Treaty Oak

By: John A. Haislet

Type: General Entry

Published: 1976

Updated: December 1, 1995

The Treaty Oak of Austin is located in a small city park on Baylor Avenue between Fifth and Sixth streets. The live oak is believed to be more than 500 years old, and its branches span over 128 feet. It is the only survivor of a group of live oaks known as the Council Oaks. Though proof is lacking, it is said that Stephen F. Austin signed the first boundary agreement between the Indians and the settlers under these trees. According to legend, Indian women would drink a potion made from the leaves of the Treaty Oak during the full moon to ensure their men's zeal and safety in battle. In 1927 the Treaty Oak was admitted to the American Forestry Association Hall of Fame for Trees and declared the most perfect specimen of a North American tree. The land where the tree grows belonged to the W. H. Caldwell family from 1882 to 1937. Mrs. Caldwell offered the land for sale for $7,000 in 1926 because she could no longer afford the taxes. When efforts by patriotic groups to induce the state legislature to buy the land for a park failed, it was feared that the tree would be cut down by some future developer. The Austin City Council finally bought the land from T. J. Caldwell in 1937 for $1,000. In 1989 Paul Cullen poisoned the Treaty Oak with Velpar, which is specifically designed to kill hardwood trees. In spite of extensive efforts, only about one quarter of the tree was saved. Cullen was tried and convicted of felony criminal mischief and sentenced to nine years in prison.

John A. Haislet, ed., Famous Trees of Texas (College Station: Texas Forest Service, 1970; 3d ed. 1984). Ethel Osborn Hill, "The Treaty Oak," Holland's, October 1927. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

John A. Haislet, “Treaty Oak,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed January 17, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

December 1, 1995