What is Connecticut Notable Tree #56012?

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Granby’s 1902 Constitution Oak. Submitted photo

The Town of Granby has a wealth of history and a number of notable treasures for residents and visitors to enjoy. 

Recently, the Granby Conservation Commission began to search for ways to partner with other organizations and to encourage residents and visitors to experience Granby’s incredible beauty. 

In the course of researching notable sights to explore, it came to light that Granby has many historic trees. Most readers know that the town’s symbol is the Granby Oak on Day Street, but there is another less well known, but more historic tree: namely, Connecticut Notable Tree #56012.

So what is Connecticut Notable Tree #56012? Well, let’s take a step back to understand the historical significance of this tree to Granby.

On October 1, 1901, Connecticut residents voted nearly 2-to-1 in favor of calling a Constitutional Convention to consider updating the state’s constitution to deal with a number of topics. The primary purpose of the 1902 convention was to provide proportional representation for each of Connecticut’s towns based on population. At that time, each town had two representatives in the General Assembly.

The Constitutional Convention began on January 1, 1902, with one representative from each of the state’s 168 towns (West Haven was not incorporated until 1921), and ended on May 15, 1902. Originally, Granby’s representative to the 1902 Constitutional Convention was Judge William C. Case, who had represented Granby in the State House of Representatives in 1881 and 1884. He was unanimously elected to be a member of the Constitutional Convention in 1900, but he died before the convention assembled and was replaced by his law partner and friend Judge Theodore Mills Maltbie.

Around the last week of April 1902, each convention representative received the following letter from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Plant Industry in Washington, D.C.

April 23, 1902

Dear Sir:

Through an arrangement made by the Connecticut delegation in Congress, there has been shipped you, by express, a “constitutional oak,” to be planted in commemoration of the constitutional convention held this year in Connecticut. Full directions for planting will be found accompanying the tree.

Trusting that the tree will arrive safely and that it will long serve as a record of the work done, I remain,

Very respectfully,

B.T. Galloway, Chief of Bureau

Connecticut U.S. Senator Joseph R. Hawley had arranged for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Plant Industry to provide Pin Oak seedlings to each of the 168 participants to commemorate their experience. Senator Hawley suggested that the convention delegates plant the trees as a reminder of the purpose of the convention and as a symbol of the friendships made during the process. The delegates planted these trees on town greens, schoolyards, church yards and, in many cases, on the delegate’s own property.

A vote was taken on June 16, 1902,as to the adoption of the revised state constitution and it was soundly defeated with 10,377 for its acceptance and 21,234 against it. So if it were not for these Pin Oaks, the 1902 Constitution Convention would be completely forgotten.

Fortunately though, many of these trees were planted and a census of the 168 trees was completed in 2002. At that time, 74 of the original constitution oak trees were still growing. One of those trees is Connecticut Notable Tree #56012. Salmon Brook Historical Society archivist Carol Laun said, “At that time, the Granby Green was not cared for except just prior to Memorial Day, when James N. Loomis sent men and horses to mow and rake the grass. Therefore, it was felt the constitutional seedling would be safer and more likely to survive on private property. The tree was entrusted to the widow and children of Judge William C. Case, who planted it in the east yard of their home at 4 East Granby Road.” 

In 1957, the Granby Civic Club attached a plaque to the constitution oak saying “Granby Constitution Oak 1902 – Marked by the Civic Club 1957.” The plaque has been lost to history and it does not appear that this plaque caused any harm to the tree at that time.

Today, 4 East Granby Road is owned by Gracey House, LLC whose partners appreciate not only the historic value of the home on this property, but also the constitution oak. When the home was renovated and turned into a law office, the partners made sure that the constitution oak was saved and the office parking lot was built around the historic tree.

Unfortunately, the tree has not done well in recent years and has many dead branches. One of the owners, John Laudati tells the Granby Conservation Commission that he had an arborist look at the tree and plans to have the tree inspected again this spring to see what can be done to save it. The owners are committed to working with the Town of Granby Conservation Commission and the Salmon Brook Historical Society to place a plaque near the road so that residents and visitors can understand the significance of this historic tree. The Granby Conservation Commission is working with the Salmon Brook Historical Society in planning the proposed plaque.

Stay tuned for the next chapter of Connecticut Notable Tree #56012, better known as Granby’s 1902 Constitution Oak.

Post Script: It wasn’t until 1965 that the state constitution was finally updated to have proportional representation in the Connecticut State House of Representatives.