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The Old Oak Tree has a Story

The old historic oak tree finally fell due to the trauma of Hurricane Harvey. Some say, it had been growing on the corner of Jackson and S. 5th Street in downtown Richmond, for over one hundred years. During the weekend of September 3, 2017, the old oak tree crashed onto the street adjacent to the Historic Fort Bend County Courthouse. The road was shut down for several days due to the extensive clutter. Many residents stopped by to pay their last respects.

As city work crews began cleaning up the debris, I salvaged a piece of splintered wood from the old tree. This fragment of Richmond history now sits on my desk, anxious to tell the story of an experienced centenarian. Can you imagine the parade of history that passed under its’ branches? Partnering with the monument of Mirabeau B. Lamar on the north lawn, and the statue of Lady Liberty on the roof, the old oak tree chronicled times gone by.

This old tree probably stood watch over the construction of the Court House in 1908. As architect C. H. Page guided the workers on the scaffolds, the old oak tree looked over his shoulder. As the many wagons unloaded the tile for the mosaic floors and the green glazed wainscoting, the old oak tree observed every delivery. When workers took a break from the hot Texas sun, the old oak tree provided a canopy for the weary.

When the George Foundation loaned the courthouse such treasured items as the antique plate-glass mirror, the rustic horse collar, and the vintage wash basin, the old oak tree silently approved the benevolent act of generous people. And when the bold man climbed up to the clock tower three times each week to wind the clock, the old oak tree felt the same anxiety as the others did who watched from below.

The old oak tree was there during the famous murder trial of Spencer Corey Goodman in 1992. He was accused of killing the wife of ZZ Top manager Bill Ham. The old tree saw the national news media and the crowds of gawkers line the streets for a glimpse of celebrities.

And there were so many other happenings like the first Tuesday auction on the courthouse steps, the hundreds of crosses displayed on the courthouse lawn, and the preacher with the big truck parked on Jackson Street. When they moved the war heroes’ memorial away from Jackson Street, and back to the park on the East side of the courthouse, the old oak tree saw it all.

During the quiet months of renovation, leading up to the rededication of the courthouse in 2014, the old oak tree stood as the trusted sentinel day and night. When the Dedication day finally came, it was the old oak tree who provided shade for the cars and cameras.

And now, the old oak tree is gone. A memory quickly forgotten but always remembered. There is a message in that oak tree. In the Bible, the oak tree usually had a key role and powerful message. Rebellious Absalom was caught by the hair in the branches of an oak tree (2 Samuel 18:9). The angel of the Lord sat under an oak tree to commission fearful Gideon (Judges 6:11). In Isaiah 6:13, the stump of an oak tree is used to illustrate the coming of the Messiah!

Could it be that the fallen oak tree of Richmond, has a sacrificial message for those who lost so much during the hurricane? As it laid shattered in the street, that old oak was mourning the losses that our neighbors experienced. It reminds you of Isaiah 61:3 NLT, “To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the LORD has planted for his own glory.” Be encouraged today, though the mighty oak has fallen, a better day is coming!

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