The Mystery Tree of Ashland High School


It’s giant, it has bark, and it’s the tallest thing on campus. Now what is it? Everyone sees and knows the giant coastal redwood on the quad at AHS, but not many people know about it.

The coastal redwood is “roughly sixty years old” said Mr. Hartman, the primary caretaker for the tree and by math teacher Brenda Paustian’s calculations the tree is about 110ft high. Now that is about as solid and concrete as the information gets in terms of answers involving the research of the tree.

The problem with the redwood is that everyone who knows anything about it is either dead or off the radar of AHS. Now one would think that the tree has some decent background written down, since it is a popular point of the school, but in actuality, it is a true mystery.

In all the old yearbooks the tree is either prominently there, or eerily missing. Anne Thayer, representative of the Ashland Tree Commission “actually [doesn’t] know much about that tree except that it’s giant and at the high school.” She referred me to Terry Skibby, an Ashland photographer and historian, and he was able to determine by his photos that “the tree [was]n’t there when the high school was first built, but show[ed] up later.”

That left the mystery at sort of an unsolved dead end, so from there I tried a senior AHS alumni, Ross Coldwell, class of 66’. His response to inquiry involved a lot of laughing at the hopelessness of my case and a referral to a book and one more person. The book was called The Loyalty by Giles Green and it gave info such as timelines and other Ashland School District history but nothing on the tree. The person was Bud Silver and he was the vice principal when Ross was a student in the sixties. I called Bud Silver up and he explained to me that it is almost impossible to find the exact origins of the tree if it was not written in The Loyalty, but he gave me his understanding of the tree and he said “long before I was a presence at the High School, there was principal, Ben Forsyth, and he went hiking with some students on the coast one day and he saw a sapling that he liked, so he dug it up, came back with a sapling, and planted it at AHS.”

So that seemed as close as I would get to an answer on the tree. Mr. Hartman says “that the tree could not have done the majority of it’s growing at AHS” and that it had to be planted while it was quite large. So Bud’s story about Mr. Forsyth and Mr. Hartman’s ideas are considerably conflicting. Now the mystery remains, but at least there are some possible myths.