitled “Deeded to Itself”. Amazingly, despite no-one but the anonymous author of the article ever having seen it, to this day the deed is widely considered law by the general public.
In 1906 a commemorative tablet, granite posts, and a chain barricade were added, but they couldn’t prevent the slow decline of the tree’s condition, and on October 9, 1942 the tree fell.
Fortunately the locals weren’t going to give up on their treasured attraction, and four years later, the Junior Ladies Garden Club planted an offshoot from the original tree, which is the tree we see here today – Son of The Tree That Owns Itself.
The Tree That Owns Itself at Wikipedia.
Despite the likelihood that he never set eyes on the tree until he moved to the area as an adult. ↩