Trees in History- Gnaw Bone Indiana, Tulip Poplar Tree.

A Living Memorial

In 1850 in the southern Indiana town of Gnaw Bone (pop. 8), John Allcorn was killed by a falling tulip poplar tree (Liriodendron tulipifera). This was a tragic event but not unheard of in the day.

Tulip in the Crouch cemetery.

There were no undertakers within twenty miles, so neighbors hollowed out a large tulip poplar (some accounts say the same tree that killed John) to make a coffin.

Local lore tells us that soon after the burial a “poplar” sprouted at the head of John’s grave as a living monument.

A recent visit to Crouch Cemetery could not reveal a headstone for John Allcorn but did find the magnificent tulip poplar in the adjacent photo. The tree appears to be the right age to be John Allcorn’s Living Monument.

Notes: After discussion with Dr. William Hoover, Professor of Forestry at Purdue University, it was determined that this type of re-growth (from a live buried log) is possible and is called Vegetative Regeneration. Watch next issue for another regenerative tree story.

Stories about the name Gnaw Bone vary. Some say that it was named by French immigrants for their home town of Narbonne France and Hoosierized . Other more colorful stories are that when a passerby asked about the where-abouts of an area resident the reply was “I seed him settin” on a log a-gnawing on a bone”, and that a local pack of wild dogs killed a group of sheep and were seen “Gnaw-in on the bones”.

Trees in History series provided by Jud Scott, who is a lover of trees and history. If you need help preserving a tree or resolving a tree conflict, Jud can be reached  at 317-815-8733 or by email at

~ by daniel on December 14, 2010.

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