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The tree growing from the Decatur County courthouse clock tower is getting a check-up Tuesday.

GREENSBURG — Visitors to the downtown square will likely notice an unusual sight Tuesday (Sept. 29): a crane on the courthouse lawn stretching up to the courthouse tree for which Greensburg has become known.

“We are going to trim what appears to be some dead limbs out of the tree, and it appears there might be an issue with the lightning rod cable,” said Decatur County Commissioner Rick Nobbe.

Nobbe said that the lightning rod appears to be laying against the actual tree itself.

“That can’t be good for it, so we’ll take a look at that as we go,” Nobbe said.

Arborist Jerome Delbridge will assess the tree for any damage it might have sustained since its last checkup and make a recommendation for its continuing health.

“About a year ago,” said Nobbe, “we received some phone calls from concerned citizens ... about the tree’s health. It was really, really dry then, and it’s like that again right now. It didn’t leaf-out as nicely last year because of the draught, and it’s looking a little like that this year. I know how important the tree is to the community, so we just wanted to investigate the situation just to make sure it’s healthy and nothing’s going wrong with it.”

As most Greensburg native know, the tree – and its home, the courthouse – is intrinsically tied to the history of the Decatur County community.

According to an article previously published in the Daily News, work began on the present-day structure in 1850, the same year the historic Compromise of 1850 was signed into law in Washington, D.C. Eleven years later, when work on the courthouse was completed, Abraham Lincoln was President of the United States and the American Civil War had begun.

As much of the nation began the era of Reconstruction in the 1870s, Greensburg residents noticed a sprig growing out of the northwest corner of the courthouse’s clock tower. Five sprouts that managed to peek out of the building’s exterior were enough to cause officials at the time to worry about structural damage, so some of the shrubs were removed in the late 1880s.

According to information from the county’s official website, one of two trees that remained eventually grew to about 15 feet tall with a five-inch base. The tree survived for a long period of time, and when it finally succumbed to the elements it was moved to the Decatur County Historical Museum.

The present-day tree popped up about a century ago, on the structure’s south side, and is a source of reverent pride for Greensburg and Decatur County.

A tourist attraction and genuine curiosity for many, the tree continues to delight visitors and longtime residents alike. Originally thought to be a large-tooth aspen, a more recent study by Purdue University led to the revelation the tree is almost certainly a mulberry, the county’s website notes.

The Decatur County Visitors Commission (Tourism) donates $5,000 yearly to upkeep the tree.

“We appreciate their help in maintaining something that is definitely an important tourist landmark for the community,” Nobbe said.

Tuesday’s activity starts when the crane arrives at 9 a.m.

“Hopefully we’ll have good weather that day,” said Nobbe.

Contact Bill Rethlake at 812-663-3111, ext 217011 or email bill.rethlake@greensburgdailynews.com

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