Clicky

Discover the Legacy of the Charter Oak – America’s Historic Symbol of Freedom

Last Updated:
Photo of author

Expert Gardener & Horticulturist in Training

This article may contain affiliate links. We may earn a small commission if you purchase via these links. Learn more.
Home » Ancient & Remarkable Trees » Discover the Legacy of the Charter Oak – America’s Historic Symbol of Freedom

The year is 1687 in Hartford, Connecticut, where the Charter Oak, an enormous white oak tree on Wyllys Hyll, becomes a symbol of resistance and ingenuity.

This ancient tree, having witnessed the changing landscape since the 12th or 13th century, is thrust into the annals of American history when Captain Joseph Wadsworth hides Connecticut’s Royal Charter within its hollow.

Hiding-the-original-charter-in-the-oak
“Hiding the original charter in the Oak.”

This daring act is to prevent the charter’s confiscation by the English governor-general, Sir Edmund Andros, thereby preserving the Connecticut Colony’s autonomy against British control.

The Charter Oak’s story doesn’t end with its fall in a storm in 1856.

Its wood becomes a source of pride and remembrance, transformed into significant symbols of freedom such as the Governor’s desk and legislative chairs, embedding the oak’s legacy deeply in American heritage.

Furthermore, the planting of its acorns, spreading Charter Oak scions across Connecticut and beyond, perpetuates the tree’s enduring symbol of independence and the unbreakable spirit of a people committed to self-governance.

Location

The Charter Oak stood majestically on Wyllys Hyll in Hartford, Connecticut, marking a site of historical significance that witnessed pivotal moments in America’s early struggle for independence.

Type of Tree

A White Oak tree, distinguished by its expansive canopy and sturdy trunk, characteristics typical of the species Quercus alba.

This species is renowned for its longevity and strength, making the Charter Oak not only a significant historical symbol but also a natural marvel that stood for centuries.

It is the state tree of Connecticut.

Is the Charter Oak Still Alive?

No, sadly the Charter Oak fell during a storm in 1856.

The_Charter_Oak_Charles_De_Wolf_Brownell_1857
The Charter Oak, oil on canvas, Charles De Wolf Brownell, 1857.

What Happened to the Wood?

After the Charter Oak fell, its wood was salvaged and transformed into a variety of significant objects, embedding the tree’s legacy into the cultural heritage of Connecticut.

The timber was used to craft items such as the desk for the Governor of Connecticut, chairs for the Speaker of the House of Representatives and President of the Senate in the state capitol, and various other artifacts displayed in prominent locations.

Additionally, the wood was made into personal items like a cane presented to President Andrew Johnson and a baseball for the Charter Oak Base Ball Club of Brooklyn, demonstrating the wood’s symbolic importance and the reverence held for the tree’s historical significance.

Descendents

Following the fall of the Charter Oak in 1856, acorns from the tree were collected and planted across Connecticut, giving rise to what are known as Charter Oak Scions.

These descendants were strategically placed in parks, town greens, and other significant public spaces, often commemorated with plaques and monuments.

Over time, these scions have grown into mature oaks, extending the legacy of the Charter Oak across the state and beyond.

Each tree serves as a living memorial to Connecticut’s rich history and the enduring symbol of freedom and resilience represented by the original Charter Oak.

Connecticut Charter Oak Descendent marker - Simsbury, Connecticut, USA.
Connecticut Charter Oak Descendent marker – Simsbury, Connecticut, USA.

Can You Visit It?

A monument was established in 1905 to commemorate the site of the fallen Charter Oak.

Located at the intersection of Charter Oak Avenue and Charter Oak Place in downtown Hartford, this monument features a round column crowned with a globe, resting on a base adorned with four whales and sea shells.

It reads “Near this spot stood the Charter Oak, memorable in the history of the colony of Connecticut as the hiding place of the charter October 31, 1687. The tree fell August 21, 1856.”

Legacy

Marking its cultural significance, the Charter Oak is immortalized on the Connecticut state quarter, as well as in various commemorative items, ensuring its legacy continues to inspire admiration and respect for generations to come.

The Charter Oak’s significance is further commemorated through its depiction on stamps and coins, enhancing its legacy in American culture.

In 1935, to mark Connecticut’s tercentennial, the Charter Oak was featured on a commemorative half dollar, capturing its image and historical importance on currency.

That same year, the tree was also celebrated on a U.S. postage stamp, allowing its story to be shared widely across the nation.

A Stamp printed in USA shows Charter Oak, Connecticut Tercentenary Issue, circa 1935
A Stamp printed in USA shows Charter Oak, Connecticut Tercentenary Issue, circa 1935.

These commemorations on stamps and coins serve as a tribute to the Charter Oak’s enduring symbol of independence and resilience, embedding its legacy in the everyday lives of Americans and collectors worldwide.

Want More?

Did you find the Charter Oak story fascinating?

If this story captivated you, consider delving into the history of Australia’s Prison Boab Tree, exploring the Anne Frank tree’s poignant legacy, learning about the unfortunate demise of the Tree of Ténéré or uncovering the mysteries of the Tree of Life in Bahrain.

Sources

Photo of author

Fern Berg - Founder

Expert Gardener & Horticulturist in Training

Fern has planted and currently cares for over 100 different native and exotic fruit, nut, and ornamental trees. She also cultivates an extensive vegetable garden, several flower gardens and cares for an ever-growing happy family of indoor plants. Fern has a special interest in biodynamic farming, food production and closed loop agriculture. Fern founded Tree Vitalize to help guide others with an interest in tree planting, identification and care.