The historical Merriment Oak tree on the Smithfield Plantation, which sits next to the Virginia Tech campus, is dying. Efforts to preserve its significance and history are underway. Descendent of a former slave that worked on the plantation, Kerri Mosley-Hobbs, has spearheaded the efforts to save the dying tree. This tree not only has historical value to the local community, but it also has ancestral value to Mosley-Hobbs and her family.
When the Smithfield Plantation was first established by the Preston family in 1774, they owned several slaves. On the plantation sat a large tree that would turn out to be a pillar of strength for the slaves on the plantation and their families to come.
“The tree represents history, but because of what it does to us, it means something that we can’t even describe or explain,” Kerri explained. Since her discovery of the Merriment tree on Smithfield Plantation, she has worked tirelessly to get her family from all over the country to Blacksburg to see their family history.
It was not until Kerri began bringing other family members to the site of the tree that it began to die. As strange as this is Mosley-Hobbs suggests that “it’s almost like it was holding on for one last reunion.”
As Kerri continues to find other descendants, she is looking for ways to preserve the tree and its history. Because the tree is dying there are not many options for what can be done with it. While no official decision has been made on what exactly is going to be done, one decision is set in stone. According to Kerri, a large branch that fell off this past summer will be used in some fashion, possibly to make a bench. A fence will also be built around the tree to “protect it from agricultural planting to allow the tree to complete its retrenchment in a slow and natural state,” Kerri informed.
The Blacksburg community is filled with history dating all the way back to 1774, with the development of the Smithfield Plantation. As the tree continues to lose its life, the preservation of this piece of history will continue to be worked on by Kerri and others.