Taft, Louisiana – St. Charles Parish
The Locke Breaux Oak in Taft, Louisiana, was the first President and a founding member of the Live Oak Society, a unique organization whose members are all live oaks (Quercus virginiana). The society operates under the auspices of the Louisiana Garden Club Federation, Inc. today; and the tree association includes only one human, the acting Secretary (currently Coleen Perilloux Landry, “Chairman”), who maintains the roster of past, present, and future tree members, as they are registered.
The Locke Breaux Oak was a beautiful giant, named after the Locke and Breaux families, descendents of English philosopher, John Locke. Dr. Edwin Lewis Stephens, founder of the Live Oak Society, in an article in the Louisiana Conservation Review (April 1934), begins his list of 43 live oaks proposed for membership in a tree “Association” with a description of the Locke Breaux Oak:
“First on the list, and most outstanding timber of the highest rank in the Association, is the Locke Breaux Live Oak, on the right bank of the Mississippi River, four miles above Hahnville in St. Charles Parish…This is the largest live oak I ever saw. Its girth four feet above the ground is 35 feet; its height about 75 feet; its spread 166 feet, when I measured it on January 22, 1932, in company with my friend, its owner, the late Samuel Locke Breaux of New Orleans.”
The age of the Locke Breaux Oak has been estimated by various sources. Ethelyn G. Orso’s Louisiana Live Oak Lore (published by The Center for Louisiana Studies, University of Southwestern Louisiana, Lafayette, Louisiana) indicates that:
“According to legend, in 1682 LaSalle and his band of explorers knelt beneath it to give thanks for their safe journey down the Mississippi River. The Locke Breaux Oak was estimated to be between 300 and 400 years old.”
A description of the Locke Breaux Oak is also found on the reverse of a postcard printed with a color image of the tree (photo by Hubert A. Lowman), which we purchased, with many thanks, from Billy’s Postcards).
Beneath the bold title, the postcard states,
“This magnificent tree, the oldest live oak known, sprouted in 1657.”
and further describes the setting:
“A convenient road circles the tree and picnic facilities are provided by the Colonial Dairy, on whose property it grows.”
The Locke Breaux Oak is now deceased, its demise 1966-1968 due to air and ground water pollution, testimony to the need for more rigorous means of protection for other oaks of environmental, cultural, historic and aesthetic significance. The live oak’s original sponsor, Colonial Dairy Farm, was sold to a chemical company, one of many that began to flourish in the parish after the discovery of oil within the region, which resulted in a shift from agriculture to industry. The former Live Oak Society president remains #1 in the roster; and its impact on the landscape and contribution to history are known today, by those who were never privileged to view it in person, thanks to the individuals and organizations that recognized its grandeur and significance, and paused to record it, as well as to preserve the records.
The second and current President of the Live Oak Society, the Seven Sisters Oak in Lewisburg, LA (near Mandeville), was elected in 1968. The Seven Sisters Oak was originally known as Doby’s Seven Sisters. The name was changed and the oak re-registered as the Seven Sisters Oak. A magnificent and worthy successor, the live oak’s girth measured 36′ 1″ at registration and was recorded as 38′ in 2002 on the “Society’s Top 100” list.