In the years after the Battle of Mill Springs, the white oak tree that General Felix Zollicoffer's body had been placed under became known as the Zollie Tree. While the tree became a local gathering spot, no effort was made to remember or honor the slain general or his men who lay in a mass grave a few feet from the tree.
In 1902, a 10-year old local girl named Dorotha Burton noticed that on Memorial Day the Union soldiers buried in the National Cemetery had lavish decorations and grand ceremonies to honor them while the Confederate soldiers buried near the Zollie Tree were all but forgotten. Dorotha thought this was unfair and that year she decorated the Zollie Tree with a flower entwined evergreen wreath and placed flowers on the mass grave to honor General Zollicoffer and his men. Dorotha continued to decorate the Zollie Tree until 1947 when she was disabled by arthritis. Her family continues the tradition, and decorates the new Zollie Tree each Memorial Day.
A New Zollie Tree
On June 9, 1995, a severe storm destroyed the Zollie Tree. The tree was 15 feet in circumference, 80 to 90 feet tall and between 200 to 250 years old. The white oak tree growing in front of this sign is a seedling of the original Zollie Tree. This seedling was planted on Memorial Day 1996, so that the future generations can enjoy the tradition and the shade of the Zollie Tree.
"From her mother's garden she plucked roses and made wreaths, and each day when the Federal dead had their graves covered with floral tributes this little girl out in the forest, with none to teach her but the promptings of a true woman's soul, laid upon the graves of these Confederates, sleeping so far from their homes beneath the tree which shadowed the spot where Zollicoffer's blood was shed, nature's lovely offering, and hung chaplets on Zollicoffer's Oak ..."
General Bennett H. Young, May 19, 1910