Historic Crumpecker Hill tree cut down

October 7, 2018

PRINCETON, W.Va. (AP) — An unusual tree once featured by “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” and saved for years by a public outcry and petitions when new highway construction threatened it was cut down recently after tests showed that it was dead and a safety hazard.

For years an oak tree stood atop a rock formation overlooking U.S. Route 460 in Green Valley. What made it unusual was the fact that it had grown on top of a boulder; in fact, so unusual that it was once featured in “Ripley’s Believe It or Not!,” according to a Jan. 5, 1993 story in the Bluefield Daily Telegraph. During the past few years, people seeing the tree every day from their workplace have noticed it was gradually dying.

Eli Testerman, director of the Mercer County Solid Waste Authority, has his headquarters across the Frontage Road from the tree’s site. A sign marking it as state property and a string of barbed wire atop a fence bars access to the site. A stump now stands on the rocks.

“Last year it got one or two leaves on it,” he recalled. “It had sprinklers that would come on occasionally and a lightening rod.”

Trucks and other vehicles frequently park along the Frontage Road, so the tree would be a hazard if it fell, Testerman said.

Manager Dave Harper of District 10 with the West Virginia Department of Transportation said the old oak was cut down Sept. 22. Tests conducted by a tree specialist showed that it had died.

“It was dead and it was actually hollow, and it was quite a safety hazard,” Harper said. “We actually had an arborist come in and core that trunk. Some branches had come down and they were hollow.”

Rather than take the chance of having the tree topple onto the Frontage Road or fall the other way and down onto Route 460, the decision was made to remove it, Harper said.

“Honestly that tree, from what I’ve been told, should have come down a couple of years ago,” he stated.

The oak growing out of solid rock was a local landmark in the early 1992 when plans were made for renovating Route 460 between Princeton and Bluefield. It became even more popular after it was listed as a natural oddity by “Ripley’s Believe It or Not.” Local naturalist estimated in 1993 that the tree was 80 to 100 years old. They believe that its roots extended through the stone’s crevices into an underground spring. The tree became a local attraction when the highway was constructed 20 years earlier.

When the possibility of losing the tree to highway work appeared, people petitioned the state to spare it from saws. One employee at the solid waste authority recalled the campaign to save it.

“As a kid, I can remember how you would go into Grant’s (Supermarket) and there would be a petition to save the tree,” James Stinson of Princeton said as he looked at where it once stood.

People having breakfast Thursday morning at Sisters Coffee House were surprised to learn that the tree had died.

“Oh, I didn’t know that,” Jimm Norman, 50, of Princeton said after hearing the news.

“I didn’t know that, either,” Scott Catron, 58, also of Princeton added. “I can remember when they were talking about saving the tree. There was a controversy about whether to save the tree. They were talking about the cost and whether it was worth it.”

“I think they should shellac it, ” Princeton resident Tim Smith, 46, said. “It’s a million-dollar tree.”


Information from: Bluefield Daily Telegraph, http://www.bdtonline.com