NEW GLOUCESTER — Although the massive tree known as Herbie was cut down in January, wood from the 217-year-old elm will live on as bowls, jewelry and furniture.
Herbie was removed from the corner of Yankee Drive and East Main Street in Yarmouth on Jan. 19. The 110-foot tree was finally bested by Dutch elm disease, a battle fought for nearly 50 years with the help of 101-year-old Frank Knight, Yarmouth’s former tree warden.
But on Saturday, Feb. 20, at JD Sullivan & Sons, pieces of Herbie’s green wood were sold to artists, crafters, furniture builders and woodworkers. Green wood has not been dried, and for bowl makers and other artists, is the best wood to work with.
Some of the items created from Herbie wood will be auctioned in November to raise money for the Yarmouth Tree Trust, a fund to help replace diseased elm trees.
Yarmouth’s current tree warden, Debbie Hopkins, said the event in New Gloucester was very successful.
“I’m happy with the turnout, and hope more people come the next few Saturdays,” she said. “It is wonderful to see how creative everybody is. We saw builders and artists, people who enjoy carving as a hobby and those who are professionals.”
Marcia Noyes, director of Yarmouth Community Services and member of the Tree Committee, said about 50 people came to pick up pieces and slabs of Herbie.
“The biggest sale was $1,300,” she said. “People walked around, saw what they liked and picked out pieces they could work with.”
She said $3,000 was raised on Saturday – some from sales of commemorative T-shirts, but mostly from wood sales.
“People were very generous,” she said. “They gave us more than the price, and said they would buy the wood and donate pieces for the auction.”
Dale Bragg, builder and Cumberland resident, said his company purchased wood to make a table and mantle for a custom-built home in Yarmouth.
“The owner wants Herbie incorporated in his home,” Bragg said. “The cookie we bought is 3 feet in diameter and will make a table top.”
Bragg will also create a mantle over a stone fireplace from wood 14 inches wide and 7 feet long. Each cookie, or 30- to 36-inch slice removed from the trunk, costs $500.
Yarmouth resident Charlotte Carnes said she will make bowls from the wood she purchased on Saturday. She said she does not try to make money from her creations, but gives away the bowls as gifts. She said she lives near where Herbie once stood.
“I want to give a few to the town to auction off,” she said.
Cornish resident Janet Johnston said Saturday’s distribution was professional and everyone was helpful and accommodating.
“Yarmouth Community Services and Sullivan and his staff were a class act,” she said. “This project gives me the opportunity to do what I love, while giving back to a community.”
She said she plans to make 20 wooden pens and 20 vases. All of her proceeds will go to the Tree Trust.
“If I tried to sell these pieces, it wouldn’t mean anything to anyone,” she said. “But to the town, to the residents, these pieces are historical and mean so much.”
Noyes said there will be another distribution of green wood Saturday, Feb. 27, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Sullivan & Sons. On March 6, kiln-dried wood will be distributed from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Then, at the Portland Flower Show, March 11-14, the public will get the first opportunity to purchase cutting boards and small cookies from the branches. The cutting boards will sell for $25 and $50, and the medallions will range in size from 4 inches to 10 inches and will cost between $15 and $25.
Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Peter Lammert, right, the Thomaston tree warden who verified Herbie’s age, talks to Daphne Morrell, left, and Nan Morrell about the tree’s growth on Feb. 20 in New Gloucester.Daphne Morrell, of Chapel Hill, N.C., examines a single piece of wood cut from the giant elm’s trunk. Thomaston’s tree warden, Peter Lammert, calls it “the heart of Herbie.”