Beulah Ferrell, of Wilson, looks out of her front door as a branch from the large willow oak remained on her roof Friday morning. Photo taken Friday, Aug. 11, 2017. Drew C. Wilson | Times
Workers dismember the large branch from the willow oak tree behind Beulah Ferrell's home on Stadium Street in Wilson on Friday morning. Photo taken Friday, Aug. 11, 2017. Drew C. Wilson | Times
Beulah Ferrell, of Wilson, holds the Treasure Tree marker she was given by the Wilson County Master Gardeners in 2006 after the tree was designated the largest of its kind in Wilson County. A big branch fell off of the tree on Friday morning. Photo taken Friday, Aug. 11, 2017. Drew C. Wilson | Times
By Drew C. Wilson
Times Staff Writer
A mammoth limb split off Beulah Ferrell’s willow oak before daylight Friday, making a sound so great she thought Wilson had come under attack.
“I thought it was a bomb,” Ferrell said. “I thought one of them had got us.”
The tree is so big that it is recognized by the Wilson County Master Gardeners as being a Treasure Tree, a designation bestowed upon the tallest, biggest, broadest and oldest trees in Wilson County.
An informal measurement taken Friday morning showed the trunk was 222 inches in circumference, which is nearly 6 feet in diameter.
The branch that fell covered all of Ferrell’s house and a small part of the neighbor’s house.
The gash in the side of the tree was nearly 8 feet long.
“It’s a good size one,” said Ronnie Langley of Langley Landscaping, the company hired to remove the fallen branches. For now, the remaining part of the tree will be left standing.
Langley thought is would take six men a day and a half to remove the large limbs using a Bobcat, an excavator, chain saws and a lift machine.
It’s a good-sized job,” Langley said. “It’s very dangerous.”
‘It reminds me of god’
Ferrell, 85 and a native of Lucama, lives at 403 Stadium St.
The tree limb fell right over her bedroom.
“It fell right over top of it,” Ferrell said.“I had just got up and gone to the bathroom and come back and lay down. I heard that noise, and I thought, ‘Oh my Lord, what was that?’ I’d never heard anything like it before.”
The tree fell at 4:30 a.m.
“I thought we’d been bombed,” Ferrell said. “That was my thought until I got my mind together. I got up and didn’t have lights. The telephone wouldn’t work. I couldn’t call anybody to find out anything. I couldn’t call 911 so I went over next door and got my sister to call for help. By that time, the fire trucks were here. Somebody else had called.”
Several limbs punched through the roof.
“There’s a limb in my bathtub in there,” Ferrell said.
There was no storm when the limb split from the main part of the tree.
“It was not a bit of wind blowing and just a drop of rain,” Ferrell said.
She pointed to the heavy limbs as the reason the branch fell off.
“It got so heavy it split it,” said Ferrell, who is disheartened that the big tree isn’t whole anymore.
“I look out my window in the morning and look out there, and I think it reminds me of God. There’s God looking over me, standing over me,” Ferrell said.
“I’ve had it trimmed several times trying to keep the storms from getting it,” Ferrell said. “The last time I had it trimmed they said it would cost $10,000 to take it down. It’s always been my opinion that if you kept one so the wind blows through it, it wouldn’t blow it down.”
Ferrell said the tree is so large that it has been used as a marker on that side of Wilson, near Fleming Stadium.
“They say it’s on the city map as a guidepost,” Ferrell said. “I’ve been told that.”
Throughout the day Friday, chainsaws buzzed as the each portion of the fallen limb was cut free.
“It’s going to be a pile of wood in a little while. It’s not going to have no name or nothing,” Ferrell said. “I wish I had a picture of it over the house.”
Ferrell said many birds made a home in the tree.
“I said one night about dark when they were all going to roost I’d love to see something shake that tree enough to shake all the birds there was in it out and see how many birds there was in that tree,” Ferrell said.
According to horticulture agent Cindy Lauderdale, of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension office in Wilson County, Ferrell’s tree was considered the record willow oak in Wilson County in 2006.
“Willow oaks are actually the most popular tree that we get submitted,” Lauderdale said. “While it still is a Treasure Tree, we do have something larger now. We keep it on file anyway.”
“When we measured it, the circumference of the tree, at 4 ½ feet off the ground, was 204 inches. The height was 115 feet. The average crown spread was 53 feet, which is 106 feet drip line to drip line.
The current willow oak record-holder in Wilson County is out past Beddingfield High School in the middle of a field.