Richard Swartz

Once Upon a Time in The West: Tree Tussles in Old Berkeley

The towering old oak tree that stood east of Shattuck Avenue along Allston Way in Berkeley’s early days was known by many names, two of them rather ominous: The Vigilante Oak, some called it. Others referred to it as the Hanging Oak.

The macabre monikers allude to a violent moment in the community’s colorful past—sometime in the 1850s, before Berkeley got its name—when a hard-luck livestock thief was strung up from the tree in an act of frontier justice.

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