publications

Touring Nebraska Orchards in 1872

Well before the emergence of Arbor Day as a state holiday dedicated to tree planting, southeast Nebraska had a number of thriving orchards. The Nebraska State Horticultural Society sponsored an 1872 summer tour of some of the most outstanding in Otoe County. Organized on September 29, 1869, the organization included such early agricultural notables as J. Sterling Morton, upon whose initiative the State Board of Agriculture set aside April 10, 1872, for tree planting, and Robert W. Furnas, who while serving as governor, issued the first proclamation designating Arbor Day in 1874. The day became a legal holiday in 1885 when the Legislature set aside April 22, Morton’s birthday, as Arbor Day.



In October 1872, The Cultivator, published in Omaha, described the Nebraska orchard tour by more than one hundred members of the Horticultural Society and their guests. The group visited the orchards of W. J. Armstrong, Robert Hawke, and John W. Pearman before arriving at J. Sterling Morton’s farm. “[O]ur party were soon scattered through his orchard of four hundred bearing trees planted in 1858, and his young orchard of one thousand trees, planted two years ago.



“We never saw such sights before in the way of apples. His trees are bending to the ground with fruit; and, as he wandered about from tree to tree, tasting of this and that variety, Morton’s musical voice could be heard: ‘Oh no! can’t raise fruit in Nebraska! How’s that for high?’ pointing to his famous Darwins, which trees contained at least twenty bushels each. Mr. Morton takes great pains with his orchard, and is now enjoying the fruits of his labor.



“The next place we arrived at was that of the Hon. Wm. Payne, on Kearney Heights, the most lovely among them all. Here our party made a raid on his orchard, from different directions, in true bushwhacker style, where we examined and tasted of as fine fruits as could be grown anywhere. Even old Missouri could not beat it. . . . Adjoining Mr. Payne’s orchard are those of Mr. Boyer, Mr. Munce, John Reed and Mrs. Tait, all loaded with fine healthy fruit.”



A highlight of the first day’s tour was the visit with Joseph Sands. “After perambulating for a while over his orchard, examining the different varieties, we wended our way to a beautiful grove near the house, where we partook of some few dozen bottles of Nebraska Concord wine, made by Mr. S. from grapes grown on his own grounds.”



The second day included another round of orchard tours, highlighted by the hospitality of O. Harmon, who served the visitors cake and ice cream, the latter a rare treat in 1872. Fatigue and heat prompted society members to postpone the rest of the tour until cooler weather in the fall.



 



apple  medal

American Pomological Society medal awarded to the Nebraska State Horticultural Society in 1871. NSHS RG0957.PHO-12

Become a Member!

Our members make history happen.

Join Now

Other Publications

The Bachelors’ Protective Union of Kearney

When the Bachelors' Protective Union gave a gala reception for two of its newly married, former members and their brides in March of 1890, the social club for young, ...

U.S. Weather Bureau in 1890s Nebraska

The U.S. Weather Bureau was established by an act of Congress on October 1, 1890. It took over the weather service that had been established in the office of the Chief ...

Canning the Way to Victory

During American participation in World War I the U.S. Food Administration, under the direction of Herbert Hoover, launched a massive campaign to persuade Americans to ...

The Shoemaker’s Ashes

"Edward Kuehl, one of the most peculiar characters that ever lived in Omaha, or anywhere else, was found dead in his bed last night in the back room of his place of ...

Crazy Horse Surrender Ledger Foreward

Red Dog, an Oglala Lakota who lived at the Red Cloud Agency, Nebraska, 1876-77 (Nebraska State Historical Society RG2955.ph).   In the summer of 1876, following the ...

Darryl F. Zanuck

Darryl F. Zanuck Darryl F. Zanuck (1902-1979), a native Nebraskan, produced some of Hollywood's most important and controversial films. He helped found 20th Century Fox ...

The Burlington’s Profitable Pork Special

Nebraska railroads were much concerned with developing an adequate economy in the areas they served. The Burlington, for example, had a long history of caring for the ...

Bungalow Filling Stations

After the giant Standard Oil Company was broken into thirty-four separate companies in 1911, the newly independent Standard Oil of Nebraska dominated the state's market ...

The Bull Fight

This is the perfect time of year for a visit to the old fishin' hole. But a group of fisherfolk from Plainview discovered that this bucolic pastime sometimes has ...

Buffalo Soldiers West

African-American soldiers on the western frontier are the focus of an exhibit at the Nebraska History Museum in Lincoln. Buffalo Soldiers West, on loan from the Colorado ...

Protection for Buffalo

The extermination of the buffalo on the Plains occurred largely between 1870 and 1885. The Nebraska State Journal of Lincoln on February 1, 1874, editorialized in vain ...

Buffalo Hunting

In late October 1877 young Rolf Johnson and three friends left their homes in Phelps County, Nebraska, for a buffalo hunt in northeastern Colorado. The hunt was not very ...
About History Nebraska
History Nebraska was founded in 1878 as the Nebraska State Historical Society by citizens who recognized Nebraska was going through great changes and they sought to record the stories of both indigenous and immigrant peoples. It was designated a state institution and began receiving funds from the legislature in 1883. Legislation in 1994 changed History Nebraska from a state institution to a state agency. The division is headed by Interim Director and CEO Jill Dolberg. They are assisted by an administrative staff responsible for financial and personnel functions, museum store services, security, and facilities maintenance for History Nebraska.
Explore Nebraska
Discover the real places and people of our past at these History Nebraska sites.

Upcoming Events

View our new and upcoming events to see how you can get involved.

Become a Member

The work we do to discover, preserve, and share Nebraska's history wouldn't be possible without the support of History Nebraska members.

Latest Hall of Fame Inductee

The Nebraska Hall of Fame was established in 1961 to officially recognize prominent Nebraskans.

Become a Member

The work we do to discover, preserve, and share Nebraska's history wouldn't be possible without the support of History Nebraska members.
Nebraska Collections

History Nebraska's mission is to collect, preserve, and open our shared history to all Nebraskans.

Our YouTube Video Collection

Get a closer look at Nebraska's history through your own eyes, with our extensive video collections.

Additional Research Resources

History Nebraska Research and Reference Services help connect you to the material we collect and preserve.

Support History Nebraska
Make a cash donation to help us acquire, preserve, and interpret Nebraska’s history. Gifts to History Nebraska help leave a legacy and may help your taxes, too! Support the work of History Nebraska by donating to the History Nebraska Foundation today.

Volunteers are the heroes of History Nebraska. So much history, so little time! Your work helps us share access to Nebraska’s stories at our museums and sites, the reference room, and online.