Arson Claims Historic Elm's Stump -- nr Louisville KS
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member Benchmark Blasterz
N 39° 15.381 W 096° 15.043
14S E 737222 N 4348827
A news story about the last arson incident that destroyed the former World Champion Vieux Elm at the historic and tragic Oregon Trail Cholera Cemetery near Louisville KS.
Waymark Code: WMGVV1
Location: Kansas, United States
Date Posted: 04/13/2013
Published By:Groundspeak Regular Member silverquill
Views: 3

This gazebo used to hold the trunk of the Vieux Elm, until it was destroyed by heartless vandals. Now it has been repurposed as a picnic area.

From the Topeka Capital Journal: (visit link)

"Arson claims historic elm's stump

Posted: August 24, 2011 - 9:16am
The Associated Press

LOUISVILLE, Kan. — The trunk of a Pottawatomie County American Elm tree once designated the largest in the world has been destroyed by a fire that was likely arson.

The Louis Vieux Elm grew up to 100 feet tall east of Louisville, a Pottawatomie County community north of Wamego. It was designated in the early 1980s as the largest American elm in the world.

A combination of age, the elements, disease and vandalism eventually killed the tree. But private investors tried to preserve its trunk by reinforcing it and erecting a shelter. It continued to be a tourism draw in the county.

The Manhattan Mercury reports that last week, workers found the trunk was a pile of ashes. Fire Supervisor Bruce Brazzle says he believed the fire was intentionally set." [end]

The Vieux Elm gazebo photo credit belongs to Kevin Boos. (visit link)
The photo of the Vieux Elm in ashes is from the Konza Life blog: (visit link)
All other photos were taken by the Benchmark Blasterz.

Here's a happier story about this wonderful tree: (visit link)


TheFredricksburg (VA) Free-Lance Star, Saturday, September 8, 1980
By Tad Bartimus, Associated Press writer

Louisville Kansas (AP) -- Well before there was a wheat field to surround it or plaque to honor it, this country's biggest elm tree was a passive witness to the growing pains of America.

When it sprouted its first leaf, the Plains belonged only to the buffalo and other wild creatures of the field, and to the Indians. It was 17 years old when George Washington was born. US cavalry troopers tethered to their horses under it as they passed to and fro between Fort Leavenworth and Fort Riley – the gateway to the West. Anxious women, in calico bonnets, gathered under it as their strong-backed men repaired wheels disabled in the ruts of the Oregon Trail only a stone's throw away.

In the lawless early days of the frontier, violent men threw a rope over the mighty tree’s lowest branch and claimed their own justice. Lovers have picnicked beneath it, a dozen generations of little boys have clamored to its highest arm just to see if they could do it, and lightning, the wrath of the heavens, has wounded it three times this century.

But Nature has spared it, while capriciously taking down its peers with a disease that has left a pox of stumps throughout America.

By act of the National Register of Big Trees of the American Forestry Association, the Louis Vieux Elm – proper name Olmus Americana – was designated the largest known example of its species.

In the shade of the cool, leafy canopy, a prayer was said and politicians praised its longevity. The story of the local historical society regaled the festive crowd with as much of the tree’s history as she could find. And everyone marveled at the natural wonder.

the Louis Vieux Elm is, by measurement of the Kansas Wildlife and Fisheries Department, 99 feet tall; 23 feet, two inches in circumference, and has an average crown spread of 133 feet.
It is still growing. Last year it took 10 men to lock arms and reach around it. This summer it needed a little extra help run and allowed volunteer.

But the story of the giant elm can be found in dry statistics.

Its story is in the people who lived in harmony with it over nearly 3 centuries.

Six descendants of Louis Vieux., a half-French, half-Pottawatomie fur trader who was born in 1810 and died in 1872, came back to the trees dedication to sit in its shade and talk about their own roots. Most had never met before.

They didn’t look-alike or talk alike. They had different styles of life, different politics, different religions. But they all trace their bloodlines back to the Vieuxs, who settled more than 100 years ago in the spot where they found each other, under the big tree.

That one family’s odyssey and wanderlust is a microcosm of the acid expansion and migration of Americans, a people who always seem to be going somewhere.

Elsie Blackhawk, whose face at 75 is as weathered as an apple left too long in the hot sun, came by herself, driving her car from Bartlesville, Okla., and back again in one day so she wouldn't have to trust the care of her 20-year-old horse to a neighbor.

Mercedes McKillop flew in from Munroe, Wash., alone because her husband wasn’t nearly as interested in the ancient family history as she was.

Angeline Kekahbah reveled in the long day of sunshine and conversation, trying to pick up the threads of her past while everyone seemed to talk at once.. She hated to leave for home at Pawhuska, Okla.

Helena Allemandi made a little holiday out of her easy journey from Ogeden, Kan., and brought along some old pictures to pass around.

Herbert Whitlow brought along his pretty, grownup daughter Chris from Tecumseh Kan., so she could meet some of the relatives and get a feel for her heritage.

“We just scattered to the four winds," says Elsie, widow of the hereditary chief of the Winnebago tribe. "I was amazed when we started trying to get together. I heard about this from a niece in Oregon who couldn't come.

“We are proud people, and we knew about Louis Vieux and some of the family history. But being here with these other folks is very special for me." She said as she is one-third Cherokee one-third French and one-third Pottawatomie.

Mercedes, who had the same grandmother as Helena and Elsie, described her branch of the family as “part of the classic exodus to California during the Dust Bowl days. When the good old Okies went west, we were part of it, settled in the Salinas Valley.”

She eventually went on north to Washington State, and brother went to Texas, and her children are going their own way, too.

Helena says her heritage is the same as Mercedes – but she and her relatives are very proud of their Indian blood. “I'm wearing my turquoise necklace and earrings in honor of this occasion," says Helena.

The descendants set together under the tree and traced their ancestry back to three brothers: Whitlows to Louis Vieux; Elsie, Mercedes, and Helena to Paul Vieux; Angeline to Charles Vieux.

Those three men were born to a French fur trader and a Pottawatomie mother who ran a trading post in what later became known as Milwaukee, Wis.

The Vieuxs kept moving south as white homesteaders encroached on their land, and finally, in 1857, Louis settled near the big tree beside the meandering Vermillion River. He sold supplies, hay, grain, and horses to the Army and two travelers going by his homestead on the Oregon Trail.

Quote He was the first person to operate a toll bridge across the river, and by some estimates earned $300 a day at peak season by charging $1 per horse and rider,” says Barbara Burgess, the Wamego Historical Society’s historian who organized the reunion and tree dedication. “His brothers joined him and they all became very well off."

Louis occasionally presented the Pottawatomies at treaty talks in Washington D.C., and in 1867 was a signer of a pact that allowed the Indians to either hold lands in common as a reservation or establish individual claims of 80 acres or more.

That's when the family started to scatter. A few may have gone on up the Oregon Trail, perhaps others down the Santa Fe Trail. Some went to live on the new reservation in Oklahoma, some stayed behind and became naturalized citizens and recorded land patents. Louis got 315 acres, including the big tree, because of his high tribal position.

When he died in 1872, records indicate he was overseer of 44,000 acres of prime land, owned part of a successful watermill, and livestock, and was a major power in the Kansas territory.

His elaborately carved tombstone proclaims Vieux was: “ Just and kind (to Indians)… his business relations with the whites brought him into intimate association with them… all who knew him respected and loved him as a man of strict integrity.”

It was reported that 800 people followed his funeral procession past the big tree and up the hill to the cemetery where 28 other Vieuxs – including his brother Paul and his two wives – were buried.

As the Vieux clan savored their personal past, a traveler on a big motorcycle braked to stop to see what all the commotion was about.

Ed Mock, a Boulder Colo. real estate broker, needed little encouragement to join the party. A third-generation Kansan whose roots lead back to Germany and Ireland, the 52-year-old businessman found his own niche in the Rocky Mountains. But he said he was intrigued with the American past, and the rutted trails that took immigrants to every corner of the country. He was biking the Oregon Trail.

“Finding this gathering today was a wonderful surprise for me,” he says, taking a break in his solitary pilgrimage. “We shouldn’t forget where we came from as we hurry to wherever we’re going. I plan to come back to this tree sometime. It's wonderful knowing that it will always be in the same place."

Then like everyone else he sat down under the big elm. There was plenty of room. There always has been." [end]

What a tragic loss for all of us :(
Type of publication: Newspaper

When was the article reported?: 08/24/2011

Publication: Topeka Capital-Journal

Article Url: [Web Link]

Is Registration Required?: no

How widespread was the article reported?: regional

News Category: Crime

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