Under the Treaty Tree

Under the Treaty Tree

One morning in 1896 the fair-complexioned and blue-eyed May Heath looked out of her kitchen window and saw the tree cutting crew, armed with axes and cross-cut saws, marching down Holland Street. A line of fallen trees marked their progress.

She was aghast - they were approaching the old "treaty tree"! She grabbed her baby and went running out of the house, confronting the cutters just as they were preparing to attack the giant white oak.

Said Mrs. Heath: "Gentlemen: Not the treaty tree - the tree under which  William Butler made his personal treaties with the Indian chiefs in the 1830s. We will not destroy Saugatuck's history!"

And the tree cutters replied: "Madam, the village council has ordered that this tree come down for street widening, so down we will take it."

Mrs. Heath; "My husband is on the council. He said nothing about removing this tree."

And the tree cutters replied: "It doesn't matter, Madam, the tree comes down - now."

Not to be deterred, with baby in lap, Mrs. Heath sat herself down at the foot of the Tree, refusing to budge. The tree cutters, calculating that she would need to return to her kitchen, stood to the side, waiting. It was a standoff.

By noon she had not gone - but her baby was beginning to demand dinner and the cutters saw an opportunity.

The tree cutters: " Will you be going indoors to fix dinner for your husband and baby?"

Mrs. Heath: "My husband can fix his own meal ... "

And then she did something shocking for the 1890s: There beneath the tree, in plain public view of the workmen and anyone else who might pass by, she breast fed her baby - announcing that she would not be moving for the rest of the day.

The shaken tree cutters cleared off. The tree still stands on Holland Street.

Under the Treaty Tree
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