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The Tree That Owned Itself

The Tree That Owned Itself
By Summer Price

Credit: Bloodofox/public domain

In Athens, Georgia, there is a white oak with property rights. In the early 1800’s, a Professor for the University of Georgia decided to deed ownership to his white oak out of pure love for the tree.  William H. Jackson was the original owner of the land on which the tree stands. He decided to give the tree possession of itself along with 8 feet surrounding the tree before he passed.  Of course the tree pays no taxes and isn’t technically legally allowed to own itself but the Athens community has decided to recognize the tree as its own property and has made sure to protect its rights. The tree is included in the Athens’ municipal clean up and its rights have never been questioned. It is protected by a small enclosed fence.

At the base of the tree is there is a marker that reads as follows: “For and in consideration if the great love I bear this tree and the great desire I have for its protection for all time, I convey entire possession of itself and all land within eight feet of the tree on all sides – William H. Jackson”. The actual written deed has never been found but that doesn’t stop the city of Athens from protecting their beloved tree.

Unfortunately, the original white oak had fallen ill to disease and fell during a windstorm in 1942. However, the residents of Athens decided to take a seedling from the original tree allowing a new one to grow in its place on October 9th, 1946. The new tree is currently thriving and living a healthy life on the top of the steep hill where Dearing and Finley streets intersect. Some like to call the new tree the Son of the Tree That Owns Itself and has been deemed the most famous tree in America.

The Tree That Owns Itself has been recognized by Ripley’s “Believe it or Not” and multiple magazines and newspapers around the world. Who knew we had such a famous tree just right outside of our city? So it is an easily assessable sight to see! For more information on the tree, you can contact the Athens Junior Ladies Garden Club.


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