The 250-year-old tree Fort Parker Pecan was a witness to historic events in early Texas history, including the Comanche raid where Cynthia Ann Parker was kidnapped. Photo courtesy of Texas Historic Tree Coalition.
April 14, 2023
It’s a tale of two pecan trees this weekend — one, a scrappy city tree that survived the urbanization of Dallas. The other, its grand country cousin that’s been left to thrive in Limestone County. Both are being recognized for their historic role in their communities.
On Sunday at noon, a proclamation ceremony will be held at Oak Cliff Earth Day to recognize the West Dallas Gateway Pecan Tree, deemed historic by the Dallas-based Texas Historic Tree Coalition. Later a plaque will be unveiled at Beckley and Commerce at 2 p.m. by the Fort Worth Avenue Development Group, in partnership with TXHTC and the city of Dallas.
On Saturday, 100 miles south of Dallas, the Texas Historic Tree Coalition will host a celebration for the Fort Parker Pecan Tree, at the 2100 block of FM 1245 in Groesbeck at 11 a.m.
The West Dallas Gateway Pecan Tree at Beckley and Commerce has been a landmark for visitors to Dallas since the city’s founding. Photo courtesy of Texas Historic Tree Coalition.
At around 180 years old, the West Dallas Gateway Pecan Tree, at 2461 N. Beckley Ave, was just a sapling when the city of Dallas was formed.
The pecan tree was located near a low water crossing on the Trinity River, which attracted travelers and commuters — from the first settlers to the cowboys on cattle drives on the Shawnee Trail.
“A lot of traffic has gone past the tree,” said Marion Lineberry, president of the Texas Historic Tree Coalition.
The Texas Historic Tree Coalition has been on the hunt for historic trees across the state since 2014 when it changed its name from Dallas Historic Tree Coalition and expanded from a local to a statewide mission. TXHTC has since recognized more than 40 trees over the past decade.
Lineberry admits that the aging pecan tree in West Dallas is not as majestic as it once was but its very existence is remarkable given the harsh conditions it’s endured.
“We initially thought of calling it a survivor tree,” he said.
Katherine Homan, president of the Fort Worth Avenue Development Group, and Don Raines, a city of Dallas Planning and Urban Design planner, both with Oak Cliff roots, lobbied to get the West Dallas tree recognized and ensure it was protected over the years.
The trunk of the West Dallas Gateway Pecan shows damage. Photo courtesy of Texas Historic Tree Coalition.
Lineberry said it’s a “miracle” the tree survived the city’s development, particularly the building of the Trinity River levee system, which was completed in 1932.
Aerial photographs of the tree when the levees were being constructed showed it had a large canopy, he said
At that time, the tree would have been 90 years old and likely appreciated for its shade and beauty. That may have saved it from being felled during the levee’s construction.
“The community would have wanted to make sure it was protected,” speculated Lineberry.
But with development came other challenges. Before the levees were built, the tree was located in a flood plain, which provided rich nutrients and ample water. A sample core taken from the tree by researchers showed the tree’s heartiness in its first century.
“You can see it was growing at a relatively normal rate in its youth with about 9 rings per inch. After the levee was built, its growth was significantly reduced — to about 16 rings per inch.
More challenges came in the tree’s recent history, with the construction of the Margaret Hunt Hill bridge in the early 2010s when Beckley Avenue was moved 100 feet to the west.
During the construction Homan and Raines were instrumental in ensuring the tree was once again spared from being bulldozed to make way for development.
According to Lineberry, along the way, the Gateway Pecan also had three major limbs removed, and at 60 feet tall, half of its original crown appears to be gone.
In addition, in recent years, its been a victim of three vehicle accidents.
Lineberry said all of these hardships will likely impact its lifespan, which can be up to 300 years for native pecans in the wild.
However, he said the tree is not at the end of its life yet and is still producing pecans.
Fortunately, this beloved pecan has some dedicated friends looking after it.
Homan lobbied the city to install concrete barriers around it to protect it from traffic accidents and there’s a plan to install a permanent barrier of limestone.
Marion Lineberry, president of the Texas Historic Tree Coalition, sits in the shade of the 250-year-old Fort Parker Pecan in Groesbeck. Photo by Kirbie Houser-Pastenes.
Meanwhile, the Fort Parker Pecan, 100 miles south in rural Groesbeck County, is thriving thanks to its country digs.
“That tree is in marvelous shape,” said Lineberry. “It doesn’t have a lot of limb loss. It’s sitting out in the middle of pasture. Its limbs drape all the way to the ground.”
Towering over the landscape at 94 feet, the tree features a trunk 19 feet around and is listed as the seventh-largest known pecan tree in the state of Texas, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service
The 250-year-old tree is named for the legendary Parker family, whose ancestor Cynthia Ann Parker was captured by Comanches as a young girl. She assimilated into the culture and married a Comanche war leader. She gave birth to Quanah Parker, who became the last chief of the Comanches. He is known for serving as his people’s spokesman during and after their transition to life on a reservation.
Texas Historic Tree Coalition volunteers Kirbie Houser-Pastenes and Bill Coleman measure the circumference of the Fort Parker Pecan trunk in Groesbeck in 2021. Photo by Steve Houser.
The Fort Parker tree is located on private property, now owned by Tammy and Ricky Rand.
“This historic tree sits on land originally owned by Silas Parker, the father of Cynthia Ann Parker,” said Rand. “My wife Tammy and I are proud and honored to be the current stewards of this tree and can only imagine the historic events it has witnessed throughout its life.”
Many of the Parker family are buried in nearby Fort Parker Memorial Park and Cemetery.
Old Fort Parker Historic Site at 866 Park Rd 35, Groesbeck, is also less than a mile away.
PROTECTION FOR TREES
Lineberry says while the Texas Historic Tree Coalition certification is not a guarantee of protection, their hope is that preservation is the result.
He said there’s been an uptick in interest in protecting native trees but admits there’s still not enough being done as development continues to mow down natural areas across North Texas.
“It’s kind of like climate change,” he said. “More people see that climate change is happening, yet they’re not actually doing anything about it.”
“We hope that people will read about [these trees] and become attached to them,” he added.
TXHTC’s efforts to raise awareness continues.
Two other tree dedications are planned for the fall in Granbury — this time both ceremonies will honor live oaks. One grove is remarkable in part for being located near an ancient archeological site. Another pair inspired a song. Stay tuned.
Texas Historic Tree Dedications
About: The Dallas-based Texas Historic Tree Coalition is recognizing two trees this weekend with historical significance.
• Saturday, April 15: A dedication ceremony will be held for the Fort Parker Pecan Tree at 11 a.m. at 2100 block of FM 1245 in Groesbec.k
• Sunday, April 16: The West Dallas Gateway Pecan Tree will be recognized at noon at Lake Cliff Park during Oak Cliff Earth Day. There will also be a plaque ceremony at Beckley and Commerce at 2 p.m. hosted by the Fort Worth Avenue Development Group, in partnership with TXHTC and the city of Dallas.
On the Web: Texas Historic Tree Coalition
Dallas-based group searching for historic trees across Texas
Big trees need more protection, say DFW advocates
Centuries-old tree dedicated at Arlington preserve
Stay up to date on everything green in North Texas, including the latest news and events! Sign up for the weekly Green Source DFW Newsletter! Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Also check out our new podcast The Texas Green Report, available on your favorite podcast app.