HIGHLANDS COUNTY -- A majestic live oak tree at the Edna Pearce Lockett Estate was dedicated by the Sons of the American Revolution as a Liberty Tree on April 18.
The dedication was part of the Highlands County Heritage Festival, a two-day event that celebrated the 100th anniversary of the county’s founding.
James Dean, president of the Highlands County SAR, said the tradition of the Liberty Tree dates back to the Revolutionary War. The original Liberty Tree in Boston was cut down by the British in 1775. That tree, an elm tree that stood near Sam Adam’s brewery on the road into Boston, had become a gathering point of the Sons of Liberty and all those who opposed English oppression.
Dean said he first saw the live oak on the Pearce Lockett Estate years ago after he climbed the fence to visit the historic property, which at the time was controlled by the South Florida Water Management District. “I was just drawn to this tree,” he said. He said the tree is believed to be more than 450 years old.
Dean said after Butch Thompson purchased the property and started restoration and preservation of the historic site, he was thrilled the big tree would not be lost to development.
The massive live oak, which is more than 6 feet in diameter, was growing in 1775, when the original Liberty Tree was cut down. It was likely already growing when Boston’s Liberty Tree was planted.
Live Oak is the slowest growing of all oak trees, Dean explained. He said the age of a tree can be determined by measuring the circumference of the trunk at the spot about 4.5 feet off the ground. He said SAR is seeking expert advice to determine the exact age of the tree.
The Highlands County Heritage Festival, held April 17 and 18 at the Edna Pearce Lockett Estate, coincided with Liberty Day, usually celebrated in Massachusetts and Maine on April 18 and 19, Dean said.
On April 18, 1775 700 British troops cross the Charles River by boat and then marched north to seize the American arsenal at Lexington and capture John Hancock and Samuel Adams. That same night alerted by two lanterns in the steeple of the Old North Church, Paul Revere and William Dawes left Boston on horseback to raise the alarm and warn Hancock and Adams.
At 5 a.m. on April 19, 77 armed militia awaited the British arrival on Lexington Green. The British fired first – the shot heard round the world – and the Revolutionary War had begun, Dean explained.