This towering live oak once shaded the two-story plantation home of Dr. James A. F. Phelps, a member of Austin's “Old Three Hundred” Colony. No doubt the location of Dr. Phelps' home was influenced by this tree to provide more comfortable living for him and his family.
It was at the Phelps' home at Orozimbo, about ten miles northeast of West Columbia, that Santa Anna and members of his staff were held five months as prisoners after the Battle of San Jacinto.
Dr. Phelps came to Texas from Mississippi in 1822 and was a hospital surgeon in the Texas Army at San Jacinto. He died in 1847 and is believed to be buried in the family cemetery a short distance east of this historic tree.
At Orozimbo, Santa Anna and his officers, although closely guarded by about 20 men, enjoyed their only peace while imprisoned. In their leisure hours they no doubt enjoyed the cool shade provided by the live oak tree.
Santa Anna's treatment by the Phelpses at Orozimbo must have been kind, for in 1843 when Phelps' son, Orlando, was among the Texans captured on the Mier Expedition and later imprisoned at Salado, Santa Anna, learning who he was, arranged for his release and provided him money and safe conduct to Texas.
Notable visitors to Orozimbo during Santa Anna's stay included Stephen F. Austin, who arrived from Washington July 1, 1836, and Sam Houston, who visited there in October, before his elevation to the presidency of the Republic.
The Orozimbo Oak was destroyed in 1981 by fire set by campers in the area. The stone monument dedicated to Dr. Phelps, his plantation, and the tree is all that remains at the site off CR255.