When Doug and Hilary Schultz bought their home on Granada Street almost 20 years ago, it was the stately American Ash with branches projecting over the backyard that clinched the deal.
"The house itself was nice, but it was the yard that really attracted us," said Hilary Schultz.
The branches of that tree will no longer shield the yard from the elements. Age and rain combined to claim the life of one of Mt. Vernon Manor's oldest residents. It gave way with a mighty crack at its base at 7:30 a.m. Sunday, July 13. Fortunately, it fell away from the house, and while it damaged their shed and some fencing, it did not hit the home at all.
Schultz said that the tree has been estimated to be more than 300 years old and had been cared for by professional arborist Stewart Bunn from Bartlett Tree Experts.
"We cabled, fertilized and pruned," said Bunn. "The Schultz's did a good job of taking care of the tree, but my guess is that it was caused by the ground being so wet, and the roots being damaged."
Bunn said that a lot of trees have been uprooted lately, perhaps because last summer's drought may have killed roots, and then this year's rains rotted the roots. With the soil being loose and mushy, it's just too much for some of the larger trees. In the Schultz's case, there was really nothing they could do.
ACCORDING TO THE Schultz's former neighbor, Richard Gamble, the tree measured more than 15 feet in circumference and was probably the last link to the Washington family's first immigrant to Virginia, John Washington [the great-grandfather of George Washington] and the nucleus of the Mt. Vernon estate.
Gamble is a local historian and said that the ash tree in Schultz's backyard stood half-way between Dogue Creek and Little Hunting Creek and likely served to mark the 1690 boundary line between the Spencer-Washington properties, which was 5,000 acres granted by Lord Culpeper along "the freshness of the Potomacke" River to Washington, and his partner, Nicholas Spencer, on Sept. 1, 1674.
Surveyors in the colonial-era used mature trees to mark properties. Timber from ash trees is prized for its strength and suppleness and is used today to make baseball bats," said Gamble.
Gamble found this and more information on Fairfax County's first colonial land-owners in Beth Mitchell's property source-book, Beginning at a White Oak, and in Fairfax Harrison's authoritative history, Landmarks of Old Prince William. The fold-out map which accompanies Mitchell's book projects the 1690 Spencer-Washington Line running through the Schultz's yard.
"I am very sad to see it [tree] go," said Schultz.