Maynard Drawson knows Oregon and he knows its historic trees. This modern-day explorer has provided the energy and vision behind the Oregon Heritage Tree program. For thirty years Drawson has inventoried historic and giant trees in the Salem area where he lives and throughout Oregon. He has visited and documented fifty "World Champion" trees scattered throughout the Oregon Country. He knows our backroads as well as anyone and has authored five books about travel in Oregon.
His love of, and quest for, Oregon's historical trees has equipped Drawson to become one of Oregon's leading authorities on the subject. He fields calls regularly from Oregonians who believe they may have spotted a state record tree or want to bring a tree with an interesting or important history to Maynard's attention.
It must be that Oregon's old trees keep Drawson young, because at seventy years of age, he's as sharp and active as a person half his age. Drawson's ability to commit historical facts, places, and names to memory makes him well-suited as Oregon's Ambassador of Trees. He knows the roads, the people, the history, the mountains & rivers, and the trees of our state intimately.
Maynard is the co-host of a regular monthly radio program about traveling throughout Oregon. The program is broadcast on the third Monday of every month at 8:40 AM on radio station KBZY (1490). Tune it in one time and you will want to be a regular listener.
A native Oregonian, Drawson's love for heritage trees is infectious. His message reminds us to examine the important links these trees provide from Oregon's past to the present and on into the future. Here is a photo of Maynard Drawson with a friend...
Access is readily available by a well graveled trail of about 100 yards in length. Willamette Mission State Park is a seasonable site due to occasional high water blocking entry. Check with the Parks Department in the wet season.
The Riding Whip Tree (13K) began as a switch used by Florinda Geer during an 1854 pony ride with her beau at the T.T. Geer Ranch (relative of Oregon Governor Geer). Upon completion of their countryside ride, the young girl stuck her switch into the ground. And it grew.
Later, Florinda Geer married her sweetheart and they had a son they named Homer. Homer went on to become a world-reknown political cartoonist and is honored by Silverton, Oregon's annual Homer Davenport Days.
The Riding Whip tree is located on the Vesper Geer Rose Ranch in Waldo Hills and today is a very large cottonwood.
The Brown Family Tulip Tree (12K) is of a specie also known as Yellow Poplar. This example is one of the largest of its kind in Oregon. It was planted at the turn of the century by Stayton pioneer Leander Brown. It is located on the Giles Brown Homesite in Stayton.
For its kind, this is one of the giants of the tree world. Thousands of people drive Highway 22 past this tree every day, yet it goes largely unnoticed except in the spring when it is in full blossom (13K - color). Planted in 1850, it is one of the oldest and largest pear trees in Oregon. It grows on state land and truly deserves the title of Heritage Tree.
Once a camping playground, Hager's Grove occupied what is now a number of commercial enterprises and four lane highways. An orchard covered most of the area and the popular creekside attraction was entered through a long lane down through the fruit trees.
Currently all the trees are gone and only the lone pear tree survives. When it was nominated as a Heritage Tree, a letter was received coincidental to the application. Mrs. Arlene Jensen wrote, "I don't know if you would be interested or not, but my great-great grandfather planted a tree out by the freeway many years ago. I don't know what kind it was, but it became part of what was known as Hager's Grove."
Mrs. Jensen noted that her distant grandfather's surname was Munkre. The Munkre family came to Oregon from Missouri in 1847 with a large family and a very ill mother. She was in such poor health that Mr. Munkre brought a coffin for her in case the hardships of the long journey caused her frail body to expire. However, not only did Mrs. Munkre survive the Oregon Trail, but it is said she outlived her husband and buried him in the coffin carried from Missouri for her.
The name Munkre is now honored by the street spelling "Munker". Letter writer Mrs. Arlene Jensen is wife of the noted arctic expert Professor Paul Jensen. The Arctic Museum in Monmouth's Western Oregon State College currently displays his collections.
The Hager Grove Pear Tree is located at the northeast corner of I-5 intersecting Highway 22.
These Sequoia Redwoods were planted in 1942 to celebrate Willamette University's 100th anniversary. The five magnificent trees were planted with the foresight that a star pattern would be formed. Stand in the center of the trees and look skyward to see a five-pointed star formed by the foliage of the trees against the sky. One of the students who participated in planting the star-shaped grove was Warne Nunn who later became President of the Board of Trustees.
Look for the grove south of the back steps of the Capitol Building, across State Street.
Judge William Waldo, the son of an 1842 pioneer, planted a Sierra Redwood (sequoia gigantea) on the northwest corner of the intersection of Union Street and Summer Street. In 1936, to protect this heritage tree, the Salem City Council declared the site, a twelve foot by twenty foot plot of land to be known as Waldo Park (17K), an official Salem city park. Ripley cited it as World's Smallest Park.
Across from the State Fairgrounds at 17th Street is a grove of Oregon white oaks that has long been the gateway to the Oregon State Fair and used by fairgoers who traveled to Salem for the annual event. A tent city would spring up yearly in the grove which was then on the outskirts of Salem.
Long before the Oregon State Fair, Molalla Indians used the site with its stand of oaks during their annual migrations through the Willamette Valley in the summer. Although heavily used over the years, the "Scrub" oaks survived quite intact and today their size belies their age. The Fairgrounds Oak Grove is one of the few stands indigenous to the area.
The Talbot Road Cherry Tree (11K), is located in the Willamette River bottom southeast of the Independence bridge on Talbot Road. It is considered to be one of the largest cherry trees in this part of the Willamette Valley. Its giant size suggests it to be at least one hundred years old. Now a lone tree far from others, it reminds the viewer of the days when vast hop fields covered the flats along the Willamette River east of Independence. Its pioneer planter is unknown.
Situated near the southeast corner of Union and Cottage Streets, the LaFollette Black Walnut (15K) can lay claim as one of the largest black walnut trees in the entire Salem area. The Harry Widmers Family lived in the adjacent residence and reported that the tree was large even in 1905 when they first moved into the home.
An old man about town named LaFollette told the Widmers he started the tree as a nut brought by wagon from Nebraska circa 1880 or earlier. The LaFollette Black Walnut can be seen behind the popular Heritage Tree Restaurant on Cottage Street between Marion and Union.
On the northeast corner of the State Labor and Industry Building property is a very large "Ginkgo Biloba" (11K) of some interest. This location was at one time the site of the John McNary home (brother of Charles McNary) although it is not known whether John planted this so-called "living fossil". Here is another photo of the Mark Hatfield Ginkgo (11K), a closup of the trunk with Maynard Drawson.
An interesting aspect of the tree's history is the circumstance of its survival during the construction of the Oregon Labor and Industries Building. U.S. Senator Mark Hatfield was Governor at the time and ensured the construction contract stipulate any final payment for construction be contingent on the tree remaining alive one year after completion of the building. It is for this reason that the tree is know as the Mark Hatfield Ginkgo, a fine enduring link to Salem's past.
This beautiful Persian Walnut (12K) shades the street and yards at 1190 Donna Street NE (west off Fairgrounds Road) in northeast Salem. It stands on the City easement between the street and the sidewalk. The tree was planted in the early 1900's by the property owner Elijah A. Bradfield who operated a lumber yard on Fairgrounds Road NE (Bradfield Lumber Company). The tree has survived development of the neighborhood and grown into one of the largest hybrid walnut trees in the Salem area.
In recent history, the City of Salem wanted to remove the Highland Hybrid Persian Walnut because it was buckling the sidewalks. The present owner objected and filed a lawsuit to stop the cutting of the tree. A settlement was reached when homeowner Jay W. Smith agreed to give part of his property to the city as easement for the new sidewalk. Thus the tree was spared.
Mr. Smith has said he originally purchased the property principally due to the presence of the tree. Elijah A. Bradfield was quoted as saying he did not want the tree harmed as long as he was alive. Bradfield lived to be 105 years old, whereupon Jay W. Smith purchased the property adjacent to the tree and continues to protect and cherish the Highland Hybrid Persian Walnut.
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