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Anderson family planting the Emancipation Oak sapling
Eddie Anderson at Emancipation Oak dedication
Eddie Anderson's Emancipation Oak sapling arriving at the White House

Planting Memories and Cultivating Traditions

As we kick off the Thanksgiving season, we'd like to bring to light the importance of spending time with our loved ones and take a moment to pause and be thankful. Each year, families across the world participate in their own unique and time-honored family rituals that hold a special place in their hearts. Some of our fondest memories as a child were created out of the traditions our parents and grandparents taught us.

Our founder, Eddie Anderson, and his son, Mark (owner and CEO), shared the importance of the stories and memories that go along with the plants in their home gardens. “These plants carry the memories of the events in our lives” explains Eddie.

Recently, the Anderson families gathered together to plant a sapling from the historic Emancipation Oak tree. Located on the campus of Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia, the Emancipation Oak is quite possibly the most iconic tree in the state of Virginia. National Geographic has named it as one of The 10 Great Trees of the World. This grandiose, southern live oak is estimated to be more than 200 years old and the trunk itself is 9 to 10-feet in diameter. Its reputation dates back to before the Civil War and continues to be an enduring symbol of the university’s rich heritage. Prior to the Civil War, Virginia law forbid the education of slaves. However, in 1861, Mrs. Mary Smith Peake taught children of former slaves under the great oak tree, located merely three miles outside of the protective safety of Fort Monroe. Night classes were held under the tree for adults. On September 22, 1862, President Lincoln issued a preliminary copy of the Emancipation Proclamation, proclaiming that all slaves in the rebellious states “shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free”. It was an important time in the war as it turned the fight around from preserving the nation to a fight for human freedom. In 1863, the Virginia Peninsula's African American community gathered under the Emancipation Oak to witness the first Southern reading of President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation.

In 2010, Eddie Anderson planted a batch of acorns from the Emancipation Oak. One of the seedlings was given to President Barack Obama for planting on the White House grounds. The remaining 12 offspring have since been growing at the Anderson's home in Hampton, Virginia. To read the complete article click here. With all the challenges 2020 has presented us with, this year seemed like the perfect time for Eddie Anderson to present his son Mark with one of these prized saplings.

These days, life is more chaotic than ever, and it’s easy to get caught up in the day to day demands and distractions and forget all of the things in our lives to be grateful for. Coming together as a family, to not only remember the love for each other, but also our country, was a special moment for the Anderson family. Eddie expressed,“It linked three generations together. Even the neighbors joined in to sing 'America the Beautiful.' Maybe one day they will tell their children how they helped plant the tree. Maybe they will read their poem again. They may talk about the importance of trees or they may just drift off into the memory of a happy family event. We never know what part of the day will stick with young minds. The photos record the event and established a benchmark in the development of the tree and the family. October 18th was a beautiful, sunny day to plant this living witness to the progress of the family.”

And as the Anderson family came together for one special moment, we at McDonald Garden Center thank you for the many moments you and your family have shared with us. We are so grateful to hold a special place in the Hampton Roads community and we thank you for letting us share in your lives.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Photos provided by Angie Anderson