There is a Tree That Owns Itself, and People Cannot Harm It

IMAGE Jorel J. Arcebal

In 1820, an American colonel named William Henry Jackson fell in love with an oak tree in his property in Athens, Georgia. He was so enamored by the white oak that he desired no harm come to it at all cost. In his desire to protect the tree and having the foresight that he will eventually lose ownership of his estate after he died, he decided to grant a deed to the tree so that it became its own property.

A plaque dedicated by Jackson to the tree reads:

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


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But in 1942, the old tree died because of root rot. At the time of its death, it was over 100 feet tall and estimated to had been 150 to 400 years old.


Residents of the area wanted to grow a replacement tree so that the small plot of land deeded to the original tree would remain protected. The only way the plan could work was if the replacement tree would come from one of the descendants of the original tree.

Luckily, a gardeners’ club in the area was able to collect acorns from the parent tree and grow them into seedlings. The University of Georgia and the state’s Department of Horticulture led the selection and transplanting of the best seedling.

That seedling is now known as the Son of the Tree That Owns Itself, and has successfully inherited the deed granted to the parent tree, so it is now regarded as the Tree That Owns Itself. At the rededication of the transplanted tree, the city mayor, along with other officials were present.

The Tree That Owns Itself, Located in Athens, Georgia, U.S. 

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Mario Alvaro Limos
Features Editor-at-Large
Mario Alvaro Limos is features editor-at-large at Esquire Philippines, and heads the Lifestyle and Esports content of as its section editor. Email him at [email protected] and [email protected]
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