Misshaped from a falling maple tree in 1846, the Crooked Elm of Ekfrid was a landmark on Longwoods road for over 110 years.
Scott Willey and the Elm Sapling:
In the early winter of 1846 a team of six men travelled 25 miles to Lot 21 in Ekfrid Township from Port Talbot to perform land clearing. Moses Willey (WILL-ee) led the team which included his younger brother Scott Willey and four other workers. The Willey family wished to apply for a homesteading deed and clearing the land was a settlement duty required prior to obtaining a deed. At this time Longwoods Road was a crude trail surrounded by thick forest and swamp.
The team of men left Port Talbot in the middle of the week and planned to have the clearing completed and return by Sunday. On Saturday Scott Willey chopped the last tree, a large maple. By unfortunate accident one of the workers was seriously injured when the tree fell. The man’s hip was fractured and the team needed to get the man home quickly. The 25 mile return journey was made with great hardship. On arrival to Port Talbot the injured man was treated. Although no records survive regarding the injured man it is believed he recovered.
In the spring of 1847 Scott Willey returned to the area and found the felled maple tree had pinned down a small elm sapling. He removed the weight from the sapling and was amused by its odd shape. He placed a prop under the elbow of the misshaped tree, which grew to become the “devil’s elbow”.
The Crooked Tree Of EkfridGlencoe Transcript, January 14, 1937.
It is reported that the famous landmark which stands just south of No. 2 highway on 20 Sideroad, Ekfrid, is soon to disappear. Rot is eating away the foundations from the tree. Towering 80 feet above the highway, this giant old elm has been for many years looked upon as a friend by thousands of travellers. Its name comes from a weird crook, or elbow, in one of its two main branches.
A Traveller’s Landmark:
The small sapling that Scott Willey saved from the weight of the felled maple grew into a massive elm with very distinctive shape. The Crooked Elm was a landmark for travellers along Longwoods Road, marking the turn for those seeking sideroad 20 (Tait’s Rd) which had a bridge that crossed the Thames on the way to Dutton or Wallacetown. Sideroad 20 became known as “Crooked Elm Road”.
As indicated by the Transcript newspaper article from 1937 the Crooked Elm showed signs of deterioration, but persevered for another 22 years. In 1959 Middlesex and Ontario Hydro officials decided it needed to be removed, as rot had deteriorated the tree extensively. On March 26th, 1959 the tree was cut down.
Memories Of The Crooked Elm
It is interesting what people remember. The crooked elm was not a fantastic building or a monument that people travelled to visit. Yet the tree made a significant impact on the memories of those who passed it. Finding photographs of the tree was a challenge, however locals of the area fondly remember the tree and can relate personal stories regarding their travels past it. More than a landmark, it was a part of the land and people of Ekfrid Township.
1) Glencoe Transcript, 1937.
2) Transcript & Free Press, 1998
3) The Willey Story Glencoe & District Historical Society Library
4) Glencoe & District Historical Society archives and resources.
5) Middlesex County Atlas, 1878.