This is the story of the Shabbona carving done by John McNabb in 2019, now on loan at the Grundy County Historical Society Museum.
It is carved from a 90-year-old basswood tree, which was growing along Bill’s Run in Norman Township, Grundy County. It was cut down on January 5, 2019. Because of its location, the tree grew tall, nearly 100 feet, and it was slow growing for its type. Basswood is sought after by many wood carvers. Although considered a hardwood tree, it is one of the softest woods, yet it dries well, with little checking and minimal defects. It holds detail well too. The preferred color is off-white to light cream.
Because of its slow growth, this log was able to retain much water, even though it was cut in January, when the sap is supposed to be down. It’s surprising the amount of water it held.
The log was cut 8 feet long, and was 22 inches in diameter on the small end and 27 inches on the large end. I decided to cut off 11 inches from the small end and weigh it. It was 100 pounds. After 14 days this piece had reduced to 80 pounds, and after three months it was down to 50 pounds. I estimated the total tree weighed approximately 51/2 tons. The log was stood up on end and roughed out. It was tarped in plastic, and a dehumidifier with a drain to a five-gallon bucket was placed under the plastic to draw out more water. This was done on April 4, 2019. I kept track of the weight daily, until August 6, 2019. The loss of water totaled 412 pounds!
I started the carving and finished it in 240 hours. The weight of the log went from approximately 800 pounds down to about 250 pounds.
The medal around Shabbona’s neck is a reproduction of the one he received in Washington, D.C., for risking his life to save the lives of many early settlers. The peace pipe toma‑ hawk was added as a focal point to convey PEACE. Metalheaded tomahawks were used as trade items during the latter years of European exploration.
One of the sources I used to add historical accuracy was Memories of Shaubena: Incidents relating to the early settlement of the West by N. [Nehemiah] Matson, originally published in 1878. In my research I made a very interesting discovery. Chief Shabbona shared many meals with James Moran, “King of the Waupecan,” who was my great, great, great grandfather.
After much research about Chief Shabbona, I tried to add as much authenticity to this carving as I could.