Arbor Day is a holiday that celebrates the planting and caring of trees. It originated in Nebraska City, Nebraska by Mr. J. Sterling Morton. The first Arbor Day was April 10, 1872. It was an amazing success. In fact, nearly a million trees were planted that day. It wasn’t until 1884 that the second Arbor Day was celebrated. In 1885, the young state of Nebraska decided to make this an annual event in April to coincide with J. Sterling’s birthday, April 22.
J. Sterling Morton was a journalist and politician in Nebraska. He worked tirelessly to improve agricultural techniques in his adopted state (he moved to Nebraska from Michigan) and throughout the United States. He even served as President Grover Cleveland’s Secretary of Agriculture. But it was his role as a member of Nebraska’s state board of agriculture that he proposed a special day be set aside to increase the awareness of the importance of trees.
I had the honor of visiting the Morton Mansion a few weeks ago. After several additions, the house is now a stately, 52-room, neo-colonial building that included a bowling alley in the basement. J. Sterling Morton built the original structure in 1855, but the mansion wasn’t completed until 1902 by Morton’s oldest son, Joy.