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March 16, 2013

Josh Drespling: Growing tall enough to witness historic leaves of change

NEW CASTLE — There is a giant, old oak tree near the top of Jefferson Street Hill in New Castle. From his perch on the North Hill, he has an expansive view of all that is New Castle.

From his perspective, he can see from the West Side across the whole downtown area, through the South Side, up to the very top of Sheep Hill, and back across to the city's East Side.

Estimating from the size of this magnificent tree, he has been in this very spot for at least a century, most likely more. A hundred plus years of our city's history locked in his limbs, trunk, and leaves. He has seen season after season of passing weather. He undoubtedly endured the “Big Snow of 1950,” which dumped a record 33 inches in the region.

Forty years before he was able to witness the effects of the flood of 1913 and more recently, withstood the ice and snow of the blizzard in 1993.

Not only has he stood strong through adverse weather, he has seen the come and go of railroads. Possibly when he was just a sapling, he saw the Ohio and Pittsburgh Railway as it first reached Lawrence County in 1850.

From his perch he bore witness to the great industrial revolution as it overtook New Castle with all the tin and paper mills that dotted our landscape. He also bore witness to the Shenango Glass Co. on Sampson Street, New Castle China Co., and Shenago China. He most likely witnessed the rise and fall of Republic Iron & Steel Co., Carnegie Steel and the Vulcan Foundry right here in New Castle.

He stood strong and bold in his spot high above our city as the prohibition era came and left, which greatly affected New Castle Brewery, West Side Brewery, Standard Brewery, Koch's Brewery, and many others.

In 1960, he saw our town visited by then-senator John F. Kennedy while on the presidential campaign trail. He even towers over lady liberty, well not the real lady liberty, but a replica that was given to the city as a gift from a Boy Scout troop in the 1950s.

Perhaps we could learn a lot from this simple tree. After all, he has seen history pass before him. As our town has changed over the years, he has appreciated the diversity and change that has happened right before him. In his steadfast position he has seen politicians, businesses, and families come and go. He has stood by, watching the trains of progress move our homes forward to a more modern society.

If we were to take just a moment and reflect on the past and absorb it as this splendid old oak tree has done for hundreds of years, perhaps our outlook and opinion of our city would be a bit brighter.

On the other hand, maybe we would get cut down and turned into firewood because we stood in the way of a new building or sideway, all in the name of progress.  


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