Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Montana's Second National Christmas Tree

Montana has three times contributed the nation’s official Christmas tree, in 1958, 1989, and most recently in 2008. The second time, 1989, was the year Montana celebrated its statehood centennial. That year the national Christmas tree came from the Kootenai National Forest in Lincoln County. In October of 1989, the Capitol Christmas Tree Committee advertised for a woodcutter to cut the chosen tree. The committee was looking for a person with community involvement who knew how to use a chain saw. They found their man in Bill Crismore, president of the Montana Logging Association, who was a Libby resident active in the community. On Saturday November 18, a crowd gathered to see the giant Engelmann Spruce felled. But as Crismore’s chainsaw did its work, the tree had a mind of its own and fell the wrong way, narrowly missing 300 spectators. Attached cables diverted its path, and the tree fell across a truck instead of into the road. Efforts to move it caused its upper trunk to snap, and the tree could not be used.

Bozeman Daily Chronicle, November 19, 1989
Clipping from the Montana Historical Society Research Center vertical file
Fortunately, there was another choice that had actually been the favorite in the first place. The 43-year-old, 67-foot Engelmann Spruce was soon felled and on its way to Washington, D.C. The limbs of the broken tree were cut and sent along with the new tree for use in case its branches were broken in transit. Crismore later said ruefully that had he known so many people would be present, he would have chosen the second tree anyhow. People milling around and children running in and out impeded his work and made the felling more dangerous and difficult to calculate.

Preparing the tree for its trip to DC. Western News, November 1989
Clipping from the Montana Historical Society Research Center vertical file

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