Commemorating an Ancient Ash

Germantown neighbors pay tribute to a historic tree for the last time

Across the Ages: 2019 — Paca Dunakin (left) and Geneva Edwards say goodbye to an old friend. (Photo credit: Bob Emmott.) 1908 — Jane Rhoads Morris, reading to her children from a bench around the tree trunk. Photo by Jane’s husband Marriott C. Morris. Photo credit: Library Company of Philadelphia

On a dreary day in October, a small group of despondent neighbors gathered in the rear yard at the home of attorney A. Luke Smith, 131 West Walnut Lane, Germantown, to pay their respects to a venerable Ash tree lamentably scheduled to be felled the following day. Advanced age and infestation by the notoriously destructive Emerald Ash Borer had taken their toll.

A Solemn Ceremony. (l to r, top) Neighbors gather for the event. Owner Luke Smith preparing to film the proceedings with his 360-degree camera (note huge fissure in tree trunk rendering it imminently dangerous). (bottom left) Near neighbor Luke Russell addressing the tree. Lastly, the old giant stands tall. (Photo credits: Bob Emmott)

The tree had stood sentinel, not only over dozens of Memorial Day neighborhood picnics, but over several generations of the prominent Samuel B. Morris family of Germantown.  Neighbor Luke Russell read a moving tribute to the tree and Karen Stevens, whose property on Tulpehocken abuts the Smith’s property, told tales of her ancestors in the Morris-Rhoads clan, whose roots date back to the late 17th century. A memorial booklet from the ceremony is in the planning stages.

About Russell Fulton 1 Article
Russell Fulton is the secretary of the West Central Germantown Neighbors, a registered community organization dedicated to maintaining and improving the quality of life in a diverse neighborhood. For more info, visit

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