One limb went one way, and its brother went the other. Each limb landed on a Civil War soldier's grave -- one for the North and one for the South. One limb narrowly missed penetrating the grave of the Confederate soldier and the other limb came close to knocking the Union soldier's tombstone off its base.
Though the Civil War ended well over 100 years ago, it seems "like the North and South were joined together again by the tree," J.T. Goodson owner of Goodson and Son's Tree Service from Agnos said, as he and his team were busy removing the 90 plus-year-old tree from the cemetery.
The soldiers were Regimental Sgt. Alfred M. Wheeler of the 6th Missouri Calvary (Union) and John S. Morris Co. 8 1st Tennessee Infantry (Confederate). The spirits of the two soldiers may have lived on in the roots of the old red oak which was split in half, just as the states and the Ozark region was in the time of the Civil War.
During the Civil War, the Ozark hills were a line of violence and destruction which was nestled at the Mason-Dixon line. People in the area were divided between the North and the South. The war separated families, friends and neighbors. Fathers, sons and brothers fought on opposing sides and may have ended up spilling each other's blood. Families who lived in the south but had family members fighting for the Union had to move or face the possibility of their farms and houses being ransacked and burned.
"A lot of bad things went on around here," Bob Burns, a local Civil War Afficionado, said.
Though plenty of bad things occurred, there were never any real battles fought, Burns said. "There were mostly skrimishes and banditry," Burns said.
One local Civil War story Burns recounted. He said, about six miles north of Salem, a lady with her two children were escaping in a wagon to Springfield, Mo., because her husband was a Union soldier. Burns said some Confederate soldiers or Bushwhackers ganged up on the wagon and burned it, leaving the woman and her children to walk all the way to Springfield.
Due to much of the rural states in the south being fundamentally illiterate, Burns said, it is difficult to get correct records and to do research on the two soldiers in the cemetery. "They were most likely two local boys," Burns said. "One went North and one went South."
The old tree in the cemetery had probably seen the two soldiers to their graves when it was in the beginning of its life. It is not known whether the soldiers died in battle or lived their lives fully after the war when they joined again as neighbors living and working in the same area.
According to Goodson, the tree was 65-to 70-feet tall and the brush collected from the tree filled about three dump truck loads. Goodson said about 10 gravestones were knocked off their bases but surprisingly none were damaged when the tree fell. Goodson and his men rented some equipment from Rusty Hurtt to carefully remove the tree without harming any of the surrounding gravestones.