By Charlie Feldman
Last weekend, motorists noticed something was missing at the old Times-Tribune building in the 200 block of Market Street in Troy. That big tree in the parking lot was now just a big stump.
Local lore called it the Blood Tree. And thereby hangs a tale.
It all started when a local furniture store owner at that location saw a need for a special type of business that the city of Troy – and the surrounding area – did not have. Henry C. Kueker went to St. Louis in 1911 to take an embalming course, then passed the state examination in Peoria in 1912. Soon his business would be known as the Troy House Furnishing Company, home furnishers and undertakers.
According to Troy’s Centennial Book compiled by the Troy Historical Society, he was the only licensed embalmer in the township. He was considered among the very best in Madison County, it said. His hearse was white and black. The barn for his horses still stands on the site.
Embalming involves draining out the customer’s blood and replacing it with formaldehyde. The blood is then gently disposed of.
There was a tree behind the building. According to legend, the blood was poured out under there. Although blood meal is often used as a plant fertilizer, watering with lots of human blood would kill it due to the salt content and other minerals like copper and zinc and the fact that it’s a viscous liquid which would hamper transpiration, according to several Internet sites.
But it didn’t die. It grew. It grew a lot. It gave shade to its side of the building and provided privacy to the neighboring apartment. Birds built their nests in its branches. Snow and ice gathered there in the winter. Tornados cost it a limb or two. Year after year after year it stayed.
It grew old. It began to rot from the inside. It grew into the wires of the building’s electrical service system. When Gori Property Management in Edwardsville, had its buildings inspected, it was suggested that they chop it down, according to a company employee. They did.
Some of that wood is going to be converted into furniture by a local furniture builder for a different location, the employee said. Some was rotting. It was an old tree.
The block just looks a little strange, for now, without it.