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Historic Council Oak Tree

Council Oak, fall 1960

For nearly three centuries, the Council Oak tree stood on the south lawn of the lower campus of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in an area between the current nursing building and the Little Niagara Creek. The large tree served as a shelter, marker and gathering place for generations of Native Americans who lived in the area. During the 20th century generations of students met and studied under the branches of this grand, old oak tree.

Click on the images to see them full size.

In observance of the university's 50th anniversary in 1966, art professor Kenneth Campbell used the image of the Council Oak for the university's new seal.

On July 10, 1966, lightning struck the Council Oak and destroyed major branches of the tree.

The storm left a large gap in the center of the tree and ruined the tree's perfect shape.
It became a tradition for graduating nursing students to hang their uniforms in the branches of the Council Oak tree.

oak12Students continued to gather under the Council Oak tree even into the early 1980s.

The remaining portion of the tree stood tall until a wind storm blew it over in 1987.
At that time various departments, faculty, and personnel received portions of the historic tree including the art department. Recently, Professor Mike Christopherson used the wood from the Council Oak to create a bench for today's students.
On the seat of the bench is a laser-engraved image of the Council Oak tree based on a historic photograph from the University Archives. "I used this process so viewers would see exactly what the tree looked like before it was hit by lightning," said Christopherson.
The new bench is located in McIntyre Library in the southwest corner of the first floor behind the Government Publications department. Visitors can sit on the bench and look out over the Little Niagara Creek at the spot where the Council Oak tree once stood.