There’s a pecan tree near Preston Road and Armstrong Parkway that’s been here almost as long as Dallas itself. In 1865 Joseph Cole was working his cornfield north of town when he came upon this tree no bigger round than a pencil sprouting from the earth. A shoot had grown from a pecan carried up from nearby Turtle Creek…perhaps dropped by a bird or squirrel. The tree was too far from the creek to survive and most farmers would have plowed it under but Joe ordered a field hand to fence the tree off and water it. Joe had just come home from the Civil War and later people would explain what he did by seeing too much destruction and killing up north. Of course nobody really knows why Joe did what he did but the tree survived and Joe took care of it until it could be seen for miles on the flat plain above the creek, just off the Preston Trail.
Eventually the land was sold and Joe died. Some said that Joe had placed a deed restriction on the land, protecting the tree, but the story proved to be false. As it turned out, he didn’t have to. In the 1920’s developers envisioned the town of Highland Park on the land that had once grown Joseph Cole’s corn. At the time it was said that the developers were offered a million dollars for a lot that would include the pecan tree. Perhaps that story wasn’t true either, but in any case the tree was not for sale. Instead the pecan was given its own parkway, a place of honor at the entrance of town. And because of the story it became known as “The Million Dollar Monarch.”
Decorating the tree at Christmas became an annual tradition. In time, the houses around the tree would become worth a million dollars and much more. Fewer people noticed the tree or remembered its name. But there are those who think of the history Joe Cole’s pecan tree has seen….and those who know the story of the “Million Dollar Monarch” think of Joe Cole and what remains after we’re gone.
This blog is based on a story produced by Rob Tranchin for KERA’s “Think”
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