Historic Ivy Green tree replaced with a descendent sapling

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Tom Hunter with American Heritage Trees places a sapling taken from a tornado damaged tree at Ivy Green on the stump of the tree in which it was taken from. (Carter Watkins / WHNT News 19)

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TUSCUMBIA, Ala. - A historic tree on the grounds of Helen Keller’s birthplace was destroyed by a tornado last year.  Monday, a descendant of the tree which Keller wrote about was planted in its place.

Since July of 2015 the old oak tree has sat on the grounds of Ivy Green. It’s estimated the tree stood proudly in Tuscumbia for more than 240 years.

“It was a sapling when our country was a sapling,” explained Tom Hunter with American Heritage Trees.  “So, it witnessed history, all of our ups and downs.”

Hunter visited the grounds of Ivy Green in the fall of 2014 to gather acorns to reproduce the tree.  No one knew at the time he was saving a piece of history.

“It was luck I think,” joked Hunter. “I would like to take some credit for being prescient.”

Hunter has traveled across the U.S. gathering cuttings and seeds to grow saplings from historic locations such as Mount Vernon and Walden Pond.

“This tree was important to Helen Keller.  She played in it, she wrote about it and I think she would be happy today,” Hunter said.

Monday morning, students from West Elementary in Russellville helped plant a sapling created from the downed water oak.

Keller took great inspiration from the tree’s bark, so Hunter wanted to continue that for generations to come.

“This is sort of a symbolic take-off on her inspiration, and by having one of these trees and continuing this we gain inspiration and it’s in short supply these days,” said Hunter.

After a quick meeting of the students, the water oak was affectionately named after Keller’s lifelong teacher, Annie Sullivan.

American Heritage Trees makes it their mission to promote educational and environmental development by providing saplings of trees from important places throughout the United States that can be purchased by individuals, schools or organizations.

The non-profit group is based in Lebanon, Tennessee.

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