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World’s Largest Tulip Tree In Perry County

Did you know that Perry County was once home to what many believe was the world’s largest Tulip tree? It was reportedly over two thousand years old and located in Leatherwood. It was nearly 250 feet tall and 27 feet around it’s base. Eighty feet from the ground the first limbs spread it’s foliage. Efforts to save the tree went on for years, however it stood on land owned by the Ritter Lumber Company. A crusade to make the tract of land on which it stood a state park, failed to save the tree. On January 12, 1937 the lumber company brought the tree down.  It took nature 2000 years to build this marvel and mere man destroyed it in less than a day. "Wild Bill" Mayhew, former star of the H.B.I. basketball teams from 1923-1925, took on the task of cutting down the tree. As if in retribution the tree revealed a secret it had held until cut. It was hollow. Five feet, ten inches of the eight and a half foot diameter was a black void. Much of the lumber broke to pieces in the fall. Want to add your two cents worth or share a memory of Perry County’s giant Tulip tree? Submit your comments below.

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"Well I haven't seen the tree but I have read every comment and they seem sad ..and some seem pretty neat about our history in Kentucky."  anonymous, Hazard, KY  bigchee666@yahoo.com

"I think that they shouldn't have cut down the tree they should have let it grow."  Joshua Sumner, Perry County 

"It is such a shame that selfish ignorant people can have the power to destroy an historical land mark in the U.S.  Only Meir forest in northern California has a tree of such significance - the great red woods.  What happened to this tree?  It's not dissimilar to what the Taliban did to the centuries old Buddhist statues in Afghanistan as we saw on CNN and no one was willing to stop the fanatic power mongering fools.  People the world over should be more vigilant and do as much as we could to protect the worlds history because its the history of who we are."  Jonathan Cornett, Leatherwood, KY  jonathancornett@earthlink.net

"So sad that something that saw so much history was destroyed so mindlessly.  I'm lucky my special one is still standing.  There is an old Poplar in my grandparents field that has always been very special to me.  Not quite as wide as the one that stood in Perry County, but not too far behind.  It has been there for a very long time and is still a very tall tree, but was once 3 times taller then it is today.  When my mother was young, now 50, a couple of mean kids set fire to it.  The tree is entierly HOLLOW, one side is open all the way up, and there is a large hole in the other side, at least 3 ft by 3ft.  The sides of it may be about a foot thick or less.  It has always been special to me because of the fact that after the fire and after all these years, it is still alive, putting on new green leaves every year.  What is with this hollow thing and how can they live that way?"  Stephanie, DE   Hipkins@delanet.com

"Who ever cut that tree down should not have cut it because it could have been something like Natural Bridge.  It could have been a State Park and brought our county money for our schools and communities."  Dustin Gray and David Gay, Hazard, KY  golf69er@hotmail.com

"Hope that lumber company turned into a void too."  Bobbi Johnson, Fresno, California  BobbiSnuffy@aol

"Why did they cut the tree down if they knew it was the tallest tree in Kentucky?  Why didn't they let it stay there until it died out itself?  Tell me if that was still standing today and there were people from back years ago to tell about it, what would be the percentage of people to come & see & listen? Scott Moore, Hazard, KY  rsmchevy@aol.com

"I was raised in the Leatherwood area where this tree was cut.  I have seen a picture of the stump immediately after it was cut.  I also talked to a person who helped cut the tree.  His name was Vernis Polly who lived in Owen's Branch at Slemp, Ky.  Mr. Polly said the tree was over 11 feet in diameter which would make it over 33 feet in circumference.  He also said they had to "forge" weld 2 crosscut saws together to cut the tree; and had to drill and dynamite the logs to split them so that they could be handled at the mill.  The tree was cut at what is known as Linn (Lynn)? Fork which is located on Hwy 699 about a mile from The Leatherwood School.  It was Tulip Poplar.  Such a shame."  Jimmy L. Couch Louisville, KY  jcouch@iglou.com

"Do not mess with Mother Nature because she rules."  Buley Adams, Perry County    www.popstar.com

"I think it is sad that this tree wasn't set aside for people all around to view and enjoy, but having worked in the lumber/logging industry for 12 years I understand the importance of timber harvesting and everyone should try and understand that it is part of God's divine plan for people to use the resources such as trees and coal to provide a means for making a living and in the end it will all burn anyway."  Hylo Ward, Leslie County  rhondaw55@tds.net

"It is interesting how people come down on both sides of this issue.  I can both forgive the lumber companies, and sympathize with those who feel we lost a monument.  We do drive the market for wood, you know, and some of our family members are employed by lumber companies.  But then, if sparing an occasional tree causes the company to go belly up, it couldn't be much of a company.  I feel that if the Ritter Lumber Company was on firm financial ground back then, they should have spared it.  If wood demand was too high to be met, though, I'd have a hard time understanding why one tree was more 'important' than one 10% shorter."  James Reed, Lexington, KY  jreedo@rocketmail.com

"First, I would like to say that I have lived here in Slemp for 28 years and it is such a shame to see a tree like that cut down. I will never live to see anything like that and neither will my child. But, we also must remember that we all must make a living someway. In Eastern Kentucky besides the coal and timber business; how else are we gonna feed our families?  We don't have big paying industry jobs or government help like most other places. Where is the money?  People move off and leave and when they come to visit they downgrade us.  It is not the working people that destroy the land.  It is the company owners and the goverment.  They have few laws to regulate how our land is used. Therefore, cutting a tree down like that is just money to them. Our working men have to feed our children someway and they sure can't do it on minimum wage jobs like Frisches or Wal-mart.  Don't downgrade the coal and timber business until you see where you would be without it.  Without coal, no heat. Without timber, no home."  Crystal Shepherd, Slemp, KY

"We are to use the land and not to abuse it.  It was a shame to lose a tree like that.  But we must remember that God made all this for us.  Some people complain that are not from here. To the ones who live here it's not that easy to make a living.  Without coal and wood where would we be? Politicians make promises that they do not intend to keep.  Some have even sold out their own people.  We have always had to make it on our own and we probably always will." Tim Shepherd, Leatherwood, KY

"It's easy to say - what a shame and it should never have been cut down.  But we are the ones creating a demand for these materials and must also take responsibility"  Anonymous

"Yeah, you know it's funny but I believe some people would saw their mother in half for a couple of bucks.  I'm not an environmentalist, but those nuts should have left something alone that had been around since the time of Christ our Lord."  Jamie Bowling, Knott County

"I don't understand why anyone would destroy something that cannot be replaced.  How stupid can people be?"  Donnie Smith, Little Leatherwood, KY

"It's difficult to see a tree of that size cut down because it is a rare and precious site.  But at the same time, so many loggers are struggling to find good timber due to our growing demands. We use wood in everything we do.  And our forests are becoming younger and younger.  Personally, I'd rather see them cut down a huge tree like that and get thousands of feet out of it than to see them cut down thousands of small trees for the same volume."  Anonymous

"Just another example of a company raping our natural beauty.  That's what they get and  I hope if they ever mine Black Mountain that there is just enough coal to cost them a fortune in losses!"  Dwayne, Hazard, KY

"Maybe 2000 years from now, when another tulip becomes mature, the people will have more respect for this beautiful country that God has so graciously given us and not destroy it so unsparingly like we do."  Keith

"The rich want only riches.  How wonderful when greed slaps them in the face. To bad the coal barons didn't find the same dark 'void' when they dynamited into the hills for thousands of miles around that tree."  Danny Watson Thomas

"That's what the lumber deserved for cutting down a priceless tree and being greedy!!!"  Anonymous

"For Greed.....what will be the eternal price one has to pay?"  Wally, Hazard, KY

"I say good for mother nature.  The tree won in the end.  I'm from Eastern Kentucky and I hate the way man has destroyed much of it's natural beauty by all of the abuses to the land. Good riddance to the lumber county."  Linda, Texas

"Greed always destroys things. I am glad nothing was given to the lumber company by the tree.  Any comments from the cutter recorded?"  Robert. Thompson, Perry County

"I wonder who was president of Ritter Lumber Company at that time?  I hope whoever told him about the hollow tree laughed in his face."  Keith Morgan, Cold Spring KY

"My dad, Walton Roberts, was a lumber inspector for the Ritter Lumber Company when the tree was brought to the mill by train.  He said the tree was so large that each log was carried separately, one train car at a time. I would assume, therefore, that the tree was not hollow throughout its entire length, and that the company was able to mill a large portion of it.  Cutting down such an unusual plant was a giant mistake. I wonder if anyone was able to save some of the wood in the form of a shelf or piece of furniture which could be donated and used as an exhibit item in the Perry County Museum?"  Harold D. Roberts, Prescott, Michigan

"It was a common sight in Ohio when the first explorers traveled through the forest to find tulip trees such as this.  In fact when the land was settled many times they would cut the tree high and put a roof over the stump and use it as an out building."  Howard Fitzpatrick, Chesapeake, VA

"I hate the thought of them doing that."  Anonymous

"What a shame."  Rachel, Whitesburg, KY

"Only God can grow a tree but any idiot can cut one down.  2000 years of God's beauty destroyed in a heartbeat by a person that no one cares to remember."  Donald (Dan) Caudill, Gulfport, Mississippi

"The tree was probably four or five hundred years old - deciduous trees almost never live longer than 500 years and tulip trees rarely live more than 400 years.  They are often hollow when they reach advanced age."  Anne Thomas, Washington, D.C.

"Everything has its time. The old tree was rotting faster that it grew and a storm would've broken it off long ago anyway. It is preserved the only way it could be, in photos and memories."  Bob Baker, central West Virginia

"Was it in Daisy, Kentucky?  I believe it use to be called Ritter's Camp a long time ago.  That is where I grew up and loved it."  Randy

"I live next to where the tree used to stand and that tree has became famous.  Many people come to my house and ask me to show them where the tree used to stand."  Anonymous

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