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Callaway Plantation
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 Church of the Mediator
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Historical Markers

Two Trees Named for Robert Toombs

Also See: Robert Toombs House, State Historic Site

Robert Toombs State Historic Site

Back view of the Robert Toombs House   Two trees were named for Robert Toombs, one of the state's most colorful and controversial statesmen. He was a U.S. Senator, Secretary of State for the Confederacy and a brigadier general in the Confederate Army, but as a young freshman at the University of Georgia in 1824, a historian remembers him as a belligerent youth who was "bold, vigorous, large of build and full of life, fresh from a plantation with plantation ways."

In a magazine article by Larry B. Dendy of the university's Office of Public Information, it was pointed out that UGA students of that era "were expected to be pious, polite, and proper, but young Toombs had none of the desired qualities. He chewed tobacco, drank liquor, cursed, gambled, missed prayers, got into fights, and openly flaunted the rules..." After a vicious attack on two students, he was expelled, but soon managed to get himself readmitted through a petition to the faculty. In 1828, his senior year, his behavior had become intolerable, however, and he was permanently dismissed.

Why did a student with such a miserable reputation warrant a tree named in his honor? It is said Toombs returned to Athens on graduation day and as the commencement exercises were getting underway in the campus chapel, he stood beneath a nearby tree and delivered a speech so brilliant and powerful that the audience left the chapel and gathered around the big oak to pay rapt attention to his oratory. From that day, the tree was known as the Toombs Oak.

"Good story," said Dendy, "but it's not true." He called it a "legend that had been handed down by generations of students." Although the problem student, who later became a trustee and ardent friend of the university, never gave his own graduation address under the tree, a marble sundial now marks the place on campus where the legendary tree once stood. The oak was destroyed by lightning on July 4, 1884, a little more than a year before Toombs' death.

Another Toombs Oak stands on the front lawn of his old homeplace in Washington, GA. When federal troops entered the town in 1865, they were in pursuit of the general; the invaders were determined to hang the fiery Confederate from the great tree that now bears his name. The elusive Toombs escaped, however, and spent the next two years in hiding and in exile abroad, later returning to the stately mansion where he remained an "unreconstructed rebel" for the remainder of his life.

Excerpt from "Great Trees of Georgia" by Howard Bennett
Georgia Forestry, Fall, 1996

Also See: Robert Toombs House, State Historic Site

216 East Robert Toombs Avenue
Washington, Georgia 30673
(706) 678-2226

Tues. - Sat. 9-5, Sun. 2-5
Closed on Mondays (except on some legal holidays), Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day.


$2.50 Adults
$1.50 ages 18 & under
free ages 5 and under
$2.00 each, Adult tour group (15 or more)
$1.00 each, Youth tour group (15 or more)

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