Possible Witness Tree Group
Those visitors who decide to drive the official National Park Service auto tour at Gettysburg typically begin at Stop #1 on Reynolds Avenue, where they inevitably read the obligatory pair of official tablets which describe the action which took place at this site.
What most people don’t realize is that they are also at that moment directly facing three white oak trees that have been identified – through tradition – as Witness Trees. However, on this website, we only label individual trees as Witness Trees if there is clear photographic evidence to back up that claim. Since it is very difficult to definitively identify these trees in any old photographs, we are unable to grant these trees Witness Tree status at this time.
(Actually, tree #3 is not included in the ostensible list of trees, but since it is the same size as #2, we include it here)
That is not to say that these three trees are not witness trees. In fact, they probably are. But for purposes of this site, we must await further evidence.
As mentioned above, the trees have been included in lists of Witness Trees in the past (see the online articles here and here, for example). Tree #2 even has one of those small round bronze tags on it, which tradition says identifies it as a witness tree! But since no one actually knows who was responsible for putting those tags on the trees, or when, or why – that is no evidence at all. (see Question #3 on our FAQ page for more on this topic).
The largest tree (#1) has a circumference of 111 inches / diameter 35.3″; Tree #2 has a circumference of 86″ / diameter 27.3″; and Tree #3 has a circumference of 87″ / diameter 27.7″.
There are several old photographs of this part of the grove in front of the Reynolds death monument. However, the number of trees that were standing in that part of the neighborhood at the turn of the 20th century was so great, that it is impossible to match the three present trees definitively with trees in the older pictures.
We present to you then-and-now comparisons of these older photographs for your perusal. One note, though: the very large tree in the older photographs which lean heavily eastward towards Reynolds Avenue is NOT the same large white oak that leans the same way today.
The first two “then” shots are William Tipton images, from 1899 and 1904 respectively. The last image, from 1905, was accessed from the Library of Congress online catalogue.