J. STERLING MORTON
Like many brilliant people involved in founding Nebraska, J. Sterling Morton had several interests. He was a newspaper editor, author, politician and horticulturist. But he is best remembered as the father of Arbor Day.
J. Sterling Morton served as territorial governor of Nebraska, and later, in 1893, he was appointed U.S. secretary of agriculture.
But he is best known for starting Arbor Day in 1872, with a momentous resolution before the State Board of Agriculture. A prize was designated for the person who "properly planted the most trees." On the first Arbor Day, more than a million trees were planted! Morton proclaimed, "Other holidays repose upon the past; Arbor Day proposes for the future."
In 1874, Governor Robert Furnas issued a proclamation asking Nebraskans to observe Arbor Day. In 1885, Arbor Day was changed from April 10 to April 22 in honor of Morton's birthday. Today, Arbor Day is designated as the last Friday in April and is celebrated across the globe.
Arbor Lodge, Morton's home in Nebraska City, grew from a four-room farmhouse into a splendid 52-room mansion. A 65-acre arboretum with more than 250 species of trees and shrubs provides a gorgeous setting for the house. Morton himself planted most of them. Today, Arbor Lodge is a state park and monument to Morton, and no monument could be more appropriate!