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Dartmouth’s Old Pine tells a story of the intertwining history and legend within the cultural and natural landscapes of the college (Legends). “The Lone Pine above her,” as it is referred to in Dartmouth’s Alma Mater, is Dartmouth’s main symbol, present in most iconography for the college. Though now all that remains is its stump, it was once a white pine before it was removed in 1895 due to wind and lightning damage (Forever Green). Evoked in Alexis’s novel as a symbol of aloneness surrounded by trees, the Old Pine has remained vital to generations of Dartmouth students and centuries of Dartmouth mythology. Relics of the Old Pine pine are available to visit in Dartmouth’s Rauner library.

The Old Pine at Dartmouth!

Snow, Natural landscape, Tree, Wood

Old Pine aerial image

Snow, Plant, Wood, Natural landscape

Old Pine frontal image

Plant, Snow, Tree, Wood

Fragment of Old Pine at Rauner

Safety glove, Wood, Glove, Rectangle

Fragment of Old Pine at Rauner

Handwriting, Wood, Trunk, Hardwood

Old Pine before Tragic Lightning Strike

Picture frame, Christmas tree, Plant, Window

Stained Glass Old Pine

Material property, Art, Plant, Circle

Description of Stained Glass Old Pine

Font, Handwriting, Parallel, Paper

After the 1770 clearing of Dartmouth land by Eleazar Wheelock, a copse northeast of the campus green remained, which was where the lone pine stood. The lone pine and the rest of these trees were not saved out of any notion of conservation: rather, they were shorter, crooked, and less useful than other pines for construction of the campus. The lone pine was a “comparative runt among other giants but stood out because its trunk and main branch were bent and twisted.” It “garnered affection because of its struggle for survival” (Graham). The age of the Old Pine is disputed: it may have begun growing around 1783, but tradition states that it was “already a flourishing young tree of twenty-five or so” by 1769 (Legends). Ironically, the characteristics that made it undesirable to the college at first made it grow that “to be a rugged, stalwart, unmistakably independent sort of tree, suitable indeed to become the very symbol of Dartmouth", as North commented in 1967  (North 1967, 5).

The Old Pine has had many traditions associated with it, one being a culturally appropriative Class Day tradition at Dartmouth. A myth told that the hilltop of the Old Pine was once hunting ground for three Abenaki communities that would meet to pledge their return in friendship (Graham 1990). In the legend, they would smoke pipes together and then ceremonially break them to seal their pledge. Dartmouth students in the early 19th century reportedly met informally in small groups for similar ceremonies around the Old Pine to smoke pipes (North 1967, 9-10). In 1854, seniors also sang “When Shall We Meet Again?” around the Old Pine (North 1967, 10). In 1856, the meeting included a reading of chronicles and prophecies along with pipe smoking. The variations of the Class Day ceremony at the Old Pine are unclear, but they established themselves so as for the Pine to become “almost inseparable from the name of Dartmouth, and the Old Pine itself … become[ing] a living guardian of the traditions and ideals of the college” (North 1967, 12).

In July of 1887, the Old Pine was struck by lightning. A 1892 storm ripped off its largest branches, and in 1895, the tree was cut down in a ceremony. The Dartmouth reported, “In its glory it was very majestic, and its stately symmetry and commanding position made it a conspicuous mark for miles around. It was probably 125 years old and was the last of the primeval forest.”  Remnants of the  pine were used for several things: a chair for President Tucker, a mantel for the Butterfield Museum, and a tall-case clock standing in the President’s Office; a picture frame for itself in Rauner. The Class Day tradition continued with the pine stump, students now breaking clay pipes on the stump, “signaling their will to remember, to hold fast their friendships, and to return to this magical place where in some measure they left their youth and gained their maturity” (Graham 1990, 215). In 1987, Native American students began to advocate for the ending of the ceremony as it was disrespectful towards actual Native traditions (Legends 37). In 1993, a student committee voted unanimously to end pipe smashing on the 1993 Class Day, replacing it with  a candlelight ceremony (Kemp 2002, 16).

 Relics of the lone pine are available to visit in Dartmouth’s Rauner library, disembodied pieces of Dartmouth mythology. Despite its physical presence mostly gone, the lone pine still lives on as an important community symbol.

Graham, Robert B. The Dartmouth Story: A Narrative History of the College Buildings, People, and Legends. Edition 1. Hanover, NH. Dartmouth Bookstore, 1990.

Hughes, M. K. (2000). Forever green: The Dartmouth College campus : an arboretum of northern trees. Hanover, NH : Class of 1950, Dartmouth College.

Heck, M. (n.d.). A History of College Park. Dartmouth Alumni Magazine. Retrieved March 2, 2022, from

Kemp, K.Q. (2002) The Smashing of a Tradition: Clay Pipes at Dartmouth College, 1992-1993.

Unpublished manuscript, Rauner Special Collections Library, Dartmouth College.

North, W.G. (1967) The Old Pine and the New. Hanover: Dartmouth College.

Page, F. S. (1931, November). College Park. Dartmouth Alumni Magazine.

Wade, C. H. (2013). Legends in the Landscape: Myth as Material Culture at Dartmouth College. Material Culture, 45(2), 28–53.