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Class of 1869 Memorial Rock

Unknown
1869; Bronze, Stone; Artifact, Memorial
Central Campus; Lawn on west side of Angell Hall, north of main entrance

The Class of 1869 wanted a memorial of their own, so "early in May, '69, the whole class went over north of the river and brought in a fine specimen of the American elm. This was about five inches in diameter and required a four horse team to bring it in with all its earth… planted it with great ceremony, and employed the janitor to nurse it for a couple of years. It flourished and grew to a circumference of more than six feet [by 1923]." So wrote Franklin Dewey, class of 1869, who continued that "The tree looked lonely. We knew of the old, historic 'calico rock' just south of Washtenaw Ave. half way to Ypsilanti. It was near a spring and beside the old Indian trail. We engaged Mr. Goodhue, a noted truckman, and he, with four horses and a low-hanging dray and all of '69 marched out in grand array, and after hard labor and much sweating with thirst (not all slaked at the spring) the five thousand pound pudding stone was heaved aboard and the whole caravan moved slowly for the Campus." Once placed, just west of the South Wing of old University Hall [current site of south end of Angell Hall], the juniors threatened to bury the stone, and proceeded to dig it a grave. The senior class was forced to mount a guard to protect the stone for many days and nights. Inspired by this sight of the '69 guards, a freshman wrote this poem: "How boldly too, almost alone/ Night after night around their stone/ They steadfast stand, with watchful eyes,/ Lest some vile wretches steal their prize." The memorial was completed with a plaque affixed to the rock reading "This rock and the elm beside it were placed here in 1869 as a memorial by the class of that year." When planning for Angell Hall began, it was clear the tree and rock had to give ground. The Class of '69 rallied around the cause of saving their tree, and raised the funds to have it moved. It was replanted west of Angell Hall, next to the marker which survives it (see second thumbnail). Moved in late 1922, canvas coverings and fires had to be resorted to in order to protect the tree from cold. But it flourished, until some 60 years later when it was lost to Dutch Elm Disease. The rock with its plaque remains, but no elm stands beside it. A further memorial to the beloved tree was made, for when Angell Hall was completed, a small bronze tablet was placed in the floor of then Dean Lloyd's office, to mark the exact position the tree had originally stood upon. The marker read: "More than half a century here stood the class tree of '69 growing to a mighty elm." This elm is sometimes confused with the Class of 1867 elm (Haven Elm) which was actually a different tree, though they stood close together in front of old South Wing.

 

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