The Old (really, really old!) Oak Tree

The Old Oak Tree

The Valentine Oak is a living artifact on the museum property & it has its very own cataloged number. Please feel free to come & visit it. Touch it & know you are in the presence of probably the oldest living artifact in the collection at Historic Valentown.

In an 1876 depiction of Valentine Corners, just before the Hall was built, the tree is a prominent landmark in the scene, with a distinctive mound at its base which is still there today. For some reason when all the rest of the land was cleared, someone decided to spare this one tree. Even then the signs of development & progress were all around it. The once deer trails & footpaths were now widened roads for carriages & wagons & local residents passed by it daily on their way to their destinations.

But what could this tree tell us of before our recorded history, when it was a small sapling pushing its way up through a dark woods of other oaks, chestnut, elms, & ash?

The old growth forests still existed & some of this tree’s ancestors were giants in their own world before the axe. The Northern Red oak is a species native to the area & is a very slow growing tree. It takes many generations for it to put on girth & mass. In the 1700’s it may have been on or near the Seneca trail that led north to Lake Ontario & Irondequoit Bay, where summer camps of the first people fished & hunted. And to the south the trail would lead down to the Finger Lakes & paths beyond. Who might have brushed it as they walked by, maybe hunters or early explorers? At that time there were not only deer but bear, cougars & wolves, all long gone, not even a shadow where they once walked.

Every growth ring on this tree recorded those moments into many years, the good seasons wide bands & the hard dry years when the growth rings were tight, all encoded in this very tree. It has survived all this time. It lives & breathes but it cannot speak to us directly of the history that happened all around it. And yet it still holds the past for us.

Check out our oak tree in our Exhibits Gallery!

Historic Valentown Museum