18 July, 1984
Mercer Oak Survives Attempt on its Life By Early-Morning Vandals Last Friday
The historic Mercer Oak, which endured the Battle of Princeton more than 200 years ago and since then has withstood the furies of Mother Nature, was tested in the early dawn last Friday by a modern-day adversary, the vandal.
Township Police reported that an explosion rocked the oak at about 5:45 a.m., causing flames to shoot up 25 feet through its branches. The sound of the explosion awoke nearby residents and was heard by a motorist on Mercer Road who flagged down a patrol car. Fire trucks had to be summoned to extinguish the fire It was as much of an assault on the tree as the hurricane of two decades ago that knocked half of it to the ground and required the installation of guy wires to support some of the remaining limbs.
But the Mercer Oak, though no longer mighty, nevertheless survived. It apparently suffered only from minor scorching. Police, sifting through the debris at Battlefield Park, found remnants of what they believed may have been gasoline containers. The authorities had no immediate suspects.
The oak, which has been kept under the watchful eye of tree surgeons in recent years, was scheduled to undergo another examination. The vandal or vandals, one presumes, need an examination as well.