History of the Tree


History of the Tree
Holly Tree Store
Holly Tree Pictures


Below is the long history of the Cecil County Holly Tree.

In 1870, Evan G. Sentman planted the Holly Tree.  He found it while out on a fishing trip.  According to Mr. Sentman, it was "just a twig".

Late 1880's - Baltimore and Ohio Railroad laid tracks adjacent to the Sentman farm.  The Holly Tree was less that 50 feet from the rails.

1920's - B&O Railroad President, Daniel Willard, noticed the Holly Tree, which by now had become an impressive tree, and begun attempts to purchase it.  The sentman family was uninterested, but Mr. Willard continued to pursue the purchase for many years to come.

Late 1920's - The house on the Sentman farm burned down, but the family continued to refuse to sell the tree.

1930 - The Sentman family finally agreed to sell the Holly Tree and an acre and a half on which the tree stood.  The B&O ordered local workers to maintain the tree.

1947 - Local B&O employees decided to decorate the tree for Christmas as a gesture of good will for the community.  They used donated lights and ornaments.  the ornaments were the normal types used for indoor decorating and the winds took their toll.  According to a woman who lived near the tree, they were constantly sending down to the Perryville 5 & Dime store for more ornaments.  The decorated Holly Tree became an instant hit with the passengers on the B&O railroad.

1948 - The B&O made the lighting an annual tradition.  The B&O passenger trains were ordered to slow down as they passed the Holly Tree to give passengers a good look.  Onboard service personnel wore sprigs of holly from the main tree on their lapels while on duty during the lighted season.  At the Mount Clare shops in Baltimore, a great Star was made for the top of the Holly Tree, and has adorned the top of the tree ever since. 



1958 - The B&O Railroad was facing financial difficulties and decided to discontinue its passenger service.  However, they continued to light the tree each December until 1971.  That year, to the dismay of thousands, the tree was dark.

1972 - The tree was deeded to Cecil County and a volunteer committee was formed to oversee the decorating.  However, the overwhelming task of taking the place of the mighty B&O railroad soon tired the committee.  In 1978, they decorated the tree for the last time.

1985 - Brian Gray sought and obtained permission to clean up the grounds surrounding the Holly Tree.  In December, with over one thousand spectators on hand, Lt. Governor Curran threw the switch to light the tree for the first time in 7 years.

1993 - A series of five commemorative Holly Tree mugs were designed by Brian Gray, one for each of the decades leading up to the fiftieth anniversary of the first lighting.  The first mug, which was green, was issued in 1993 with only 355 of the planned 1000 actually produced.

1994 - The red commemorative mug was issued with a run of 1000.

1995 - The blue commemorative mug was issued with a run of 1000.

1996 - The black commemorative mug was issued with a run of 1000.

1997 - The last of the commemorative mugs, white, was issued with a run of 1000.  The mugs are given to patrons who donate ten dollars with every penny going to the tree.  Local artist, Chris White, produced a beautiful painting of the Holly Tree, circa 1954.  The painting was unveiled at the 50th anniversary lighting ceremony.

2000 - Michael Morgan designed and erected a structure next to the Holly Tree to support the Great Star, ornaments and lights due to concerns about the health of the Holly Tree.  Patrons who donated $2.00 were allowed to paint one side of an ornament to commemorate the first lighting of the new millennium.  A new white mug to commemorate the year 2000 was issued with a run of only 500. 

2003 - A purple mug was designed by Chris White with a run of only 500.

2005 - The old building was torn down and a new much larger building was put in its place. 

2006 - The Holly Tree Express was designed and built by John Gallaher as a place for Santa to sit to take pictures with the children.  Pictures with Santa were taken with a digital camera instead of a Polaroid for the first time.

2007 - 60th anniversary commemoration mug was designed by Chris White and was issued in red and green with a very limited run of 144 each.  Santa night was expanded to 4 hours and a heated tent was provided for the first time to give the children and parents a comfortable place to wait for their pictures with Santa.  Over 140 pictures were taken with Santa.

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This site was last updated 12/05/08