Tree-stump Monument as a Tribute to Arbor Day

CAROLINE

WIFE OF

J. STERLING MORTON

DIED AT ARBOR LODGE

JUNE 29, 1881

AGED 47 YEARS

She was the Mother of

JOY, PAUL, MARK,

and, CARL MORTON.

J. STERLING MORTON

BORN

APR. 22, 1832

DIED

APR. 27, 1902

EMMA MORTON

SISTER OF J. STERLING MORTON

JAN. 19. 1837 – APR. 13. 1912

CYNTHIA

A. FRENCH

Wife of

DAVID FRENCH,

FOSTER MOTHER OF

Mrs. J. STERLING MORTON

DIED AT

ARBOR LODGE NOVEMBER 1857

AGED 70 YEARS

CARL MORTON

FEB. 18. 1865 – JAN. 7. 1901

BOATIE PAYNE MORTON

WIFE OF CARL MORTON

OCT. 31, 1869 – DEC. 9. 1932

I was born in Nebraska and attended kindergarten through fifth grade in a North Omaha suburb and because of that I was well studied about Arbor Day, since it was originated by J. Sterling Morton of Nebraska City, Nebraska. 

Arbor Day was the modern-day equivalent of Earth Day, only its focus was solely on planting trees to better the environment.  Planting trees was especially important in a Plains state like Nebraska where the joke was that the state tree was a telephone pole.  The first Arbor Day in the United States was held in Lincoln, Nebraska, on April 10, 1872, when an estimated one million trees planted in the state.  Not only did Morton advocate the planting of trees, but he also was against cutting down trees to be used as Christmas decorations.

The towering Morton Family monument in the Wyuka Cemetery in Nebraska City, Nebraska, sits in the middle of a large family plot that is set off by carved limestone logs marking its boundaries.  It is certainly fitting that his monument is a tree, and one of the largest tree-stump gravestones I have seen and is the largest in the Wyuka Cemetery.  Tree stump gravestones and curbing carved to resemble branches and logs were a part of the rustic movement of the mid-nineteenth century which was characterized by designs that were made to look like they were from the country. While the tree-stump monuments usually symbolize a life cut short, in this case the tree-stump is more likely to represent Morton’s dedication to planting trees and the founding Arbor Day in the United States.

Julius Sterling Morton (April 22, 1832 – April 27, 1902) was a newspaper editor who was active in Democratic politics.  Morton served as in the Nebraska Territorial House of Representatives (1855-1856), was appointed Secretary of Nebraska Territory (1858-1859) and served as Acting Territorial Governor of Nebraska (1858-1859).  In 1893, President Grover Cleveland appointed Morton Secretary of Agriculture, a position in which served until 1897. 

His home in Nebraska City, known as Arbor Lodge, is a 52-room mansion that is now the centerpiece of the Arbor Lodge State Historical Park in Nebraska City.  On the winding drive to the mansion is an alcove with two bronze statues by famed sculptor Rudulph Evans—one of J. Sterling Morton and an allegorical figure holding a sapling.

Evans (February 1, 1878 – January 16, 1960) was an American-born sculptor, who is most famous for the towering sculpture of Thomas Jefferson standing in the center of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C.  Evans was trained at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris with fellow students Augustus Saint-Gaudens and Auguste Rodin.

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1 Response to Tree-stump Monument as a Tribute to Arbor Day

  1. gsb03632 says:

    Splendid, too, that the inscription is on a section of hardwood that has been exposed by the bark peeling away. Thanks for this!

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