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1924 restoration


Tons of concrete used to fill in the 72 cavities in the tree  


feet of threaded rod  installed to brace the tree and concrete


feet of cable were anchored to support the spreading limbs


Total cost to the church to restore the massive oak

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Effort Being Made to Save

Aged Oak from Decay

Tree Surgeons Busy Treating Historic Tree in Presbyterian Churchyard at the Ridge.



   Five expert tree surgeons have been working since Wednesday of last week on the historic oak tree in the Basking Ridge Presbyterian church yard in an effort to prolong its life or stay entirely its trend toward decay.

   Recently the trustees of the church noticed that the heart of the great tree and several limbs showed signs of decay and decided on a plan to stay if possible the apparently approaching dissolution of this mighty patriarch whose spreading branches have for years softened the wintry blasts and shaded the many plots where for decades have rested the loved ones of those themselves now numbered among the dead.

    Tree experts were engaged and their first effort was a thorough inspection of the tree to decide upon a plan or procedure.

   It was found necessary to chisel a large aperture in to the heart of the oak where the greatest decay was evident.  This done, chiseling of the limbs in several places was resorted to and the holes was filled with specially prepared cement.  One of the holes drilled is large enough to hold three men at one time.

  Aside from this, the tree is being thoroughly disinfected and many weak places, such as crotches and limbs have been braced with galvanized cables, placed to hold the heavy limbs.

  In order not to damage the tree while making repairs ropes and special swings are used instead of the ordinary climbing spurs.

  To a reporter of the News, John Gilley, who is in charge of the operations explained that because the tree is without forest environment, it does not get the proper nourishment and thereby it was found necessary to drill holes with a crowbar eighteen inches deep under the grip of the branches and fill these with a fertilizer in order to supply nourishment to the oak through the fine hair roots which are passed through the main trunk of the tree by way of the sap wood and through the branches out to the leaves, where it is digested, when

this nourishment passes between the bark and wood and builds the tree as it comes down, forming annual rings.

    Thus far 1,500 pounds of fertilizer has been used in this work or about as much as would be required to cover an acer of land.

According to Mr. Gilley, the tree breathes and eats much the same as a human being and is able to reproduce itself.  Its breathing is accomplished through little pores on the sides of the leaves called stomata and has also lenticels in the bark through which it breathes. 

  The tree is twenty-five feet in circumference at the base and sixteen feet around at four feet from the ground.  It is seventy-five feet in height and its spread is 126 feet from tip to tip.  Estimated from a piece of wood chiseled from the heart of the oak, the tree expert places its age at between 350 and 400 years.

  The oak’s history dates back to the Revolutionary War when it is said General George Washing ton and his men camped in that vicinity and a building on what is now the church property was used as a hospital.

Many soldiers are buried in the church yard and aside from the graves which have no markers, about 150 tombstones stand under the spread of this monarch of the forest.

   It is estimated that it will cost $1,200 to $1,500 to put the tree in shape.

  The Presbyterian Church, which stands nearby, was founded in the early part of the eighteenth century and draws its membership from the territory for miles around, and has the largest membership in the vicinity.  Rev. L.G. Bennett is the present pastor of the church and the trustees are Charles L. Roberts, president; Sanford W. Tunison, Willard Smith, David W. Neill, Dr. Clare M. Henry, William Childs and Albert French.

   Some of the grave stones in the cemetery date back to 1732 and a grave against the church building shows that the person there dies at the ripe old age of 103.

   Some of the graves have become extinct through the passing years and this is proved by the fact that about two months ago when a grave was being dug on what was thought to be a vacant plot, a nail from a coffin and some bones were unearthed.

Original article published in the Bernardsville News

Author unknown

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