Home of the Cotten and Moore families
of St. Johns Twsp., Hertford County, North Carolina
The Water Oak of Mulberry Grove
not standing today, but seventy years ago it was considered to be the oldest and largest living thing in North Carolina.
The Water Oak (excerpts)
by John Wheeler Moore 1833-1906
The water-oak, with green vast cloak,
And limbs sent far abroad,
Is standing here, from year to year,
With its shadow on the road.
The ancient stage-way, broad and fair,
That leads to old St. Johns,
Where long ago Ahoskie Ridge
Commended its first of towns.
This water-oak was planted here,
And nurtured well by God;
Its mighty shade at noontide rests
Upon the weary road.
The black and twisted limbs are strong,
Wide sweeping ‘neath the sky.
Whereon the peewee hangs her nest,
When summer breezes sigh.
It is a Saul amid its kind,
So regal is its girth,
A perfect acorn must have dropped
To give it such a birth;
Some loving Dryad surely watched
It as it slowly grew
So broad and fair, and many limbed,
Beneath the arching blue.
No clustered palms on eastern waste,
More grateful to the eye,
A lordly monument it seems,
Of ages long passed by;
It lifts its huge and gnarled trunk,
Far upward toward the stars,
And flings defiant arms abroad
To meet fierce winter’s wars.
The storm may come in its agony,
And shriek as it hurries by,
The water-oak unharmed and strong,
Beneath the vaulted sky,
Stands like some soul, self-poised and firm,
Assailed by tempters dire–
Fast-anchored in a deathless hope
That cannot fail or tire.
Way-faring men with heat outworn,
Here pause at summer noon.
And gaze aloft, ‘mid coolest depths,
While like some deep bassoon,
The bull-frog’s heavy bass is heard
From out his sedgy home;
And here at dreamy twilight swells
The bittern’s solemn boom.
I loved it in my sunny youth,
It cheered my listless hours—
I loved the peewee hidden deep
Amid its leafy bowers;
It grows in view of that fair home
Where I was bred and born—
The home I fondly cherish still,
Though long from it I’m torn.
Ah, water-oak! Old water-oak!
I love you well and long.
I would that I some fitting praise
Could lift in this my song;
There’s not in all this land of ours
A broader fairer tree,
Long may your shadows stretch around
And shelter mine and me!