First Tree Planted on the Texas High Plains

Field review by the editors.

Panhandle, Texas

You have to look pretty hard to find a tree on the high plains of Texas -- which cover roughly 26,000 square miles. Back in 1888, a tree was even tougher to find. That's when settlers Thomas and Melissa Cree arrived. Thomas dug a hole in the ground for a house (no lumber), and then Melissa sent him off to find a tree. He eventually did, a sapling of an Osage-Orange, brought it back, and planted it by the hole.

The Crees moved away four years later, but the tree remained, growing in Texas lore if not particularly in size. In 1963 governor John Connally declared it a Texas Historic Landmark and gave it its own bronze plaque. Six years later it was dead, killed by pesticides sprayed on a nearby field.

The tree is gone, but the little fence that surrounded it, and the plaque, remain. Today a cluster of scruffy trees grows at the site, although it's unclear if they're second-generation growth from the First Tree, or substitutes planted by sentimental Texans.

First Tree Planted on the Texas High Plains

Address:
US Hwy 60, Panhandle, TX
Directions:
On the south side of US 60, roughly five miles south of town. I-40 exit 87. Drive north 4.5 miles to US 60, then turn right and drive another 4.5 miles. The little turnout with the tree will be on the right.
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Nearby Offbeat Places

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In the region:
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February 23, 2020

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