When looking at the Angel Oak Tree, it’s like a walk through a mystical time period. Spots of hazy, heavenly, light shows its beams through the leaves onto the branches. I expected nymphs and winged fairies to flitter under the huge canopy of the massive oak tree. This centuries-old tree continues to grow near a dirt road that leads to the Angel Oak tree; which is surrounded amongst many Low Country trees.
The Angel Oak tree is located on St. Johns Island, about twelve miles south from downtown Charleston, NC. When I saw the Angel Oak Tree in 2019, it is free admission. There just aren’t many free places to stop, and this is one that is definitely worthwhile.
This peculiar tree is said to be one of the oldest living oak trees east of the Mississippi River. Arborists estimates the Angel Oak tree is 400 to 500 years old. Several reasons for the Angel Oak’s longevity is its natural hardiness, long taproot, and widespread root systems, that anchors the tree deep into the ground. This is how it has survived natures elements of winds, storms, earthquakes, and hurricanes through-out the centuries. It does show scars from natures elements; but the old oak tree still stands strong and brave.
The uniqueness of the tree is that it grows both up and out. Its massive, twisted, and gnarled branches reach out like tentacles from a giant monster. It’s said, by tour guides, the tree stands 66.5 ft (20 ml), the trunk measures 28 ft (8.5m) in circumference and produces shade that covers 17,200 feet (1,600 m2).
Local folklore tells of another source for the name of the tree; ghosts of former slaves are said to appear as angels around the tree.
In her Ghosts and Legends of Charleston, Denise Roffe interviewed a woman descended from the slaves who toiled on the island’s plantations. She recounted the legends of the tree, including that it was once home to huge birds (likely vultures) who fed on the bodies of lynched slaves. The old woman continued saying that many people were buried under the tree including Native Americans who met under its shady branches. She stated that these spirits still gather around the oak and that they also work to protect the tree.
Recorded history traces the ownership of the live oak and surrounding land to year 1717. When Abraham Waight received it as part of a small land grant, the tree stayed in Waight’s family for four generations, and was part of a marriage settlement to Justus Angel and Martha Waight Tucker Angel. The Angel Oak tree is now owned by the City of Charleston and has become the focal point of a public park.
Many weddings and engagements take place under the canopy of this beautiful historical tree.