The very idea of a tree legally owning itself captured my attention. The tree gained it independence sometime between 1820 and 1832, courtesy of one William Henry Jackson. He owned the land and was so fond of the tree that he enacted a deed to ensure it would remain standing.
I, W. H. Jackson, of the county of Clarke, of the one part, and the oak tree … of the county of Clarke, of the other part: Witnesseth, That the said W. H. Jackson for and in consideration of the great affection which he bears said tree, and his great desire to see it protected has conveyed, and by these presents do convey unto the said oak tree entire possession of itself and of all land within eight feet of it on all sides.
Some of this is shrouded in legend. The tree (and the dubious deed) didn’t gain prominence until a front-page article ran in the Athens Weekly Banner on August 12th, 1890.
According to law, this deed would have no legal standing. However the city of Athens has honored the tree and preserved its legal standing.