Tag Archive: harpers


The Old Odd Elm Tree

The Harpers Ferry Camp Hill Elm Tree was probably over 140 years old.

Photo possibly showing the Elm Tree (or parent tree) during the Civil War.

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Brian King and the Old Odd Fellow Elm Tree Stump

The story of the Old Odd Fellow Elm Tree is a long one, as we have historic photographic evidence it may have been over 140 years old. I will try to condense both the life of the tree and the man called Brian, into a short essay as a tribute to both. The story of the old Elm Tree is that it spent many years dominating the block on top of Harpers Ferry hill (camp hill) with its siblings on the Kaplon-Stowell front lawn (cut in the 1970s), and the one on the border of the Brady-Stowell property (cut in the 1990s). The Kaplon Elm died of Dutch Elm disease, as many others in the area did; and for many years the front lawn had sunken areas from the decaying roots, that moles loved to make tunnels in. The Brady Elm was cut by Tony Catanese and his father, who took turn whacking away at the stump. Elm’s are notoriously hard woods, very hard to cut; which brings me back to the story of Brian and the Odd Fellow Elm. The Old Elm may have been around during the Civil War (1860s), as it spent many years growing wide and tall. It grew into 2 main branches, stemming from the main trunk several feet above ground level; which may have been a result of it being decapitated at a young age, and regrowing while a pocket of rain-water formed in the V, no doubt contributing to its’ hollowing. Most of the Old IOOF Elm’s history is unknown to this author, but when I was a young teen I did make efforts to study it. That area of the block was always mysterious, as it was half wild, and sometimes partially gardened. There was a storage yellow garage-shed, and a plain but historic out-house, below the Elm’s massive boughs. In 1994 lightning struck the tree filled with water, it split in two; one half fell on the garage-shed, filling the lawn, but the other half remained standing!! The remaining half of the Elm stayed up and alive, until it eventually fell over a decade later in 2011, partially smashing the out-house and other nearby trees. Phil Folk and others cut and removed the body of the tree. However the stump remained. Brian spent about a year obsessively removing the stump, working hard on it every day. When I heard the regular chopping on hot sunny days, I brought him some glasses of water, and checked in with him. Brian would be sweating in the humid heat, and he broke a few mattocks and shovels; he took out his frustrations on it, and it caused him frustrations; but did it all by hand!!! Brian’s focus and dedication to task reminded me of an epic tall-tale, or folk-tale legend; as when he was asked why he was so intent on removing every last root of the stump, he would say “I am doing it for the sake of doing it. The more time I put into it, the more I want to do the job to finish it; but as the work exercises my body and mind, the more the end .” Then Brian would make a self-deprecating joke about the heat affecting him. His frequent humility aside, the end was clearly no more the point for Brian, as it was for the Old Odd Elm Tree.

Photos of when it first split, and half of it fell in 1994:

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Photos of when the second half fell in 2011:

Odd Elm 2011

 

 

RIP Old Odd Elm Tree

Artist, Architect, and Mayor of Harpers Ferry

Trip-Kip cover

Kip was born ‘Walton Danforth Stowell’ in Massachusetts. He lived a long life as an artist, architect, and politician; settling in Harpers Ferry, WV. This biography spans 73 years of Kip’s life, from 1936-2009; and is a summary of people, places, and art related to him. As an architect he worked for the National Park Service, but also maintained private practice. Kip loved entertaining people, and was loved for his enthusiasm for design. Among his most famous designs are the Charles Town War Memorial, Turf Race Track Hotel, Bolivar Community Center, and Harpers Ferry Town Hall. His greatest contributions to Historic Preservation may have been to protect the Town of Harpers Ferry and the Peter Burr House for all time and for all people. Kip saw Architecture as Art you live in; Sculpture that provides shelter.

Please purchase Kip’s Biography as sales help to preserve his legacy:

Paperback book on Amazon

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