in the Owen Sound Sun Times - Wednesday, September 4, 1968:
Bruce County lost one of the last important links with early days in this part of the province Monday morning as the giant Sauble Elm on the bank of the Sauble River was cut down. The proud giant was killed this year by a tiny organism that seeped into its life stream, called Dutch Elm Disease, which decimated the species in this part of the province. Chain saws, axes and wedges were used in the felling of the huge tree. Howard McNabb, a local timber operator from Owen Sound, and two assistants performed the operation which took about one hour. A tremendous roar could be heard for some distance as the elm crashed to the ground.
Many spectators saw the operation. The elm, thought to be about 350 years old, has attracted thousands of people over the years. It towered to the height of 140 feet to the crown and was 21 feet in circumference 6 feet above the ground. An accurate ring count will establish the exact age of the tree.
Owner of the property on which the tree stood is Alfred Ruth of Amabel Township who lives on a farm up the road from the entry gate. Access to the elm was first made possible by James Matches, now deceased, who built a road through his property and also the stile over the fence near the tree site.
The tree will be cut and distributed by the Sauble Valley Conservation Authority. Slabs will be taken for the Bruce County Museum, Grey County Museum, Shade Tree Laboratory at the University of Toronto and the Royal Ontario Museum.
M.D. (Mac) Kirk, conservationist with the North Grey Region Conservation Authority, witnessed the falling of the tree and stated the elm was reasonably sound. "There is some butt rot at the base", he added.
Several visitors came to the site during the afternoon and gazed in amazement at the monstrous tree as it lay prostrate on the ground.
|M. D. Kirk
A relic of old Ontario recently passed into history, when the Sauble Valley Conservation Authority felled the ancient Sauble Elm, a victim of Dutch Elm Disease. The 300-year-old giant was 21 feet in circumference, six feet from the ground. The buttresses extended out like the groynes of a cathedral, greatly increasing its girth at ground level.
The Sauble Elm took root on the banks of the Sauble River near Lake Huron about the year 1670, when Ontario was a vast wilderness, penetrated only by a few Jesuit missionaries and coureur de bois from New France. During its first 200 years of life in the rich alluvial soil, the forest about it remained undisturbed. A century ago, lumbermen and settlers invaded the Sauble Valley, cutting, burning and clearing most of the original forest. They by-passed the Sauble Elm, for by that time it had grown too large to handle with team and cross-cut saw. The old monarch was left behind, registered in the minds of local farmers as "the big elm". On the tree's 260th birthday, Dutch Elm Disease invaded North America, sealing the Sauble Elm's eventual doom.
Ten years ago the late Dr. Sherwood Fox, distinguished naturalist and man of letters, noting its unusual size and grandeur, warned the newly fledged Conservation Authority of incipient decay in the tree's upper branches. The Authority obtained permission from Alfred Ruth, the owner, to repair the tree. James Matches, Authority member, whose pasture farm commanded access to the tree, built a road and stile to the3 Ruth farm. Classrooms of school children, tourists and Sunday afternoon strollers visited the big tree in increasing numbers. The luckier ones saw otters in the river, or flushed up mergansers. Botanists noted colonies of nodding trilliums near the giant roots.
Meanwhile, Dr. Fox, a man of action, raised funds from his many friends, and from his own pocket, which enabled the Sauble Authority to repair the tree. Lofty surgery it was indeed, for the surgeon toiled 60 feet above the ground to cover the decay.
Tree surgery granted the Sauble Elm only brief respite, for in 1965 a massive invasion of Dutch Elm Disease swept up from the south, destroying the green blanket of white elms that characterized the rural countryside of the Sauble Valley. By 1967 the old elm was dead, its great stark branches etched against the sky as a symbol of our decaying environment.
In September 1968 the Authority engaged Howard McNabb, a timber operator, to cut down the elm. Within an hour the tree fell with a great roar, to the delight of watching children who clambered over its enormous carcass.
The Conservation Authority will dry the logs slowly to prevent checking, and provide slabs for museums and laboratories so that this patriarch will not be forgotten.
Mr. Kirk is Resources Manager for the North Grey and Sauble Valley Conservation Authorities.