This Old Tree
This Old Tree
Sep 15, 2022
The Betsey Williams Sycamore
Play • 41 min

The Betsey Williams Sycamore is the most famous tree in Rhode Island. Its huge girth and spreading branches have been photographed, climbed on, and loved by generations of visitors to historic Roger Williams Park in Providence. But its history touches on the legacy of Roger Williams, Rhode Island’s founder; introduces overlooked characters, some noble and some "shady," including a forgotten tree; and features a Williams family crisis (and divorce trial) that threatened the tree and future park.

Renee Gamba
Director of the Museum of Natural History
Parks Dept., City of Providence

Ruth Macaulay
History Dept., Lincoln School

Special thanks to
Andrew Smith, The Rhode Island Supreme Court Judicial Record Center, http://
Rebecca Valentine, The Rhode Island Historical Society,

Readers in order of appearance
Ed Nardell, Martha Douglas-Osmundson, Andy Sabo, Margaret Sabo, Laura Maxwell, Robb Barnard

Podcast Consultant
Martha Douglas-Osmundson

Diccon Lee,

Dahn Hiuni,


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We want to hear about the favorite tree in your life! To submit a ~3 minute audio story for consideration for the "Tree Story Short” segment on This Old Tree, record the story on your phone’s voice memo app and email to:

This episode was written in part at LitArts RI, a community organization and co-working space that supports Rhode Island's creators.

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