Witness Tree of Belle Grove Takes A New Form

May. 29th 2013


As most of you know, we recently cut down three of our beloved trees. One of these trees was a 200 year old Mulberry Tree. We call this tree a “Witness Tree”.

In 200 years, this tree has “witness” much of our history. It would have been planted in or around 1813. During this time, the tree started its life America was in the middle of the War of 1812. It would witness another war up close and personal during the Civil War. It would see the Turner Family forced out of their Southern Plantation Mansion. It would have spread it arms over the Union Army as they camped out under its limbs. It would be the resting place for 25 Union soldiers as they pursued John Wilkes Booth after he assassinated President Lincoln. It would protect Belle Grove and give shade to its many families through the years. It is hard to image the people that would have walked under it shade.


Cutting down this majestic tree was one of great distress and sadness. But as many great trees, it had lived a long and glorious life and had reached the time of it to rest. But don’t fret; this “Witness Tree” isn’t gone forever.


Before we had it removed, we did our research and have “saved” this tree from a landfill or burning. We made sure that it would be gone forever from Belle Grove. Now that it has been removed, we are excited to announce that it has return like a phoenix rising from the ashes. It may be in a different form, but it will remain here for another 200 years.


The wood was taken to New Jersey, where a company called the Historic Pen Company has loving cared for this precious wood. The owner, Bob DeMartino and his skilled craftsman, John Greco are crafting our wood into a new and beautiful form.

Bob DeMartino

Bob DeMartino

Master Craftsman John Greco

Master Craftsman John Greco

The Historic Pen Company began with a simple goal: the reclamation, salvaging and repurposing of wood and other natural materials from historic sites throughout the United States that would otherwise be discarded and lost to history.

They work primarily with wood and timbers removed from historical buildings and sites during the renovation of existing structures as well as with trees and branches that have fallen in storms, or are removed for safety reasons or expanded construction.

They offer a historically significant alternative to its client historical sites rather than the discarding and destruction of these limited, one of a kind resources, thus preserving not only history, but the integrity of the environment through the repurposing of these materials.

With the challenges facing all of us in the 21st Century and as the Greatest Generation and Baby Boomers age, the relationship with our fore fathers and national identity seems to be fading. The Historic Pen Company is committed to preserving our national identity and preserving sites, buildings and materials that have not only witnessed but have been part of our national identity.

The Historic Pen Company provides unique items in the form of one of a kind hand-made, wood products and gifts of historical significance. They takes pride in their ability to secure Historically and Culturally significant woods and other materials that would normally be discarded and lost to history. By salvaging these “witness woods” and other “witness materials” they are able to create heirloom pieces of history that are memorialized in their artwork and handcrafted items. They are “Keep History Alive”.

Pen created for His Royal Highness Prince Harry

Pen created for His Royal Highness Prince Harry

They recently completed two pens that were made from the Famous Seaside Heights Boardwalk in New Jersey and were presented to His Royal Highness Prince Harry and Governor Christie during their visit to the Boardwalk after Hurricane Sandy. He has just been asked to create a new pen that will be presented to President Obama on his visit soon to the same area.

We are proud to be partnering with the Historic Pen Company and are very proud to announce a very special collection that they have created just for Belle Grove Plantation.


The Belle Grove Collection

This collection has been established to commemorate the extraordinary history that is Belle Grove Plantation in Port Conway, Virginia and  the birthplace of our 4th President and “Father of the Constitution”, James Madison.

As well as being the ancestral home of his mother, Nelly Conway Madison, who returned home to her parents Belle Grove Plantation to give birth to her first child, Founding Father and future President: James Madison, Belle Grove history is intertwined with that of Virginia from its colonial beginnings in 1668, through the Civil War where the Port Royal/Port Conway area saw constant movement of Union and Confederate Troops.

The Belle Grove Collection will include several fine writing instruments and other items produced from recently removed trees and other materials that are being removed due to disease, maintenance, restoration and preservation. The first several items will be produced from a centerpiece Mulberry Tree that sat on the Bowling Green directly in front of the main entrance. After years of attempts to save this enormous beauty, she finally succumbed to disease and infestation and it was necessary to take “her” down in April 2013 to prevent damage to the main house.

Limited Edition

The Limited Edition James Madison Pen

The Limited Edition James Madison Pen


The James Madison Fountain Pen has been created in a Limited Edition of 4 to commemorate not only our 4th President of the United States but the Birthplace of James Madison, Belle Grove Plantation in Port Conway, Virginia.

This special edition is being created out of the recently removed 200 year old Mulberry Tree that shadowed the entrance to the stately manor.

The Historic Pen Company will be donating pen #1 to Belle Grove Plantation as opens later this summer as a historical bed and breakfast. It is their hope that this heirloom pen will become part of the Plantation’s historic exhibits for all to view and enjoy.

Pen #1 will be engraved: James Madison – Belle Grove Plantation – March 17, 1751

Pen #2 will be engraved: James Madison – “Father of the Constitution”

Pen #3 will be engraved: James Madison – Secretary of State – 1801-1809

Pen #4 will be engraved: James Madison – President – 1809-1817

These master-piece works of art will be a beefy pen with a hefty feel, perfectly balanced. Its threaded cap features a genuine Swarovski crystal in the clip with a Rhodium and 22K Gold hand carved design. The 18 K Gold medium nibs are made in Germany with iridium point for smooth writing.

The James Madison Fountain Pen will also come with a 30ml bottle of J. Herbin Perle Noir ink.

M. Herbin first created this line of ink in his shop on the Rue des Fosses Saint-Germain in Paris in 1700 where it is still produced using all natural dyes.

The James Madison Fountain Pen will come with a personalized Letter of Authenticity guaranteeing the provenance of its wood and creation and will include a high quality display box.

The James Madison Fountain Pen Limited Edition is expected to be completed by June 21, 2013. Don’t miss this opportunity to own one of these very special works of art, an heirloom that will be enjoyed for generations!

Each James Madison Fountain Pen will be handcrafted by our Master Pen Craftsman and are made in America.


To see more photos of the trees of Belle Grove 

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Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Darnell History | 39 Comments »

Press Release

May. 13th 2013

This is a press release from the Historic Pen Company. They are one of the woodcarving guilds that have some of our historic wood from Belle Grove. We are excited to have them working with us to preserve these “Witness Trees” for everyone to enjoy!

We do not have information yet on when our pens will be available yet. They just picked up the wood on Saturday and will be returning in two weeks to pick up the rest. Once they have evaluated the wood to see how long they need to dry them out for before they can carve them, we will know more. I will get it out as soon as I hear.

Our trees that were removed and will be turned into historic pens were a 180 year old Mulberry, 80 year old Red Maple and an undetermined Ash. The Ash’s center trunk was so degraded that we couldn’t get an age from it. It was wide enough to be at least 100 plus years. The Mulberry would have been planted around 1830s and would have been alive during the life of James Madison.

180 year old Mulberry Tree Belle Grove Plantation

180 year old Mulberry Tree
Belle Grove Plantation

80 year old Red Maple Tree Belle Grove Plantation

80 year old Red Maple Tree
Belle Grove Plantation

100+ year old Ash Tree Belle Grove Plantation

100+ year old Ash Tree
Belle Grove Plantation


Prince 1


HISTORIC PEN COMPANY/Seaside Heights creates Original Boardwalk wood gift for Prince Harry and Governor Christie

 Manahawkin, NJ – May 13, 2013:  The Historic Pen Company began with a simple goal: the reclamation, salvaging and repurposing of wood and other materials from historic sites throughout the United States that would otherwise be discarded and lost to history.

Additionally, the Historic Pen Company offers a historic and culturally significant, revenue-producing alternative to support the ongoing operation of its client historic sites while also limiting the destruction of these one of a kind resources, thus preserving not only history, but the integrity of the environment through the repurposing of these materials.

In this the Centennial Anniversary Year of the Borough of Seaside Heights, New Jersey and at the request of the Borough of Seaside Heights and specifically Mayor William Akers and Special Events Director, Michael Graichen, the Historic Pen Company created a “pair” of high quality writing instruments to commemorate the May 14, 2013 visit of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and His Royal Highness Prince Henry of Wales to the community.

Following the devastation of Super Storm Sandy on October 29, 2012 and the destruction of the famous Seaside Heights Boardwalk, the continued support of people worldwide has served to strengthen the community during its recovery. Continued support through the Office of Governor Christie and the visit of His Royal Highness Prince Henry of Wales to experience first hand the deviation that struck the New Jersey coast support this recovery.

The Governor Chris Christie and His Royal Highness Prince Henry of Wales pens were handcrafted by Historic Pen Company’s Master Pen Maker, John Greco over a period of 5 days: May 7-12, 2013. The pair were made from Authentic Seaside Heights Original Boardwalk Wood salvaged by the Borough of Seaside Heights during the clean up following Superstorm Sandy. Each pen is 5.875 inches in length with a diameter of 2.3125 inches and is enhanced with 24K gold plated hand-carved rhodium hardware and crystal clip. Although created as a matching “pair”: because to the complexity of the Boardwalk pine and grain, each pen is a uniquely different one of a kind work of art.

The pens will be presented to Governor Christie and His Royal Highness during their May 14, 2013 visit to the Borough.

To see more information on the Historic Pen Company

Christie 2

Please visit their website at 


Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Belle Grove History | 6 Comments »