It may be hard to believe, but there’s a tree in the city of Athens, Georgia that not only owns itself, this white oak tree also owns the land within eight feet of its base.
The legend has it that this tree, which is commonly known as ‘The tree that owns itself’, was deeded ownership by William H. Jackson in the early 1800s. Jackson decided to do this out of the love he felt for it. The marker next to the tree reads as follows: “For and in consideration of the great love I bear this tree and the great desire I have for its protection, for all time, I convey entire possession of itself and all land within eight feet of the tree on all sides.” Despite the fact that the deed remains missing, citizens of Athens recognize and respect the tree’s ownership of itself and the land.
Unfortunately, the oak became diseased and was blown down by a windstorm in 1942. But someone planted one of its acorns and the new tree that grew out of it was named ‘The son of the tree that owns itself’.
According to today’s law, it’s impossible for a tree to hold property, so it’s up to the city and it’s citizens to protect the oak.