Archive for April 22nd, 2009

“There is no aristocracy in trees. They are not haughty. They will thrive near the humblest cabin on our fertile prairies, just as well and become just as refreshing to the eye and as fruitful as they will in the shadow of a king’s palace.” — J. Sterling Morton

Before there was Earth Day, there was Arbor Day, the original environmental holiday that started it all. In honor of the national observance of Arbor Day this Friday, we would like to honor its founder, Julius Sterling Morton.  Morton,  a farmer, journalist, politician, territorial official, and the third Secretary of Agriculture, was born on this day in 1832 in Adams, New York.

J. Sterling Morton found his life’s calling through the fateful decision in 1854 to settle with his wife in the new Nebraska Territory. There, Morton began working for the territory’s first newspaper, the Nebraska City News, quickly rising to editor. Through frequent editorials throughout the 1850s,  he advocated for tree planting on the area’s open prairies.

Julius Sterling Morton

Julius Sterling Morton

Morton also became involved in the territorial government, serving in Nebraska’s Legislative Assembly before being appointed as Secretary of the Territory by President Buchanan in 1858. After a series of political defeats, Morton took a position on the State Board of Agriculture, where he was able to put his interest in tree planting into action.

At a meeting of the Nebraska Board of Agriculture on January 4, 1872, Morton introduced a resolution that April 10th “be set apart and consecrated for tree planting in the State of Nebraska and that the State Board of Agriculture hereby name it Arbor Day.” The resolution passed unanimously.


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