Last Rites For Liberty Tree

During the American Revolution, colonial forces often designated trees as meeting places to plot their next moves. The trees came to be called "liberty trees" and became symbols of the revolution.

As time went by, all of them died except one on the campus of St. John`s College near Annapolis, Maryland. The 400-year-old Tulip poplar has survived British troops, who chopped down many of the liberty trees, as well as disease and repeated lightning strikes.

But it will not survive Hurricane Floyd, reports Correspondent Padma Krish of CBS affiliate WUSA-TV in Washington, D.C.

Winds from the big storm fractured the trunk and college officials say it poses such a hazard now, it will have to be cut down.

"Hurricane Floyd dealt a fatal blow," says college president Christopher Nelson. "It was only at that time that we gave any thought or consideration to taking the tree down at all."

Many at the campus say the liberty tree will be sorely missed.

"We hold our annual commencement ceremonies under the tree. We stand there and ask our students to think about what it means to have a liberal education." says Nelson.

"It's a place around which students play, study, read and drop their books to converse. So it will be like losing an old dear friend."

But officials hope the meaning of the liberty tree will live on. Researchers are in the process of cloning the tree and anticipate having young saplings by the spring.

Saplings that will remind future generations of what took place before them.