Arbor Day had its beginnings in an area not always associated with trees or forests, the great plains. J. Sterling Morton (1832-1902) and his wife Caroline Joy French moved from Michigan to the Nebraska Territory in 1854. He strived to encourage tree-planting to improve the environment and beauty of the landscape in hopes of attracting settlers to the area.
On April 10, 1872, Morton’s idea, to set aside a day for planting and calling attention to the benefits of trees, became the first Arbor Day. The birthplace of Arbor Day is Nebraska City, where the Mortons lived in their home called Arbor Lodge. In 1885, Nebraska declared J. Sterling Morton's birthday, April 22, as Arbor Day. Eventually, J. Sterling Morton served as U. S. Secretary of Agriculture under President Grover Cleveland from 1893 to 1897.
Today, all 50 states, as well as many countries around the world, recognize Arbor Day in some manner. The day of its observance varies, depending on the best time of year to plant trees in each locale. In Pennsylvania, Arbor Day is the last Friday of April.
Plant a tree to commemorate the day. Here are some helpful Penn State Extension resources:
Forest Landowners Guide to Tree Planting Success
Planting and After Care of Community Trees