🌲 Where'd Arbor Day Start

Where'd Arbor Day Start?
We learned something new on Season 1 of RV There Yet? We learned the federal holiday, Arbor Day, started in a small city on the Missouri River. Nebraska City, Nebraska is where it all started back in 1872. We got to explore the historic state park that is on the property and learn the history of trees. Laura Steinman told us all about the Morton family, and how they started Arbor Day in the United States and all around the world.

The 10 minute interview is filled with interesting facts about the Arbor Lodge Mansion, the future at Arbor Day Farm and celebrates planting trees at the Tree Adventure Park for the kids. The interview went like this: 

We want to welcome you to Arbor Lodge - the home of Arbor Day. Jay Sterling and Caroline Morton were married in fall of 1854. They came from Detroit, Michigan area. Settled first at Bellevue in one of Peter Sarpy's compounds and then within six months moved down here to Nebraska City where they built their first four room frame house. And apparently, it was the first four room frame house with shingles between the Missouri River and the Rocky Mountains. When they got here to Nebraska territory they realized that there weren't very many trees. There were only trees along the creeks and riverbeds so for fuel people had to bundle up prairie grass to burn. the Morton family immediately set out planting trees. They'd go down along the creeks and riverbeds. Dig up those saplings and plant them around their home to beautify their home, They realized early on we're going to need trees in Nebraska territory for shelter for shade for wind breaks. Eventually for fuel for food for habitat for animals and basically to plant for the future so that concept continued for several years. The Mortons planted trees beautifying their home, and then Morton realized if we're going to attract a lot more people to Nebraska to settle we're going to have to plant a lot more trees. When he was president of the state board of agriculture, he proposed to have a day set aside just for tree planting. That first arbor day April 10th of 1872 a million trees were planted in Nebraska. That concept was picked up by newspapers across the united states and eventually other states started having arbor days; Other states, other countries, school groups and the idea spread. Now Arbor Day is celebrated all around the world. 
Arbor Lodge State Historical Park
In 1872, what was the population of Nebraska territory or was it already a state? 

Nebraska became a state in 1867. There still was not a lot of population in Nebraska mostly in eastern Nebraska. A million trees planted that first Arbor Day, so if you could imagine every Arbor Day and then that idea of planting more and more and more. You look around us and this is not a wooded area these trees were planted by the Mortons and descendants and people taking care of the grounds here at Arbor Lodge. When you see pictures of Lincoln as the state capital, it's just a desolate prairie. When Stephen Long did his exploration of the west, Nebraska was actually listed on maps as being the great American desert. They didn't believe that Nebraska soil would ever be good for agriculture and Morton proved that you could plant crops. You could plant trees. You could grow things and now Nebraska is pretty well known as an agricultural state. Arbor Day started in 1872. By 1888 it was a Nebraska recognized holiday. In 1972 President Nixon signed it to be a federal holiday. It was also in 1972 a hundred years after the first Arbor Day that the Arbor Day Foundation was formed. The Arbor Day Foundation now manages Arbor Lodge. We have the Lied Lodge. We have the Arbor Day Farm, the Tree Adventure, and it's continuing that mission to plant nurture and celebrate trees that Morton started all those years ago are continuing and moving forward into the future. So in 1882 in Cincinnati, Ohio, 20,000 school children gathered together to plant trees all across Cincinnati. The United States government took note of that and said what if we start having school celebrations to plant trees and that impetus of creating booklets and handbooks for teachers to know how to celebrate Arbor Day was really the push that it took to spread Arbor Day. 

Plant Trees
We still have Arbor Day celebrations here in Nebraska City, and on the the weekend of Arbor Day, we have a children's festival. Every local school child that comes out to the festival receives a free tree, and it's fun to listen to those generations of people come through and say i got a tree at Arbor Day. It's still in my yard. It's now a towering giant and my grandchildren are enjoying that tree. So I told the children go home and ask your mom's, dad's, grandparents if they got the tree where it is and if it's still living and and in many cases those trees have grown up quite a bit and have made an impact in their lives. 

The house started as just four rooms in 1855 growing over time with four major renovations during Jay Sterling's lifetime. The last edition was put on by his oldest son, Joey, who was the founder of Morton Salt. The four sons all had their own homes and families elsewhere but they would come back to their homestead from 1903 to 1923 and use this as a vacation home and a summer home. In 1923 Joey Morton gave the home and the grounds to the state of Nebraska to become the first historic state park. 2021 is celebrating 100 years of Nebraska Game & Parks and 2021 through 2022 we're celebrating 150 years of Arbor Day.

Tree Adventure at Arbor Day Farm
Well done Nebraska. That's cool. That's really cool and that's why we're here is to celebrate 100 years of state parks for Nebraska Game & Parks Commission. This is truly a treasure yeah, and we're so happy that you're interested in sharing the love that that my staff and I and people that visit the park enjoy every day. Arbor Day didn't just happen. It's not just a hallmark holiday or it really was because they saw the land and it's impacted the whole country. It's impacted the world when you think about it. Plant trees! Plant trees! Yeah and celebrate trees. I am a tree hugger and a tree sniffer. When we hike I will, and they you know, I honestly, they all have to smell um, so this I mean it makes sense. I've got a great photo of the two ladies here smelling a tree, ponderosa pine, in Utah and you either smell butterscotch or vanilla and that's true for everybody. It all depends on your genetics.

This tree here that has a plaque. it's definitely seen better days, but we have photos of this tree even in 1903 being a small tree but that tree came in a can from Pikes Peak. Caroline Morton rode a wagon up Pike's Peak in 1878 and brought back this Engelman spruce to plant here. We're in plans of having that tree propagated because we know it's not going to last forever, and it would be nice to be able to grow another one off of this tree so that we can still celebrate Caroline's achievement. Because not only did Sterling plant a lot of trees, but Caroline and the sons and the generations to follow are continuing that mission. 
Arbor Lodge Mansion
Laura, thank you so much for showing us the history and telling us about the Morton family and Arbor Day. We're ready to go see the future. We're so pleased and honored to have you here, and yes, check out the future and the towering trees above you over at Arbor Day Farm.