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100-year-old elm tree centerpiece of Carnation farmstead

  • Written by Lisa Allen
‘That’s the tree that knows everybody.’ – Rory Norris, 7

CARNATION – At first glance, the elm doesn’t look like a tree at all, but rather like a giant pile of green leaves. But when one steps inside – yes, inside  – by way of a “door” through the branches, the magnificence of the century-old treasure is displayed in all its verdant glory.  Dappled sunlight sifting through the leaves reveals a unique cave-like interior. Overhead, roots appear to be growing above the trunk, supported by masses of convoluted branches.  Contorted limbs and the deep green leaves create the ceiling and sides, which reach almost to the ground.
 
IMG 0909The “door” on the Camperdown elm tree is shown in this view from inside the tree. (Photo by Jackie Norris). The tree is a Camperdown elm, one of five brought from Scotland by William P. Perrigo for his five daughters. William was a co-founder of Redmond along with his brother Warren and Luke McRedmond. One of the elms was given to his daughter Nellie when she married Chase G. Morris on August 18, 1918.   According to Jackie Morris Norris, the couple’s granddaughter, the wedding took place in Redmond at the home of June Perrigo Erickson, Nellie’s sister. They had their wedding picture taken in front of June’s small Camperdown elm. Nellie and Chase planted their tree in the yard of their farm near Carnation when they moved there after the marriage. 
 
“There are so many memories here,” says Jackie wistfully, as she stands in front of the tree and the charming farmhouse, recalling all the generations who lived,  grew up and played in this delightful country place just north of Carnation. The elm, in the front yard, appears as wide as it is tall (about 25 feet).  An arborist regularly takes care of the tree, pruning it to just above the ground. “The tree is watching over the fifth generation of the Morris Clan,” she said. “Many of our family members have had tea parties and played under the shady canopy.”  She added that the tree is deciduous and that daffodils planted around it bloom before the leaves come out, creating a striking display.
 
Now, 100 years later, the “umbrella tree,” as the family calls it, has seen Nellie’s children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren. As Jackie’s granddaughter Rory says, “That’s the tree that knows everybody.”
 
Camperdown elm tree history
 
The history of the Camperdown elm started over 150 years ago in Scotland. In 1835, David Taylor, a forester for the Earl of Camperdown, found a young elm tree growing with contorted branches in the forest at Camperdown House in Dundee, Scotland. The young tree was lifted and replanted within the gardens of Camperdown House. Later, Taylor grafted branches of it to other elms, producing the Camperdown weeping elm cultivar. The original tree, which grows on its own roots, is less than 10 feet tall, with a weeping habit and contorted branch structures. The earl’s gardener is said to have produced the first of what are commonly recognized as Camperdown elm by grafting a cutting to the trunk of a wych elm. The wych elm cultivar Ulmus glabra “Camperdownii” is commonly known as the Camperdown elm.
 
Family history
 
The Carnation property was first acquired by Shamgar Morris (Chase’s  father and Jackie’s great-grandfather) in the late 1800s (the exact year is unknown). According to Jackie, it was part of a section (640 acres).  Some of it was purchased from the railroad, the other part homesteaded, she said.  A section map dated 1873 marks the property.  Shamgar had come from Ohio and married Vilinda Brotton. Both died in 1914. A receipt dated March 12, 1883, states that Moses Morris, Shamgar’s brother, received $7 to apply on a school house in district 27, King County. Moses was on the local school board. A note adds that the “first two schools in District 27 were on Shamgar’s property.” 
 
38751299 241434523142049 5553522937136414720 nFrom left, Jackie Norris, the farm’s owner Galen Trabont (Jackie’s cousin), her granddaughter Tyler Trabont, Tyler’s mother Kristy Trabont, and Roxy the family dog. (Photo by Lisa Allen)Chase and Nellie had a son, also named Chase, who was Jackie’s father.  Chase Morris the younger was also active in the community, serving as a fireman and as an unpaid fire commissioner.  Chase’s sister Willow, later Willow Guptill, eventually came to own 17 acres of the property which includes the elm and the 1910 farmhouse. Her daughter Galen Trabont, 69, is the current owner of the immaculately-kept property, which is now for sale. The large property is too much to keep up, Galen says. Jackie and her husband live just down the road on what was Chase’s part of the original property.
 
“It’s hard to see the property go [out of the family],” Jackie said. “There’s so much family history here, tears have been shed.  We all hope it goes to a buyer with horses; that would be perfect.”

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