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Crews removing tree near old slave mart in downtown Charleston

Updated: Jan. 25, 2020 at 1:17 AM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The throaty hum of chainsaws signaled the impending doom of a sickly pecan tree on Chalmers Street in Charleston.

A neighbor, who did not want to be identified, couldn’t understand why news crews were interested in watching the tree come down.

She said it was old and she didn’t want it falling on her house.

“It’s not a big deal,” she said.

If a tree falls in downtown Charleston, a silent witness to the American Slave trade, does it make any noise?

“That tree we estimate is over 200 years old”, said Christine Mitchell who is a history interpreter at the Old Slave Mart Museum where inside she explains to visitors and tourists that this was a place where slaves were auctioned off to the highest bidder.

She very much does not want to see the tree go.

"Why kill it?” she asks.

Jacob Lindsey, director of the City of Charleston Planning, Preservation and Sustainability department, says according to arborists, the tree is too old to save and too dangerous to let stand.

“The city is always sad to lose an historic tree. And in this case it’s a private tree on private property" said Lindsey.

“Why not trim it?” Mitchell asks. “That tree saw everything that happened back in that space. The space, where that tree is, was a slave pen. Nobody realizes that that’s sacred ground."

“That tree’s definitely seen some stuff,” says Ista Clarke director of the Slave Mart Museum.

He recounts the horrors of slavery that happened in the shade of that tree.

“It’s seen babies ripped from their parents’ arms," Clarke said."It’s seen the invasive treatment of female enslaved to check and see if they can bear children. "

“We are making a big deal over it” says Christine Mitchell. “Because you see, the buying and selling of human beings was a big deal. There are a lot of people that care about this site, about the history of it, and to me tearing down this tree is tearing down some of the history."

It will take several days to finish the removal of the tree.

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