Salem Oak

Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church Cemetery, New Jersey, USA


The Disappointed Tourist: Salem Oak, Ellen Harvey, 2021. Oil and acrylic on Gessoboard, 18 x 24″ (46 x 61 cm). Photograph: Etienne Frossard.

I discovered this historic 600 Year old White Oak Tree on one of my explorations of historic sites. I was amazed at its history and size. Sitting among tombstones dating back to the 1700’s & 1800’s. It was said that Revolutionary Soldiers would sit under the tree. It’s amazing it lasted over 600 years. I would visit the tree almost every year and it was a very peaceful place. Sadly the tree fell over around 2017 perhaps due to its age. It was a sad event and will always remember this tree I captured in photography. Leo O.

The 600 year old tree fell in 2019. It was believed to be part of the forest that covered Salem County NJ prior to European colonization. It was designated a Millennial Landmark Tree, one of the 50 most historic trees in the US. Gary M.

After standing tall for an estimated 600 years, the great Salem Oak died in 2016 and had to be felled in 2017 (I still need to will fix this on the painting). Believed to be part of the forest that covered Somerset County County before European settlers developed the land, its life span was double that of most white oaks. Legend has it that in 1675 John Fenwick, founder of the first English settlement in South Jersey, signed a treaty with the Lenni Lenape, the local tribal nation, under its branches. Revolutionary War soldiers marched past it. Charles Lindburgh admired it as he flew over on his celebration trip after flying solo over the Atlantic. In 2000 it was named a Millennial Landmark Tree as one of the 50 most historic trees in the US. When, in 2016, it was declared the largest white oak in New Jersey it was measured at 103 feet tall, with a circumference of 22 feet, 4 inches and a crown spanning 104 feet. Long a symbol of Salem County, and cared for by the Quakers in whose burial ground it lived, its loss was felt deeply across Southern New Jersey. The painting is based on a photograph by Leo Osorio.