Wood from Edmonton's historic Garneau Tree salvaged for descendants of man who planted it

The wood from the historic Garneau Tree, which stood in an Edmonton neighbourhood of the same name for 143 years, is being salvaged for the family of the man who planted it.

The 143-year-old tree stood in Edmonton at 111th Street and 90th Avenue until it was cut down in September

Eric Jensen, of Relic Woodworks, sands a piece of wood from the Garneau Tree. (Roberta Bell/CBC)

The wood from the historic Garneau Tree, which stood in an Edmonton neighbourhood of the same name for 143 years, is being salvaged for the family of the man who planted it. 

Eric Jensen, of Relic Woodworks in Sturgeon County, has carefully carved up the tree's trunk and branches into more than 100 pieces. He will be giving them to the descendants of Laurent Garneau. 

"I'm actually really honoured to be able to help preserve this tree ... and save the story of this tree," Jensen told CBC News. 

Laurent Garneau planted the tree in 1874 at 111th Street and 90th Avenue, an area that is now part of the University of Alberta campus. A soldier of Louis Riel during the Red River Rebellion in 1869, Garneau settled in the area before moving east out of the city to St. Paul, Alta.

He was a prominent member and supporter of the local Métis community until his death in 1921. 

'It's really just an amazing tree'

5 years ago
Duration 1:16
Eric Jensen from Relic Woodworks is turning Edmonton's historic Garneau Tree into usable lumber for furniture and decorative pieces.

The aging Manitoba maple was cut down on Sept. 17 for safety reasons, according to the university. 

Mementos for family members

The Garneau Tree meant a lot to a lot of people, including Laurent Garneau's great-great-grandson, Duane Zaraska. ​

Many of Zaraska's family members will be taking a piece of the wood that Jensen has carved up. He said some want to turn their piece into a bowl, others want to make other things, such as earrings and incense boards. 

​Zaraska is working with the Métis Nation of Alberta to make a memorial cross for his great-great-grandfather.

Some of the other pieces of wood will be used to create plaques to recognize the achievements of members of the  local Métis community. 

Passionate about 'these big old trees'

Relic Woodworks specializes in repurposing heritage trees.

"I'm really passionate about these big old trees and I realize that they have history, they have energy, they're still alive," said Jensen, who started the business three years ago. 

Since then, he's salvaged hundreds of trees in the Edmonton area, turning the wood into tabletops, charcuterie boards, bowls, benches and other furniture. 

In his six workshops, thousands of slabs of wood sit drying. 

The plaque that sat below the Garneau Tree while it was on the University of Alberta campus. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

Jensen carved up the Garneau Tree for free. 

"It's really just an amazing tree that has such a history and we really wanted to be a part of capturing that history and allowing that tree to live on," he said. 

Zaraska said he's grateful for Jensen's help.

"He is so attached and he's so caring about a lot of the historical trees in the Edmonton area," he said. 

"He was very compassionate about it," he added. "He knew the tree and what it meant to us." 

Zaraska said he will be giving Jensen a small slab of wood from the Garneau Tree. 

"I would probably just sand it, put it up on the wall and maybe write a little bit of the story on it," Jensen said.