Beloved gnome family missing from Williams Street

Submitted Photo The gnome family that occupies the base of the well-known tree went missing on Thursday night. Williams Street residents request their safe return as soon as possible.

Friday was a sad day for the residents of Williams Street, who awoke to discover that the gnome family that once occupied a well-known natural landmark, a hollow elm tree, was missing.

These gnomes and the tree they called home were no ordinary garden fixtures. Rather, they marked a once-stately elm tree that witnessed over 300 years of history on Williams Street, a main road between Bennett and South Roberts roads in Dunkirk. While no one knows where the family came from, one thing is certain: The gnomes are very much missed, especially by those who grew up enjoying the unique tree.

According to Williams Street resident Peter Miller, the elm tree pre-dates the founding of the United States, as its estimated age was over 300 years old. The tree grew in a field near what would later become the dirt path known as Williams Street, which is named after Dr. Williams, who sold the land to Miller’s grandfather in the mid 1800s. Miller explained that in Chautauqua County, “old forest” trees are 150 years old, and this elm tree clearly surpassed that threshold.

More than just a visual landmark directing visitors to Miller’s grandparents’ and parents’ homes, the elm tree was a veritable playground for those who grew up near it.

“Seventy years ago, we kids in the area used to crawl inside the giant elm,” explained Miller. “The southwest side of the tree was hollow. We made this our private fort, even having small fires inside the trunk to keep warm on chilly days. The tree was very much alive to us and a very dear friend.”About five years ago, the impressive tree succumbed to Dutch elm disease.

“It leafed beautifully that spring, turned yellow in July and shed all her leaves in August,” Miller said. “The whole neighborhood was saddened. The new owners of the tree had to call in some friends to cut it down as it was a hazard now that its branches were lifeless.”

Fortunately, the elm tree’s story did not end with its life. The owners saved the bottom 10 feet of the tree, which contained the “cave.” Before long, vines covered the tree, making it an attractive sight to residents and visitors alike. A couple of years ago, the owner built a roof over the cave, and before long, an entire gnome family moved in. According to Miller, the gnome family includes “ladies and gents, children and even a squirrel gnome. The fiddler was one of my favorites.” Their disturbing disappearance has certainly not gone unnoticed.

According to Miller, the entire gnome family went missing on Thursday night. “Can you imagine how sad the residents of Williams Street felt? We were violated, and a neighborhood pride and joy is gone,” Miller reported. “Who would think it was okay to disappoint so many people?”

Williams Street residents request this story be shared so that the gnome family may be returned as soon as possible. Miller pleaded on behalf of his neighbors: “If the perpetrator reads this, please, please bring back the joy to Williams Street.”