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From a Little Acorn a Mighty Lincoln Oak Grew, But...

By Edward Epstein

Washington, D.C.

Sunday, February 4, 2024


A seemingly indomitable oak tree that, according to legend, grew from an acorn collected at Oak Ridge Cemetery on the day Lincoln was entombed there has fallen in a small central Illinois town.


The 159-year-old Lincoln Oak Tree, as it is known in Virden, Illinois, collapsed on Saturday,January 27, onto the Cowen House, a home that dates back to the 1860s. No one was injured, except the historic tree, according to local news reports.  The home suffered damage that the current owner and resident, David Adcock, says he plans to repair.


With its demise, the town of 3,200 people, about 25 miles south of Springfield, has lost its main tourist attraction. However, the tree lives on, in a way. Cuttings from the tree were replanted in Virden's town square early this century, and the oak tree that has taken root there is thriving. There's a plaque at the tree's base explaining the oak's historic significance.


“The woman who lived here in the home in 1865, when Lincoln passed, attended the funeral at Oak Ridge Cemetery with her mom and brought home an acorn and planted it in the yard, hoping it might take off and become something like, but it did, the Lincoln Memorial tree,” town historian John Alexander told Nexstar news. Nexstar owns TV stations in Springfield and Champaign, Illnois.


Lincoln died in Washington on the morning of April 15, 1865 after being shot in the head the evening before at Ford's Theater. The train bearing his embalmed body traveled a circuitous route through most of the nation's major northern cities so that hundreds of thousands of people could view his coffin before it finally arrived in Springfield in early May. The coffin was placed in a temporary tomb on May 4, 1865. The current tomb dates back to 1931.


The Lincoln oak that collapsed last weekend was visited by school groups, Lincoln enthusiasts and tourists traveling historic Route 66, which passes Virden a few miles to the east.


Nexstar's story about the tree's demise can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CxIKu8TmjvU.


Graphic from the City of Virden website.


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