Learn Still Standing Tall: The Legend of the Treaty Oak
I’d come to Austin for a chance to kick back and take in some of the stunning hill country scenery but my day soon took a twist I hadn’t anticipated. I’m taken in by the history that surrounds me at the estate – built as a country home by Edgar “Commodore” Perry, a longtime Austin real estate developer in the late 1920s – and I stop to talk with Jackie to learn more.
During our conversation, Jackie shares with me some of the history of Austin, and while it might be most famous now for its noteworthy live music scene, BBQ and ability to keep things “weird”, I’m drawn in by a different side of the city – the one that sets it center stage as the capital of Texas and the site of so many significant historic events in the state’s creation.
A lesser-known gem Jackie mentions catches my attention – The Treaty Oak, estimated to be about 600 years old and the last surviving tree of a group known as the Council of Oaks. Proclaimed as a perfect specimen by the American Forestry Association and inducted into the group’s Hall of Fame in 1927, I learn that the Council of Oaks were often the gathering place for Native American tribes to dance, hold conferences and conduct war councils.
Legend also holds that Stephen F. Austin, known as the Father of Texas, negotiated with Native Americans to sign the state’s first boundary treaty in the 1830s and that Sam Houston, a leader in the Texas Revolution, relaxed in the tree’s shade after he was ousted as governor.
In 1989 the tree was intentionally poisoned, but numerous arborists, native healers and financial support were able to preserve and save more than a third of the tree. Today, acorns from the Treaty Oak have been planted throughout Texas and in other states, and I learn that a surviving sapling from the tree now stands tall outside Austin’s city hall.
Located near the state capitol less than ten minutes from the estate, I journey over to Treaty Oak Park to view the tree for myself. As a gentle wind blows and the leaves rustle, I gaze up and take in the still-beautiful tree that has witnessed so much and still stands tall as a symbol for Texas.