Legends – Trees of Honor

April 21, 2020

Memorial Day is a day of reflection to honor those who gave the supreme sacrifice that we may live in a free nation. 

During World War I, the popular honorarium was to plant trees in dedication to the memory of the soldiers killed in the war. Many of the towns in DeKalb County took part in that program. 

Trees were planted on Memorial Day to honor soldiers who were killed during World War I. Along Lincoln Highway in Waterman, memorial trees stood on the south side of the highway, 1926, honoring six local soldiers.

The thought was these trees would last forever and would be an impressive way of teaching and perpetuating patriotism. Many patriotic messages were printed in the Sycamore True Republican to convey the importance of the sacrifice of the soldiers such as “the trees give honor for the battles fought & the sorrows borne that the nation might be free.”

Cortland planted a tree in May of 1919 in honor of Axel Nelson who was killed in France during World War I. It was planted in the cemetery, with a reminder from the Sycamore True Republican that “his blood was shed for you.” 

Malta planted four trees at the school grounds in honor of Clarence Quinn, Will Mace, Rudolph Edgren, and Oscar Male.

Three elm trees were planted in the public square in Shabbona for Frank Kelly, William Colby, and George Drury.

Along Lincoln Highway in Waterman, six soldiers were honored with trees and the struggle for democracy. The six were: Joe Baker, Ernest Ilsman, Delbert Garner, George Herrick, Conrad Buehler, and Chris Lampe. 

Memorial trees were planted at Huntley Park in DeKalb, from Prospect Street looking north east at the row of 14 trees, 1961.

Genoa planted five trees at the school grounds for Bayard Brown, Fred Niss, Tony Nuhr, William Wolters, and Leon Roy Listy.

At the east edge of Hinckley, south of the highway, were trees in honor of Lester and Irvin Wade and William Rissman. These trees were planted in 1944. 

Sycamore planted four trees in the “new park” on West State Street in 1924 in honor of Harold Davis, Frank Carlson, Ray Listy, and Fay Brunner. The trees were eventually abandoned, and shields removed, and new trees were planted at the Municipal Park.

DeKalb’s Huntley Park was the location of 14 elm trees to honor soldiers, including two soldiers from Elva. Later in 1921, 14 trees were planted in Annie’s Woods. However, in 1924 the newspaper reported that four of the trees had died.

Today, some of these trees still stand and others are gone. It was a noble program to give honor to those who are not with us today and the sacrifices they made for our freedom.

Information provided by the Joiner History Room, DeKalb County Archives