Friday, January 6, 2017

Charter Oak Surveys

Our history and Constitutional Government is enshrined in the legend of the Charter Oak.  In the 1600s the colony of Connecticut was ruled by a governor and 12 member council under a charter approved by the British King, Charles II.  When James II assumed the throne upon his brother's death, the Charter, which granted the colony elements of self-rule was in peril, when the new king appointed a British nobleman, Edmund Andros to be governor of a consolidated New England territory, nullifying the benefits of the Connecticut Charter.  Andros demanded that the charter be sent to him.  When Colony leaders refused, Andros went to Hartford on October 31, 1687 to announce his governorship and collect the Charter.  He met with Gov. Robert Treat and his council who waged a filibuster well into the evening, when, a council member stood and gave a short impassioned speech about the meaning of the Charter to Connecticut, ending dramatically by falling on the table knocking over the candles.  In the darkness, the Charter was passed out the window to the widow of Joseph Wadsworth who fled to the Charter Oak hiding it in the hollow of the great tree. Connecticut since that time has been known as the Charter State.

Two Hundred Fifteen years later, at the 1902 Constitutional Convention in Hartford, Gov. Hawley presented each delegate a sapling, a descendant of the original Charter Oak which had stood until 1856 when struck by lightning.  Chatham's representative, William N. Markham, along with James Costello, Sr. and Ernest Markham planted the sapling in front of the Skinnerville Cemetery.  In 1932, a granite marker was placed at the foot of the oak tree by the Village Improvement Society (fore-bearer of the Old Home Day Committee) with a description "Constitutional Oak."  Similar to Connecticut's state motto Qui transtuit sustinet (Latin) for "He Who Transplanted Still Sustains," our oak has fared well as it stands today, the steadfastness of our heritage and rule of self-government.

East Hampton Charter Oak seen center of two large monuments

Village Improvement Society monument placed in 1932 at base of our Charter Oak