The idea for Arbor Day originally came from Nebraska. If you were to visit Nebraska today, you’d be thoroughly surprised that it was once a treeless plain. Among pioneers moving into the Nebraska Territory was J. Sterling Morton from Detroit, Michigan. The Morton’s new home in Nebraska was quickly planted with trees, shrubs and flowers. Mr. Morton was a journalist and became the editor of the state’s first newspaper. He quickly spread his enthusiasm for trees to his readers.
His fellow pioneers also missed the trees from their home states. They quickly realized how important trees were as windbreaks, shade from the sun, for fuel and building materials. Mr. Morton encouraged individuals to plant trees, but he encouraged civic organizations and groups to do the same.
Arbor Day’s beginning started with the first tree-planting holiday designated by the State Board of Agriculture to be April 10, 1872. Prizes were offered to counties and individuals and resulted in what was estimated to be more than ONE MILLION trees planted in Nebraska on the first Arbor Day. In 1885, Arbor Day was named a legal holiday in Nebraska and Morton’s birthday, April 22nd, was chosen for the permanent observance date.
In 1885, Nebraska City students of different grades met at their schools for the purpose of planting at least one tree. Each tree planted was labeled with the grade, date planted, and was to be cared for by that grade. When the plantings were completed, 1000 students formed a line to begin the parade from their schools to the city’s opera hall. By the time the parade reached the hall, over 1,000 townspeople had joined the march. The celebrants were addressed by the founder of Arbor Day, J. Sterling Morton.
The most common date for state observances is the last Friday in April. But a number of states have selected other times to celebrate so as to coincide with the best tree planting weather. Arbor Day can be observed from January and February in the south to May in the far north.
Today, as we plan for our local Arbor Day Celebration, we think back to what is possible from one person’s enthusiasm and courage.
Check our calendar in the Spring to see when Front Royal will be holding its Arbor Day Celebration. We look forward to seeing you there.
Information taken from “The History of Arbor Day” from the National Arbor Day Foundation Web site.