Arbor Day: Celebrating Trees in Stitches
“To preserve beauty on the earth, beauty herself beseeches us to plant trees, and renew dead landscapes with the shadow and light of plant life flitting through the pendant limbs, the willowy boughs and the waving foliage of sturdy, yet graceful woods.” – J. Sterling Morton
Arbor Day was founded by Julius Sterling Morton, a journalist who had moved to the Nebraska Territory from Michigan with his wife, Caroline Joy French, in 1854. After moving into their home in Nebraska City and noticing the lack of trees, they immediately set to work planting them—not only to beautify the landscape, but to serve as windbreaks and to prevent soil erosion. Trees were also needed to supply building materials for the growing population.
Through Morton’s efforts to spread the word about the importance of planting trees, Nebraska became the first state to officially celebrate Arbor Day on April 10, 1872 in Nebraska City. On that day, over a million trees were planted in Nebraska.
I lived in Lincoln (about an hour’s drive from Nebraska City) for several years and it’s hard to believe that at one time it was a treeless plain. One of the things I loved most about our street was the tall, well-established trees!
Nebraska became a state in 1867 and the first Arbor Day proclamation was made by the second Governor of the new state, Robert Wilkinson Furnas on March 12, 1874. (It turns out—and I didn’t know this before I started reading about the history of Arbor Day for this post—that Robert Wilkinson Furnas’s grandfather Thomas was my fourth great-grandmother Rebecca Furnas’s brother.)
Arbor Day became an official state holiday on April 22 (J. Sterling Morton’s birthday) in 1885. Today, Arbor Day is celebrated all over the world, with the dates depending on each particular region’s climate and planting season.
To honor J. Sterling Morton (and my ancestor Robert Wilkinson Furnas), and to celebrate Arbor Day, I’ve selected five beautiful leaf patterns for you to knit.
Now go plant a tree!
The European Tree of the Year for 2018 is a cork oak tree, similar to the one pictured in our featured image. The honoree is 234-years-old and lives in Portugal. (Photo Credit: iStock / Getty Images Plus)