Two hundred or so years ago a tiny acorn found its way into the sandy soil on a hillock near the western edge of the Eastern Cross Timbers in what would eventually be Arlington. As it grew into a post oak the tree would overlook a vast prairie teeming with buffalo and a meandering waterway now called Village Creek that had been home to the people who lived in this part of Texas – according to archaeological digs – for more than 9,000 years.
The tree would bear witness to the upheaval caused by a raging 1841 gun battle downstream between Texas Militia led by General Edward Tarrant and the tribes along the creek. This, the Battle of Village Creek, would be the last major conflict in North Texas between encroaching settlers and Native Americans. In time, too, as the Post Oak grew ever larger, it would see new communities emerge, Arlington and Kennedale included.
This leafy witness to history is now also a celebrity in the city’s 58-acre Southwest Nature Preserve just south of I-20 on Bowman Springs Road.
It was recently designated an Historic Tree by the Texas Historic Tree Coalition, a tree advocacy group, and is the first tree in Tarrant County chosen by the coalition. It will be listed in the Registry of Texas Historical Trees.
Its pedigree name is now The Caddo Oak (its scientific name is Quercus stellate.) It is 170 inches in circumference and has multiple trunks. Its path to fame began in 2016 when Fort Worth arborist Wes Culwell was preparing to give a presentation on historic trees to Friends of the Southwest Nature Preserve (SWNP) and was given a tour of the area.
He spotted the post oak, in the midst of overgrown brush but also surrounded by East Texas plants, including the Glen Rose Yucca nearby, which is found only in seven Texas counties. Its trunk size and huge branches told him it was an old tree. He suggested the friends group contact the coalition.
The research to nominate the tree was a three-year research effort of the SWNP volunteers led by Jim Frisinger.
The process for selecting an historical tree is painstaking, says Mary Ann Graves, president of Texas Historic Tree Coalition: “The coalition pulls together anthropologists, arborists, historians and communities where the trees are, so it takes time to pull a story together.”
“We’re grateful to the people at the Southwest Nature Preserve for bringing this tree to our attention,” Graves says. “They’re the heroes of this story.”
The Caddo Oak was officially designated as an historic tree during the preserve’s sixth anniversary in October.