Many, many people drive past this tree on a daily basis around here. It is a tree that has obviously been around here for a very long time. If it had eyes, it would have seen many interesting events over the years. If it had ears, it would have heard countless stories.
It stand on the side of the road where Highway A (Main Street for both Altenburg and Frohna) and Highway C (The road leading to Cape Girardeau) intersect on the west side of Altenburg. That also puts it right across the road from the funeral home.
This tree happens to be a catalpa tree (Catalpa bignonioides). Some call it a cigar tree because of its long seed pods.
This catalpa tree stands on property that belongs to the Steffens family. This family had started an orchard in 1922. Rudy Steffens is said to have planted one thousand apple and peach trees on some property that was located on the Ridge north of Altenburg. In 1960, they built a fruit shed right behind this tree where they could sell their fruit.
The photo above shows Thelma and Herb Steffens in that fruit shed. Herb was Rudy’s son. As you can see in the top photo, this stand is still there. If you drive by it today, you will see a sign advertising this Sunday’s church dinner at Trinity and a car that is for sale. It is in a location that gets a lot of traffic and thus a lot of attention.
When I look at this tree, I picture it as representing this area and its people. It has withstood a lot of tough time, yet it still thrives and produces its seeds. It has a long history. If only it could talk.
We would love to hear any stories you might be willing to share about this tree.