Enjoy the heartwarming tale of “Carrie’s Christmas Tree”
Adapted from a story as told by Dottie Smith via Facebook:
Former Shasta County history instructor at Shasta College and Simpson University, Dottie Smith loves delving into the county’s rich and colorful history and she enjoys sharing her findings and stories with others via social media and other means.
Saying, “It’s that special time of the year again,” Smith recently took the time to re-tell the “heartwarming story of Carrie’s Christmas Tree.”
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If you live in or travel through Shasta County you’ve probably seen the special tree – an Osage orange which are rare to Northern California – while traveling on Interstate 5, near the Red Bluff roadside rest stop.
After she first spotted the tree, Smith said she set out on a search to find out why the “Charlie Brown kind of tree” was always decorated at Christmas and who was doing it.
According to Smith, although she’s written about the special tree – which stands there all by itself year-round and all decked out with bright-colored Christmas tree decorations during the holidays – many times before, she believes the wonderful story is worth re-telling “again and again.”
The origins of “Carrie’s Christmas Tree“
“Years ago in the early 1960s, when major reconstruction work began to get underway on that section of the highway, Cottonwood resident and lover of trees Carrie Bogue asked the road officials if she could dig up the tree and move it out of harm’s way,” Smith explained.
Although her request was simple, officials denied it and work on the nearby highway continued.
“Somehow her tree managed to remain standing through the work,” said Smith. “However, a few years later, the then-small tree died.”
Sadly, Carrie died a few years later in 1966. She was 93-years-old when she passed, according to Smith; who said that prior to her death, Carrie had told her friends and family that if she ever came back to life after death, she wanted to come back as a tree.
“Carrie had many friends prior to her passing,” Smith continued. “Among them were Ruth and Cary Chadwick of Anderson who had been friends of Carrie’s for at least 40 years.”
Knowing well the story of Carrie and “her tree”, one day as the Chadwick’s were driving by the once-dead Osage, “they noticed it had miraculously come back to life,” Smith described.
“So, of course they thought it was Carrie, now in the form of a tree … just as she had always wished,” said Smith.
“That Christmas season, in 1967, the Chadwick’s decorated Carrie’s tree,” explained Smith. “They covered the tree with bright garlands, tinsels and bows for everyone to see as they passed by on the highway that had now become a freeway.”
50 years later, the holiday tradition continues
Over the next 50-some-odd years, the tree grew larger and taller, making it more difficult for the Chadwick’s to decorate; but they continued the tradition of decorating Carrie’s Tree for at least twenty more years until their old ages and poor health began getting in the way, according to Smith.
That’s when, around 1990, Dale and Larry McClure, of Cottonwood, began helping the Chadwick’s out and a few years later, the McClure’s became the lone decorators of Carrie’s tree.
Then, the tree stood un-decorated for about two years until the Hoofard and Lopez families decided to anonymously take over, according to Smith; who said the two families continued decorating it without anyone knowing they were the decorators.
That was, until a family friend drove by and spotted them decorating the tree and decided it was time to let everyone know who they were.
More than 50 years after Carrie Bogue’s request to adopt and relocate an Osage orange tree that sits along I-5 near Red Bluff was denied, family and friends who once knew or who have since learned about the woman continue to honor her legacy and love of trees by decorating what has now become known as “Carrie’s Tree.”
Nowadays, on the same day every year, “this thoughtful family meets at the tree to bring happiness to everyone that travels I-5,” explained Smith.
“They love hearing people honk and wave from both directions and they love hearing how much joy it brings to people,” Smith continued. “They said they will continue the tradition until it’s time for the next generation to take over.
Since taking over the annual Christmas decorations, the families have added lights to the tree and also placed a sign big enough to easily read from the freeway that proclaims it as “Carrie’s Tree”, which it will forever be known as.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, Carrie!
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Trevor Montgomery, 48, moved in 2017 to the Intermountain area of Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes or has written for several other news organizations; including Riverside County based newspapers, Valley News, (the now defunct) Valley Chronicle, Anza Valley Outlook, and Hemet & San Jacinto Chronicle; as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County and Mountain Echo in Shasta County.
Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back, and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)
During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations; including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center, and Lake Elsinore Station; along with other locations.
Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team, and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.
Trevor has been married for more than 29 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and his “fluid family” includes 13 children and 16 grandchildren.