250-year old Witness Tree in Bureau County taken down Friday

Tree developed fungus mold that started to spread

The Witness Tree is a more than 250-year-old burr oak in rural Bureau County, about 3.5 miles south of Mineral. The Bureau County Soil and Water Conservation District manages the tree's preservation.

The Witness Tree, a burr oak believed to be more than 250 years old, reached the end of its lifespan and was taken down Friday, the Bureau County Soil and Water Conservation District said.

“For the last year, it has been losing its large limbs, and recently has developed a fungus/mold that has spread throughout the tree,” the district said in a Friday Facebook post. “It is also mostly hollow. We plan on salvaging some remnants from the tree for a memorial and for some keepsakes for the public.”

The district responded it will be dedicating a new Witness Tree sometimes later this year and will release information about it at a later time.

The tree is located about 3.5 miles south of Mineral, near the intersection of County Road 100 E and County Road 1300 N.

The Witness Tree earned its name from being used as a reference point, or a “witness point,” when the railroad was built near Mineral. Before that, it served as a meeting spot for the Potawatomi people, led by Chief Shabbona, and the Sauk and Fox people, according to Illinois River Road. The Merl Heise family donated the Witness Tree’s small parcel of land to the Bureau County Soil and Water Conservation District in 1944 to ensure its preservation.

“We were able to salvage most of the fence, a limb took out a portion of it last year. And the sign will remain,” the district said in a Facebook response.

The district told the public Sunday it should refrain from removing wood from the site, because it plans on using the wood for memorials and public keepsakes.

Shaw Local News Network will be interviewing the Bureau County Soil and Water Conservation District and will update the story with more information.