According to legend, the Lenape Indians revered this oak tree, located about an hour outside of Philadelphia near Reading, PA. If one is to believe tradition, (which I can find no record of before about 1920), the beautiful wife of an important Lenape chief was very ill, and the healers and medicine men could not help her. Her illness was grave, and in desperation her husband journeyed to pray under this tree. Shortly upon his return his wife’s health returned.
Later, war with another tribe was averted after the same chief prayed under the tree again. From this point forward, the Lenape considered this Chinkapin, or Yellow Oak, sacred, and worshipped at it as a shrine.
David Hewitt and I visited the Sacred Oak recently. It’s not easy to find, and we made many wrong turns onto desolate dirt roads marked with prominent NO TRESPASSING signs before we found the path leading to the tree.
Here’s our first attempt at a video. Be kind; the videographer is not known for her multimedia prowess.
How big is the Sacred Oak? It’s big. In fact it’s the champion of Chinkapin Oaks. How old is it? Estimates range from 500-700 years. It definitely belongs in the dwindling category of Penn Trees, those that were already here when William Penn staked out Pennsylvania (Penns woods, get it?)
How impressive is the Sacred Oak? I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that when we finally spotted it in the distance we both broke into a run, as if this ancient tree would somehow disappear before we could reach it.