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The Charter Oak
By Phyllis Naegeli
1 Long, long ago, a white oak tree grew from a tiny acorn that sprouted in the warm spring earth. Each year it grew larger, spreading its branches and reaching higher towards the sky. In the fall, its leaves would turn yellow, then brown, and then fall to the ground. Every spring, the tree would sprout new branches, new leaves, and gain another growth ring under its bark. For hundreds of years, the tree grew along the banks of the Connecticut River near what would someday be Hartford, Connecticut.
2 During the tree's lifetime many changes occurred in the land where it grew. In 1614, Adriaen Block, a Dutch explorer, sailed down the Connecticut River and spotted the giant oak tree. Not long after, Dutch and English colonists began to move to the area. Many of them settled along the Connecticut River. An Englishman claimed the land where the huge oak tree grew. As he cleared the land for farming, Native Americans sent a group to ask that the oak tree not be cut down. They believed that when the leaf buds of the giant oak began to appear each year, it was a sign for them to plant their corn. The farmer agreed; the tree was left standing.
3 During the time when Connecticut became a colony of England, the tree was given a very important job. In 1662, Connecticut was granted a charter by King Charles II of England. Because of the work of John Winthrop, the charter gave Connecticut many rights, including allowing them to create and run their own government without British interference. It also laid out the territory that belonged to the people of Connecticut Colony. Over the next thirty years, the charter was a cherished part of the colony's life.
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