The Travilah Oak at the Potomac Oak Center at the corner of Glen and Travilah roads in Potomac, is a white oak estimated in 1975 by the Maryland Forest Service to be 275 year old. It has seen many changes throughout the years. On Saturday, Oct. 7, from 12-4 p.m., it will celebrate its birthday, the 5th annual Travilah Oak Day, with all sorts of family activities.
There will be a raffle sponsored by the Potomac Oak Center to raise funds to pay off the remaining costs for rebuilding of the C & O canal boat by the Friends of the Historic Great Falls Tavern. There will be hay rides, pony rides, vaulting demonstrations on horseback, a horseback demonstration by the Maryland National Park Police, scarecrow building, a pumpkin decorating contest, storytelling, the famous Travilah Oak Tree quiz with prizes for all, old-time music played by the Martin family, a barbecue prepared by the Travilah Oak Deli plus free birthday cake, and many hands-on nature arts & crafts activities to delight children.
Guy Hopkins Semmes and Michael Porter Denker of Hopkins & Porter Construction, Inc., which has its offices in the Potomac Oak Center and which in 1997 coordinated the effort to protect the Travilah Oak, will be co-hosts of this event. One of the 10 Potomac painted ponies, August Acorn (painted by Anne Martinez of PAInT (Potomac Artists in Touch), will once again greet visitors from his old grazing grounds under the Travilah Oak.
During its lifetime of 275 years, the Travilah Oak has stood next to at least two different family homes that are now gone. It grew next door to the Old Travilah Country Store built in the 1840s. The white oak has seen the boom and decay of a small town called Travilah, named after its young, sick, beloved postmaster, which included a post office, two churches, a school, a town hall, and residences. Travilah flourished from the late 1800s to the early 1900s when the C&O Canal was still a vital thoroughfare for local farmers and millers. At that period the Travilah Oak would have seen Union troops under Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks guarding the Potomac River, and also Confederate troops under General J. E. B. Stuart moving toward Rockville. It was growing here in the 1700s when George Washington visited Bells Mill, a nearby mill, and considered the possibility of building a canal. Presently, the Travilah Oak looks out over the Potomac Oak Center, formerly the Glenvilah Shopping Center, built in 1979.
The Travilah Oak has recently been entered in the Big Tree Champions of Maryland competition sponsored by the State Forester's Office, a contest begun in 1925 and subsequently used as the model for a national "Big Tree Contest" started in 1940 by the American Forestry Association. The famous Wye Oak of Maryland's Eastern Shore, with a circumference of 31 feet, 2 inches; 79 feet in height; and a crown spread of 102 feet; was until a few years go the largest white oak tree in the state of Maryland — as well as in the entire country. The Wye Oak finally fell in a storm. The Travilah Oak compares favorably to it both in its height of 98 feet and crown spread of approximately 100 feet, but its circumference is but 17 feet, 6 inches, a little more than half the girth of the Wye Oak. A new listing of Big Tree Champions is due out soon, and the Travilah Oak may well qualify to be among them.