Oaks east of Acadiana
It was while working on the photographs of Trees Acadiana’s top 10 live oaks that I had the inspiration to extend this work to include the largest and oldest live oaks from across Louisiana.
From my list of 17 live oaks that I’ve compiled, #1 is the Seven Sisters Oak, located in the community of Lewisburg in Mandeville, and covered in an earlier blog entry from December 2009. The Randall Oak, #2 on the list, is highlighted in two entries—one titled “The Randall Oak” in May of 2014, and another titled “Old oaks and new azaleas” from June of this year.
Edna Szymoniak Oak—Number 3 on my 30-something list is the Edna Szymoniak Oak, located at the entrance to the LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Center. It is a beautiful example of a well cared for oak. Its location makes it easy for Research Center visitors to view and it receives the protection and care of the AgCenter’s knowledgeable staff.
The Edna Szymoniak oak is named after the wife of Boleslaus “Bill” Szymoniak, the first superintendent of the research center station.
Lorenzo Dow Oak—The next oak on my list has an interesting story connected to its name—the Lorenzo Dow Oak.
The oak is named after Lorenzo Dow, who (according to Wikipedia) was an eccentric itinerant American preacher who lived between 1777 and 1834. He reportedly preached to more people than any other preacher of his time. Dow traveled widely around the U.S. preaching “against atheism, deism, Calvinism and Universalism.” Though he lived like a pauper, traveling mostly on foot with only the clothes on his back and a box of bibles, Dow was also a successful author. His autobiography was at one time the second most-read book, exceeded only by the bible.
Dow traveled to this part of the South in 1803–1804 and probably preached in or near the Grangeville area. His dramatic fire-and-brimstone evangelical preaching style (he shouted, screamed, begged, flattered, cried and challenged his listeners and their beliefs) drew crowds wherever he spoke. His wide influence and popularity resulted in many children of this period being named after him as well as this ancient oak.
Because he was often unwelcome in churches, Dow would preach wherever he could—in town halls, farmers’ barns, open fields and possibly even under the overhanging branches of these two old oaks.
The sprawling and partially overgrown Lorenzo Dow Oak is located on the grounds of the Grangeville Masonic Lodge #231, along with a second neighboring oak that is 27 feet 11 inches in girth.
The lodge is one of the oldest Masonic groups in Louisiana, with a membership that dates back to 1889, and a lodge building that was originally constructed in the 1930s (and is currently being restored). This oak was especially challenging to find since its location on the Live Oak Society registry was simply East Feliciana. Grangeville is actually in St. Helena Parish, a few miles west of Pine Grove in northeastern Louisiana.