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Welcome to our news and history blog!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Old Buttonball Tree Attracts Attention (1910) and a Letter from Caroline Mead of Cos Cob

Famous Tree is Doomed,
Source: Saturday. February 19, 1910. Page 1:

Is 150 Years old or More-The Last of Three That Were in Greenwich in Putnam's Day.

The old button ball tree which stands next to the Graphic office, on the Archer property, is doomed.

It's days are numbered, and its too bad-it is in the way, and a danger.

There is hardly anybody takes an interest in old trees and such things but has stood and it admired this one. We have seen strangers stop in front of it, walk around it, look up at its height and comment upon it in surprise and admiration.

It apparently looks strong and healthy, but it is not, and it has got to give way, like many of the old houses, bridges, mills and other such things associated with the Revolution to the march of progress.

There is a big hole in this old buttonball, large enough for a boy to stand up in. In fact we have seen small boys crawl into the hole near the ground and hide.

It's exact circumference is about twenty-one feet, four feet from the ground, and its height about one hundred feet.

How long has it stood there? We don't know. It has truly been there seventy-five years, and was then apparently as it is to-day, so we are told, by a resident now living who used to reside nearly across the way from it. Other old inhabitants say they don't know how old it is, but "Guess it must be one hundred and fifty years sure."

It is one of three remarkable trees that were in Greenwich during colonial days before the Revolutionary war. The other two are gone, blown down by unkind wind, decayed were they on the inside so badly that they became an easy prey to a strong northeastern.

One of them was located in front of the late Colonel Thomas A. Mead's property, and only a few years ago during a severe storm, it succumbed and fell to the earth. Fortunately it didn't blow over onto the old house, but on the lawn in front, leaving a stump which was afterward dug up and taken by the late A.A. Marks to his property at Sound Beach, where it was set up in the ground as a sort of relic and curiosity being about fifteen feet high.

The other old buttonball was at Cos Cob, and stood in front of Ebenezer Young's place, the old homestead as it is called. This toppled over one night ten or more years ago, when a northeast wind struck it, because it had been eaten away so on the inside that it could not withstand the force of the gale. It broke off about twelve to fifteen feet above the ground, and for a number of years that old stump stood there as a sort of landmark, people in Cos Cob who will tell you that in the one in that place two men were in hiding all night chased by cowboys. And some such story is linked to with the one that stood in front of the Mead homestead.

Apparently it seems unnecessary that this old tree at the side of the Graphic office should be cut down, for it is certainly a handsome tree. They tell of years ago, when the building that is now the Graphic office stood at the corner of Greenwich avenue, and was a sort of post office and general store combined, that bolts with rings were driven in the side of the tree, to which the horses of farmers and others or hitched who came here to trade. One man says he remembers seeing some four or five horses tied to this old tree at one time. It was sort of public hitching post so to speak.

It will be cut down in the course of a week or two, so if you want to see it before it goes, you'd better come take a look at it pretty soon. We took a picture of it a few days ago, and are glad we did. It's a pretty good picture and those acquainted with it will readily recognize the tree. The little girl standing by the side gives a suggestion as to the size.

To those of our readers who live away from Greenwich, and there are many get the Graphic in various parts of the world, it will recall Greenwich as they remember it years ago, but which is changing so rapidly from the old Colonial town, where the British cowboys and Tories brought the minutemen, to the rich suburb of the greatest city in the world. 

In another twenty-five years there will be hardly anything left of the "old Horseneck" as it was when "Old Put" was a terror to all who were not true and loyal to the colonies.

Source: Greenwich Graphic. Saturday, February 26, 1910. Page 1:

Graphic Readers Send Communications-One of the Historic Old Trees Was an Oak

In the gathering historical data more or less difficulty is involved. Memories are treacherous, the view of a circumstance by one individual is different from that of another, and with the lapse of time there are distortions and the misstatements that arise as a matter of course, and for which no personal blame can attach.

There was an instance in the Graphic story last week about the buttonball trees, in which three trees were spoken of as a buttonballs, when one was an oak instead, that at the Young place in Cos Cob. The writer had three buttonball trees in mind and confused the one that stood next to it on the plot of the present Presbyterian manse on Lafayette place, to which historical data also attached, with the Cos Cob oak inadvertently.

This has brought out some additional facts, as the following letters show, that will create still more interest in the records and the passing of these old landmarks, cherished as they have been, and the Graphic will be more than gratified to receive ever additional data about these as well as other trees, also old time buildings and localities, the observant among its readers may be pleased to send. Every recurring story adds to the already large accumulation that is gradually forming into synthetic order for use in the near future.

Editor Greenwich Graphic:

Having read the article on the old trees in the Graphic of February 19, I write to correct a mistake in regard to the tree in Cos Cob which stood in front of what you term the Everett Young place (and is now owned by a party of that name) but the tree in question found them before the place was occupied by Mr. Young. 

Moreover, it was not a buttonwood, but an oak. When it fell I was the owner of the place and had been for many years. It was the birthplace of my husband, William H. Mead. He told me that as long as he could remember the tree had looked to be the same old tree. Strangers traveling often stopped to walk around it and measure it. The cavity was very large. I have been one of twelve standing inside of it, and two or three more might have gotten in. Twice it was set on fire by mischievous boys, and nearly the whole neighborhood quickly assembled to extinguish the fire. 

I was away out of the state at the time it fell. It was at midnight, and the crash was heard more than a block away, but fortunately it fell away from the house, blocking the street, and costing me over thirty dollars to have it removed into the woodyard, about 200 feet away. It was a symmetrical tree in shape, much handsomer than the buttonwood pictured in the Graphic, and more dense in shade. I should be pleased to show you a picture of it. I think you like accurate statements, therefore I have taken the liberty of sending this.

Mrs. William H. Mead
Relay Place, Greenwich, Feb. 22nd.