Oct 19



Did the National Park Service intentionally cut down this possible witness tree at the Klingel House so they could plant more trees in an orchard? The Pennsylvania Monument is in the left center background. This view was taken from the southwest facing northeast at approximately 5:15 PM on Saturday, October 18, 2008.

One of the controversies within the National Park Service at Gettysburg this week is determining whether they actually cut down a witness tree at the Klingel House. The National Park Service is restoring the Klingel Farm closer to the way it looked in 1863. They are tearing down some non-historic buildings and replanting some orchards.

The shade and root system from two Kentucky Coffee Trees in an area where an orchard is to be replanted may have stunted the growth of the proposed fruits trees. So over the protests of some National Park Service staff members, the trees were ordered to be cut down. One of the trees may have been a witness tree.

See our previous posts on witness trees:

When the National Park Service allowed its contractor to asphalt around the witness tree in Devil’s Den on September 11, 2008.

Pender Witness Tree Area on April 30, 2008,
Gibbon Witness Tree on May 27, 2008,
Honey Locust Tree Damage on August 10, 2008,
Sickles Witness Fence Damge on August 12, 2008,
McPherson Woods Witness Trees on August 16, 2008,
Arkansas Monument Witness Tree on August 27, 2008.
Farnsworth Charge Witness Tree on September 8, 2008.



Here is what the two Kentucky Coffee Trees at the Klingel Farm looked like last spring. The tree on the left was a male Kentucky Coffee Tree, and the larger tree on the right was the female Kentucky Coffee Tree and possible witness tree. The Klingel Barn is in the background. This view was taken from the northeast facing southwest.



Here is this same view today. Both trees have now been cut down. This view was taken from the northeast facing southwest at approximately 8:15 AM on Sunday, October 19, 2008.



The Klingel Farm is located on the east side of the Emmitsburg Road. The Rogers House site is north of the Klingel Farm, and the Sherfy Farm is to the south. This view was taken from the southwest facing northeast at approximately 4:00 PM on Saturday, October 18, 2008.



Underneath the board and batten exterior is the original one-story log cabin which existed at the time of the battle. This view was taken from the west facing east at approximately 4:00 PM on Saturday, October 18, 2008.



The Natonal Park Service is in the process of tearing down non-historic structures that had surrounded the house and barn. These dumpsters are located north of the house. This view was taken from the southwest facing northeast at approximately 4:00 PM on Saturday, October 18, 2008.



The National Park Service is replanting an orchard on the north and northeast sides of the Klingel House shown on the right, and Barn to its left. The pink flag marks the location for one of the proposed trees in the orchard. This view was taken from the northeast facing southwest at approximately 4:00 PM on Saturday, October 18, 2008.



Here is a view of the proposed orchard area from the house and barn. The orchard is to be replanted on the other (north) side of the tree stump. Some National Park Service employees argued that instead of cutting down the tree, less trees needed to be replanted in the orchard. The orchard should begin farther to the north of the tree. A National Park Service official disagreed and ordered the trees to be cut down. This view was taken from the south facing north at approximately 4:00 PM on Saturday, October 18, 2008.



This field south of the Klingel House and barn has already been marked with pink flags for a proposed orchard. This view was taken from the south facing north at approximately 4:00 PM on Saturday, October 18, 2008.



So how old was this tree? First we should probably look at the stump. The Round Tops are in the right background. This view was taken from the northwest facing southeast at approximately 4:00 PM on Saturday, October 18, 2008.



When one looks at the stump, it is difficult to tell the age of the tree because the center of the stump is missing. When we tried to count the outer rings, we were over 80 years before we reached the center area where the rings cannot be counted. This view was taken from the west facing east at approximately 4:00 PM on Saturday, October 18, 2008.



So if we can’t tell from the stump, let’s see if there are any clues at the pile of wood from this tree. There were not any War Department tags on this tree.  When the War Department was putting tags on the trees in the early 1900s, this land was privately owned.  This view was taken from the southwest facing northeast at approximately 4:00 PM on Saturday, October 18, 2008.



Here’s a clue. This is only half the stump. It appears that the National Park Service at one time thought this was a witness tree. A pin (spike) was inserted in the tree to hold it together. This previous attempt at preservation shows someone used to think that this was an important tree. This view was taken from the south facing north at approximately 4:00 PM on Saturday, October 18, 2008.



To give one an idea of how large half of the stump of the tree is, we put our Licensed Battlefield Guide Hat on the stump. This was a large tree. This view was taken from the south facing north at approximately 4:00 PM on Saturday, October 18, 2008.



If this is another part of the stump (it might be part of the trunk) we couldn’t count all the rings because this other large piece of wood obstructs our view. By the way, this was a healthy tree, as seed pods are still plentiful on the ground around the tree. This view was taken from the west facing east at approximately 4:00 PM on Saturday, October 18, 2008.



We are strongly in favor of the replanting of the orchards. We are strongly in favor of cutting down the groves of non-historic trees that are growing in areas that were open during the battle. This helps our understanding of what the soldiers saw in 1863 and what decisions were made. This view was taken from the west facing east at approximately 4:00 PM on Saturday, October 18, 2008.



Does cutting down this large, old, tree, even if it wasn’t here at the time of the battle, really detract from our view and understanding of the battlefield? This view was taken from the north facing south at approximately 4:00 PM on Saturday, October 18, 2008.



There is strong evidence that there were large shade trees on the north side of the house during the battle, and that the orchard did not come as close to the house and the barn as the National Park Service wants us to believe. Here is the 12th New Hampshire Monument on the north side of the house. There are no longer shade trees behind it. Our witness tree that we are featuring today was to the right of, or southeast of the monument, behind the blue dumpster. This view was taken from the west facing east at approximately 5:00 PM on Saturday, October 18, 2008.



Here is the 12th New Hampshire Monument at its dedication in 1888. In the background are large shade trees. Twenty five years after the battle, trees this large must have been here in 1863. They are in the area where the orchard is now being replanted. This view was taken from the west facing east on Friday, September 28, 1888.



If there were shade trees here in 1863 instead of an orchard, we feel the Park Service has destroyed the historic landscape by cutting down the remaining shade trees (Kentucky Coffee Trees) on the north side of the Klingel House and Klingel Barn. We are looking at the back of the 12th New Hampshire Monument. The pink flags show where the Park Service believes the orchard was, although the photographic evidence shows that there were shade trees in this area in 1863. The stump of the possible witness tree is on this side of (northeast of) the Klingel House. This view was taken from the east facing west at 8:15 AM on Sunday, October 19, 2008.


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