witness tree

In land surveying, a property corner sometimes cannot be marked because the true point lies on a cliff or in a swamp, stream, or lakebed. A substitute may be established on any one of the surveyed lines leading to the true corner and within a distance of ten chains (660 feet) from it. Such a stand-in is known as a witness corner, and the monument placed there is the witness mark, witness post, or witness stake. A witness tree is a large tree so situated that it can serve as the reference point. The Umbrella Tree, a huge Douglas fir near Deep River, Washington, was a famous witness tree saved from logging for that purpose. In his book A Witness Tree (1942), Robert Frost describes one in a poem called “Beech”: the title tree, having been “impressed as Witness Tree,” allows truth to be “established and borne out,/though circumstanced with dark and doubt.”

Robert Michael Pyle