|A facsimile of a map drawn by John Bonner in 1722|
providing an early depiction of Boston, including
the Great Elm. (Source: Library of Congress).
|An engraving, circa 1792, that shows the Great Elm |
centered on the Boston Common (Source).
Over time, the effects of age, its size, weather-related events, and constant visitors caused the tree to weaken; Jerome V. C. Smith, the mayor of Boston from 1854-1855, took special interest in its care and preservation and built an iron enclosure around it—upon which was a tablet that read:
THE OLD ELM
This tree has been standing here for an unknown
period. It is believed to have existed before
the settlement of Boston, being full
grown in 1722. Exhibited marks of
old age in 1792, and was nearly
destroyed by a storm in 1832.
Protected by an iron
enclosure in 1854.
J. V. C. Smith, Mayor
|A photograph of the 1866 New England Centenary Convention, |
with the Great Elm pictured in the background.(Source)
The elm weathered a damaging storm in 1860 and stood for another 16 years until a strong gale took it down on February 15, 1876. People sought to collect pieces of its wood as mementos, and some even repurposed the wood to build various items, such as a chair that can be found today in the Boston Public Library’s rare book department.
For more information about the Great Elm and other famous trees in Massachusetts history, check out the following resources below.
Resources and Further Reading
- Eighty-Fifth Anniversary of Jesse Lee’s Sermon Under the Old Elm, Boston Common, Held Sunday Evening, July 11, 1875
- The Historic Trees of Massachusetts, by James Raymond Simmons (1919)
- The Tree on Boston Common, by Grace Wagner (Mass. Historical Society, 2017)