A Moon Tree is flourishing in eastern Ohio near Steubenville. The sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) was planted in Friendship Park in Jefferson County, Ohio, located between the towns of Smithfield and Bloomingdale. The tree was dedicated in a ceremony on July 29, 1976 (the county's anniversary) and moved to a nursery for the winter. It was brought back to the park the next spring and planted next to the No. 1 shelterhouse overlooking the lake. Initially it was planted in a cage to protect it from deer. Much later a split rail fence was erected around the tree. Above are pictures of the tree from circa 2002 (left) and November 2022 (right), as well as an article on the dedication ceremony from the Herald-Star newspaper. The full text of the article is reproduced below. The tree is healthy as of November 2022, with a base circumference of 65 inches. Below are pictures of the tree behind the #1 shelter (the tree is the first trunk visible on the left side of the photo) and the park sign pointing to the Moon Tree.
Article reprinted courtesy of the Herald-Star, Steubenville, Ohio.
Upper left photograph courtesy of Bob Jankowski
Upper right and lower photographs courtesy Judy Henthorn
Information courtesy Gary Ogden, Bob Jankowski, and Judy Henthorn
Article from 30 July 1976 Herald-Star, Steubenville, Ohio
A "moon tree", well on its way to becoming one of Ohio's most pampered trees, was planted in Friendship Park Thursday evening in brief ceremonies.
The sycamore seedling was placed on the ground on a knoll overlooking the park lake at a site near the No. 1 shelterhouse. Extensive preparation of the planting site had been completed by Finley Amos, Fernwood Forest ranger and the Youth Conservation Corps.
The seedling, measuring approximately 18 inches, was originally scheduled to be planted at the park in May. It has been gaining strength and size in Marietta nursery for the big day.
The tree will be removed and returned to the nursery to spend the winter before being returned to the park permanently next spring.
Dr. A. Eileen Cozart, Jefferson County coordinator of the bicentennial program and chairman of the program, explained that the 1,200-acre park site was donated to Jefferson County by Hanna Coal Company, now Consolidation Coal Company, in 1966 when exploration into space was in its infancy.
On March 1, 1976, Ernest J. Gebhart, chief of the division of Forestry of the state of Ohio, notified Dr. Cozart that Friendship Park had been selected to receive one of te moon seedlings that were assigned to Ohio by the U.S. Forest Service. Other seedlings were consigned to Cincinnati, Columbus, and Marietta.
The seedling was grown from seeds that journeyed to the moon and back aboard Apollo 14. "They survived well," Dr. Cozart explained, "under the same stresses that the flight crew astronauts, Shepard, Mitchell and Roosa, experienced."
Upon return to Earth they were returned to forest research scientists for successful testing and propagation that has made the bicentennial planting a joint undertaking by NASA, the U.S. Forest Service and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. "It was appropriate during the bicentennial year to plant the seed on the birthday of Jefferson County, July 29," Dr. Cozart said, "It was on July 29, 1797 that by proclamation of Gov. Arthur St. Clair of the Northwest Territory, that Jefferson County was created, her boundary extending to Lake Erie and south to the Ohio River."
The ground was prepared by members of the Youth Conservation Corps. At the ceremony Amos presented the tree he brought from the Marietta nursery. Amos was also the personal representative of Ernest J. Gebhart, Chief of Division of Forestry of Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Amos was assisted by the YCC. Joseph Hickle of Consolidation Coal Company and Friendship Park commissioner also participated in the planting ceremony. He has been involved in selection of the site and the security plans. The late Wheeler Welday was to have assisted in the tree planting. Young Billy Koe Kerr, son of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Kerr of 4012 Valley View, Steubenville, and Bicentennial Youth of Jefferson County participated in the ceremony. He was dressed in a colonial militia outfit of the early 1775 bearing the words Liberty or Death. The Smithfield American Legion Post 396 Militia Color Guard and Firing Squad sounded the alert of the ceremony and the official planting of the tree.
A message was received from Sen. John Glenn of Ohio, the first to orbit the Earth, Feb. 20, 1962 on Friendship 7. Sen. Douglas Applegate climaxed the ceremony by bringing a message from the legislative branch of the Ohio Government. Others participating were Commissioners Russell Hesske and Charles Klasic. The bicentennial committee of Bloomingdale served lemonade from an old fashioned dipper. The attendants at the ceremony recited the first prayer offered from space by the Apolo 8 crew on Christmas eve in 1968. The Bible verses from Genesis "In the beginning" were also used. Anita Jackson and Nancy Cochran closed the program with music. Dr. Cozart coordinated the program with the theme "Apollo 14 Sycamores and Jefferson County". The Bicentennial Community of Smithfield, the first village in Ohio to be so recognized on Oct. 20, 1973, was given special recognition.