This ancient live oak has more than a passing claim to fame. Not only is it a giant among trees, with few peers in its species, but it is a bearing point from which all land in the town of Rio Frio is platted.
In 1866, a partnership known as the Lombardy Trading Company was formed and began digging an irrigation ditch near the mouth of Flat Creek, about six miles south of the present town of Leakey. In the shadow of this landmark oak, the company built the Lombardy Academy. By 1871, the Academy had 52 students and was considered the finest private school west of San Antonio. Four years later, the Academy began receiving state aid and became a public school. That same year “The Ditch,” as the town was then called, received a post office and a new name—Rio Frio.
Until the school was moved to a new, two-story building across the street in 1904, the old schoolhouse, nestled behind this oak, was the social, religious, educational and political center of Rio Frio. As a church, the building was used by preachers of all Protestant denominations. Elections and even justice of the peace courts were held within its walls. The building and the area around the tree were also used for Christmas parties, weddings and picnics.
When N. M. Patterson laid out the town of Rio Frio, the highest point on Schoolhouse Mountain to the east and this live oak were the bearing points to which the first town lot was referenced. All other lots and deed descriptions were tied to the first lot and so to this tree and the mountain.
The old schoolhouse and the settlers are gone, but this ancient live oak, which has withstood centuries of drought, flood, and other natural adversities, stands as a monument to the development of the Frio Canyon and to one of the oldest irrigation projects still operating in Texas.
The Rio Frio Landmark oak stands on the east side of the Rio Frio on Farm Road 1120. Please respect private property by viewing the tree from the road.