From Brawn to Beauty
The Amazing Story of the Gateway Walnut Tree
Approximately two hundred and fifty years ago, a small walnut seed found a home in the dirt in Springfield, Missouri. Missouri was the starting point for westward movement of settlers in the 1800s. Known as the “Gateway to the West,” Missouri is full of fascinating stories and history and that seed in the ground is no exception. That tiny little seed grew slowly over the years and is now cherished as one of Mother Nature’s magnificent masterpieces.
How could one old walnut tree be so special? Besides being roughly two and a half centuries old, the stump was 14 feet around and 6 feet in diameter. Second, its lumber displayed a special marbled pattern of light and dark grains that were created each year of the tree’s life. Third, there were three large branches that all began growing from the trunk at the same place, 13 feet up off the ground. These branches created a large burl that was two feet by three feet wide. The burl’s grain creates a vibrant color once the wood is dried and finished. These characteristics by themselves are rare but to combine them makes this walnut tree a very hot commodity.
Ernest Hershberger, owner of Homestead Furniture in Mount Hope, Ohio, acquired this tree from a customer’s back yard. The customer needed the tree removed so he spoke to Ernest about his interest. Taking the job was a huge gamble. Because of its massive size and old age, the tree had the potential to be completely hollow inside. But knowing that there was a far greater reward possible, Ernest took the risk and it paid off.
Tree-trimming experts were used to remove the tree. They cut the tree piece by piece and used a crane to move each section. After that, the tree was taken to a sawmill in Missouri to be cut into slabs. It was two months later when the slabs were brought cross country to Holmes County, Ohio. There, it was air dried for two years and kiln dried for two more months. From this magnificent tree, a limited number of unique and vibrantly-colored, live-edge slabs were made.
This Missouri-born tree was planted and grew slowly day by day, year by year, and decade by decade. This tree was an extraordinary gift given to Ernest and now he’s using it to create beautiful pieces of furniture. Each piece brings a room to life with unique coloring and fascinating character. Whether commissioned into a rustic dining-room table or one-of-a-kind conference table, the Gateway Tree leaves a magnificent legacy behind.
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