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A Look Back: The Elm Tree with the Bank Account

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By Jolene Hawkins

What is an elm tree?  Well around here, we had a lot of elm trees.  They are known for being large, some 24 to 27 feet in circumference, and then the Dutch Elm disease came around in the late 1970s  and we lost a bunch of trees.

But did you know that we had a famous elm tree?  It was in Collins Center, and the Bank of Springville set up an account for it.  Of course, there is a story behind that. Before 1925,  there was a mighty and strong elm tree that stood near the road along Route 39.  When the road was scheduled to be paved by the Highway Department,  they were going to uproot the tree, but folks around Collins Center and in Springville got upset.  They went clear up to Albany to talk to the State Highway Department  and pleaded with them to spare the tree.

After discussions by both sides, the Highway Department spared the tree.  Whew!  That was a relief.

In 1925, there was a strong wind and the wind blew off one of the tree’s large limbs.  That was then the bank account at the Bank of Springville was started for the tree.  Two of the town officials took up a collection to hire a tree surgeon.  In fact, more than $125 was raised and deposited into the account set up for the tree in the Bank of Springville. The tree and the account even made it into the Ripley Believe it or Not Fame! The money was used for repairs and maintenance for the tree.

In 1952, according to news articles, the last expenditure was just before Pearl Harbor when $ 2.65 was withdrawn for minor repairs.  In 1961, a car hit it head on and sadly the two men in the car were killed. At that time, it was reported that there was still $56 in the tree’s account.

In July of 1964, the Grange of Collins Center was raising money to erect a marker near the site where the famous tree with a bank account had stood.  To help defray the cost of the monument they wanted to erect, they sold key rings made from the wood of the elm tree.  They were sold to the highest bidder.   

By October of 1965, there was an unveiling of the marker for the elm tree with the bank account.. On that marker was some of the early history and legend of the tree with a bank account . The marker was paid for by the sale of key rings after the tree had to be cut down in 1964.

The supervisor and town historian played a big part in arranging and setting up the program for the unveiling. The public was invited to attend.

How many trees do you know that had a bank account and a party (at the unveiling)? Well, now you know at least one!

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