Whipping Oak

Historical Period: Early Statehood (1845-1861)
Historical Topic: County Courthouses, Law & Order
Species: Live Oak (Quercus virginiana)
County: Guadalupe
Public Access: Yes

On the north edge of Central Park in Seguin, across from the Guadalupe County Courthouse, stands a group of live oak trees. At least one of the oaks was used by early courts in the administration of punishment by the lash. Runaway slaves, thieves, and wife-beaters were among those who received such punishment.

On the side of one oak a 3-inch iron ring, still usable, is embedded in the tree about five feet from the ground. It was to this ring that the prisoners were tied for punishment. The precise manner in which they were secured is not known, but the number of lashes was always prescribed by the court. One court in 1846 assessed the following sentence: ... as many licks as a certain settler had given his wife.” Sometimes the sheriff wielded the whip and sometimes the court hired someone at so much a lash.

Not all settlers viewed the lash as a fitting punishment for certain crimes, as is evidenced by an account of one French Smith, who happened by as a man stood trussed to the whipping oak. Asking what went on, Smith learned that the man was to be punished for beating his wife. Whereupon the irate Smith demanded the man's immediate release, shouting, “That there ain't no fitten crime to be punished for!”

The tree is mute evidence to early pioneer justice.

The Whipping Oak stands near the gazebo across from the south entrance to the Guadalupe County courthouse.