Kathryn "Kat" Young dreamed of getting married under a spreading tree, as her sister had. After Bryan proposed, she queried her mother, Sonia Murray, about the best tree.|
"Mom immediately suggested the oak at Tullis Manor. It's the biggest tree I'd ever seen," said Young, a 1988 graduate of Biloxi High who now lives with her husband in Dallas.
"The wedding was awesome. I'll never forget the day, my dad walking me up to the oak. The water was sparkling on the beach and sun filtering through the branches."
The giant Counselor Oak, as known by historians, was hundreds of years old. Local tradition claims this tree was where American Indians met for peace talks and in council, and nearby evidence of Indian villages and artifacts were cataloged.
Even without such a history, Counselor was one of the most visited and photographed trees on the Mississippi Coast. Its modern history takes place on the grounds of Tullis-Toledano Manor, a mid-19th century house restored by Biloxi and maintained as a place for class reunions, city receptions, and yes, weddings.
"The oak was so comforting and encompassing and the branches so large, it had a strength to it," Young said. "When I heard it got taken out during the hurricane, it just killed me.
"The barge from the Grand Casino basically went over the tree. When we were there at Thanksgiving, I cried my eyes out just seeing it laying down under the barge. But it looked like it put up a fight. It actually bent the barge bottom in a semi-circle around the tree trunk."
The irony, she points out, is that she'd been a poker dealer at the Biloxi Grand, a job she loved before she moved in 2000.
- KAT BERGERON