While attending the ceremony for the South Newbury Union Chapel’s National Registry of Historic Places, we also heard the story about the Centennial Oak Tree. The white oak tree was planted by the Women’s Political Suffrage Club to celebrate our country’s 100th birthday. It was a symbolic move; planting the roots of a movement that would go on and change America’s face forever. The tree was planted across the street from the chapel on private property to prevent vandalism and destruction due to the bitter antagonism against equal rights. Some of the locals have heard that there was a “time capsule” buried under the tree. While reading stories about the tree, I did find that there was a jar buried under the tree that contained a program of the ceremony, history of the club, and a poem. The poem below is the poem that was read that day during the ceremony.
We plant today a strong young Oak
To show that in our hearts has woke
That love of Liberty – that sacred flame
Which gave our sires their honored name.
The Pilgrim Fathers! Where are they?
Gone – but their work knows no decay.
They built upon the solid rock;
The truths they held no age shall mock.
Today, proud patriots throughout the land
Are echoing the words of the Pilgrim band.
But do they perceive their import deep.
Or do they forget the eyes that still weep.
They tell us of freedom from British yoke,
They tell us the bondsman’s chain is broke,
They ring the bells, they fire the guns
To herald the rights of Columbia’s sons.
Witness the pompous and rich display,
The marital music, the banners gay.
O! who would guess that over it all
The cloak of oppression still hangs like a pall?
From homes of affluence, from hovels of woe
There comes a cry so hushed and low
That few but the angels stop to hear,
Or ask the cause of the falling tear.
‘Tis the voice of moan, weak and crushed,
Which from o’erburdened hearts has gushed,
Of rights withheld, of wrongs imposed,
Of virtue lost, of vice disclosed,
Of hearths deserted, of love estranged,
Of homes bereft, of brains deranged,
Its sad tones speak, as by trumpet seven
And reach at last the Ear of Heaven.
And down to earth the messengers come,
Wakening voices to speak for the helpless and dumb.
And now here and there is often heard
A plea, a demand, a startling word.
They ask only justice – no more, no less –
Demand equal rights and equal redress,
With a prophet’s boldness, with a hero’s might
They warn of danger, they stand for the right
And lo! even here some have entered the list
Their rights to maintain, their wrongs to resist,
And with a persistence that never says fail
Making bigots to waiver and tyrants to quail.
This emblem of our righteous cause
We plant as a protest to unjust laws
May it stand as a witness till woman is free,
A monument grand, this Centennial Tree.
Some of our number have passed from our view
Sadly we’ve spoken a last adieu.
But their earnest words and deeds remain,
And in our lives do live again.
Their faith is ours, their hope is ours.
Their counsel and their heartfelt prayers
Are treasured up with reverent tears.
A century hence, our cause crowned with success,
Our spirit and effort children’s children shall bless,
And rejoicing in victory so dearly brought
Shall in wonder exclaim, “What hath God Wrought?”
So with might resistless we’ll march along,
An ever increasing and zealous throng
Until Right shall reign even in politics
In the free, fearless spirits of 1776.
Thus may all our hearts so brave and warm
Beat high for every true reform,
And while we pray, “thy will be done,”
By the earnest work will the “Kingdom come.”
And may this Oak rooted deep in the ground
Shooting up, branching out,
ever living be found,
An emblem, a witness a monument
be long life to our dear Centennial Tree.
-Anna Medora Green
Poem was written for the dedication of the Equal Rights Centennial Oak Tree on July 4, 1876