The Old Trees
by Lynne Belluscio
With the recent demise of the library tree, I remembered a file in our history section that had articles about some of the huge trees in LeRoy that had similar life ending stories.
Probably the most famous was the “Old Elm Tree” on Summit Street. Two stories have surfaced. One says that the tree came from the Betsy Woodward gravel pit on East Main Road in 1837. The other story, which was most often repeated, tells that in 1816, ten-year-old George Platt was cutting down brush and he spared the young tree. By the time it succumbed to Dutch elm disease in 1960, the trunk was 18 feet in circumference. There was a large hole in the center, and at one time a currant bush grew there and folks in the neighborhood made jams and jelly from the currants. The story was that a deer had eaten part of the tree, and caused the huge hole in the center and it was the absence of the “heart” as they called it, to grow so large in circumference. It was considered one of the largest elms in New York State and there were published postcards with its photograph. It took four days to cut it down. I don’t think anyone thought to save some of it.
North of the village, on Lake Street Road, about a mile north of Fort Hill, there was an “ancient oak tree” that grew on the Kelsey farmstead. In 1806, when Martin Kelsey came to the area, it was a good-sized tree. It survived until 1958 when Route 19 was widened. The newspaper article mentioned that an oil painting of the tree had been given to Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Kelsey as a wedding present by Mr. Kelsey’s aunt who lived in Michigan. I can’t help but wonder where that painting is now.
Main Street from the bridge to the corner of Lake Street, was graced by huge tall elm trees. There were two in front of 1 Main – now the Creekside and one across the street at the west end of the bridge by the post office. There was another on the south side closer to Bank Street . . .