Located on the north side of the main sidewalk entrance to Greenbrier Hall on the New River Community and Technical College Greenbrier Valley Campus is the largest and oldest Ginkgo tree on public property in West Virginia.
“The Greenbrier Ginkgo” was brought to the former Greenbrier College for Women’s campus in 1920’s by Dr. Henry B. Graybill and his wife who were returning from a number of years as missionaries in China. A second Ginkgo tree he brought is on private property two blocks north of the campus.
The leaves remain green longer than most hardwood trees, then turn a bright yellow and at a time only the Ginkgo tree knows when, the leaves fall within a matter of hours, forming a golden halo at the base of the tree.
Born in Amsterdam, Virginia, he and his siblings were orphaned by his age of five and he was sent to Lewisburg to be raised by an aunt and uncle, Henry and Fanny Bell, who saw that he was educated in private schools, including Lewisburg Female Institute and Lewisburg Classical School, graduated from Lee Military Academy and Washington and Lee University in 1902. His diploma was in Latin and a thesis in chemistry.
He met and married Susan Little Griggs, a graduate of Vasser, in 1909.
Returning to the USA, he brought with him at least two Ginkgo trees, traveling by auto from Washington state, with the trees, and planted one on the then Greenbrier College for Women’s campus and the other two blocks north.
Known for his teaching and informal trips with the college girls to hike on Kate’s Mountain, swim and hunt worms, then fish in the Greenbrier River, dinners at his home for the girls, and was best known for his love of his garden and the variety of plants he nurtured there. He died April 4, 1951, in his yard, digging some roots of bamboo for a friend.
The public is welcome to visit the campus and keep tabs on the Greenbrier Ginkgo as its leaves change and drop this fall.