One of Julie Haggard’s earliest memories involves playing in her aunt and uncle’s barn near a large oak tree. Although the barn disappeared long ago, the oak tree lives on in Precinct 4’s Kissing Tree Park.
Dubbed the “Kissing Tree,” the ancient oak tree near Louetta Road and T.C. Jester rose to fame after residents rallied to save it from the ax after plans for a new convenience store nearby surfaced. Pledging to protect the tree, Commissioner R. Jack Cagle had the county purchase the property, and he opened Kissing Tree Park in 2017.
Since then, Laura Medick, who heads Precinct 4’s Legacy Trees Project, has been investigating the tree’s history.
“We already knew the Kissing Tree was important to the community,” said Medick. “The large outcry made that clear. But we also wanted to find out if the tree could become important to other Texans as a ‘Famous Tree of Texas.’”
Medick made major progress in late 2019, when she met Julie Haggard, whose family settled in north Harris County more than 170 years ago. Armed with old photos and a book of family history, Haggard provided details linking the Kissing Tree to Herman Strack, her great grandfather and a German immigrant who came to the United States in 1848. A successful blacksmith, cattle owner, and businessman, Strack accumulated an estimated 1,445 acres over his lifetime. Family records show a large oak tree believed to be the Kissing Tree marked Strack’s homestead and blacksmith shop.
Haggard recalls exploring the Strack family property when she was young and encountering the Kissing Tree. Large even then, the tree stood out with its twisting, moss-covered branches.
“The tree was always covered in Spanish moss,” said Haggard. “We used to make nests for Easter eggs out of it.”
The tree’s fame grew in the 1980s, when Earnest Strack, a descendant of Herman Strack, built the Strack family restaurant and the Strack wedding hall just northeast of Herman Strack’s homestead and blacksmith shop. According to stories passed along by Haggard’s children, the tree was popular among couples, and many proposals took place under its branches, earning it the moniker Kissing Tree.
Although the wedding hall and restaurant have closed, the Kissing Tree remains a beloved part of the community. Through the Legacy Trees Project and the book Famous Trees of Texas, Medick hopes to extend the tree’s legacy long past its lifetime.
“Legacy Trees is about preserving history,” said Medick. “We do this primarily by growing new trees from material collected from historical trees and sharing this unique history with park visitors and volunteers. But we can also preserve history in books like Famous Trees of Texas for people across Texas to see.”