The giant oak that looked out on Scenic Highway from its place in the 91 acres Alexander Park is gone now, and that big oak tree was probably just an acorn when Gwinnett became a Georgia county in 1818. Through the years after the oak became a big tree and a landmark on the Alexander property it has seen all kinds of weather and over a century of changes in the Alexander family and Gwinnett County.
J.T. and Jane Alexander moved to their farm in 1949 before their daughter Shirley was born. J.T. was the county extension agent, and Jane taught in Gwinnett. The county acquired the land in 2002. And the county agreed to preserve the giant oak and four other large oak trees on the property. In 2003 the Alexander family posed under the giant oak tree facing Scenic Highway with County Commission Chairman F. Wayne Hill. That tree was a landmark and important to the Alexander family for several reasons. One of which was on Valentine’s Day 2001 Chad Alexander Smith, an Alexander grandson, proposed to his future wife Rebecca under the tree where at lunchtime Chad had left a rose and the ring under the big oak for Rebecca to find later in the afternoon. The ring was still where Chad put it. Sixteen years later Chad and Rebecca have triplets and busy lives but good memories of that tree and the important role it played in their lives.
In addition to having a couple become engaged beneath its limbs, the tree has watched a rarely traveled dirt road become a two-lane paved road then a four-lane Scenic Highway with bumper to bumper traffic during late afternoons. Gwinnett has gone from a rural county with cotton fields along most of the roads to a metro county with lots of traffic, the largest school system in the state and a large multicultural population.
The tree has seen changes in the Alexander family; it has grown since J.T. and Jane purchased the land. J.T. died in 1975 and daughter, Shirley and her husband Don have two sons, Chad and Brian. They and their parents all are graduates of South Gwinnett High School. Chad and Brian hold master’s degrees, Brian’s from UGA and Chad from Princeton. Brian is a builder and Chad is an architect. Their wives are teachers in Gwinnett schools. Chad and his wife Rebecca have triplets, and Brian and his wife Jenny have a daughter and a son, all five of the children are in school now. The family of two has expanded to a family of twelve.
The Alexander family members now enjoying the park and missing the big oak are Jane Alexander, her daughter Shirley Smith and Shirley’s husband Don, the Smith sons Chad and his wife Rebecca and their children Liza Jane, Rett and Clay, Brian and his wife Jenny and their children Lily and Nile.
Strong as an oak is a simile used to describe a person of character and that describes the Alexander/Smith Families.