Francis Cove's Huge American Chestnuts
  Jan 18, 2004 18:35 PST 
Greetings ENTS!

Yesterday I spoke with a Mr. Gene Christopher of Chistopher Farms, Waynesville, NC.   He is a 63 yr old Francis family relative that remembers, as a boy, playing in the stump remains of that 17 ft dbh American Chestnut; felled in 1915 for "firewood". He has looked unsuccessfully for some photos. The family photos that did exist were lost or thrown out some 18 years ago. But Gene is not giving up. He still has two sources to follow up on. you might have guessed, in the absence of photos, I had to take the liberty to ask Mr. Christopher a few questions. Yes, that huge chestnut was a "single-stemmed" tree. But, according to Gene, there were "many" such large, single-stemmed trees on their property. As a boy, he remembers a forest of skeletons (after the blight), and playing inside the many butt cavities. I must admit I became a little unrattled when Mr. Christopher made his next statement (in fact, I asked if he could repeat himself a few times!!!). According to Gene, who comes across as quite credible, these cavities were large enough to not only allow entry to "cattle", but once inside, they had enough room to "turn-around". My mind becomes "boggled" at the thought of this ("if" it is as this gentleman recalls).   

Don't worry, I plan to follow this up. When Gene is freed up from work, I would like to meet with him and have him take me to the site and further dramatize his "cow story". If permitted, I'd like to take a photo of Gene at the site (if a stray cow wanders into the background; so much the better!).   Maybe Paul, Will or others, would care to join us?   Mr. Gene Christopher seems the delightful gentleman, and desires to share his culture with those that would listen. Because the parks only kept records of trees within their own boundaries, many trees were not recorded. It's family relatives like Gene that can link us with a past mostly forgotten by the masses.   One can only wonder what once was. And if any of these large diameter chestnuts maintained a considerable size. Just how much volume could there have been?   We can but mostly "dream".

Goodnite ENTS (make sure your entire stock is herded to the lower pastures before nightfall),