During 1861-1865 in the United States, trees were present to witness the bloodshed and carnage of the American Civil War
at Montana State University where he has spent a career spanning 55 years. He has studied plant/microbe interactions and has traveled to virtually every rain-forest on the planet looking for new microbes and their bio-active ingredients. He has been the recipient of numerous awards, has published extensively and holds many US and International patents. His love of trees dates back to a time when he was a boy growing up in Ohio. The original red hat was requested by the Smithsonian to be in its collection.
has graced his life since he was a small boy. Thus, the unusual hobby of finding witness trees and making useful objects (pens) from them has fascinated him. His collection is the most extensive in the United States. Each pen has its own tree or other source documented. Over 150 pens are now present in the collection representing every state in which major battles occurred. In other cases he has acquired wood from objects or buildings that were also present during the battle.
knows no bounds. Gary will make at his own expense and even cover the shipping to any Federal, State or Private organization located on a Civil War site that provides the wood, an endless supply of pens for the gift shop to sell to help promote and save these historic sites. Such arrangements have been made at sites such as Appomattox, Va., Franklin,Tn., Fort Blakeley, Ala., Bentonville, N.C., Red Hill, Va. and many others. If your organization has an interest please use the contacts page to drop us a note. We want to thank Richard McCardle of UCVRELICS.COM for his tireless efforts in doing the research and building this website site. Thanks Rich!
The opening year of the American Civil War.
As the war ramped up so did the size of the battles as well as the casualties.
As the war raged on the Battles became more intense.
1864 was the beginning of the end for the South
1865 saw the South fighting the "Lost Cause"
Pens that are made from historical buildings, ships and other items.
a black walnut tree growing near the historic Overfelt-Johnston home in Independence, Mo., was cut down by Mr. Jeff Eastham and Mr. Larry Smith brought the tree for lumber. Upon cutting the tree in sections a cannonball rolled out of a crotch in the tree. It was about 2.5 inch in dia., weighed about 2 lbs. and was solid lead. As nearly as can be determined it was fired from a Woodruff cannon by the Union army during one of the two battles for Independence, Mo., during the Civil War. The tree, by ring count, was well over 200 years old and it truly witnessed the war.
and told him that I was strange fellow calling from a strange place- Bozeman, Mt., and needed a small piece of the walnut tree to make a pen. I then explained my witness pen project and he exclaimed “Not so strange – I ‘m gonna be there next week” I met him at the Bear Canyon exit on Highway 90 east of Bozeman. He didn’t have a pint sized piece of wood, No! - He delivered a walnut plank 7’ x4’ by 3” which was almost more that my 1993- 150 Ford pickup could handle.
what shall I do with the majority of the walnut witness wooden plank? Why not a CSA manufactured 1874 Sharps carbine. Mr. Don Franklin at CSA in Big Timber, Mt., indicated that the wood was too wet to work with (over 20 % moisture) and that the standard drying time was 3 years. I told him that I might be dead by that time. I used my wife’s stove and after 10 days of alternative heating at 180 – 190ᵒ F with some cooling, the wood was brought down to <5% moisture which Don said was perfect.
and others at CSA and plans were laid to have them make a model 1874 carbine that would be a 38 -55 caliber with a 26 “ barrel with double set triggers and having a saddle ring for good looks. The rifle was to be equipped with a mid –range tang and a globe front sight which will allow for rifle range shooting.
is the most representative rifle of the Civil War since it was the one preferred by the Berdan Sharpshooters. In fact, the entire unit was ready to mutiny unless the US Congress supplied them with the most useful and accurate rifle that was currently in production – The new model 1859 Sharps military rifle in a .52 caliber. Suffice it to say- the sharpshooters got their wish.
that was needed on the Sharps carbine and that was some indication of the wood source as being from a walnut witness tree. Gordon Alcorn is a local rifle master rifle engraver and a good friend. Armed with a photo of the tree provided by Jeff Eastham, Gordon made an accurate drawing of the tree, an appropriate label, and capped off the drawing with a cannonball located in the crotch of the tree and all of this was engraved on the smooth metal butt of the gun stock.
resides at old Fort Harrod in Harrodsburg, Kentucky. In fact, its age and size qualify it as an unofficial national champion. Within a block of the tree stands Rocky Point Manor that was built in 1810. After the battle of Perryville in Oct, 1862, this manor served as a hospital for both Union and Confederate soldiers. The grounds nearby served as a triage station. The tree witnessed the suffering of tens of wounded and dying soldiers. It is suspected that the tree itself served as a shaded- resting spot for some of these soldiers. A massive painting of this witness tree has recently been made by the famous tree artist - Mr. Charles Brindley of Adairville, Kentucky. The 6’ long painting now graces the home wall of Gary Strobel who is responsible for this witness wood pen collection. Below the painting hangs a relatively rare civil war era Remington contract Springfield rifle of 0.58 caliber.