Wolcott Historical Society News - September 2008
By Florence Goodman
Recently I received a note in the mail from an anonymous writer along with a newspaper article written by George Krimsky from the Waterbury Republican American concerning "Charter Oak Tales." The writer asked me to investigate the status of a Charter Oak tree in Wolcott.
I had read the same article and knew that we had a Constitutional Oak tree in town, but really had never heard about a descendent of the Charter Oak tree. I also knew that many people had confused the two trees and thought our Constitutional Oak was a descendant of the Charter Oak; it is NOT.
The Charter Oak was a white oak tree and the Constitutional Oak was a pin oak tree, not common to this area. Then to my surprise, I spoke to Alex Nole, a longtime resident, who informed me that he had a descendant of the Charter Oak growing in his yard. He said he received it several years ago as a gift from his family. His tree came with documentation stating that it was grown from a seed taken from a descendant of the original Charter Oak. Alex also mentioned that he thought Mrs. Jane Woodard, who in the 1960's was the delegate from Wolcott on the Connecticut Constitution Revision Committee, had received a seedling that she had planted somewhere in town.
I spoke to Jane's daughter, Sue Scully, who thought it might have been planted in the vicinity of the Town Green, but really wasn't even sure if there was a tree, so I checked out our Town Green; it does not contain any oak trees. I did check around the Town Hall and found many oaks, but only two that looked like white oaks.
I spoke with several other residents that might have remembered if Jane had planted a tree and they had never heard about it. I spoke to our Town Clerk and she checked out minutes from town meetings in the 1960's, but could not find any information concerning the tree. I also spoke to John Washburne's daughter, Kathy Shea, and she didn't remember anything about it. Thus, we both agreed that if the tree existed, her dad would have surely documented it in the town's 175th Anniversary book in 1971.
Finally, I checked out and old article from the Bristol Press that Wolcott Trader wrote in 1976 concerning our Constitutional Oak. In that article, John Washburne also mentioned the confusion between the two trees, but only stated that we had a Constitutional Oak tree.
In the meantime, I had emailed George Krimsky at the Waterbury Republican American to ask if he had received any other e-mails concerning such a tree in Wolcott; he had not. He did tell me that a second article on the subject was forthcoming, which would list the names of the towns that had descendants of the tree and Wolcott was not one of them. So as of this date, to my knowledge, Alex Nole has the only descendant to the Charter Oak.
Also in his second article, George explained the confusion between the two trees that I previously mentioned. So to clear up all confusion, I too would like to tell you about Wolcott's Constitutional Oak tree.
The story of our Constitutional Oak tree begins in October of 1901, when a vote was taken to hold a Constitutional Convention in Hartford to revise the existing constitution. (It had previously been revised in 1818.) Although the electors voted to hold the convention, they were concerned about the proposed changes. In 1902, the U.S. Department of Agriculture presented each of the 168 delegates with a pin oak tree seedling to commemorate the passing of the proposed revisions. They were to be planted in their hometowns in public places and be known as "Constitutional Oaks" as memorials to the expected new state constitution, but the revisions never passed.
Our Constitutional Oak was planted on Spindle Hill Road on the property that was then owned by Mr. Evelyn Upson, who was the delegate from Wolcott to the Constitutional Convention in 1902. Mr. Upson planted the pin oak seedling on his property so that he could maintain it while it was young. It was his intent to eventually transplant the tree to the Town Green, but the transplanting never occurred. Thus, after 106 years, the tree continues to grow on the side of Spindle Hill Road across from the James Alcott homestead
When Mr. Upson died in 1918, the property was sold to the Peterson family. It was used as a dairy farm until the 1960's. Today, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Current own the property where the tree still majestically stands. If by chance you come to the intersection of Mad River and Spindle Hill Roads, look across the street from the James Alcott homestead (a dark blue saltbox) and you will see our Constitutional Oak tree.
Pin Oak Leaf
White Oak Leaf
Constitutional Oak Plaque
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