Independence tree that held Civil War cannonball to transformed into useful artwork

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. -- After crews found a historic cannon ball in an old tree, a man more than 1,000 miles away is going to carve some of that tree's wood into useful artwork.

Crews removing a diseased walnut tree in Independence, uncovered a Civil War cannon ball, likely fired during a battle 157 years ago.  Soon, you could own a piece of the tree that's being preserved in a pretty cool way.

The civil war surprise has been shared like crazy online.  A Montana man received FOX4's story from a friend.

"He called me and said, 'Hey Strobey, have you seen the witness tree that was found and cut down in Independence, Missouri?' I said, 'No,' and immediately went to the site," Gary Strobel said.

Strobel is a retired professor with Montana State University.  He spent decades studying trees and visiting every jungle in the world.  After he retired, a trip to Tennessee sparked his interest in Civil War history.

"I decided to visit as many Civil War sites as possible and find trees that witnessed the events of the war.  So, from these trees then, I will take a small dead branch and make a pen," Strobel said.

So far, he's made more than 250 versions of what he calls "witness pens," special art pens all crafted from different trees tied to Civil War historic sites.

Larry Smith of  L & K Hardwoods, who purchased most of the Independence tree, is donating pieces of it to Strobel to be crafted into witness pens.

"What I'll do, as I have done all over the country, is make things for the local museum where the tree  happened to be located, whether its federal or local or county, state or private place. Then, those items can be sold as gift pens, so the site can flourish, basically," Strobel said.

The pens made from the Independence tree will be given to the Jackson County Historical Museum. The museum already houses a different cannonball, which was found on the property 30 years ago.

"I'm hopeful young people, especially, will begin to look into the historical record...I think it helps all of us to understand our past so we don't make mistakes in the future that would lead to our downfall," Strobel said.

Larry Smith will hand deliver the wood to Strobel this weekend in Montana.  Strobel hopes to finish the pens and have them delivered to the museum in about a month.

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