Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Remember When . . . Liberty Reached for the Sky?

One of the best parts about writing my Annapolis story was the necessity to include one of my favorite historical landmarks from the town: the Liberty Tree.

Liberty Trees sprang up all over the country in the years before the Revolution as meeting places for the Sons of Liberty. Annapolis chose a huge Tulip Poplar to serve the role, the very one that Joseph Pilmoor had stood under when delivering the first Methodist sermon in Maryland. This is where the Annapolis chapter of the Sons of Liberty planned out the Annapolis Tea Party and the sinking of the Peggy Stewart.

The Liberty Trees were such a symbol to the patriots that they were marked for destruction by the British. Whenever they entered a city with a Liberty Tree, they chopped or burned it to the ground. But Annapolis was never under British control, and so those Redcoats never got near our Liberty Tree. At the end of the Revolution, it was the last one still standing.

But the British weren’t the only enemy to this tree. At one point it was struck by lightning and caught fire—and was saved by the quick-acting Annapolitans. But then disease struck. It was being eaten away from the inside out. Enter a couple of mischievous school boys, who thought it would be a good idea to set off fire crackers in a hole in the trunk. I can only imagine the trouble they got in for that one! But as it happens, it was a good idea. The blast killed the fungus and saved the tree.

The Annapolis Liberty Tree stood on the lawn of Bladen’s Folly, an abandoned governor’s mansion that was then turned into the primary building of St. John’s College–where I went to school. =) When I visited St. John’s as a junior scouting out colleges, I got to see the Liberty Tree, to put my hand on it and marvel at the history of this place (I was always a history geek, LOL).

My senior year of high school, a hurricane so injured the tree that it was deemed a safety risk, and they had to take it down. I just about cried when my English teacher brought in the newspaper that morning, where the Liberty Tree’s death was front page news.

So by the time I entered St. John’s as a Freshman, the Liberty Tree existed only in its clone across the green from it, in memories, and in some high-priced instruments and chairs. I was a tour guide for the school, so I was always keenly aware of its absence. And as I walked up to get my diploma at graduation, I did it knowing that six years earlier, it would have been under the shade of the Liberty Tree’s limbs.

Call me silly, but I loved being able to incorporate this piece of history into my book, to give it special significance to my characters. Because in so many ways, that old tree represented an entire nation, and the ideals that made us rise up and fight for freedom. And it was honor to give it life again.

1 comment:

  1. I love learning a bit of history when I read. I hadn't heard of the Liberty Tree before...look forward to reading how you work it in someday.