RIO FRIO OAK
By Eva Sanderlin
The national champion Texas Live Oak Tree, largest living member of its species, stands in Rio Frio in the yard of the old Leo Stover home,now owned by Eva Slover Sanderlin of Knippa and Phillip Slover of Ft. Worth. The tree was measured by the Texas Forest Service in 1988. It had a circumference of 23 feet 10 1/2 inches with a 52 foot vertical spreadand a crown spread of 99 1/2 feet.
According to the big tree Index, this total of 363 points makes it the National Champion. Since this tree grows onlyin the Texas Hill Country, it is thought to be the largest tree of its kind in the world. As well as a major tourist attraction for the Frio Canyon, the tree has been important in area history.
Situated on an early Indian trail, it was a campsite for Lipan Apache and other roving Indians.When settlers began coming to this country, tired pioneers found welcome shade beneath its branches.
A.J. Potter, early Methodist circuit rider known as the "Fighting Parson"' also preached beneath the shade of the tree. John Leakey, founder of the town that bears his name, could not forgo the temptation to rest in the shade if the old oak tree when he drove the first wagon into the country.
The age of the mammoth oak has been determined at 3,670 years by counting the rings of the smaller branches. It has been known as the "Rio Frio Oak" because of its location and sometimes as
"Methusaleh", because of its great age. Probably it was more commonly known as "The Schoolhouse Oak", since the first canyon schoolhouse was underneath the old oak tree. After the civil war in
1866 Theopalis Watkins and W.F. Smith dug an irrigation ditch from the mouth of Flat Creek through Rio Frio, diverting water from the Rio Frio. They formed the Lombardy Irrigation Co., and the town of Rio Frio became the Mecca of the Frio.
*Background of this article is an actual photo of the Rio Frio Oak