Paris’ Davy Crockett Tree has passed into history, and as it turns out, not many people are too upset about it.
Earlier this month, officials at Grace Lutheran Church called in a local tree service company to remove an aged oak tree from its property at the corner of Clarksville Street and 20th Street SE. The tree, known locally as the Davy Crockett Tree, has been in bad shape for several years, and it was threatening a nearby house.
“The tree was going to come down sooner or later,” said Toby Byrd, pastor of Grace Lutheran Church. “Better to get it down before it fell. It was hollow and had no tap roots. If it fell, 20 tons of tree was going to come down on that house, and we don’t need that.”
Byrd said he had contacted the city and had received permission to have the tree removed from the church property. He said a stone and bronze marker placed under the tree by the Joseph Ligon Chapter of the Daughters of American Revolution of Paris, Texas, was moved to another spot on the property, under another tree closer to the curbs along the streets.
For many years, local lore told that Davy Crockett, frontier folk hero who died defending the Alamo, passed through what would become Paris on his way to San Antonio in the winter of 1835-36. In 1935, members of the local DAR commemorated that visit by installing a marker on property then owned by R.V. Free in the 2000 block of Clarksville Street, thought by many to be the location of the storied camp site.
“The original tree is long gone,” said Patsy Davis, a 45-year member of the local DAR. “That tree was only a symbol of the original tree. The tree the DAR placed the marker under all those years ago was at some point removed when the street was widened by the city. The marker was taken away and stored under a member’s bed for many years, but in the mid 1990s, the organization decided to do something with it.”
Back then, Davis said, the land at that corner was owned by Linda Hood, who operated a restaurant, The Texas Belle, out of the stucco home next door.
“She liked having it there and allowed us to place it under one of the trees on the property,” Davis said. “My husband, Norman, built a little flower bed, and we planted flowers around the marker. After the church bought the property, they took such good care of the tree and the marker for many years. We are not upset with the church in any way. That tree was old and it was going to have to come down eventually.”
In 1935, the members of the local DAR chose a sturdy tree in the front yard of the residence at the location, near the street to place a marker reading “In memory of Davy Crockett, who rested here while on his way to fight for Texas liberty.” Tales of that visit prompted the city to name a nearby street Crockett Circle.
Crockett crossed into Texas north of Clarksville, in no particular hurry, spending a night or two in homes along the way or camping out. Meaning to visit Matt Click’s tavern, 5 miles south of where Paris would be founded in a few years, to hunt buffalo on the prairie there, he and his traveling companions are said by many historians to have camped overnight on a hill under a large tree before pushing on the next day for Click’s place.
In 1950, long-time editor of The Paris News, A.W. Neville, went on the record in print, saying “Whether Crockett came through where now is Paris or went to Click’s on a southwest angle from Clarksville is not known and never will be known.”
Neville also said John M. Early, a former owner of the property in question, was known for his humor and for his “saturnine disposition,” and could have joked about finding artifacts “probably” left by Crockett on the place, helping to foster the legend.
David Rozell, owner of the Rozell’s tree service, said the tree he and his crew spent seven hours removing was definitely not old enough to have been alive when Crockett was said to have passed though. He also said as they worked, a number of people driving by stopped to inquire about the marker and what was to be done with it. He said his workers moved the marker at the church’s request to a spot under an adjacent tree on the property.
Ann Kuebler of Reno, current regent of the local DAR, said the group has no plans for the monument at the moment.
“We may, perhaps, move the marker to another site, somewhere historically significant in the city or to another location on that lot,” she said. “We knew the church was going to take the tree down. The members will be discussing what we are going to do with the marker.”