Illness spells demise of venerable Lone Oak in Blountville

J. H. Osborne • Jul 19, 2008 at 12:00 AM

A witness to Sullivan County’s earliest days is ailing and about to be felled.

Some estimates put the oak tree’s age at 250 years, nearby property owners say.

A photograph on file at the Sullivan County Archives shows even more than 100 years ago, the white oak dwarfed members of the Fain family, who owned and lived at Lone Oak Farm.

It’s also pictured in “Historic Sites of Sullivan County,” a 1976 book compiled by Muriel C. Spoden and published under the auspices of the Sullivan County Commission.

The book refers to the tree as “the great ‘Lone Oak.’”

And some still call the surrounding neighborhood “the Lone Oak area.”

At about a foot off the ground, the tree’s trunk measures nearly 24 feet around, according to measurements by County Commissioner Dennis Houser and others who visited the tree earlier this month.

Houser later told the Times-News the more accepted height for measuring a tree’s trunk — for records competition purposes — is 4 feet off the ground.

Houser is active in the Sullivan County Historical and Preservation Association and had been searching for ways to document the tree’s role in county history.

Even if the tree’s girth were to rank it among the oldest or largest in the state, however, there’s nothing at the state level to mark its spot once it’s cut down and gone, Houser said.

The tree’s limbs spread dozens of feet in all directions. One span reached 55½ feet, according to the measurements of Houser and others.

Over the years what was once the Fain family’s Lone Oak Farm was sold, subdivided and built upon.

Today, the Lone Oak straddles a fence row between the Carswell home on Oak Street and the headquarters of J.A. Street & Associates, at the end of Birch Street.

“I hate to see this tree go,” said Robert Carswell, the day the tree was being measured. “It’s been a part of our family for more than 30 years. But it’s dangerous.”

He bought the house on Oak Street in 1972, and the home’s decor includes framed photographs of the Lone Oak in both its full, and faded, glory.

Carswell said the tree is about 75 percent dead — and infested with termites that swarm each spring.

It’s also home to a beehive, squirrels and snakes, Carswell said.

Price quotes for removing the tree have ranged from $4,000 to $13,000, a representative of J.A. Street & Associates told the Times-News — and estimates for how long the job will take ranged from 2½ days to a week or more.

There was no set date for the tree’s demise, but it is expected to be soon, the representative said.

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