DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – It will be a tree lighting for the history books Thursday night in Highland Park.
For generations, the so-called “Big Pecan Tree” was the site of the annual holiday event.
But that tree was removed this fall out of safety concerns.
It was known as The Million Dollar Monarch, the gateway to Highland Park, and a gathering place for a beloved tradition.
“I think it’s part of the Dallas fabric. It’s been happening for so many years. The community’s used to it. It’s one of the oldest in the state from what I hear,” said Larry Cox, who participated in the tree lighting with his family members.
But age took its toll on the Big Pecan Tree. After years of fertilizing, cabling, and protecting, town leaders reluctantly said goodbye to the 150-year-old tree in October.
“I had to wipe a little tear away, but everything’s got to go eventually,” said Rosemary Payne, who’s lived next to the Big Pecan Tree for 50 years.
Larry Cox is the great-great-grandson of the Civil War veteran credited with saving the Big Pecan Tree.
“The story goes that he plowed over it in a corn field and he nurtured it back to health and saved it,” he said.
Now, a sister Pecan Tree – grafted from the original one – will step up as Highland Park’s official Christmas Tree. It’s equal parts heartbreaking and a happy ending.
“It’s part of the same family of trees, right? So we’re all family,” said Cox. “It’s kind of symbolic of a family tree. We can have the joy and the values related to that.”
The remnants of the old tree will be dried and made into commemorative items. For now, the spot where the original tree stood will remain vacant.