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Osiris Shriners Creating Small Park at ‘Witness Tree’

Photos by Scott McCloskey Osiris Shriners Publicity Chairman Barry Crow displays one of the engraved bricks being used in the creation of a small “park-like” setting to signify historical significance of Elm Grove “Witness Tree” site.

After the Wheeling Osiris Shriners made the tough decision last year to remove a 300-year-old sycamore tree from the corner of their Elm Grove Monument Place lot over safety concerns, the organization is now reaching out to anyone interested in becoming a “part of history” by purchasing a brick to be laid in a small “park-like” setting at the historic site.

The Shriners are creating a brick walkway and wooden benches — created with wood gathered from what is now commonly referred to as the “Witness Tree” — to create the small park around the remainder of the tree’s trunk in an effort to mark its historical significance, according to Osiris Shriners Publicity Chairman Barry Crow.

He said the Shriners eventually plan to place a bronze plaque at the site.

Members of a local historic society have referred to the giant landmark as the “Witness Tree” because of the history that would have unfolded during the tree’s extremely long life span, including the construction of the nearby Stone Arch Bridge which was built in 1817. The tree would have already been about 150-years-old when Civil War soldiers likely passed by the tree on their way to battle, according to Crow.

According to Crow, the Shriners want to satisfy the community and educate passers-by of the historical significance of the tree and the grounds on which it stood, while at the same time make them aware of what the Shriners do for children in need of specialized medical care. To share in the memorializing the “Witness Tree,” Crow said the organization is currently selling personalized engraved bricks for $100 each that will be placed in the walkway around the site. Those interested in purchasing a brick can contact the Shriner’s office at 304-242-2911 to request an order form.

Last year, area residents turned out by the dozens, eager to claim a piece of wood or small branch from the enormous tree before the largest portion had to be removed because of the potential hazard it presented to passing pedestrians and motorists, according to Crow. Whether it was to make a patio planter or to simply use part of a branch as a walking stick, many area residents made it a priority to stop at the site to claim a piece of wood from the landmark.

The Shriners is a fraternal organization committed to helping children with burns or orthopedic problems, regardless of their ability to pay. Its network of 22 hospitals throughout North America provides specialty burn and orthopedic care to children in need.

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