My first trip to visit the Moon Tree located in Ebensburg was a failure. Not that I could not find it because I knew it was located in front of the Cambria County Courthouse. I could not stop to visit the tree because of a trial going on that day had the roads blocked.
It was not until a year later I had the opportunity to return to Ebensburg to do some exploring. This time, there wasn’t a trial happening, so I was able to visit the courthouse and its forgotten astronaut. I parked in the lot across from the courthouse and as I got out of the vehicle I studied the red brick building – this was the third courthouse for Cambria County and the second one at this site, having been erected 1880-1882.
As I crossed South Center Street, I could see a familiar blue Pennsylvania historical marker at the corner of South Center and East Lloyd Streets. I paused to read the history of Cambria County that is recorded on the plaque.
After reading the information on the sign, I scanned the grassy area behind it. I could see a plaque on the ground next to a tree. Walking towards it, I immediately noted the tree was a sycamore, which was one of the seed types that had been taken into space by astronaut Stuart Roosa. Note: More about the history of the Moon Trees and other Moon Trees I’ve visited can be found here: Asheville, Dillsburg, Hollidaysburg, and Coudersport.
I stopped in front of the tree and read the marker on the ground next to it. The plaque reads: “Bicentennial Moon Tree / Sycamore planted on June 29, 1975 / Seed carried to the moon / By astronaut Stuart A. Roosa / On Apollo XIV, February 1971.” Beneath the dedication is a listing of those responsible for obtaining and planting the historic tree. The one thing I immediately noticed was in older pictures the tree is surrounded by a wooden, split rail fence that had been removed.
I studied the tree, looking for any signs of disease or rot. The sycamore appears to be in good health. This tree – like many of the other Moon Trees I’ve visited over the years – appears like any other “normal” tree and if it was not for the plaque at its base, the average person would never know the importance of this sycamore.
The Moon Tree located in front of the Cambria County courthouse was one of the first trees given to Pennsylvania when the allotment of Moon Trees – also known as Bicentennial Trees – was given to the stste. The six given to Pennsylvania where to be planted in York, Montgomery, Blair, Berks, Philadelphia, and Potter Counties with the first being planted in Philadelphia for the American Bicentennial.
I finished studying the tree, glad to see it was marked with a plaque, but sadden to know that many people pass it each day without realizing the importance of this tree. A forgotten astronaut that had gone into space and a tree that once was in a high demand now stands silently in front of the Cambria County courthouse as an overlooked memorial to Apollo Fourteen.