Page's Tree

In the middle of Clarksville, Texas, a small town that nonetheless calls itself  "The Gateway To Texas" because of its location in the far northeast corner of the state, is the old Clarksville Cemetery.  The first burial in the cemetery took place in 1838, but in the northwest corner is a large, scarred, but still very alive and healthy post oak tree. This tree had already reached its prime when it was selected to help dispense frontier justice by the early settlers in the area almost 200 years ago.

In 1837, Captain Charles Burham and Levi Davis rode off together from their farms in search of several runaway slaves. After a few days when they had not returned, neighbors raised the alarm. A group of men went hunting for them and came upon a stranger riding Captain Burham's mule. Under questioning, the man proved to know nothing about either Burham or Davis and produced a scribbled bill of sale proving he had bought the mule from a man named Page.

One of the group knew Page to be a less than honorable man and also knew where he lived outside of Clarksville. The men rode to Page's place and took him, his son, his son-in-law and a Mexican hired-hand into custody and brought them to town for questioning. The Mexican confessed that Burham and Davis had been murdered during a robbery. Put on trial by the Clarksville Vigilance Committee, Page's son broke down and told how all four suspects, led by Page, had robbed and killed the two men. The four were declared guilty and promptly taken to the large post oak tree in the middle of town and hanged. The tree has since been known as "Page's tree."

Over the following years, numerous men who were found guilty of sins against their fellow man met their fate at the end of a rope tied to the sturdy branches of Page's tree. Sometimes, just the threat of being taken to "see Page's tree" was enough to straighten up a trouble maker or convince them to take their outlaw ways somewhere else.

In late 1839, the sheriff of Miller County in Arkansas was sent to Clarksville to collect taxes in an area which was in dispute between the territory of Arkansas and Texas. When the townspeople discovered what he had come to town for, a committee of men grabbed him, tied his hands behind his back and took him to Page's tree. They informed him what the tree was used for, showed him the scars in the tree's bark and kindly explained what would happen to him if he delayed his departure. In his haste to leave, the Arkansas sheriff is reputed to have forgotten his travel bag back in his hotel room. 

It's been more than 140 years since the last outlaw breathed his last when a rope tightened around his neck under Page's tree and most folks nowadays have no idea of the history and significance of the old post oak. In their haste to get from one place to another, they travel right past thinking it nothing more than just an old tree shading a few graves in the corner of the cemetery. It would probably shock them to know they just passed by a living relic of times gone by, a relic with many interesting tales to tell - of life, of death, of justice meted out, and the inexorable passing of time.