Sycamore trees have been part of West Virginia's landscape for hundreds of years. They have played a part in the state's history, including the final words of Gen. Stonewall Jackson. In Upshur County, a sycamore tree offered a place of hiding for two brothers just before the Revolutionary War.
Brothers John and Samuel Pringle, according to historic accounts, deserted from Fort Pitt, near Pittsburgh, in 1761. Traveling southwest, they found refuge in a sycamore tree. That original tree is now in its third generation of growth.
Located in modern-day Alton, which originally was known as Pringle Mill, the brothers took up residence in the tree, living there until 1767, when John went to a settlement along the south branch of the Potomac River for supplies because they were dangerously low on ammunition and were forced to make the trip.
The Inter-Mountain photo by John Clise
The base of the Pringle Tree shows how large the third generation is today.
John learned the two were no longer wanted as deserters because the French and Indian War had ended. They decided to return to the settlement. The Pringles were able to exist in the area with little trouble, given the bountiful wildlife and other vegetation in the region.
As the first Englishmen to set foot in what is now known as Upshur County, the brothers returned from the South Branch settlements to their former home in 1769. Samuel brought his new wife Charity and other settlers' families to establish Pringle Mill.
Today, there is a historic marker located along U.S. 119, north of Buckhannon, marking the location of the Pringle Tree.
Sycamore trees are the largest native trees to West Virginia.
Many of these trees were used for a variety of activities throughout history by hunters, travelers and other seeking temporary shelter from the elements.
The original Pringle tree is reported to have been large enough in the hollowed-out area that an 8-foot fence rail could fit inside the trunk. The original tree was reportedly the size of a 10-by-10-foot room at its base.
The original tree is believed to have died around 1800, and the second about 1900. This third generation has grown from the roots of the first two trees.
The size of the original tree can be somewhat substantiated by other sycamores that remain in the United States.
Located along the Buckhannon River, the current Pringle Tree is protected and honored with a park that includes a picnic area, rolling lawn and small trail leading to the river.
More information on the tree and park is available by calling 304-472-1673.