[p. 165]

A Living Landmark

A LIVING, growing landmark, still young in spite of its many years, and with its life insured in the deed to the property-such is the O'Brien oak tree, towering at the foot of Orleans street, and owned by the city of Beaumont.

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The O'Brien Oak.
(click here for an enlarged image)

The tree owes its life and the insurance of its life to the gratitude of the members of the O'Brien family who had romped in its shade during childhood. When the city of Beaumont purchased the property from the O'Brien family for opening Orleans street, the deed to the property stipulated that enough ground around the old tree to preserve it for future years should be allowed for a park.

The story of the O'Brien oak, as told by J. B. Langham, has it that the tree was planted by Cave Johnson, who brought the switch from the Boumstead place on Village Creek. Capt. Johnson was one of the first settlers of this section , and it was from him that the land was purchased by Captain George W. O'Brien about forty-five years ago. At the time of Captain O'Brien's purchase, the tree was not more than one-fourth its present size. It now measures about ten feet in circumference, and its boughs, with a radius of 50 feet, shade a circle of a hundred feet across. For many years those who have passed along in front of the O'Brien home, inspired by the peaceful atmosphere and the picturesque setting, have termed the short stretch "Lovers' Lane".  (Ed. note:  The "Boumstead" place was the home of Mourad Bumstead, veteran of the siege of Bexar.)

A story has it that during the early days of Beaumont the first organized court of Jefferson county was convened under this tree. Trials, both civil and criminal, were held there and submitted regularly to impaneled juries.

The oak has gone through hardships as well as years of luxuriant growth. Pictures show it once sick, with its barren limbs stretching up naked and snake-like, but with Captain O'Brien's patient doctoring it recovered from its illness.

And now at the foot of Orleans it stands, furnishing cool shade in the summer and in the cold winter days its dark rich green foliage standing out in bold relief against the somber brown of the surrounding trees of a different species -- Beaumont's only live monument to the past.

The efforts to conserve the O'Brien oak bring to mind the historical legend of a similar liveoak that grew in one of the older Georgia cities. When the owners of the land on which that tree stood learned that the city needed the property for a street and it came time to part with it, they made a separate deed to the tree of an amount of land surrounding it, to a sufficient distance to forever protect it. The consideration of this act read: "In consideration of the benefits received by mankind from it, (the tree's), beneficent boughs and natural beauty." A tablet was placed on the tree, referring to the tree, giving date and place of record, and the old tree, mythically owned by itself, is one of the show places of that Georgia town.

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