Massive, historic tree falls and almost kills group below it in Montgomery County

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WORCESTER, PA -- A huge, historic oak tree, believed to have been over 340-years-old, came crashing down in Worcester Township, Montgomery County, Monday evening and it almost killed a group of people standing underneath it.


Susan Caughlan is the President of the Worcester Historical Society and says she was almost killed when the historic and centuries old tree, known as the "Methacton Oak" or the "Charter Oak," fell into the Methacton Mennonite Cemetery.

Caughlan explained, “We were all gathered around the trunk of the tree when we heard ‘Crack!’ We all looked at each other and then everybody ran! We had to dart across the road before the branches fell on us.”

Susan and an arborist from Morris Arboretum were meeting with other preservationists  discussing possible ways to save the tree, which lost a big limb during a storm Saturday night. They observed a fungus around the base of the tree. They also realized after years of thinking it was alive and well, that most of the tree was hollowed out, likely from ants.   Caughlan said, “We were all focused on, ‘Can the tree be stabilized? Is there something we can do?’ And all of a sudden the tree said, ‘No! I am done!’ Crack! That was it.”


The hollowed out tree came crashing down on their bags and belongings, some of which were still stuck underneath branches yet to be cleared as of Tuesday evening.


Caughlan and others who were there say, miraculously, no one lost their life, but the loss of the Methacton oak is significant.

According to local records, and legend, the land around the tree is special. The original Mennonite church built there in 1777 was used as a hospital after the Revolutionary War’s battle of Germantown. Soldiers camped at this site in Worcester. Caughlan told PHL17,“So, the legend is the soldiers who died here were buried at the foot of the tree.”


When the tree fell Monday evening, it cracked some of those historic old tombstones.


Although much of the tree is rotted, John Mast, a member at large of the Methacton Mennonite Core Ministry Council said the church plans on entering into some sort of agreement with the Worcester Historic Preservation to save parts of the tree before it is fully cleared. Mast says there are plans to restore other tombstones and damaged graves at the cemetery and the graves disturbed by the fallen Methacton Oak will be restored during that same project.


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