Cutting of the Mingo Oak

Huntington Herald-Advertiser
September 18, 1938

Mingo County White Oak Will Be Felled Friday

Fungus Is Fatal To Forest Giant After 584 Years


This week a forest giant will be laid to rest on the ground where it has stood for over 500 years.

"Timber," the warning cry of the woodsman, will echo in the Mingo county forest that has been this ruler's domain for five centuries and the greatest forest white oak in the country, the Mingo County White Oak, will boom to the ground.

Victim of a fungus growth, the forest monarch, located on property of the Island Creek Coal company near Holden, failed to bear leaves last spring and foresters pronounced it dead.

So great is the size of the tree that special equipment is being brought to the small state park where it stands, and expert woodsmen will bring it to the ground.

Will Fall Friday

A number of woodsmen who compete in the log-sawing and wood chopping contests sponsored in many of the festivals and celebrations of this section of the country, will be brought to the site on Friday, September 23, to level the dead tree. It stands in the midst of second growth timber and towers to a height of 146 feet.

Ed Meek of Webster Springs, representative of E. C. Atkins and company, of Indianapolis, Ind., manufacturers of saws, has volunteered to furnish the men and equipment for the task, which will require expert work.

Age of the tree, as accurately as can be determined, is 584 years.

An increment borer was used to estimate the age of the tree in 1932 by Emmett Keadle, president of the Mingo County Fish and Game Protective association, of Williamson.

Older Than Columbus

This test, within 25 or 30 years of accuracy, indicated that 136 years before Columbus made his first trip to the American continents the acorn which was to become this giant took root in the soil.

The tree stands now, with its barren limbs extending far above the timber tops, on a small plot of land maintained as a state park. It is approximately one mile from the Mingo-Logan county line, four and one-half miles from Holden, the chief mining town of the Island Creek Coal company.

An improved highway leading from Logan to Williamson by way of Holden and Trace Fork of Pigeon creek passes along the edge of Trace fork immediately opposite this tree.

Many persons are expected to witness the falling of the tree, among them D. B. Griffin, state forester, E. P. Rice, of the Island Creek Coal Col, and representatives of interests which have controlled the property upon which it stands.

It[s] Only Rival

An effort was made several years ago to determine if the Mingo white oak were the largest of its species in the country.

Once one other tree was found which could exceed it in circumference, this being the Stony Brook., L. I., white oak. However, this tree was an open field tree and grew to a height of only 86 feet, little more than half as tall as the Mingo Oak.

Circumference of the Mingo oak at the ground line is 30 feet, 9 inches, and at four and one-half feet above the ground, it shows a circumference of 19 feet, 9 inches, or a diameter of 6 feet, 3 inches.

It has been estimated by enginners [sic] of the Island Creek Coal company, who measured the tree, that the trunk contains 15,000 board feet of lumber. It is unbroken to a height of over 80 feet.

Disposition Uncertain

Mr. Rice said the coal company had not decided upon its course in disposing of the timber but considered it likely that a cross section of the trunk would be sent to the Smithsonian institute to be preserved as an example of West Virginia forests.

The men who will fell the tree believe that it will be possible to level it without breaking the trunk.

The Williamson Chamber of Commerce has asked for a cross section of the trunk to be placed on exhibition there and others have asked for similar pieces of the tree.

Mr. Rice said thin sections might be polished and left unhewn as surfaces for large tables to be disposed of as the company sees fit.

Several years ago when the supremacy of the tree was established by careful checks of all previous claims the Island Creek Coal company leased to the Conservation Commission of the State of West Virginia, approximately one and one-half acres of ground surrounding this large white oak for the purpose of fencing, beautifying and converting it into a small park.

Park Now Reverts

Under the direction of the commission this land was cleared, fenced and a rustic bridge built from the road across Trace Fork and stone steps leading up to the tree.

Under provisions of the lease the land will revert to the coal company.

Only the tree's great size saved it from the woodsman's ax many years ago, Mr. Rice revealed.

It stood on timber land owned by the Cole and Crane Real Estate Trust which was leased to the North East Lumber Co. Under provisions of the lease for the North East Lumber Co. paid only for the lumber which it cleared.

The great Mingo oak was so large that it defied destruction. The company could not consider removing the tree because the job would have been too expensive.

Parks and Recreation