Saint Martin Church Willow Oaks

SPECIES: Quercus phellos DIAMETER: 39in/51in/55in HEIGHT: 90' SPREAD: 115' ORIGINAL TREASURE TREE: No

Tree Location


1510 E. 7th St.
Charlotte, NC 28204

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The ‘Treaty Alliance System’ combined with budding nationalism were the ingredients needed to ignite the First World War in Europe.  Break out in 1914 of The Great War, pitted nations from all over the globe against one an other.Initially the United States declared neutrality in the war, citing George Washington’s famous line ‘leave the affairs of Europe to the Europeans.’However, with the sinking of the Lusitania, and a policy of unrestricted submarine warfare by the Germans on the US merchant fleet, the United States entered the war on April 6th, 1917.

More than 2 million Americans went off to war, and more than 86,000 of those were from North Carolina.Of those numbers, 9 men from the Saint Martin’s Episcopal Church on 7th Street in the Elizabeth neighborhood went off to serve.Lt. Francis Henry Ball and Lt. William Glaiseter Bamber served in the British and Canadian Expeditionary Forces beginning in 1914 respectively. Ens. Henry Bacon Constable joined the British Expeditionary Force in 1917, then joined the US Force in 1918.Corp. John Elliott Fox, Pvt. Lewis Edward Green, Lt. Harold McKenzie Jackson, and Capt. William George Thomas joined the US Expeditionary Force in 1917, while Midshipman Charles Wilkes, and Seaman Edward Lee Davis joined the US Navy.

On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, a cease fire was brought into effect, ending the war.All but one of the boys from Saint Martins returned home.Seaman Edward Lee Davis was aboard the USS Ticonderoga when she was attacked and sunk by the German submarine U-152 on September 30th, 1918, less than 2 months before the end of hostilities.Of the 237 men aboard only 24 survived.Davis would not go without a fight.The Baltimore Sun reported that “Seaman Davis, as plucky a lad as ever there was” swam through the water to beg mercy for the drowning sailors (who were being strafed with machine-gun fire) to no avail. As he clambered up the side of the U-boat, “the Hun Captain shot him through the head with his pistol.”

With the war ended, parishioners of Saint Martin’s decided to memorialize their nine service heroes.Instead of erecting some form of engineered structure, 9 willow oaks were planted along 7th Street in front of the Church as living memorials to the men’s service and sacrifice.The trees were put in place accompanying a ceremony March 1st, 1919.Bronze plaques for each man were created and eventually affixed to the trees.

Time and progress have taken their toll, and today 3 of the 9 willow oaks are left standing.These living monuments stand peaceably, towering over 7th Street.Plans to replant the 6 trees lost though the years are in place, so the memory of ‘the boys from Saint Martins’ may live on.

Many thanks to John Elliott

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