The people of West Marlborough Township, Chester County lost their eldest community member at the London Grove Meetinghouse on September 19, 2023. She was tall and beautiful, and always welcomed visitors with open arms. Kindergartners who attend school at the meetinghouse (and many others) shed tears at the sight of her fallen body, some laying flowers by her side in tribute.
Witness to countless weddings, picnics, and London Grove Friends gatherings, she was not only beloved, but a state champion. By the very nature of this column, you’re sure to understand “she” was not a person, rather the State Champion White Oak. Estimated to be 350 to 400 years old and likely present during the time of the founding of our state, she was aptly named the Penn Oak.
At over 80 feet tall and 120 feet wide, the Penn Oak’s trunk circumference was over 22 feet. It’s strange to imagine all the historical events that happened during the Penn Oak’s lifetime, but here are a few:
1681– Pennsylvania was founded as one of the original 13 colonies.
1775– The Revolutionary War begins.
1787– PA ratifies its Constitution and becomes the second official US state.
1812– Harrisburg is named the state capitol.
1855– Penn State is founded (originally called The Farmers High School).
1857– First US President from Pennsylvania, James Buchanan, is elected.
1861– The Civil War begins.
1863– Abraham Lincoln delivers the Gettysburg Address.
1889– The Johnstown Flood occurs.
1894– Hershey Chocolate Company was founded by Milton Hershey.
1929– The stock market crashes, beginning the Great Depression.
1953– Dr. Jonas Salk discovers the vaccine for polio at the U. of Pittsburgh.
1963– JFK is assassinated.
1972– Hurricane Agnes dumps over 19 inches of rain, flooding out over 100,000 in PA.
2001– 9/11 terrorist attack occurs.
2020– Covid-19 pandemic hits US.
Although an icon of our natural heritage was lost, the legacy of the Penn Oak will live on. A few of its progeny are reported to reside on the London Grove property, while others grown from its acorns are said to occupy more than a few yards in the community. A committee was formed to determine how best to utilize the wood from the Penn Oak, which will undoubtedly enrich the lives of visitors to the meetinghouse for years to come.
Written by Ryan Reed, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources