Yesterday, FlatlandKC published a story titled Big Tree “A Living Monument” in Old Northeast, about a Burr Oak located on Monroe Avenue. In the story, they referenced a Northeast News article that we had published in 2002, and was available in the KC Library archives. Our digital archives go back about twelve years, but we were able to access this story in print, and we have re-produced it for those who have been asking us about it. Some readers may also remember another tree that Northeast News chronicled in 2014.
Originally Published October 2, 2002
There is a tree in Historic Northeast that sprouted from an acorn long before George Kessler was planning the city’s boulevards. In fact, the giant Burr Oak living in the back yard of Harold and Phyllis Edwards’ home was alive and well when Missouri became a state in 1821. It was there even before the United States was declared a country 226 years ago, a distinction that earned it recognition as a Liberty Tree during the 1976 bicentennial. Last week, a fall trimming of it’s dead branches brought neighbors out to chat for a while over the noise of a chainsaw. One neighbor, Gary Stuart, even took a souvenir branch home.
“My daddy used to say we wished this tree could talk,” said Phyllis Edwards. “This of the stories it could tell.” From Native Americans to French fur traders to settlers, it is impossible to know but intriguing to ponder how many people may have encounter the tree with it was still a part of a forest. When Monroe Avenue was developed, the tree was spared by the bulldozers, perhaps because it had already grown so large.
The tree also has the distinction of having been a runner up for Champion Tree status. The largest Burr Oak tree in Missouri lives in the Ozarks and stands 84 feet tall, on a trunk that’s 2772 inches four and a half feet from the ground. Champion trees are judged on a point system that combines the height, trunk size and crown spread (width of farthest branches). The Edwards have not measured their tree in some time, but think it might be worth submitting their Liberty Tree for another round of competition.
Phyllis lived at 328 S. Monroe Ave when she was 13 years old; her father brought the duplex for his plumbing business in 1955. “He used to say he bought the tree and got the house,” said Harold Edwards. The Edwards moved back to the duplex about 15 years ago to take care of aging parents, and Phyllis and Harold continue to value their natural asset. They arrange to get the tree trimmed up every few years. “We don’t want the dead wood to fall on anyone,” Phyllis said.
While the exact age of the special tree will not be known as long as it stands, the Edwards are sure of at least one anniversary – their own. The couple celebrates their 40th wedding anniversary on Sunday.