The Wade Hampton Oak stands on the corner of Main Street and 5th Avenue of Conway, South Carolina and is marked with a plaque and boxed in by a brick planter. Nestled along the banks of the winding Waccamaw River, Conway is one of South Carolina's oldest towns. Conway, the seat of Horry County, began life as Kingston in 1732 and by 1735; the first settlers had arrived. Though these folks have long gone on to their reward, Conway is still populated with the majestic Live Oaks, some of which may have stood as a silent sentry to those first families. Conway is extremely protective of their Live Oaks, lovingly dubbed their 'Oldest Citizens,' even going so far as to build some of the town's streets around the trees. The Wade Hampton Oak is a Live Oak, scientifically known as Quercus Virginiana. In 1975 the live oak trees, including the Wade Hampton Oak, were mapped and inventoried and 217 of them were found to have a circumference greater than seven feet. The trees were measured again in 1997 and the average circumference growth was a little over a foot each. The circumference of the Wade Hampton Oak is 9'5”.
What makes it special??
The Wade Hampton Oak was once part of a grove of oaks that stood on the front lawn of the residence of Thomas W. Beaty. Mr. Beaty was a signer of the Ordinance of Succession, served as First Lieutenant with the South Carolina Regiment in the Civil War and later served as a state senator. General Wade Hampton, during his campaign for governor, gave a speech in this grove of trees to an estimated crowd of 2,000 in 1876. It is considered that the Reconstruction Era in South Carolina ended during Governor Hampton's term in office.
Some ten years after Governor Hampton's election, workmen prepared to lay tracks for the first railroad to enter Conway, SC. Mary Beaty, wife of Thomas, reportedly stood in front of this oak with a shotgun and threatened dire consequences to the man who attempted to cut it down. She threatened to shoot anyone that attempted to cut down the tree! As a result, the direction of the track was changed and the tree was spared.
Every since the City of Conway is careful in preserving its oaks and roads were built around the trees and has a strong tree ordinance. The town is better socially, economically, and environmentally due to the wonderful urban forest with it all starting with the Wade Hampton Oak.
The Wade Hampton Oak received the Heritage Tree Award for 2005 from TreesSC. The tree has a historical marker erected by the Azalea Garden Club of Conway.
Nominated by: Everett Sharpe