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"Champion" Tree Older Than US Taken Down Wednesday

KENT COUNTY, Md. (WJZ) -- Saying goodbye to an old friend. The old St. Paul's Swamp Chestnut Oak was taken down Wednesday after gracing Kent County with its majesty for more than 400 years.

Pat Warren reports the tree was a champion.

St. Paul's Swamp Chestnut Oak was designated a US champion, the largest of its species, in 2010, but the tree itself predates the nation. It was 100 years old when landowners built their church here in 1695.

"It's been here and it's seen an awful lot, through the American Revolution and through the Civil War and on down through the bicentennial of the United States of America," said Pete Dillingham, a parishioner at St. Paul's Parish Kent.

And it's not easy watching it go.

"It's taking my breath away. Every time a branch came down, I had to go, `Ohhhhh,'" said parishioner Anne Bricker.

It was designated a Maryland bicentennial tree in 1976, but over the past years, the tree has been showing its age, dropping huge limbs in close proximity to passersby. And while it looks strong, it's unbalanced and steadily declining---forcing the church to make the difficult decision to take it down.

"We had a service on Sunday morning to say goodbye to the tree and prayer and thanksgiving for God's blessing the tree, for all the trees that are here through the courtyard. They're beautiful trees but this one's special because of its age," said interim rector Sam Hartman.

While the tree no longer stands, the swamp chestnut oak isn't finished. Some of the wood is being preserved for future use.

The church has yet to determine how the wood will be used.

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