September 23, 1938: Cutting of the Mingo Oak

The Mingo Oak was reported to be the largest white oak in the world.

On September 23, 1938, the fabled Mingo Oak was cut down, after succumbing to fumes from a burning coal refuse pile. For nearly 600 years, the ancient oak tree had stood watch near the present Logan-Mingo county line. It was reportedly the largest white oak in the world, standing 145 feet tall and just over eight feet in diameter at breast height, with a limb spread of 96 feet.

For its last 100 years, the Mingo Oak was one of West Virginia’s best-known shrines. Locals referred to it as ‘‘the church in the wild woods.’’ Early settlers had erected a pulpit surrounded by rustic benches beside the oak’s massive trunk. Almost every Sabbath day during the summer and early fall, rural ministers led services underneath the oak’s glorious green canopy. More than 500 sermons were supposed to have been preached there.

After being severely damaged by the coal fire, the landmark tree was cut down by a crew from Webster County. Some 2,000 people watched the felling of the giant oak.

A cross-section of the Mingo Oak may be seen on display at the West Virginia State Museum.