Believe it or not, there’s tree that actually owns itself. According to the legend, this tree has a legal ownership of itself and all the land within eight feet of its base.
It even has a name, Jackson Oak, coming from its origin – white oaks, the preeminent species of hardwoods in eastern and central North America. These trees are long-lived oaks found in Minnesota, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, northern Florida and eastern Texas.
This tree is located at the corner of South Finley and Dearing Streets, Athens, Georgia, United States. However, this isn’t the end of the story. Jackson, the tree that owns itself, has a son. The original tree fell in 1942, and a new one was planted at the same location. People call it “the son of the tree that owns itself.”
The history of the tree dates back to when a front-page article appeared in the Athens Weekly Banner on 12 August 1890, entitled ‘Deeded to itself’. The article referred to this particular tree that’s been located on the property of Colonel William Henry Jackson, the son of James Jackson. James Jackson was a soldier in the American Revolution, as well as a Congressman, U.S. Senator, and Governor of Georgia, and also a father to another James Jackson. His son was a Congressman and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia.
The tree was related to the childhood memories of Jackson, although many believe that he didn’t grow up near it but became attached to it after deciding to protect it. He deeded to it the ownership of itself and the land around it. This transaction happened between the periods of 1820-1832.
The deed worded in the following content, according to the article in the newspaper.
‘I, H. W. Jackson, of the county of Clarke, of the one part, and the oak tree… of the county of Clarke, of the other part: Witnessed, That the said W. H. Jackson for and in consideration of the great affection which he bears said tree, and his great desire to see it protected has conveyed, and by these presents do convey unto the said oak tree entire possession of itself and of all land within eight feet of it on all sides.’
Thanks to his will to protect the tree and the author who wrote the article, who still remains unknown, the tree is one of the most famous trees in the World today.
As assumed, the tree legally owns itself, but according to today’s law, it’s concluded that a deed like that would have no legal standing. The person receiving the property in question must have the legal capacity to receive it, and the property must be delivered to — and accepted by— the recipient.
The site of the tree contains two stone tablets, one with a missing corner and other newer, on which a statement is written.
‘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.’
WILLIAM H. JACKSON
It’s believed that the tree started life between the mid-16th and late 18th centuries.
By some, it was considered as the biggest in Athens and most famous tree in the United States. By 1906, erosion stroked the tree, and no matter the efforts made to save it, Senior Jackson fell on the evening of 9 October 1942.