The awe-inspiring Goodaway Sycamore: “We have a very large tree in the back”

Digital Originals

DAUPHIN COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) — Just a few hundred yards from Linglestown Road in Lower Paxton Township, behind a building housing the Spade Fire Supply L.L.C., is a very, very big tree.

According to Bill Minsker of the Lower Paxton Township Historical Commission, “this sycamore tree’s been here probably 200, 250 years. It predates almost anything here in our township. I have writings that go back decades that state this. There’s also a publication from the state on large trees of the state where this tree is referenced as one of the biggest trees in the state.”

Barry Spade, who leases the building, didn’t know he had a piece of history in the back until tree tourists started showing up.

“We’ve been here two years now, and we have people from all over the country. we have had people from Georgia, California, Virginia, stop in, take a look at the tree,” Spade said. “Especially during the summer, there’s a lot of people who come in, they travel around the country and follow these types of things, plot it out and actually seek these trees out. Which was kind of surprising for me, Horticulturalists and people like that are very interested in this.”

And it’s not just people from other states.

“There are a lot of people just stopping in locally too, from the township, from Harrisburg,” Spade said.

The tree is popularly known as the John Goodaway Sycamore. According to Bill Minsker, it’s part of the sad story of a now-extinct people.

“A few hundred feet to the north of this tree is recorded the burial of this area’s last Susquehannock Indian before the Susquehannock Indians were all massacred. His name is John Goodaway or Goodway, there’s two different spellings,” Minsker said.

Sadly, no one knows what became of that grave, just records showing he was buried in the vicinity of the tree. Plus, it is not as easy to see as it once was. Bill Minsker showed us pictures taken decades ago, with the tree standing in an open field. It’s now surrounded by developments. About the only time, it really becomes visible from Linglestown Road is in the fall.

“You really can see this when the leaves are off all these trees to the north, and from Linglestown Road this tree is very visible,” Minsker said.

The tree has survived all these years because of its reputation as one of The Big Trees, and lately, because of its location.

“It’s wetland,” Minsker explained. “Wetland provisions prohibit any real permanent structures because of the fact that they could be flooded.”

So how big is the tree now? Well, Spade had a tape measure handy, so we decided to check the girth. The tape, as it turned out, was too short, so we had to make two measurements; the first was sixteen feet, then another of ten feet, for a twenty-six-foot girth.

Spade will continue to welcome people who want to view the tree.

“I’m at the point now where what we should do is buy a ledger, and just when people stop in, have them sign. I think it would be interesting where all these people do travel from,” Spade said.

“My grandchildren were talking about putting a lemonade stand out here because quite a few people do stop in,” Spade said.

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