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April 19, 2012

Trail marker trees — Indian ghosts

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From Wikipedia:

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Large trees exhibiting deformed growth and obtaining distinctive symmetrical forms bent through a vertical plane are sometimes labeled "Trail Marker Trees" as well as "Marker Trees" by amateur historians.

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Distinctively bent trees [pictured above and below] have long been noted in the Southeastern and Midwestern United States. The extent to which Native Americans used such trees as navigational aids, and whether such trees were formed by cultural or natural means, is controversial.

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At the beginning of the 1900s, articles, books, special events, and the installation of bronze plaques at known Trail Marker Tree sites began to appear.

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Oak and maple trees were most commonly used for shaping due to their flexibility while young, followed by their permanence and ability to retain their shape well into the future, creating a marker that would last for centuries. The trees were bent over, forming an arch, and held in place by securing them to a stake in the ground or tying them to a large stone with a leather strap or vine.

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During this process a new branch would be allowed to grow skyward on the top of the arch forming a new trunk. The old trunk would then be removed, creating a knob, one of the distinctive characteristics of the Trail Marker Trees.

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The shape itself was not only made to stand out horizontally in a vertical world at approximately the height of game, but also to be visible above the height of snowfall in the Great Lakes region.

From Boston.com:

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The Jasper, Ga.-based nonprofit Mountain Stewards has been compiling a database of the trees since 2007, documenting about 1,850 Indian marker trees in 39 states.

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Dennis Downes, an Antioch, Illinois-based artist and sculptor who founded the Great Lakes Trail Marker Tree Society, released a book last fall called "Native American Trail Marker Trees," which chronicles more than 30 years of documenting and photographing the trees across the United States.

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He drove several hundred thousands of miles over the years, pored over books that might give clues as to where to find the trees, talked to locals and researched the locations of old American Indian trails.

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"Mystery of the Trees," published by Mountain Stewards, covers six years of work by Don and Diane Wells documenting Indian Trail Trees.

[via The Illinois Steward]

April 19, 2012 at 04:01 PM | Permalink


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Comments

Fascinating.

Posted by: 6.02*10^23 | Apr 19, 2012 11:57:18 PM

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