Borden Oak

Historical Period: 20th Century (1900 & Later)
Historical Topic: Saved From the Axe
Species: Live Oak (Quercus virginiana)
County: Galveston
Public Access: Yes

Most trees get taller as they grow older, but this live oak has lost about five feet of height.

After the Great Galveston Storm of 1900, one of the worst natural disasters in our country's history, engineers agreed that two major tasks had to be undertaken: (1) a massive seawall had to be built along the Gulf front and (2) the grade level of the island had to be raised.

Though the expense was staggering, both projects were completed by July 1904. While the seawall was under construction, grade raising was also under way. Every water line, railway track, and building in an area 40 blocks long and 20 blocks wide, including St. Patrick's Catholic Church and the Grace Episcopal Church, had to be raised and filled underneath with from 2 to 17 feet of sand and shell, dredged from the bay.

This giant oak is one of the few trees that survived both the storm and the grade raising.

At the time of the Great Storm, the tree was the property of Thomas Henry Borden, brother of Gail Borden, inventor of the process for condensing milk. According to his daughter, Mrs. S. M. Sias of Houston, he was determined to save this beautiful oak, so when the grade raising began, he had a dike constructed about it to keep the salty fill from poisoning the tree. He hauled fresh water from cisterns and wells and kept the salt washed out of the seepage that crept in about the roots. After the grade leveling was completed and the salt dissipated from the soil, the well around the tree trunk was gradually filled.

It is difficult to believe that the base of the tree is about 5 feet below the present ground level, but it is.

Mrs. Sias remembered well the times when she and her sister played in the shade of this tree, which was spared through the care of her father.

In 1972 when a new home was planned for the lot where the tree stands, the Galveston Historical Foundation purchased a permanent deed restriction from the new owner to protect the tree from damage or destruction.

The tree is located at 3503 Avenue K, in Galveston.