Moore Park Big Tree Grove

Pecan, Bur Oak, Bois d'Arc, Carya illinoinensis, Quercus macrocarpa, Maclura pomifera

Located on the south side of Cedar Creek near its confluence with the Trinity River less than two miles south of downtown Dallas, the historic grove consists of sixteen Pecans, one Bur Oak, and one Bois d'Arc (aka Osage Orange) tree.

The Story

Trees are often consigned to the background of our memories as part of the scenery or as part of the proverbial ‘forest’. This is particularly true in a park setting where much of the green space’s agency is ascribed to the park patrons and how they choose to use the space. But no matter how many times a playground is swapped out for the newer model or a pavilion repainted, the trees will persist to give a park and the community it serves a sense of identity. The grove of Pecans growing at Moore Park exemplifies this continuity trees represent.

Originally named Eighth Street Negro Park, Moore Park was founded in 1938 to be used by Dallas’ growing black communities[1]. It served as a place to meet, play, BBQ, celebrate, or simply lie down under a shady Pecan tree for a nap. Moore Park was founded at a time in Dallas’ history when only five of the city’s 55 parks were set aside for use by the city’s black communities[2]. This was not nearly enough space to meet the needs of the community and their need for green space, so the city started investing in enhancing and expanding the existing parks as well as designating several more parks.


A band plays in front of the Moore Park Big Tree Grove.

As part of these changes, Moore Park was renamed in 1940 at a Juneteenth ceremony to honor the work of the prominent activist William Moore[3]. In the 1940s, the park also received amenities rarely seen in parks serving black communities, such as a baseball field, a shelter house, and a six-hole golf course[2]. By the end of 1945, Dallas had eight parks that were designated as ‘Negro’ parks in the city[1]. Though many of their names have changed and demographics shifted, all eight of these parks are still in use today in the Dallas parks system which now numbers over 400 parks. Very few of these eight parks, however, still have trees that predate the founding of ‘negro’ parks in Dallas and all of the history that’s been made to abolish that system.


The Moore Park Big Tree Grove provides the backdrop for a baseball game.

Today, 16 Pecan trees still stand in Moore Park that are at least 150 years old. Based on an aerial photograph taken of the property in 1930, these 16 surviving Pecans were already mature at that time, dating them back to before the turn of the 20th century. Each tree was measured for trunk diameter, height, and width of its canopy to give a better sense of its age. On average, this grove of Pecans has a trunk diameter of 40 inches, a height of 70 feet, and a crown width of 60 feet. The largest tree in the grove has a trunk diameter of 48 inches, a height of 80 feet, and a crown width of 70 feet. These measurements are consistent with the estimated age of these trees. This puts the trees at this site even before it was procured as park property.

The Pecan grove dates back to the original settler of the property that contained the Park land, John McClannahan Crockett. Crockett was one of the first attorneys to arrive in Dallas, its second mayor and a Lt. Governor of Texas. He purchased the land in several transactions in 1869 and 1870 [4] and lived there with his wife until his death in 1887. The Park land was then purchased by the Ben Elias Cabell Sr. family. Cabell was elected Sheriff of Dallas County in the 1890s and then served as the mayor of Dallas in the 1900s. After his death in 1931, the Park land was purchased by the Park Board from the Cabell estate in 1938 for $10,000[5].


Dallas Park Board member Harrison Blair (second from right) receives Moore Park Big Tree Grove certificate and proclamation on November 3rd, 2023, from TxHTC trustees Marion Lineberry, Eric Wettengel, and Chris McMaster.

This grove of Pecans that still stands in the park has already been a part of nearly 100 years of that community’s history. Through the good, the bad, and everything else in between, these trees carry our past with the promise of seeing decades more. Moore Park is still a widely popular park in Dallas. With the protection this Historic Designation offers, these trees will be around to see even more generations of Dallas Park goers grow.

[1] Stone, Rachel, “Moore Park’s new pavilion and amphitheater grand opening June 13”, Oak Cliff Advocate, Dallas, Texas, June 7, 2013.

[2] Jebsen Jr., Henry, Robert M. Newton, and Patricia R. Hogan, “Centennial History of the Dallas, Texas Park System, 1876-1976”, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas, 1976, p. 109.

[3] Repko, Melissa, “Segregated parks gone, but they still divide”, The Dallas Morning News, Dallas, Texas, February 15, 2016.

[4] Dallas County Deed Book L, page 293, May 22, 1869 and Dallas County Deed Book O, page 15, October 10, 1870.

[5] The Dallas Morning News, Dallas, Texas, December 29, 1937.

Data
Gathered on November 3, 2023
Estimated Age
155 to 190 years
Height
70 to 80 feet
Crownspread
Over 100 feet
Circumference
10 to 15.5 feet
Contributors

Eric Wettengel, Jim Bagley, Bill Coleman, Marion Lineberry, Christopher McMaster, Cynthia Mulcahy, and Lauren Woods