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600-Year-Old White Oak Tree Being Cut Down In Basking Ridge

BASKING RIDGE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- Basking Ridge, New Jersey bid farewell to a piece of its history Monday, as crews chopped down a 600-year-old white oak tree.

As CBS2's Magdalena Doris reported, the tree's health has failed, and it was time to say goodbye Monday to each grain in the bark, extended branch, and twisted root.

The tree was believed to be the oldest white oak tree in North America that has lived in Basking Ridge long before the town grew around it.

"Thinking about what it has seen, and the fact that it's just always been here," said Kris Emmitt. "It was here when Columbus was here."

Under the tree's shade, there have bene memories to be made and shared.

"We've had baptisms, we've had weddings, we've had funerals under this tree, and it's sort of sad to see it go," said Michael Pasnik, 11.

The limbs of the tree outstretched for 150 feet next to the Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church on Oak Street, while its roots were firmly planted in a Revolutionary War cemetery.

"It has been alive for 7,200 months," said Sherry Antil, 8. "And now sadly, it is going away from Bernards Township."

The roots of the tree in the cemetery will remain where they are, as removal crews carefully worked around the headstones and history.

"The story is that George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette picnicked together and discussed their plans for the prosecution of the Revolutionary War right here under the tree," said John Carpenter, Deputy Mayor of Basking Ridge.

The tree began showing signs of decay and was declared dead last year. The church decided it was time to chop down the tree before it fell on its own.

"It's a really big symbol, welcoming to see every year and so sad to watch it go," said resident Marie Young.

Before the tree died, it left a gift for the community -- an acorn, which has grown into a 25-foot white oak, planted with room to grow.

"It's the son of this tree, so at least this tree's spirit will live on in the church," Michael said.

Crews will be working for three days to remove the massive branches. What will be left behind is a giant stump, 18 feet wide, and a plaque memorializing the tree the community so loved.

Church officials said they are also going to save every piece of the historic oak.

"We're saving every bit of it to use either to make crosses or some other precious mementos to give to church members," the Rev. Dennis Jones, pastor of the church, told 1010 WINS.

It will take a few days to cut down the tree.

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