What secrets does this 340-year-old oak tree hold?
When this tree was a seedling, the region was being shared by several Indigenous nations
It was a mighty giant that grew stronger with each passing year.
For 340 years, the oak stood about 100 metres from the banks of the Thames River.
It was part of the vast forest that was visited by nations of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy.
By the time John Graves Simcoe happened upon the Forks of the Thames in 1793, it was already 115 years old.
Late last year, the tree — either a bur oak or a white oak — had to be taken down. It had been dropping branches for a while, and about a quarter of its trunk had rotted. It was either going to come down naturally, and cause damage, or it would be taken down and turned into something useful.
Chris McKaskell is the carpenter and artisan who is overseeing the milling of the tree this week. He also counted the 340 rings that show how old the tree is.
"With anything that's made with this tree, there will be a wonderful story."
McKaskell and his team will cut the three large lumber logs — they're 120 cm in diameter — into flat pieces that will take three years to air-dry.
Eventually, it will be used to make art as well as custom furniture or other wooden creations that will be incorporated into Western University's buildings.
Some smaller pieces have already been used in the renovation of University College, which is slated to be finished this summer.
"As we renovate buildings, particularly our core historic buildings, we're trying to incorporate furniture pieces into those buildings," said Mike Lunau, the university's manager of landscape services.
The tree, though an important part of the campus, lived without much fanfare.
The university wasn't able to find any clear pictures of the tree. It does appear in several Google Street View snapshots but it's tucked away a bit, in the background.
McKaskell said it's an honour to be working with such a historic tree.
"It predates everything we see here," he said. "This would have been a very mature oak tree and it would have lived a wonderful life. The story is all here."