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Grand Rapids in 1856

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The Walnut Tree

The Walnut Tree

GRHC - November 21st, 2012

Charles Garfield discovered a fascinating story, about the existence of a lone black walnut tree, from an aged Ottawa Indian.


In his introduction to Carol Mary Holt’s 1915 book, The Story of Grand Rapids, Charles Garfield shared a personal story.

“A chamber in my house is finished in black walnut, which has grown darker with the years until it has reached almost an ebony color. The lumber was sawed from a walnut tree on the highest ground of the first farmstead in Kent County, that occupied by Barney and Harriet Burton.” You may recall the Burton farm, which began at the corner of S. Division and Burton Ave., was purchased by Charles Garfield’s father.

Garfield continues, “The tree had over two hundred growth rings recording its two centuries of existence. It was a great wonder to the early settlers that this lone walnut should have grown on this high land when no others were to be found except along the river.

An aged Indian explained to me when a young lad, that this high ground was chosen by a band of Ottawa from time immemorial as their winter camp, and the underbrush was regularly burned for miles in each direction so no enemy could approach without being detected. Here children brought walnuts and cracked them to eat with their parched corn during the long winters.

It was natural that an occasional nut should slip from the little fingers and become imbedded in the soil. One evidently survived and grew into the tree that marked the Indian campground.”

Full Details

TitleThe Walnut Tree
KeywordsGlance at the Past; WYCE; radio; history; Grand Rapids; Historical Commission; Charles Garfield; Burton Farm; Native American
Pubdate StringNovember 21st, 2012

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