The Basking Ridge Oak in healthier times.
The Basking Ridge Oak in healthier times. Msact/CC BY-SA 3.0

Basking Ridge, New Jersey, is saying goodbye to one of its oldest and most famous residents: a 600-year old oak tree.

Predating the town that currently surrounds it, the massive white oak tree is thought to be the oldest of its kind in North America. And, as CBS New York notes, the tree would have been standing at the time of Columbus. These days, it’s located next to a Presbyterian church, its roots tied up in a Revolutionary War cemetery at its feet.

But despite six centuries of staying power, the tree was declared dead last year, the apparent victim, the New York Times has said, of old age and some volatile weather. Now it’s being cut down completely, to protect the church and cemetery below.

The cut wood from the old tree will be used to make crosses and mementoes for churchgoers, and since the roots are likely tangled up in the historic human remains, the stump will also be left in place, and a plaque will be put on the site.

Also nearby: a newer, 25-foot tree nearby that was grown from an acorn dropped by the original. In a very real way, in other words, the old white oak might still live on.