Florida Society of American Foresters

Naval Live Oak Plantation State Historic Landmark

The fourth in a series of historic markers sponsored by Florida SAF was dedicated at Gulf Islands National Seashore on January 17, 2009. Dr. Ed Barnard led the effort to gain state approval and cost-share funding from the state for the marker. A grant from the SAF Foresters' Fund provided additional funding.

The site of the marker was the first federal tree farm in the United States established by congressional resolution introduced by John Quincy Adams in 1828. Live oak (Quercus virginiana) was recognized as a superior wood for ship timbers. Widespread timber theft led to the need for a federally protected plantation.

Honorable Beverly Zimmern, Mayor Pro Tem of Gulf Breeze, Jerry Eubanks, Superintendent of the Gulf Islands Nation Seashore, and Florida SAF Chair Jarek Nowak attended the event. The program included comments by Captain William Reavey, USN, the commanding officer of Pensacola Naval Air Station, Kathy Kuehl, president of the Gulf Breeze Area Historical Society, J. Earle Bowden, editor emeritus of the Pensacola News Journal, and Dr. Judy Bense, chair of the Florida Historical Commission.

Text of the Marker

This is the site of the first federal tree farm in the United States. Live oaks were once valued for their superior shipbuilding qualities. The U.S.S. Constellation and the U.S.S. Constitution (Old Ironsides), both launched in 1797, were built of live oak (using c. 160 and 460 trees, respectively). Timber thefts led to congressional acts in 1817 and 1822 for the purpose of supplying timber for the United States Navy. These acts prohibited the sale of public lands containing live oaks. An 1826 report to the Secretary of the Navy claimed two million cubic feet of live oak had been stolen from the South Atlantic Coast, probably "consumed abroad." This resulted in the Timber Trespass Act of 1827, authorizing penalties for timber theft and the establishment of a live oak plantation. In 1828, President John Q. Adams introduced a congressional resolution establishing this site for the plantation and appointed West Florida District Judge Henry Marle Brackenridge superintendent. Brackenridge studied live oak history and began growing live oaks here. Some 1,300 acres of the original live oak reservation are now preserved by the National Park Service as part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore.

For more information visit "The Live Oak Story" on the Gulf Islands National Seashore website.

Send additions, corrections, or comments to: