The “Million Dollar Monarch” is a pecan tree with beginnings that predate the town of Highland Park, and the history of the tree is a storyline that would hold its own in Hollywood. Now surrounded by a thriving and beautiful community, as a sapling it was surrounded by acreage of corn. As the story goes, following the Civil War and possibly overwhelmed by the destruction, Joseph Cole nursed the young tree to health and protected it. Joseph Cole was the son of Dr. John Cole, the first physician of Dallas county. Dr. John Cole had first acquired land as a headright of the Republic of Texas. He then began purchasing more land in the area, eventually acquiring land that included what is now Highland Park and its ”Million Dollar Monarch”.
The enormous pecan tree earned its name when Hugh Prather Sr. was offered one million dollars for land that included the pecan tree. Shortly after, a parkway was designed to protect the tree, situating it at a prominent median, welcoming Highland Park visitors with its stately and recognizable presence. A true testament to the history of the land, the Monarch Pecan is estimated to be 150 years old, almost 50 years older than its now host town. At the height of its health, the tree was 75 feet tall and wide, and around 4 feet in diameter at the trunk.
The tree is possibly best known for its holiday tree lighting, a tradition that earned it the title of oldest tree lighting ceremony in Dallas County. In 1927, the Monarch Pecan was dressed in 5,000 holiday lights for the first time, and for the following 91 years, the tree continued to illuminate the town of Highland Park. In the 2019 holiday season, Highland Park will light a tree that is considered to be a sister of the Monarch Pecan.
In recent years, Preservation Tree Services began to address the issues associated with the decline of the tree and made multiple attempts to extend its lifespan; however, in 2019, despite valiant efforts to save the beloved Monarch Pecan, it was decided that the death of the tree was imminent, and that its removal was necessary.
At this point, Urban Timber Harvest was brought in to consider what could be done with the tree after its removal. Typically when our trees decline and die, they are sent to the landfill where they are mulched. What we at Urban Timber Harvest are able to offer is a more sustainable approach that will preserve the beauty of beloved trees.
We were incredibly impressed by the level of care and admiration the city staff and citizens of Highland Park have for the Monarch Pecan tree. This truly is a beloved tree. This is a tree with which they all grew up. A tree that brings fond memories as they gathered under its large canopy each holiday season. A tree that they are sad to see go. This tree had far too much history and value to simply be discarded, so along with the town of Highland Park, we devised a plan for utilizing the wood from the Monarch Pecan after its removal, and we are honored to have been a part of this process.
Removal for the big tree was scheduled to take place in October of 2019, and went smoothly. The removal and harvest operation took a total of 4 days to complete. That brings us to now. Now that the tree and its timber have been harvested, all of its logs will be processed on our sawmill, lumber will be kiln dried, and the slabs will then be processed into custom furniture, architectural elements, and momentos along with other significant and meaningful items needed to give this tree new life. All products going back to the community from which it came.
Now that is a good tree to table story, and hopefully one that would make Joseph Cole proud.
In 2016, KERA featured the tree in an original short story produced and directed by Rob Tranchin.
Some interesting notes on pecan wood in general: Pecan wood is a very beautiful wood that has a lot of variety in color. Different logs can end up producing lumber that looks quite different. Most pecan wood has a light creamy color that may contain contrasting red streaking in its heart wood. Spalted pecan tends to get much darker and redder in color. Traditionally, pecan wood is used for furniture, cabinetry, and flooring. Pecan trees are a very common native species to the north Texas area, can get very large in size, and can live to be 300 years old. We harvest and mill many pecan trees at Urban Timber Harvest.