A Tree of History

The Underground Rail Road Tree is marked with the green dot.

“The Underground Railroad was an organized system of routes, houses and people who helped fugitive slaves find freedom in the north and in Canada after escaping from their slave owners. In North Carolina, the Religious Society of Friends, better known as the Quakers, fiercely opposed slavery. One of the members, Levi Coffin, assisted over 3,000 slaves escape to freedom starting at the age of 15. While the dense forest and wide-open trail are engaging to walk through, the true focal point of the tour is the 300-year-old tulip poplar tree known as the Underground Railroad Tree. While the dense forest and wide-open trail are engaging to walk through, the true focal point of the tour is the 300-year-old tulip poplar tree known as the Underground Railroad Tree.” Ethan Santana, Guilfordian

Ever since I came to Guilford I have heard about the Underground Railroad Tree. It has been a staple of the college. As a freshman I wanted to see it so, I set out to find the tree. When I walked the trail I felt something. I could not describe the feeling but I knew I felt something. It was unbelievable to see the tree that was a part of history.

Now as I return to see the tree I know more. It is a 300-year old tree. I am still amazed by it even after the second time seeing it. It is crazy to me how old trees are and all the things they have witnessed. I learned that the tree is specifically a Tulip Poplar tree. I have never been good at recognizing the differences between the many types of trees. They have always just looked like trees to me. After this experience, I realized the importance of acknowledging the differences.

Trees are like people, they hold history. Being in the woods and seeing this tree as any other tree was negating the role that it has played in history. As I sat there and admired the tree, I thanked it for all that it has done. I wondered how it has stood so tall for so long.

You can take a virtual tour with James Shields of Guilford’s Underground Railroad Tree and trail at this site https://www.guilford.edu/multimedia/videos/2017/11/underground-railroad-tree-tour The college also offers tours of the trail that stimulates how runaway slaves found their way through the woods to seek freedom. 

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