Big Pecan Tree

Natchez Trace Park

Located a few miles north of I-40 in Carroll County on Natchez Trace Drive is the park's famed Big Pecan Tree. In the 1930's a plaque was erected by the John McCall Chapter of the D.A.R.: "Accepted tradition says this tree has grown from a pecan given to Sukey Morris by one of Jackson's men as they traveled homeward after he Battle of New Orleans." It's difficult to say whether this legend is true. It is known that four companies of General John Coffee's Tennessee Militia used the western branch of the Natchez Trace which passes by the Pecan Tree to return home from the Battle of New Orleans in April 1815. But who was Sukey Morris? West Tennessee was Chickasaw territory until 1818, and there should have been no settlers in 1815. When the Western Natchez Trace was surveyed in 1816 the survey noted that the northern 100 miles was uninhabited.

The Big Pecan Tree was obviously planted. Pecans are not native to this area and certainly would not be found naturally on a dry ridge. That the tree is only 30' from the old Natchez Trace would support the idea that it was planted by someone, if not by Andrew Jackson's soldiers then by a later settler. The precise age of a tree can be determined by dendrochronlogy, a procedure whereby a small core is removed from the trunk and the three rings counted. Unfortunately, the Big Pecan is filled with concrete and can't be dated by this method. Size is not a positive clue either since the Big Pecan Tree grew in a barnyard up until the 30's and was well fertilized.

In 1958 the Big Pecan Tree measured 17'8" in circumference, 104' in height, and 125' in breadth. In April 1973 the tree measured 18'2" in circumference, 106' in height and 136' in spread, and was named the World's Largest Pecan Tree in the American Forestry Association's Social Register of Big Trees. Within a few months Louisiana and Virginia reported larger pecan trees but no one in Tennessee was told until 1976. Natchez Trace Big Pecan Tree was measured in 1976 and found to have a circumference of 18'1", a height of 118' and an average crown spread of 132'. (This gave the Natchez Trace Pecan 368 points in the AFA's point system, still less than Louisiana's pecan with 385 points.)

The original bronze plaque that was erected in the 30's was stolen about 1961 or 1962. Soldiers from Fort Campbell were suspected since the plaque disappeared while they were on maneuvers at the park. Tennessee State Parks put up an identical plaque in 1964 at a cost of $96.00. In spite of extra precautions in mounting the plaque it was stolen shortly thereafter in 1965 or 1966. In September 1975 a story appeared in the TenneScene newspaper about the park, seasonal naturalist Carl Wirwa, and the Pecan Tree. Shortly thereafter, Mrs. Barbara Long of Union City contacted the newspaper to report she had the missing plaque. Mrs. Long had found the plaque several years before when she was cleaning up her yard after a tornado.

On November 10, 1975 Natchez Trace State Park Superintendent Billy Renfroe and West Tennessee Regional Naturalist Marilyn Williamson drove to Union City to meet Mrs. Long and recover the plaque. The plaque, which is believed to be the 2nd plaque, is now at the Natchez Trace State Park Office. The park plans to erect the plaque if the legend can be verified.

Written by Marilyn Williamson - West Tennessee Regional Naturalist April 1979

The tree has completely died. The remains of its trunk have been cut down and pushed into a gully, apparently in 2008 or early 2009. The D.A.R. plaque telling the legend of Sukey Morris has been removed


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