Arbor Day

J. Sterling Morton, the founder of Arbor Day, wrote to the Omaha Herald on the occasion of the first celebration of the day in 1872. Discussing trees and their relation to human life and the passing of time, he wrote:

"Trees grow in time. The poorest landowner in Nebraska has just as large a fortune, of time, secured to him, as has the richest. And the rain and sunshine and seasons will be his partners, just as genially and gently as they will be those of any millionaire, and will make the trees planted by the poor man grow just as grandly and beautifully as those planted by the opulent. . . . 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.

"The wealthiest and most powerful potentate on earth cannot hire one to speed its growths or bear fruit before its time. There is a true triumph in the unswerving integrity and genuine democracy of trees, for they refuse to be influenced by money or social position and thus tower morally, as well as physically, high above Congressmen and many other patriots of this dollaring age.

"Then what infinite beauty and loveliness we can add to the pleasant plains of Nebraska by planting forest and fruit trees upon every swell of their voluptuous undulations and, in another short decade, make her the Orchard of the Union, the Sylvan queen of the Republic. . . .

"A collection of inanimate marbles may, for a few years, preserve the name, and entry, and exit on this stage in life's short play. But how much more enduring are the animate trees of our own planting. They grow and self-perpetuate themselves, and shed yearly blessings on our race. Trees are the monuments I would have . . . . Thus we come to a benediction on the institution of Arbor Day in Nebraska. May it become a joy forever, and its anniversary be perpetuated in the constantly increasing blessings which its faithful observance is absolutely certain to bestow."

(April 2001)

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