3.7
3 votes

Tree That Owns Itself

Corner of Finley St. and Dearing St., Georgia 30601 USA

“most unusual property holder”

The white oak standing at the corner of corner of South Finley and Dearing Streets in Athens, Georgia may appear to be just an average tree, but there's something quite different about it-- it legally (sort of) owns itself and all property within 8 feet of its base. The tree popularly known as The Tree that Owns Itself is actually, in real life, the Son of the Tree that Owns Itself-- the original tree toppled over in the 1940's and was replaced with an acorn from the first oak. The story of how the Tree That Owns Itself came to, well, own itself is a little murky. According to an 1890 front-page article in the Athens Daily Banner, a man named William Jackson grew up on the property and had such fond childhood memories of the tree that he wanted to make sure that it would never, ever get cut down. So, to ensure that the tree would be protected even after his death, at some point between 1820 and 1832 he deeded ownership of the tree and surrounding land to the tree itself.  Unfortunately, if such a deed ever did exist, it would have absolutely no legal standing whatsoever. Common law 101 (and common sense) states that the person receiving the property must have the legal capacity to receive it-- and a tree isn't exactly capable of accepting any property. Furthermore, research into William Jackson proves that while he did live on the same property as the tree, it was when he as an adult, not a child. The icing on the cake is that there's no evidence of such a deed, and even at the time of the article, no one could remember much about how the tree came to own itself. But, even though the deed is basically bunk in the eyes of the law, the public recognizes it wholeheartedly, and even the government has professed that they would ackonowledge that the tree (and thusly, its son) owns itself. But don't worry about trespassing on its property-- you can definitely stop and visit it if you're in town! -Roadtrippers "The Tree that Owns Itself," which is located at the top of the steep hill where Dearing and Finley Streets intersect, is probably the most unusual property holder in the world. The tree pays no taxes, is protected by the community and rests secure in its own enclosed garden-type lot. In addition, this unique tree has be featured in Ripley's "Believe it or Not" and has received regular attention from newspapers and magazines from around the world. The land on which the tree stands was originally owned by Col. William H. Jackson, a professor at the University of Georgia. Legend has it that in the early 1800s, Professor Jackson, out of love for the  great oak, deeded to the tree ownership of itself and the land within eight feet of it on all sides.  The marker at the foot of the tree reads as follows: "For and in consideration of the great love I bear this tree and the great desire I have for its protection, for all time, I convey entire possession of itself and all land within eight feet of the tree on all sides."  An original deed has not been located, but the Athens community has recognized the tree's title to the surrounding land and has taken measures to protect the tree.  Philantrhopist George Foster Peabody paid to install the enclosure surrounding the tree. The original tree became diseased and was blown down in a windstorm on October 9, 1942, and a new tree was grown from one of its acorns.  The Junior Ladies Garden Club grew a sapling from one of the tree's acorns and planted it on the same spot October 9, 1946. Its property rights have never been questioned.

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Tree That Owns Itself

Corner of Finley St. and Dearing St.
Georgia
30601 USA

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