letter to the editor
The loss of a Broad Run historic tree brings to mind the rich history of Fauquier County.
It is with deep regret we had to say goodbye to the oldest resident of Buckland Oaks. She was a beautiful and mighty Liriodendron tulipifera, commonly referred to as a Tulip Poplar. She was not as tall as she used to be since her main stem fell many, many years before Buckland Oaks ever existed. Regardless, she stood over 70 feet high and had a spread of over 60 feet. The circumference of her trunk was 204 inches (17 feet). Her estimated age is 234 years old. A quick calculation gives her birth year as early as 1787. Contemplating this, it brings to mind the history that the tree has witnessed over the years.
The Town of Warrenton grew from a settlement that sprawled from the crossroads of Falmouth-Winchester and Alexandria-Culpeper roads where a trading post called the Red Store was located. The first Fauquier Courthouse was built in 1764. The seventh courthouse stands today with a bell added in 1815 just after the Town of Warrenton was incorporated on January 5, 1810.
Maybe Richard Henry Lee and John Marshall strolled by on their horses and admired her beauty or even Thomas Lee, who owned 4,200 acres in Fauquier County and was part of the powerful Lee family of Virginia, saw her in the distance as he traveled down the road. His son, Richard Henry Lee, who signed the Declaration of Independence, donated part of this land to establish Warrenton.
One other notable resident of the time was Presley Neville O’Bannon, known as the “Hero of Derne,” was born in Fauquier County in 1776. In 1805, he was a US Marine and answered the call of General William Eaton for 100 marines to take the fight to Derne, the inland stronghold of the enemy and chief fortress at Tripoli. O’Bannon in turn recruited seven Marines to rescue US prisoners at Derne in eastern Libya. The Mameluke sword, worn by US Marine Corps officers commemorates this heroic event and in appreciation for services rendered on “the shores of Tripoli”, is forever commemorated in the second line of the Marines’ Hymn. O’Bannon road is on your left, halfway on your way to The Plains on John Marshall Highway.
As time marched on into 1861, she heard and felt the battles of the Thoroughfare Gap and Second Manassas in and around our Broad Run Post Office. Before the Thoroughfare battle, the Confederate soldiers burned Chapman’s Mill, affectionately known as Beverly’s Mill, in an effort to keep the Union soldiers from exploiting it. She may have witnessed the billowing smoke rise over the hills. At the same time, she may have harbored soldiers on both sides who either camped beneath her canopy or climbed her limbs to gleam the valley to the left and the right. She also may have witnessed the second bellowing plumes of smoke in 1998 when arson claimed the historic mill.
Time travels quickly from President Teddy Roosevelt, on a wager in 1907, riding his horse from Washington DC to the Warren Green Hotel and back for a speedy return to set a standard for the US Army, to the periodic circling of the International Space Station today. From the meager beginnings of our country to the marvels of modern innovations and technology, she has stood with dignity and grace as a silent sentinel, recording history in the rings of her tree.
We were blessed to be her caretakers for over 25 years, and we are heartbroken to lose her. We are going to miss the fluttering whisper of the leaves as the wind waved her branches through the breezy, lazy days and those of remnants of hurricanes. We hope and pray her legacy continues with the many Tulip Poplar trees that dot our Buckland Oaks community and surrounding area. Rest in Peace, Tulip.