State’s Largest White Oak Falls Victim to Arson After 200 Years

Medfield residents can sympathize with the loss felt by the small town of New Braintree -- both towns share an affinity for a majestic centuries-old tree.


The Worcester Telegram & Gazette reported this morning that after 200 years of standing tall in the small town of New Braintree, the state’s largest white oak tree has fallen victim to an arsonist.

Fire officials are not sure when the tragedy took place but it likely occurred in the last week.

The Telegram said the the fire burned through the middle of the tree. When its trunk, hollowed by age, gave way, the 100-foot canopy fell to the ground, branches spread out around a charred center.

“It was intentionally set,” Fire Chief Dennis Letendre told the newspaper. “I think people were up there partying. They probably had a fire going inside the tree and they left it. Thankfully, it went out by itself.” 

Nearly 30 years ago, on Arbor Day 1983, children from the local elementary school hiked to the tree and sat around it with politicians and dignitaries extolling its virtues. In 2000, it had a circumference of 247 inches at 4-1/2 feet from the ground. It was nearly 100 feet tall and the canopy stretched 100 feet as well.

Reports say every time a nasty weather event rolls through the small town, residents pull themselves together and head for Bridge Road to check on a centuries-old oak tree, always finding it unscathed. 

Many Medfield residents can relate to that post-storm panic as we feel the same way about our own majestic tree – a buttonwood sycamore off Wight Street.

Last year, homeowner that people have been calling her to check on her tree since she and her late husband, Michael, bought the property – in large part because of the tree – in 1980.

The Cronin family has been maintaining the tree for more than 30 years.  They have fertilized it and pruned it and taken care of it for all to enjoy.

Mrs. Cronin said there is an elaborate cable system within the Sycamore’s massive branches that works to stabilize the branches and reduce any stress to the tree. She said the family had the cables redone 10 years ago to help with weight distribution.

The house (and the tree) are now for sale. 

Medfield fans of the Wight Street icon likely sympathize with New Braintree in its loss.  

What would you say to the residents of New Braintree, if you could.  Tell us in the comment section below. 

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