PARKERSBURG — A Parkersburg neighborhood fixture that predates the neighborhood came crashing down overnight Tuesday.
Known as “Mrs. Boger’s tree” or the “pregnant tree,” among other titles, an American beech estimated to be well over two centuries old split during Tuesday’s rain and winds.
To prevent further safety hazards, J&M Tree Service removed it Wednesday afternoon from the 1700 block of 26th Street near Elm Street.
“I just hate to see it go,” Elm Street resident Susan Merriman said. “It’s been here for years. … It’s just a sentimental thing.”
The tree was about 40 feet tall, though it had been 80 to 100 feet before the top broke off several years ago, said Jason Bell, owner of J&M. He said it looked like termites or carpenter ants had hollowed out the trunk and the weight of the limbs in the conditions Tuesday night caused it to break.
Some believe the tree was a gathering point for Union soldiers coming in and out of Parkersburg on the St. Marys Pike, but local historian, author and Williamstown High School teacher Brian Kesterson told The Parkersburg News and Sentinel in 2014 he could not confirm that. Researching the tree, however, led him to a map that helped him confirm the location of the Union’s Camp Hickory Nut Bottom on the southern bank of the Little Kanawha River, near where the William Nicely Bridge on East Street is now.
Absent the Civil War connection, though, the tree and the home in front of which it stands still have historical significance. The house was built by Dr. Cyrus Maxwell Boger, an internationally known homeopathic physician.
It’s owned today by Terry Ross, Boger’s great-granddaughter. A family member purchased the house at auction a few years ago and Ross and her husband bought it in 2018. Ross said Boger had four daughters and a son, all college-educated. One daughter, Martha, followed her father into the medical field.
“She took my mother’s tonsils out on the kitchen table in that house,” Ross said.
The Boger children’s names are still visible on a piece of plaster in the attic.
“You just feel like you can feel your family history. You feel your roots,” Ross said.
The house was always a destination when descendants gathered in the area for family reunions. The tree was a distinct landmark, visible in family photos passed down through the years.
Ross has resisted having the tree removed over the years because of its sentimental and historical significance.
“I feel really, really sad about it. It’s just like the passing of an era,” Ross said, adding she’s glad no one was hurt and no houses were damaged.
Kesterson described the beech as “a witness tree,” standing in Parkersburg through various historical events.
“They only have a finite lifespan, and we kind of take for granted on a daily basis the things around us,” he said.
Its loss is a reminder to work to preserve other artifacts and structures that can last longer, Kesterson said.
“Unless we preserve our … history, we lose our identity,” he said.
Evan bevins can be reached at [email protected]
Read more about the tree’s history online at https://tinyurl.com/2e3n8wxm