A true family tree at the courthouse


A tree was dedicated Saturday at the Monroe County Courthouse in Waterloo.

The tree — an Illinois White Oak variety — was donated to the county by Chip and Patty Bieber. It was grown on their family farm just outside Waterloo city limits on East Fourth Street. The property has been in the family for five generations. It became the farm of Henry and Julia Osterhage in 1923.  

Until this tree was delivered about two weeks ago, the courthouse had been bare of the official state tree. There may have been one at one time, but the variety has been absent for many years.

The tree was dedicated to the memory of the late Alvin and Alberta Osterhage, who for many years operated the family farm where it grew before it was passed down to the Biebers.

Not only was the tree given to the county, but the process of digging it from the farm with a 90-inch tree excavating machine, moving it to the courthouse lawn and replanting it was paid for by the Biebers.  

The work was carried out by Bosza Tree Farm and Tree Service in Freeburg.

Members of three generations of the family dodged rain showers to come to the courthouse on Saturday to dedicate the tree to their ancestors and reminisce about the family and its lives.  

Chip Bieber shared stories with the family and Monroe County Commissioner Vicki Koerber, who has championed the restoration of trees surrounding the courthouse. He told about planting and nurturing numerous varieties of trees native to the area on the farm over his past 40 years.

He said they have numerous larger White Oaks on the farm, but this was an ideal size to be transplanted.

White Oaks are hardy, relatively fast-growing trees that thrive in open sunlit areas such as where this tree has been situated.  They mature and start to produce acorns in 20-30 years and can achieve a height of 100 feet, with a canopy that wide as well.  

The tree can be identified now by its lighter green leaves and a pink ribbon around its trunk.

A project to restore the courthouse trees, initiated by Koerber last year, is receiving funds from the Urban and Forestry Grant Program administered by the Morton Arboretum in Lisle.  The grant was sought when it became obvious the traditional 102 trees — one for each county in Illinois — were steadily diminishing.  

Several trees were removed due to damage and decay in recent years and there had been no one-for-one replacement.  

It is hoped that citizens who attend courthouse events will see the various tree varieties on the grounds and get ideas for adding such trees to their property — including maybe even a White Oak.

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