The tree that owns itself

Open road: The tree that owns itself

ATHENS, Georgia (WUSA*9)--White oak trees are common to the American landscape.  They dot our parks, forests and neighborhoods.  They can live hundreds of years; however, there’s one white oak tree down south that stands tall from all the rest. 

At the corner of Finley and Dearing Street in Athens, Georgia stands a 50 foot legend.
 
"I know its been there a super long time," says Berkley Kirsche.
 
A legend made of wood.
 
"It’s awesome.  It’s cool that it’s the only one.  Ever," says Sophie Maschinot.
 
The story is well known. 
 
"I know that a man died and left the tree to itself," says Hannah Grabit.
 
"He loved the tree and the shade it gave and so he basically deeded the land to the tree," explains Douglas Shearer.
 
As the story goes William Jackson left behind a will in 1820 giving the tree its freedom.  A newspaper ran the story and for more than a century the residents of Athens have recognized this tree as The Tree That Owns Itself.
 
"And, then they had postcards of the tree.  And, they would advertise it as the only tree in the world that owns itself," says Pat McAlexander.
 
Pat and Hubert McAlexander live next to this tourist attraction.  People often think their driveway is a road.
 
"They get stuck in our backyard.  There’s no place to turn around," says Pat.
 
"What interest me is people taking pictures of it.  Because it’s just a tree,"" says Hubert.
 
70 years ago the original tree was knocked over in a storm and died.  But, the legend was saved.
 
"In '46 they planted a sapling from one of the acorns," explains Pat McAlexander.
 
"So, the tree that owns itself is now the decedent of the original tree," says Douglas Shearer.
 
"It’s now the son of the tree that owns itself," says Trey Davis.
 
Living next to this popular icon hasn’t been easy.  
 
"People visit it 24-7," says Hubert McAlexander.
 
"People are out there all the time," says Pat McAlexander.
 
The McAlexander’s have seen everything from weddings to people camping.  
 
"We better not go into everything," says Hubert as he laughs.
 
The Tree That Owns Itself has its own Facebook page and children’s book.  But, it doesn’t have its own maid service.
 
"The tree may own itself but it doesn’t pick up after itself," says Hubert.
 
Skeptics say the tree story is false.  Some believe a newspaper editor in the late 1800’s made the whole thing up because the tree grew in the middle of the street and he didn’t want the city to cut it down.   
 

© 2017 WUSA-TV


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