Ulmus procera                                         English Elm

 

St. James Episcopal Church, 119 N. Duke Street, Lancaster PA (Cemetery)

 

Larry Woods, Jeff Stuffle, Paul Lininger

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In 1993, before it succumbed to Dutch Elm Disease, this tree was the Pennsylvania Champion English Elm.  When it was nominated by Jeff Stuffle and Paul Lininger in 1990, it was 102 feet tall with a trunk circumference of 206 inches and a spread of 84 feet (Big Trees of Pennsylvania, 1993). 

 

This tree's story is told by Larry Woods in his September 1, 2017 blog ("Extraordinary Stories from an Ordinary Guy").  Elm trees once lined the Orange and Duke Street sides of the church, and also grew in the churchyard.  Woods quotes Rev. Stanley Imboden that "at the time of removal, one of the Orange Street trees had a 160 ring count."  Woods reasonably guesses that the elms were planted within a few years of the current church's construction, which began in 1820.  The elms

were first infested with elm-bark beetles (which are vectors for the DED fungus) in the late 1970s.  Beginning in the 1980s, the dying trees were removed one by one, "first the trees along the streets and then the trees in the churchyard."  

 

The largest elm, Woods says, "was named for George Ross, St. James' vestryman and signer of our nation's Declaration of Independence."   A plaque honoring Ross still stands near where the champion elm once grew.  Woods quotes a poem written by church member William Arnold regarding the old elm and its pending loss:

 

While inside, robed choir sang and priest and people prayed,

This old retainer silent stood outside and lent its shade

For longer far than any human's span.

And now, when sawyers come, would it seem blasphemous or odd

To say a requiem for this ancient creature made by God,

But until now, perhaps not treasured adequately by man?

 

[First three photos are from Larry Woods:  (a) Elms that once lined the corner of Duke and Orange Streets; (b) those same elms in 1944; and (c) choir director George Rodgers in front of what is thought to be the Ross Elm in 1910.]