DELAVAN — It has shaded passersby in Delavan for more than 270 years, but now the branches on Delavan’s Civil War Muster Tree are slowly becoming bare, and the historic landmark’s days may be numbered.

Among those who gathered below the tree’s wide canopy from 1851-1864 were local Civil War volunteers heading to board trains for Union Army training camps.

City officials tell the Delavan Enterprise that 65 percent of the tree is dead and not recoverable.

The city could try to treat it, but Public Works Director Mark Wendorff says there’s no guarantee the remaining part of the tree could be saved.

He’s looking for input on what to do next.

For example, the city could leave the trunk in place and add a historical carving, or take the tree down and give away pieces as souveniers.

The large burr oak has a significant history in Wisconsin.

A poem by Larry Phillips on the plaque at the base of the tree, installed in 1993, chronicles the history of the tree:

The Muster Tree

The railway station stood at ease
And waited there to see
The lads with somber destinies
Who gathered neath the Muster Tree

The city boy and country kid
Of every pedigree
With fear a feature to be hid
By rookies of the Muster Tree
The noisy train was belching high
Its smoke impatiently
As wives and mothers kissed goodbye
The warriors of the Muster Tree

So off they went and learned to fight
The “Rebs of General Lee
Not knowing whether wrong or right
But sent there from the Muster Tree

By lead and bloody bayonet
With death a referee
Through battles we will ne’er forget
Went troops of Lincoln’s Muster Tree

Well, some returned and some did not
But chroniclers agree
The hell would never be forgot
By veterans of the Muster Tree

And if you’ll look, it still survives
Imbued with history
And grieves for those who gave their lives
The proud and lonely Muster Tree
– Larry Phillips


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By Dan Plutchak

Dan Plutchak, born and raised in Kaukauna, is cofounder of Kaukauna Community News.