This story from Massachusetts was published to explain what happened to an old oak tree in the Natick area, nicknamed the Elliott Tree:
“An old hollow oak in the roadway, which had been valued as a historic link with the past, was cut down. This act provoked great indignation. A lawsuit followed, which was settled by the offenders against public opinion paying the costs, and planting trees in the public green.”
Who was this group of tree huggers so outraged by the loss of one tree they filed a lawsuit, forcing the offender to plant new trees? Was it the Sierra Club? Was it the Arbor Day Foundation? Neither. It was a group of citizens living in the area in 1842.
Even then, it seems, Massachusetts was a hotbed of progressive thought. The quote comes from History of Middlesex County, Massachusetts, published in 1880. The story even provoked local poet Longfellow into action; this excerpt is from a poem he penned for the Elliott Tree:
Thou ancient Oak! Whose myriad leaves are loud
With sounds of unintelligible speech,
Sounds as of surges on a shingly beach,
Or multitudinous murmurs of a crowd…
Longfellow was a resident of Middlesex County; for almost 50 years he lived in a house at 105 Brattle Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts, now called the Longfellow Home. Previously, the house had served as the headquarters of George Washington.
Generally, New England states do not have an active county government as compared to the rest of the country. Some county governments in the Commonwealth have been “abolished,” their offices being put under the direction of the state. Middlesex County government was abolished in 1997, but geographic boundaries continue for administrative purposes.