The TCU Class of 1912 transplanted a tree to mark the university’s move to Fort Worth.
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More in Campus News: Alma Matters
Topics: object lesson
The live oak tree, located on University Drive, is about 156 years old. Photo by Carolyn Cruz
In the middle of campus, west of University Drive and northeast of Reed Hall, stands a tree older than TCU itself. A small plaque under the tree’s canopy says: “The only tree present on the new TCU campus was this Live Oak transplanted ‘from the forest’ by the class of 1912.”
The tree was once anonymous, said Provost Nowell Donovan. “A few years ago, an environmental science class measured the trees along University Drive and determined that the tree was an outlier — way too big when compared with the presumed age of the other trees. Subsequently, we found a photograph of the campus circa 1912, and there it was — a single tree standing in the prairie.”
A search through historical materials solved the mystery.
A fire in 1910 destroyed the main building on TCU’s campus in Waco, Texas, and the university moved north. The Class of 1912 spent its junior year in leased corners of downtown Fort Worth while construction began a few miles south on 50 acres of grassy plains, notably devoid of trees.
In the fall of 1911, the nomadic class started its senior year on TCU’s brand-new Fort Worth campus. The 1912 Horned Frog yearbook includes a timeline of noteworthy events: Nov. 30. “T.C.U. meets Poly on the gridiron”; Jan. 8. “Grover Stewart’s pig mysteriously disappears”; and March 22. “Planting of the Senior Tree.”
In 2011 a plaque was installed to distinguish the tree from the others.Photo by Carolyn Cruz
The then-50-year-old live oak, a gift from the first class to graduate along University Drive, was dubbed “monstrous” by the March 21, 1912, issue of The Skiff. Joe Murray, chairman of the committee of the Class of 1912, partnered with the Texas Shade Tree Co., which transplanted the tree from unspecified “neighboring woodlands” and promised it would flourish in its new home.
If the record can be believed, the tree is now 156 years old — not unusual for a live oak — and has the potential to survive another 850 years. The tree has lived through the Civil War, the turn of two centuries, 30 U.S. presidents and an ever-changing TCU landscape. The university is now home to a variety of trees, enough to earn it a Tree Campus USA designation, but the gift of the Class of 1912 will always be the first.
— Zach Martino
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