Lebanon’s stately, centuries-old American elm tree, believed to be the only one left in the city, is getting rejuvenated.
The two-step preservation process, by Jon Schach, of Good’s Tree and Lawn Care, Harrisburg, got underway on Sept. 15. Schach told LebTown that he injected fungicide to protect the tree from infection by bark beetles, which can spread Dutch elm disease fungus when feeding. Over the winter months, he will then prune the elm and add some support cables.
The American elm, or Ulmus americana, was a popular shade tree throughout U.S. history, even before the Revolution, until it was ravaged by Dutch elm disease in the 20th century. Dutch elm disease, which entered the U.S. on European shipments of unpeeled veneer logs, was first observed in Ohio, in 1930. By 1976, only 34 million of the estimated 77 million elms present in urban locations remained, and far fewer are around today, the Research Station website noted.
Founding Father George Washington took over leadership of the Continental Army under an American elm tree in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
As the release noted, the American elm was an early symbol of national independence. “The Liberty Tree” in Boston “was an emblem of promise and a gathering site for patriotic citizens … until British soldiers destroyed it as a final act of hostility during a hurried retreat in 1775.”
The Lebanon elm – said to be more than 300 years old – was standing when Washington traveled here, Capello told LebTown.
Around 1797, the then-president visited the area several times to keep tabs on the construction of the Union Canal, Capello wrote in an email. She said Washington also stopped in “Steiztown” (Lebanon) on his way to put down the Whiskey Rebellion in western Pennsylvania. He is documented to have stayed at the Tulpehocken Manor in Myerstown and lore has it that he also stayed at the Swan Hotel in Downtown Lebanon, which became the George Washington Tavern.
And the tree is still hard to miss – a 60-inch diameter trunk, standing approximately 70 feet tall by 80 feet wide. In August 2018, a large branch from the elm, which is on the 500 block of Chestnut St., broke off and damaged two homes and a van.
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Paula Wolf worked for 31 years as a general assignment reporter, sports columnist, and editorial writer for LNP Media. A graduate of Franklin & Marshall College, she is a lifetime resident of Lancaster County.
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