Rather than look backward to events of
the past Arbor Day looks forward with promise for a future filled with
trees. Arbor Day celebrates planting and nurturing trees and all the ways
trees enrich our lives and stabilize our environment.
While the purpose of Arbor Day lies in the
future, it has an interesting history to earn a spot on the calendar.
Historians trace Arbor Day’s origins back to the fifth century when Swiss
villagers gathered to plant groves of oak trees. Adults turned the
event into a festival and children were given treats as a reward for
their help planting trees.
Arbor Day first appeared in the United States in
1872. J. Sterling Morton is credited with guiding this country’s first
Arbor Day resolution through the Nebraska state legislature in that year.
Residents of the Great Plains recognized how much trees could do for
them, and they enthusiastically embraced Morton’s vision.
President Theodore Roosevelt was a
strong supporter of Arbor Day. Early in the 20th century, it was
becoming clear that the nation’s forests were being exhausted by
cut-out-and-get-out timber harvesting. The science of forest management
was emerging, and the government was moving to suppress wildfire and
plant trees. President Roosevelt sent a letter to the children of the
United States in which he wrote, “A people without children would
face a hopeless future; a country without trees is almost as
Arbor Day first appeared in Temple on February 22, 1889. W.Goodrich
Jones led the citizens of Temple in a mass meeting to call for a tree
planting campaign along the streets of the city. One year later, the first
statewide observance of Arbor Day was held in Austin. Through the
efforts of Senator George Tyler of Belton, February 22nd was set aside
by law as Arbor Day to encourage the planting of trees in this
After the original
Texas Arbor Day law expired, the state continued to observe Arbor
Day by proclamation of the governor, usually on George Washington’s
birthday. In 1949, the state legislature adopted a resolution
designating the third Friday in January as Texas Arbor Day. In 1989
the legislature passed a resolution moving Texas Arbor Day to the
last Friday in April to align with the traditionally observed
national Arbor Day. Today, Arbor Day is held on the first Friday in
In 1919, the
state legislature officially designated the pecan as the State Tree
of Texas. The pecan was chosen for its adaptability anywhere in
Texas, and because Governor James Hogg requested a pecan tree to
be planted near his grave. He said, I want no monument of stone
or marble, but plant at my head a pecan tree and at my feet an
old-fashioned walnut. And when these trees shall bear, let the
pecans and walnuts be given out among the people of Texas so they
may plant them and make Texas a land of trees.
Thanks to the diversity of this state,
Arbor Day is celebrated in Texas communities anytime from throughout
the fall and winter planting season. The official Arbor Day
ceremony, complete with the Governor’s proclamation declaring the
day the official state Arbor Day, moves around from place to place
to help reach audiences all over the state.
Today, above all, Arbor Day is for children,
parents and grandparents to strengthen the bond between
generations by planting trees together. It presents a tremendous
opportunity to teach fundamental lessons about stewardship of our
natural resources and caring for our environment. There is no more
powerful demonstration than helping children plant and care for
trees that their own children and grandchildren will enjoy.