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Level of description
Texas A&M University, World War I Tree Markers
- 1930; 1971 (Creation)
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Scope and content
This collection contains metal markers with the names, class year, date, and location of the death of A&M men who died during their service in World War I. The markers were used to identify trees that were planted for these men around the Drill Field. These are the first two versions of the markers, the originals were made of brass and the second version was made of aluminum.
During the November 24, 1919 Board of Directors meeting in Fort Worth, Board of Directors' President L. J. Hart suggested that the college plant a tree commemorating the death of each student of the college who gave up his life in the great war. The board agreed and authorized the planting of oak trees. President William B. Bizzell formed a committee to make arrangements for the Tree Planting Day. The committee consisted of R. F. Smith, chairman and Associate Professor of Mathematics; E. O. Siecke, Professor of Forestry; A. T. Potts, Professor of Vegetable Gardening; S. W. Bilings, Professor of Entomology; and A. B. LaRoache, Professor of Architecture and Architectural Engineering. The Memorial Tree Planting Committee was charged with the selection of the variety of trees, location for planting the trees, and the selection of a date and preparation of a program for the occasion. The Committee chose live oaks and set a date of February 23, 1920, for the memorial exercises.
At 2:00 PM on February 23, 1920, President Bizzell, five members of the Board of Directors, President L. J. Hart, W. A. Miller, Jr., John T. Dickison, J. R. Kubena, and H. A. Breihan together with several hundred cadets, a number of faculty members, and family members of those being honored gathered in front of Guion Hall. The ceremony started with Dr. John. A Held, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Bryan giving a blessing, followed by the College Band playing "God Save the Queen", and President Bizzell introducing the day's speaker, L. J. Hart, President of the Board of Directors. Mr. Hart went on to give a speech extolling the sacrifice that these 52 men gave to preserve freedom and by commemorating them with the planting of the trees.
Upon the completion of Mr. Hart's speech, Professor Smith read the names of the 52 men, and members of the Federal and College students, alumni, and faculty were placed in charge of a squad of four cadets to plant a tree for each one of the heroes. The College Band started playing the French National Anthem "Marseillaise", and the squads marched to their sites around the south side of the drill field, around the corner of Houston and Lamar Streets (near present-day Bizzell Hall), and to the south of Hart Hall. As the tree planting began the College Band played "America" and on completion of the planting the "Star-Spangled Banner" closed out the ceremony.
In 1930 the trees were identified with a bronze plaque inscribed with the name, class year, location, and date of their death was mounted on a small limestone obelisk at the foot of each tree. These markers stood until 1971 when national service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega came to their aid. The markers had generally fallen into disrepair, with some missing altogether while others were missing the memorial plaques. After receiving approval from the Board of Directors in February, APO's General James Earl Rudder Pledge Class relocated 15 of the markers that were to the South of Bizzell and Hart Halls on March 25, 1971. These 15 markers were moved to the drill field with the additional 37 that had lined it. On April 18, 1971, during Parent's Weekend, APO held a rededication ceremony. At this ceremony the names of the heroes were read, a small American flag was placed at each tree, and new aluminum plaques were unveiled and mounted on spring-loaded bolts embedded in the trees with the idea to allow for normal growth. During the process of renovating the memorials with Physical Plant personnel and Robert H. Rucker, the university's landscape architect, APO members found that three additional markers were needed, bringing the total to 55.
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These materials are stored offsite and require additional time for retrieval.
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Finding Aid Authors: Greg Bailey, July 2015.