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Courtesy of Special Collections, Marshall University Library The giant beech tree that once stood in front of Marshall’s Old Main was already centuries old when Marshall was founded in 1837. Generations of students immortalized their initials on the ancient tree before it was toppled in a storm in April 1987.

Editor's note: This is the 181st in a series of articles recalling vanished Huntington scenes.

HUNTINGTON - For generations a giant beech tree in front of Old Main was a beloved landmark on the Marshall campus.

The towering tree was already centuries old before Marshall was founded in 1837. The tree was mentioned in a 1902 article in "The Parthenon," the school newspaper. In 1905, as the last section of Old Main was being designed, there was a lively argument about possibly removing the tree. Those who favored chopping it down lost the debate.

In a 1937 inspection, initials dating back to 1889 were found carved on the tree. Over the years, a number of weddings and engagements took place under its spreading branches.

The ancient tree was toppled in a storm in April 1987. Initially the tree's stump was retained, with a commemorative plaque placed on it. However, in July 1991 the stump was dug up when a university committee decided it had to go.

In its final years, concrete had been pumped into the tree to reinforce it. Pointing out that the front of Old Main was getting new landscaping, Ed Gross, the university's vice president for administration, said "We just can't have a big piece of concrete sticking up in the middle of it."

The decision to remove the stump was widely unpopular. Sam Clagg, a long-time faculty member, complained: "It seems to me that a 400-year old tree should deserve some kindness."

Before the tree fell, Professor Jim Rogers harvested some seeds from it and raised seedlings. In the spring of 1989, one of the seedlings was planted in place of the original tree.

A limb of the landmark tree was used to carve the Grand Mace, a symbol of academic authority and leadership that's carried by the Grand Marshal of the faculty at all formal university occasions.

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