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Mighty oak tree comes down

Tree
Jul. 29, 2013 @ 11:19 PM

ONA -- A tall piece of history came down Monday at Mud River Baptist Church, located off U.S. 60 in Ona.

A crew removed an oak tree that was hundreds of years old and 84 inches around, said Dustin Campbell, a climber who contracted with Glover's Tree Service for the project.

The once sturdy and striking landmark was hollow in the middle and posing a safety threat, said the Rev. Lee Dean, pastor at the church.

"We hate to cut the tree down, but we've had (some tree companies) come and look at it, and part of it is dead and hollow," he said. "We hate to cut down one of God's creations, a tree, but we have to think about the health and safety of our people and our property."

With a hollow trunk and dense limbs, the tree was a "time bomb," Campbell said.

A dozen or so people from the 150-member congregation gathered at the church to see the tree take its final bow. They saved pieces cut from it to share a bit of history with generations of their families to come.

"There she goes," 90-year-old Golden Bills said as the tree -- with limbs already removed -- tilted and fell to the ground with a thud.

The tree is just one aspect of a church rich with history in Cabell County.

"As historic as that tree is, this church is even more historic," member Rodney Jordan said.

The church was established in 1807 and celebrated its 205th anniversary last year, Dean said. A graveyard on the hill behind the church has marked gravestones dating back at least to the 1820s and some grave markers that look like rocks, without any markings at all, which congregation members believe could belong to slaves.

A portion of the church built in 1841 still stands and can be seen from U.S. 60, but as the congregation has grown over the past year, it's built a new addition as it looks to the future.

Longtime church member John Swann said with the safety threat, it's probably good that the tree came down. But he knows that it stood there when his parents attended the church when they were young, walking from Fudges Creek and Cyrus Creek. His father's ancestors founded the church.

Bills has his own memories there.

"Years ago, they'd tie horses up to that tree -- the old-timers," Bills said.

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