Oregon state Senator Ted Ferrioli was the keynote speaker at the dedication of the Wheeler Elm east of Mitchell Saturday. Ferrioli, seen over the heads of his audience, talked about the message that Heritage Trees are an Oregon institution that ties us to our pioneering spirit.
Oregon state Senator Ted Ferrioli was the keynote speaker at the dedication of the Wheeler Elm Saturday. Approximately two dozen turned out for the public gathering and tree dedication ceremony at the ranch of Dean and Rhoda Fox, east of downtown Mitchell.
Even before the event officially began, people stood in small groups discussing the history of the site. The huge elm tree, said to be more than 100 feet tall and about 130 years old, is very near a spot of the old military road that led to gold mines in Canyon City during the mid 1800s. The elm tree is alongside a stretch of pavement on the Fox ranch that was once a section of Highway 26.
Before that, the tree stood near the origianal wagon road used by Henry Wheeler's stage company.
For many years, the tree has been generally known as the Henry H. Wheeler Elm. Now an official marker has been provided by the travel information council and was presented to Dean and Rhoda Fox for their Heritage Tree as approved by the Oregon Heritage Tree Committee. The committee is a volunteer non-profit organization of citizens dedicated to preserving trees that are living emblems of Oregon history, events, people or landmarks.
The Wheeler Elm grows in a location on the old road that recalls what many believe is the most memorable of all the adventures experienced on the rugged road to the gold mines. The ambush of stagecoach driver Henry W. Wheeler was perhaps the most famous of all the early drivers in the 1860s who braved the perils of the Dalles-Canyon City Wagon Road, later known as the military road to Boise.
As part of the dedication ceremony, the little of the history and stories of the dangers of the day was shared. Among the stories were tales of the days when the route was harassed by Chief Paulina, and other desperados haunting the wild, rugged country traversed by the hordes of gold seekers. No other route in Oregon, is said to have experienced more Wild West adventures then the Dalles-Canyon City Wagon Road.
Sen. Ferrioli brought the importance of the Heritage Tree Commission into the 21st century by talking about the value of remembering our history. "Dedicating this Heritage Tree send just the right message to people," Ferrioli explained. "It shows the importance that we the offspring of those pioneers, give to our heritage and how important we all believe in conserving that heritage. It is imporant," he concluded, "that that heritage be preserved for our children into the future."
Along with Ferrioli, other dignataries included the mayor of Mitchell, officials from the Oregon Department of Forestry and leaders of the Heritage Tree Committee.