The last of the Liberty Trees - AP Photo/Roberto Borea

America's Last Liberty Tree is Cut Down

October 25, 1999

ANNAPOLIS, MD (AP) – Several hundred people gathered in a solemn ceremony today as crews began cutting down the last of the Liberty Trees – where American colonists once incited rebellion against the British.

The 400-year-old tulip poplar on the campus of St. John's College, already heavily decayed, was irreversibly damaged by Hurricane Floyd.

Wreaths were laid at the base of the tree and at the base of a 100-year-old offspring that stands about a hundred yards away.

"We all feel a great sense of sadness over the duty we must perform today," said college president Christopher Nelson.

But he said a crack opened by Hurricane Floyd continues to widen and nothing could be done to save the tree. It also had suffered damage from lightning and earlier hurricanes over the years, and was largely held together by concrete and metal cables.

After a bell tolled 13 times for each of the original colonies, crews went to work with chain saws. It was expected to take several days to bring down the whole tree.

Nelson said the wood from the tree would be used to make mementos for St. John's students and alumni. Cuttings already had been taken to start new trees.

Before the American Revolution, local chapters of the Sons of Liberty met beneath trees in most if not all of the 13 colonies to plot resistance to British rule. The trees became a potent Revolutionary War symbol.

At least two were destroyed by British forces, said Edward Papenfuse, Maryland state archivist. Others were cut down or lost to disease or old age, he said.

©1999 Associated Press. AP Photo/Roberto Borea