Osborne Boundary Oak in Bethel Community Receives Attention

By Evelyn M. Coltman | Jan 30, 2013
Photo by: Evelyn Coltman Arborist John McPeters, of Hemlock Healers, ascends the Osborne Boundary Oak.


Passersby on NC Highway 110 slowed to observe the aerial inspection and treatment of the Osborne Boundary Oak tree on a recent chilly morning.   A handful of observers watched as Hemlock Healers arborists Frank Varvoutis and John Mc Peters spent several hours trimming diseased limbs and doctoring the several hundred year old black oak that has been the recipient of salvation attempts in the 1970s when expansion of Highway 110 threatened to bring the tree down and again in 2009 when the distressed tree received remedial treatment in order to prolong its life.  The aging tree still has years of survival if it receives regular doctoring and maintenance.  The historic tree is considered to be third in line to receive the designation of Champion Black Oak Tree in North Carolina.

Current efforts to extend the life of the tree have been conducted under the leadership of Dr. Doris Hammett and Bethel Rural Community Organization’s Historic Preservation Committee. Hammett championed the cause of the tree back in the 1970s, as well as recently when her keen observation spotted numerous dead limbs.  Hammett alerted Bethel Rural Community Organization (BRCO), and the community group has served as overseer of the Osborne Boundary Oak maintenance project since 2009.

To commemorate the wonderful history of the tree, BRCO included the oak as a site on the 2010 Cold Mountain Heritage Tour.  BRCO commissioned Ernestine Upchurch to research and write about the history of the tree from its Native American roots through its connection with the 1776 Rutherford Trace march, to its use as a boundary marker in 1792, to its link with Osborne Dairy Farm.  Upchurch’s article is included in BRCO’s Legends, Tales & History of Cold Mountain, Book 6, by Evelyn Coltman which is available at www.bethelrural.org and at Blue Ridge Books.

BRCO’s Historic Preservation Committee, assisted by a donation from Lee Starnes, coordinated with the NC Department of Transportation to place its first local historic marker at the tree site in 2011.  Recently, BRCO directed a DVD segment, video graphed by Doug Chambers Productions, in which Doris Burrell, Ted Carr, Hammett, Upchurch, and Eric Muecke from the N. C. Forest Service as well as N.C. Department of Transportation representative Tim Parnell participated.  The segment is the third to be filmed in BRCO’s second DVD.