, Derry, New Hampshire


September 13, 2012

Column: Site of famous old oak tree is now lost to history


For decades the oak tree was a well known and respected land mark in town. For many it was thought to mark the symbolic spot, a mitzvah, where God was first asked to protect the town. It was cherished by the locals in the same way a beach shore rock was honored by the residents of Plymouth, Mass.

In time, the tree grew old, decayed and fell down. All that was left was a stump sticking out of the pasture on the farm of Squire John McMurphy. Still pilgrimages were made to the site where the oak tree once stood. After the squire’s death, the farm passed to his son Robert. His two sons, John and Robert Jr., were given the responsibility of plowing the hillside field that sloped down to Beaver Lake.

After a few years of plowing around the stump, the two brothers decided that enough was enough and plowed it up to “make an end to their troubles.” When the fate of the stump became known, their father was not happy. He scolded them harshly and as punishment made them plant an apple tree on the exact spot where the tree had once stood.

Years later, the fruit tree succumbed to the effects of the weather and old age. It was quickly hauled away and replaced by another apple tree. When this tree in turn died, a stone cairn, a couple feet high, was erected on the spot. In 1919, on Nutfield’s 200th birthday, this pile of rocks was marked by a sign explaining the site’s importance to the history of the town. In time however, the landowner got tired of tourist tromping through the back yard of his North Shore Road house. To keep them away, he knocked down the cairn and scattered the stones.

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