Occasionally, you will come across an old post card containing a photo of a walnut tree surrounded by the Standard Oil buildings in Vincennes. The postmark could be anywhere from 1920 to the 1940s. The only description on the post cards says Harrison-Tecumseh Treaty Tree, Vincennes, Indiana. This old walnut tree sat on the Standard Oil lot near First and Shelby streets. It was said to be the last of the great stand of walnut trees where Tecumseh and Harrison met for their famous council in 1810.
In February 1920, members of the Francis Vigo Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), and Katherine McIlvaine, their regent, approached the Indiana Stan
dard Oil Company about preserving this tree. The letter was well received by the Standard Oil Company and it was agreed that the Francis Vigo Daughters would place a plaque on the tree trunk. In October of 1920, with much ceremony, the unveiling of the plaque was held by the Francis Vigo Daughters with Artie Cullop, founding regent, doing the honors. The plaque read “This Ancient Monarch of the Primeval Forest Long Known to the Inhabitants of Vincennes as the Treaty Tree is the Sole Survivor of the Historic Walnut Grove in Which Genl. Wm Henry Harrison Held Council with Indian Chief Tecumseh August 12-16, 1810.”
In 1923 the Fortnightly Club published a book called the “Souvenir Tourist’s Guide,” and the Treaty Tree was listed as the number three stop. Walnuts from the Treaty Tree were given, as souvenirs, to the visitors by The Standard Oil Company. In the Feb. 24, 1931, issue of the Vincennes Sun Commercial there was a story about Charles Castor, a veteran of the Spanish American War who was a retired truck driver for the Standard Oil Company. Castor had been picking up fallen branches of the tree and whittling them into gavels. He had presented several gavels to the Standard Oil Company managers, the Spanish American War Veterans group, and one to Noble Judah, former ambassador to Cuba. Other gavels presented included one that was presented to the Indiana State DAR by the local chapter.
In November 1935, Mrs. Eva Davenport, past regent of the Francis Vigo DAR, set up the Walnut Tree Project. This project was to raise funds by selling saplings from the Treaty Tree. Some saplings were also presented as gifts. One sapling was presented to Bonnie Farwell, Indiana State DAR regent, who sponsored its planting on an Anacostia Island in Washington, D.C. Other saplings were planted locally. Seedlings were planted at Washington School, LaSalle School, and on the Good Samaritan Hospital grounds. Seedlings were also planted on the grounds of Dyer Haven. Dyer Haven contained two acres of land donated by John Dyer and the land was to be used by the local scouts.
On March 19, 1948, a violent storm hit Vincennes and took the old tree down. The tree was just a shell. The trunk was filled with concrete, gravel and dirt. The plaque was removed from the tree and stored at the William Henry Harrison Mansion.
Because of the efforts of the Francis Vigo Chapter DAR, the seedling of the old Treaty Tree lives on in the majestic grove of Walnut Trees located near the William Henry Harrison Mansion.