The Washington Sentinel

The Washington Sentinel, at the Borough of Waterford, is the the hemlock tree, from which it is reputed that George Washington stood looking into the French fort, “Fort Le Boeuf,” on December 11, 1753. The tree grew on the left bank of LeBoeuf Creek, just up from the lake. Seneca Indians once grew corn, beans, and pumpkins on the flats below her, while they camped and built temporary homes on the high ground near the base. The French had considered cutting the tree to get a better fire pattern, in case of siege — their fort was four hundred feet to the North, on an even higher bank, but they decided against cutting it down.

Robert Dinwiddie, the governor of Virginia, sent the 21-year-old George Washington to Fort Le Boeuf with seven escorts, in order to deliver a message to the French demanding that they leave the Ohio Country. Dinwiddie's initiative was in response to the French building forts in the Ohio Country. Washington took Christopher Gist along as his guide; during the trip, Gist earned his place in history by saving the young Washington's life on two separate occasions. Washington and Gist arrived at Fort Le Boeuf on 11 December 1753. Jacques Legardeur de Saint-Pierre, commandant at Fort Le Boeuf, a tough veteran of the west, received Washington politely, but contemptuously rejected his blustering ultimatum. Jacques Legardeur de Saint-Pierre gave Washington three days hospitality at the fort, and then gave Washington a letter for him to deliver to Dinwiddie. The letter ordered the Governor of Virginia to deliver his demand to the Major General of New France in the capital, Quebec City.

The old hemlock saw the coming of the Virginian militiaman, George Washington, as he rode to the gate of the Fort LeBoeuf. The early settlers so revered her for having witnessed and survived so much history, they honored the great hemlock with the name, Sentinel. The Waterford high school yearbook borrowed her name, as did a local newspaper. By 1983, most people had forgotten why she was revered. In that year she fell, old in the fullness of time. At the end of its life it was 17 feet in girth, and according to the State Forest and Water Department it was more than 400 years old. Because it lost it’s top in a bad storm years before, it was capped to keep it from rotting. It fell on June 16, 1983.

 Washington Sentinel, Borough of Waterford
 Washington Sentinel, Borough of Waterford.