Historic Jacksonville tree blows over in weekend storm

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POSTED: Monday, July 23, 2012 - 9:21pm

UPDATED: Monday, July 23, 2012 - 9:24pm

"It was just like a place that was familiar...it was just like a place that was home.  It was like...it was almost like part of the family I guess," said Kathleen Stanfill from Jacksonville.

Stanfill speaks fondly about what her family calls "The big tree."

"This was our kingdom...and this tree was always the holy grail.  'Where are ya?  I'm going to the big tree!'"

Decades later...Stanfill watches as their beloved tree is cut into pieces -- after falling over during Saturday night's storm.

In the 1960s, the Texas Forest Service put the tree on their Big Tree Registry -- a list of the biggest of each species.

It lost the title for a while in the 80s, but it quickly got it back...and until this weekend...it was known as the biggest American Elm in the State of Texas...exceeding 21 feet in circumference.

"Anytime we see trees like that...we typically take a step back and say "wow."  And this is one of those "wow" trees," said Pete Smith with the Texas Forest Service.

After this weekend's storm, Stanfill drove to her sisters house and saw the damage first hand.

"I cried...I cried like I'd lost a family member.  I cried like the rest of the family did," Stanfill said.

She says Jacksonville has lost a landmark...for years, she says there was a plaque recognizing the designation on Myrtle Drive...and people would often stop to look...something her grandparents were very proud of.

"It was just special to us...you know.  Everybody has a spot...and this was kind of our spot."

As we were out there shooting the story this afternoon, the guys cleaning up the debris were cutting some pieces for Kathleen and her sister Alyson to keep...so they'll always remember "The big tree."

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