Tree-planting deepens roots of US-Bermuda friendship
A sapling from the home of former United States President George Washington was planted in Bermuda yesterday as a symbol of the “enduring relationship” between the two countries.
Charles Gosling, the Mayor of Hamilton, said that the Eastern Redbud marked the culmination of the first annual meeting of the General Society of Colonial Wars to be held outside of the US.
The sapling came from the Mount Vernon Estate in Virginia, which welcomes about 1 million people every year to see the home of the first US President.
In a planting ceremony at Queen Elizabeth Park, Mr Gosling said: “The Eastern Redbud tree was a favourite tree of George Washington and I understand that this presentation is only the third time a redbud sapling … has ever been removed from Mount Vernon and replanted somewhere else.”
He added: “This tree is a symbolic token of the enduring relationship between Bermuda and the United States who have had strong ties to each other for over 400 years.”
Mr Gosling explained that the island’s connection with the US colonial period dated back to the founding of Jamestown in 1607.
He said: “In the year 1619, unfortunately an infamous period, but a connection with the introduction of enslaved Africans into the English speaking New World.
“The infamous Gun Powder Theft and our support for the warring colonists, where we enabled the theft of barrels of gunpowder to be taken up to the warring colonies.
“Our governor, and city namesake, Hamilton, who didn’t represent the Crown too well in North America; our role in the Civil War supporting the Confederate blockade runners; the Bermuda connection with the first Black Congressman Joseph Rainey; the introduction of tennis into North America; two world wars; 9/11 – it’s like an intertwining family tree.”
Mr Gosling said: “Today, the United States and Bermuda continue to rely on each other for international business, our reinsurance industry being second to none, and trade of goods and, of course, many US citizens come to live and work here and many become Bermudians in the long term.”
Charles Poekel, who represented the General Society of Colonial Wars, said that May 7 would be the seventh anniversary of the organisation’s Bermuda meeting in 2015.
He added: “It was a great and historic occasion for the society, meeting outside of the United States for the first time.”
The General Society website said that the Society of Colonial Wars was founded in New York in 1892 to advance interest in, and study of, America’s Colonial history between 1607 and 1775.
It added: “To accommodate a society of national scope the General Society was established in 1893 to charter state societies.”
Mr Poekel said that former Hamilton mayor Graeme Outerbridge hosted the group’s meetings at City Hall.
He added: “As an everlasting memory of our visit, the society wants to dedicate a redbud tree to the people of Bermuda.
“For this to come about, I want to give special thanks to Dean Norton. He’s the chief horticulturalist at Mount Vernon and he secured the sapling.”
Mr Poekel also thanked Steven De Silva, the City of Hamilton’s parks superintendent, who “nursed the tree and kept it alive”.
He said: “I’d like to finish with Dean Norton’s wish and this is his wish for us. It is certainly our hope that the Mount Vernon redbud will thrive in its new home and will be admired by Bermudians today as it was by Washington over 200 years ago.”
Karen Grissette, the US Consul General, said it was rare for Mount Vernon to “share such a remarkable tree” from its grounds.
She added: “I hope this new connection with Mount Vernon encourages Bermudians who have an interest in our shared history to visit Mount Vernon and of course we always welcome Americans here to Bermuda.”
The Mount Vernon website said that hundreds of men, women and children were enslaved at the estate and lived under George Washington’s control.
It added: “George Washington had the grounds around his home landscaped during the period between the end of the American Revolution in 1783 and his election as first President of the United States in 1789.
“During this six-year hiatus, Washington's hired and enslaved workers replaced outbuildings, reshaped the gardens, created new lawns, and even realigned several roads and lanes.”
Redbuds – with their purplish-pink flowers – “added accents of colour to his landscape design”, the website said.