NEW ROADS, La. (AP) — Authorities are looking for a stolen sign marking a centuries-old tree that inspired Louisiana author Ernest Gaines.
The Pointe Coupee Parish Sheriff's Office said the historical marker identifying the "Miss Jane Pittman Oak" was stolen recently and the parish government is offering a $500 reward for information leading to its recovery or the arrest of the thief, news outlets reported.
The tree itself is believed to be about 400 years old and served as partial inspiration for "The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman," the book that gained widespread notice for the internationally acclaimed award-winning author. The book describes a first-person narrative of a fictional 110-year-old woman born into slavery.
Historians have said Gaines regularly walked past the oak tree, which sits along Louisiana Highway 16 in Lakeland, a village in the parish, on his way to the grocery store. In 2008, state officials considered cutting down the oak because its low-hanging branches posed a potential threat to passing cars. But the state ultimately relented amid pushback from Gaines and other activists, opting instead to trim the branches.
Tips leading to an arrest or recovery of the marker should be directed to the sheriff's office at 225-694-3737.
Gaines died in November 2019 at age 86.