Austin (Tex.). Parks and Recreation Department. Treaty Oak Collection.
An Inventory of a Collection
The Treaty Oak of Austin is located in a small city park on Baylor Avenue between Fifth and Sixth streets. The live oak is believed to be more than 500 years old, and its branches span over 128 feet. It is the only survivor of a group of live oaks known as the Council Oaks. Though proof is lacking, it is said that Stephen F. Austin signed the first boundary agreement between the Indians and the settlers under these trees. According to legend, Indian women would drink a potion made from the leaves of the Treaty Oak during the full moon to ensure their men's zeal and safety in battle. In 1927 the Treaty Oak was admitted to the American Forestry Association Hall of Fame for Trees and declared the most perfect specimen of a North American tree. The land where the tree grows belonged to the W. H. Caldwell family from 1882 to 1937. Mrs. Caldwell offered the land for sale for $7,000 in 1926 because she could no longer afford the taxes. When efforts by patriotic groups to induce the state legislature to buy the land for a park failed, it was feared that the tree would be cut down by some future developer. The Austin City Council finally bought the land from T. J. Caldwell in 1937 for $1,000. In 1989 Paul Cullen poisoned the Treaty Oak with Velpar, which is specifically designed to kill hardwood trees. In spite of extensive efforts, only about one quarter of the tree was saved. Cullen was tried and convicted of felony criminal mischief and sentenced to nine years in prison.
SOURCE: John A. Haislet, "TREATY OAK," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/tpt01), accessed February 28, 2012. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
The story of the act of deliberate vandalism against Treaty Oak thrust the City of Austin and the City Forester, John Giedraitis, into the national spotlight. As a result hundreds of get well cards were sent addressed to Giedraitis or directly to Treaty Oak. The majority of the collection consists of cards created by children and signatures gathered on poster board from people who visited Treaty Oak after the incident in 1989. In addition there are letters and get well cards sent by adults and civic organizations as well as a photograph of cans of chicken soup left at for the tree. Three videotape compilations of the various local and national news stories about Treaty Oak dating from 1989 to 1993 are also included, along with two wood slabs of the actual tree.
Restrictions on Access
Open to all users.
Restrictions on Use
Transferred from the City of Austin Park and Recreation Department.
Austin (Tex.). Parks and Recreation Department. Treaty Oak Collection (AR.1993.019). Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Texas.
Donor #: D)/1968/063
Donation Date: 1993
Finding aid created and encoded by Molly Hults in 2012.
Detailed Description of the Collection