Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Hidden Gems: Alabama Tales That Grow On Trees Pt 2

Blogger's Note: We continue our adventure through Alabama's history and stories surrounding a few unusual trees. 

The Blakeley Oak (or the Jury Oak) was site of the Baldwin Courtroom
 where the local judge would hold court from a branch on the oak.
The Blakeley Oak

No buildings remain in what was once the booming riverfront town of Blakeley, the first seat of Baldwin County. Population diminished during the Civil War and, after what is thought to be the war’s last battle was fought at Blakeley, people slowly moved away until, by 1865, it was empty.

But a remaining tree and a nearby plaque amid the otherwise unspoiled landscape tell a piece of the frontier town’s history. The plaque marks the location of a tree known as the Blakeley, or Jury Oak, the tree where one of Alabama’s most famous judges, Harry Toulmin, would hold court in the 1820s. Before the courthouse was built, Toulmin was known to hold court while sitting in the fork of the huge oak.

According to Llewellyn Toulmin, a Harry Toulmin descendent, the judge presided over court proceedings for most of southern Alabama, an area of more than 15,000 square miles. “His ‘courtroom’ was usually a large tree. At Blakeley, in what is now north Baldwin County, he would sit 8 feet above the ground on the branch of a huge live oak, and literally hand down justice from on high,” Lew Toulmin wrote.

HI Tree

The “HI” and the Married Trees

Three quite friendly trees greet visitors to Hays Nature Preserve in Madison County. Along a hiking trail at the park, a limb grew between two trees – reportedly a natural formation – to form an “H.” A third tree stands beside them, forming an “I.” They are known locally as the “HI” trees.

On the banks of Cullman County’s Crooked Creek, where a Civil War battle was fought in 1863, grow two red maples joined by a limb that forms a bridge between them. They are known as the “Married Trees.”

But were they joined by nature or by human hands?

Fred Wise, who has owned the land for 32 years and runs Crooked Creek Civil War Museum on the property, said a friend who is a Native American said it’s possible the trees were grafted by Indians as many as 200 years ago.

“They may have used them to mark the site where they buried something or as a trail marker,” Wise said. However, the truth behind the trees’ union remains a mystery.

Married Trees