- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 20, 2010

YARMOUTH, Maine | Herbie, a massive tree that stretched 110 feet into the sky, captured the imagination of a town’s residents and earned the title of New England’s champion elm, was cut down Tuesday after a long battle with Dutch elm disease. It was more than 200 years old.

Assisted by a massive crane, chain-saw-wielding workers took the proud tree down, limb by limb, as residents and the tree’s 101-year-old caretaker gathered to bid it farewell. Even with its massive limbs removed, the tree’s 10-ton trunk was so heavy that it shook the ground when it fell with a thud.

Among those witnessing the tree’s historic passing was Frank Knight, the town’s former tree warden, who cared for the beloved American elm for a half-century.

“It’s been a beautiful tree. I’m sorry to see it go. But nothing is forever,” Mr. Knight said. “It’s pretty near my turn. And it’s just a fact of life that life is going to end. And that’s for people, for trees, for everything. I thank the good Lord every day that we had him in his glory and beauty for so long.”

Delayed for 24 hours because of a winter storm, the crew quickly set about dismantling Herbie in methodical fashion under steady snowfall on Tuesday. Its top limbs were 30 to 40 feet long, as big as typical trees. The final cut that brought down its trunk was made by a man wielding a 5-foot-long chain saw.

Afterward, Mr. Knight was greeted with a round of applause as he joined a crowd gathered around the tree’s stump. Steadied with a cane, he watched a state official count the tree’s rings.

Herbie originally was estimated to be 240 years old, but a preliminary count of growth rings by Peter Lammert of the Maine Forest Service indicated the tree was 212. A precise age will be announced after the stump is sanded smooth and examined under magnification, Mr. Lammert said.

Based on the revised age, it’s thought that Herbie sprouted around 1798, not long after the 13 original Colonies gained their independence and shipbuilding had taken root on the shores of Yarmouth. Over the years, generations of residents passed under the shade tree.

Mary Ellen Bradford, who took her 4-year-old grandson to see Herbie’s demise, said there was a sense of loss for many who live in Yarmouth.

“It’s kind of a sad day, but we have great memories,” she said. “We’ve always taken pictures of our kids in front of it over the years.”

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