Ownership by the Tree of itself is based on an item that appeared in the August 12, 1890, Athens Weekly Banner that states "... the said W. H. Jackson for and in consideration of the great affection which he bears the said tree, and his great desire to see it protected has conveyed and by these presents do convey unto the said oak tree entire possession of itself and of all land within eight feet of it on all sides." The full story indicates the Tree was one Jackson had "watched grow since childhood" and was "pained to think what might happen to it" once he died.
However, no original deed can be found at the courthouse, and it is likely the news item was a hoax. W. H. Jackson did not own the property where the Tree stood, and only lived in Athens while attending the University of Georgia, then again much later in his life.
Little to no mention of the Tree is made in papers or books until the Centennial Edition of the Athens Banner-Herald revived the story in June, 1901. In 1906, George Foster Peabody paid to have granite posts erected around the tree, good soil added and sodded at its base, and a marble marker placed on the spot. At that point, the Tree took on a career of its own, with photos printed on postcards, artist renderings as check decoration by Citizens Bank and Trust Company, and the Tree was noted in books about historic trees, including one issued by the U. S. Forestry Service in 1935. The city recognizes the Tree's ownership of itself and its plot.
Four years after the Tree fell, the Junior Ladies Garden Club of Athens planted a sapling grown from an acorn of the original tree. Sometimes known as Son of the Tree That Owns Itself, the white oak planted in 1946 is the one that stands today at the corner of Dearing and Finley Streets. Keeping with the times, it has its own Facebook page.
- The Toombs Oak, The Tree That Owned Itself, and Other Chapters of Georgia by E. Merton Coulter in the Heritage collection.
- Athens Banner-Herald, Sept. 1942 - Feb. 1943 on Microfilm in the Heritage collection.
- Ladies' Garden Club, Athens, Georgia: America's First Garden Club in the Heritage collection.
- Tree Registry: Athens and Clarke County, Georgia by the Junior Ladies' Garden Club in the Heritage collection.
- Athens, Georgia: A Pictorial History by James K. Reap in the Heritage and general collections.
- Annals of Athens by Augustus Longstreet Hull in the Heritage collection.
- Athens, Georgia 1801-1851 by James Rea Wells in the Heritage collection.
- The Simple Act of Planting a Tree: A Citizen Forester's Guide to Healing Your Neighborhood, Your City, and Your World by Andy Lipkis in the general collection.
- The Tree Doctor: A Guide to Tree Care and Maintenance by Dan Prendergast in the general collection.
- Trees for Tomorrow by Frank Lockyear in the general collection.
- From Acorn to Oak Tree by Jan Kottke in the children's collection.