OLD SYCAMORE TREE
The Old Sycamore Tree was a Greene County giant. The Sycamore was the largest known broadleaf, non-nut bearing tree in North America. It grew in the White River Bottoms about one-half mile east of Worthington. The old tree was rooted in Highland Township on the Sloan-Dixon farm and remained there until 1925.
In its day the tree was said to be the most divine place. The shady tree was a popular place for picnics and hikes. The tree was hollow so people could even have picnics inside the trunk. The hollowness and deterioration of the tree were due to elements, initials carved by man, and woodpeckers. The tree was also a popular place for young lovers to go. A horse and buggy could easily be hidden behind its large trunk. Like all great things, the tree had to have an end, and its end came in a horrible storm.
A 1924 Hoosier storm destroyed most of the rotted tree, which was easy prey for the strong winds. The small portion of the tree that remained standing was cut down in 1925 by Wallace Short, who was considered to be a noble man in stature. In fact, he became a legend himself as he cut down and removed the magnificent tree with only man power and simple tools.
To remove a tree the size of the Old Sycamore using modern-day equipment would be a challenge, yet Short managed to cut and move the tree by using group manpower. The west limb, which was the smaller branch of the tree, was loaded on his personal pick-up truck and hauled to Worthington Park, where it is still on display to the public.
The sign erected in front of the limb at the park gives information about the size and age of the tree near the time it was destroyed by the storm:
In 1915 the age of the tree was estimated to be 500 years old. The wood’s height was 150 feet. The wood’s spread was 100 feet. The wood’s circumference at 1 foot above ground was 45 feet 3 inches and at 5 feet above ground 42 feet 3 inches. The east branch was 27 feet 8 inches, while the west branch was 23 feet 3 inches.
The rest of the tree was too decayed to be moved. Many people rushed to get a piece of the Big Sycamore Tree. People used lumber from the magnificent tree to make tables and meat cutting blocks. Some people just left the wood in its natural form.
Bob Mitchell of Linton, Indiana, remembered the tree from his childhood. He saw the huge tree every time he went to his mother’s farm. Once he saw a boy standing in the two- prong tree and recalled him looking as small as a pin head. He also recollected many people getting wood from the legendary tree, while stating his family was not one of them.
In an article from the Worthington Times, Electra Dixon’s grandson, Frank Hoagland of Swayzee, remembered the tree as it stood on his childhood romping grounds. As a boy, he played many days beneath the shade of the tree. He stated that in the flood of 1875 a spike from a railroad tie was placed on the old tree trunk as a marker showing the height of the water. Again in 1913 a marker was placed two feet higher for a flood that exceeded the previous marker.
[Written May 1997]
"Largest Non-Nut Bearing Tree In North America," Worthington Times.
"One of the Largest Trees in World Grew Near Worthington," Worthington Times.
Personal telephone interview with Bob Mitchell, Tuesday, April 1, 1997, in Linton, Indiana.
A Pictorial History of Greene County, Indiana. Marceline, Missouri: D-Books Publishing, 1993.
Roach, Janie. "Big Sycamore Tree," Historical Landmark Project: 1986-1987.