The Three Sisters of Montrose at Magnolia Cemetery of Houston

Post Oak, Quercus stellata

The Story

As post oaks are prone to rapid decline in disturbed or developed habitats, the Three Sisters stand out as survivors of harsh abuse. Originally in a pastoral setting on the south side of Buffalo Bayou, these post oaks have witnessed the founding of Magnolia Cemetery, the incursion of adjacent commercial, industrial, and residential developments, the building and widening of streets to serve these developments, and all the while surviving the turbulence of Houston’s Gulf Coast storms.

The Three Sisters rose to prominence marking the entrance to Magnolia Cemetery on a cart path off of San Felipe Road (now Dallas Avenue) beginning with the first interments in 1884. The Three Sisters have borne witness to the processions and interments of the people who helped build the City of Houston, its construction workers and carpenters, its grocers and clothiers, its pastors and undertakers, and the civic-minded Wortham insurance family. The Three Sisters have borne witness to the interments of veterans of wars starting with the Civil War and through both World Wars. They continue today to stand as sentinels guarding the main entrance to the recognized historic landmark off of Montrose Boulevard.

As Houston grew in the 20th century, the need arose for more roads connecting northern and southern Houston across Buffalo Bayou. Montrose Boulevard was first built after World War II on the eastern edge of Magnolia Cemetery and was later widened to meet the needs of the growing Houston metropolis. When new proposals to widen Montrose Boulevard arose yet again in the early 2020s, members of the Montrose community clearly and loudly said “No!”. As the elder members of the more than fifty oak trees proposed for removal, the Three Sisters became the rallying point for the community to fight back and convince their fellow Houstonians to reject the tree removal plans. Safe for now, the attention now shifts to protecting the trees from future road construction activities at the base of the trees.

The Three Sisters trunks lay up against the curb of Montrose Boulevard, making road reconstruction hazardous to their health.

The Three Sisters trunks lay up against the curb of Montrose Boulevard, making road reconstruction hazardous to their health.

On March 3, 2024, the Texas Historic Tree Coalition joined with residents of Houston’s Montrose community to proclaim and recognize The Three Sisters of Montrose as historic post oak trees. The ceremony included a welcome and opening remarks by Nancy Higgs, the nominator of the Three Sisters; a lesson by arborist Matt Latham on the history, status, and importance of the Three Sisters; a presentation by TxHTC president Marion Lineberry proclaiming the Three Sisters as historic; and a reading by Michelle Bouchard of poetry inspired by the Three Sisters. The ceremony was concluded by a bagpiper-led procession along Montrose Boulevard to honor the Three Sisters.

The Three Sisters of Montrose
by Jonna Hitchcock

In the shade of history they stand,
Montrose’s silent, noble band.
Post Oaks grown slowly with twisted grace,
Enduring time, in their sacred space.

Through ages past, they’ve withstood well,
And watched the city around them swell.
Witness to growth’s relentless flow,
A testament to all they know.

Roots that anchor, branches that reach,
Whispering tales, each leaf a speech.
Three sisters strong, united, true,
Guardians of the city’s view.

May they now, in their middle age, endure,
Another century, steadfast and sure.
With the gift of nature’s tenacity
And Montrose proud for all to see.

Data
Gathered on March 3, 2024
Estimated Age
over 150 years
Contributors

Nancy Higgs, Matt Latham, Marion Lineberry

Media Coverage

KHOU

Chron: Houston News – Hurricane Beryl takes down one of Houston’s historic ‘Three Sisters of Montrose’ trees