Increased human activity and climate change are driving numerous tree species to endangered status, and in the worst cases extinction. Here we examine the genomic signatures of the critically endangered ironwood tree Ostrya rehderiana and its widespread congener O. chinensis. Both species have similar demographic histories prior to the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM); however, the effective population size of O. rehderiana continued to decrease through the last 10,000 years, whereas O. chinensis recovered to Pre-LGM numbers. O. rehderiana accumulated more deleterious mutations, but purged more severely deleterious recessive variations than in O. chinensis. This purging and the gradually reduced inbreeding depression together may have mitigated extinction and contributed to the possible future survival of the outcrossing O. rehderiana. Our findings provide critical insights into the evolutionary history of population collapse and the potential for future recovery of the endangered trees.