Remains of an Ottumwa oak tree to be carved into Civil War statue

The oak tree off North Court Street in Ottumwa will soon be carved into a statue overlooking the cemetery's buried Civil War soldiers.

A tree that has stood in Ottumwa for possibly more than 300 years is no more, but its limbs will live on in the form of a statue.

The oak tree on North Court Street in the Ottumwa Cemetery was infected with a fungal disease called oak wilt. The tree's limbs had to be cut down this week, but the core that still remains will be turned into something historic and special.

Several Ottumwans are planning to turn the tree's base into a statue of a Civil War soldier, a tribute to the tree's history. The statue will also stand vigilant over its fallen comrades nearby the cemetery plot that is the final resting place of several of Iowa's Civil War soldiers.

"The tree [was here] during the Civil War, it may have been here during the Revolutionary War, and as an American, as a, I guess, sentimentalist, I didn't want to see the tree forgotten," said J.R. Richards, Ottumwa City Councilman and one of the organizers of the statue project.

Des Moines-based chainsaw carver Gary Keenan will create the statue and Richards said the community can come out and watch its progress. When finished, which will hopefully be sometime in October, the statue will move just a few feet from where the oak tree stood, about 50 yards away from the cemetery's Civil War plot.

Richards said there will soon be a fund for the community to make donations to the project.