Lillian Arhelger Memorial Ash Tree


Tree Location


300 Hawthorne Lane
Charlotte, NC 28204

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After graduating from the University of Texas, a young Lillian Arhelger moved to Charlotte and joined Central High's faculty as a physical education teacher.  Along with her work at Central High, Lillian also volunteered with the Myers Park Girl Scout Troop.  

It was on a Girl Scout trip to Blowing Rock in June 1931 that Lillian met a tragic end.  On that picturesque Sunday the troop made a visit to Glen Burney Falls, described as one of the most beautiful cascading features in the state.  The children, understandably excited, jumped along the rocks at the edge of the falls.  It was then that the girls began to scream "Virginia is going over the falls."  Without regard for her own safety Lillian leapt in after the frightened girl, but could only grasp Virginia's hand before they both went over the brink.  Though Virginia survived the forty foot fall, her savior was not so lucky.  Lillian was pulled from New Years Creek with a fractured skull, and even more gruesome, her head punctured by remnants of fallen logs.  Lillian Arhelger was taken by ambulance to a hospital in Lenoir, where she died the next day at the age of 21.

Horrified upon hearing one of their beloved teachers died in such a tragic yet heroic way, the students of Central High decided to raise money for a memorial to Lillian.  The story captured the hearts of the city, and the Charlotte Observer posted daily tallies of the students fund raising efforts.  In the depths of the depression, Central High School students raised $1,000 in less than three weeks. 

 It was decided that the memorial would be placed in Independence Park, not far from Central High School.  Landscape Architect Helen Hodge was hired to develop the look and feel of the commutative site.  What she designed was an area of beautiful stone work including a gazebo and sitting area built around a reflecting pool supplied by water trickling from a waterfall inspired fountain.

Above this fountain stands an ash tree.  While we may never know if this tree was placed here on purpose, it is a fitting specimen which lends itself to the comforting feel of the memorial.  Ash trees are native to North Carolina, and in the wild found along lowland areas along creeks and streams.  Take time to walk through the memorial and imagine yourself in the Appalachian Mountains of Western North Carolina enjoying the shade of this unassuming tree.

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