Montgomery, Ala.— Once abundant in forests from Maine throughout the East and Southeast, American chestnuts were virtually wiped out by a fungal blight beginning in 1900. Today, it is estimated that fewer than 100 mature trees remain in the tree's former range.
At a ceremony to be held Friday, the first of 25 American chestnut trees will be planted on the Huntingdon College campus. The trees, planted as a tribute to Huntingdon benefactor George Gibbs, are donated by the American Chestnut Foundation. The planting of the trees is funded by a generous gift from Philip and Angie Young.
The Huntingdon trees were grown in the American Chestnut Foundation, Alabama Chapter, state orchard in Muscle Shoals and were developed to have a greater degree of disease tolerance. As the trees mature, their growth and hardiness will be monitored by students and faculty in the Huntingdon Department of Biology.
Huntingdon President J. Cameron West said the tree-planting will have a number of benefits. "We are pleased to be a part of the effort to reintroduce the American chestnut to the area and to participate in the endeavor to save the tree," said West. "Our students and faculty welcome this collaborative project, which will certainly enrich their learning experience. At the same time, the planting will beautify the Huntingdon campus and honor a man who has spent a lifetime dedicated to the preservation and restoration of our country's forest lands."
George Gibbs, a graduate of North Carolina State University and a former Montgomery resident now living in Louisville, Kentucky, is a retired forester whose passion is the American chestnut tree. He is a member of the Order of the Countess of Huntingdon, the Hall of Honor, the John Massey Heritage Society, and the Huntingdon Society giving clubs.
Huntingdon College, grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition of the United Methodist Church, is committed to nurturing growth in faith, wisdom, and service and to graduating individuals prepared to succeed in a rapidly changing world. Founded in 1854, Huntingdon is a coeducational liberal arts college.