Arbor Day is a holiday that encourages the planting and caring for trees. The holiday was founded in 1872 by J. Sterling Morton, the Secretary of Agriculture in Nebraska. In 1893, he became the Secretary of Agriculture under President Cleveland and expanded Arbor Day into a National Holiday.
J. Sterling Morton lived in Monroe from the time he was two years old until he was married and moved to Nebraska. His parents were J. Dewey and Emmaline Sterling Morton. His grandparents were Abner and Sarah Morton. In 1834, his grandfather and Uncle Edward published the local newspaper and Abner went on to Detroit where he became editor in charge of the Detroit Free Press as a weekly paper. He returned to Monroe in 1836 to continue publishing the local newspaper. Upon Edward’s death he was known as one of the oldest and most ablest newspaper men Michigan ever had. The Morton home is located at the corner of Fifth and Washington Streets. There is a monument marking the family burial plot in Woodlawn Cemetery.
By the 1920’s each state in the United States had public laws assigning a certain day to be Arbor Day. National Arbor Day is celebrated every year on the last Friday of April. It is celebrated all over the world.
On the first Arbor Day in 1872, an estimated one million trees were planted.