Omaha daily bee. (Omaha [Neb.]) 187?-1922, April 18, 1909, HALF-TONE, Image 17

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    unday Bee
VOL. XXXVin-NO. 44.
The Omaha
Lodge Is an arboretum, and Morton park, an adjoining tract of
forty acres given by my father to the city, also contains many note
worthy trees. In one part of the estate there is a long avenue of
elms and soft maples, planted by my father, which is probably with
out an equal on this continent.
The main entrance to the estate is on the east. From this en
trance to the house runs a broaddrlve, 160 yards long, bordered
with white pines. Back of this double row of pines are broad lawns,
bordered on their outer edges with trees, shrubs and flowers. There
are mixed evergreens, beeches, oaks, maples, etc., aa well as flowering
shrubs and a few perennials and bedding plants.
To the south of the house are the terraces and pergola. There
are bedding plants, roses and perennials on these terraces. Flower
beds He beside the walks, while the red brick terrace walls are
clothed In Boston ivy, with hardy perennial borders at their feet.
To the north Is a long, pleasant, grassy walk, with rows of bar
berries on each side and various ornamental shade trees and ever
greens. In 1878 my mother and my youngest brother, Carl, visited Pike's
Peak and brought back two baby fir trees. My father described
them as no larger than a lead pencil. Now they decorate the lawn
at Arbor Lodge, two good-sized beautiful evergreens.
The most Important tree-planting feature of the estate, however,
is the pinery. There were practically no pine trees in the state fifty
years ago. They are being grown now by the thousand at Arbor
Lodge, and I believe another fifty years will see this pinery one of the
sights of America.
In 1SS0. 10,000 pines, less than one foot In height, were brought
from an Illinois nursery and were planted In the Arbor Lodge pinery.
They nearly all thrived and now aveiage fifteen or sixteen feet In
height a lesson in practical forestry worth taking to heart.
Mr. C. E. Dwyer, the manager at Arbor Lodge, 1b more closely
"The memorin that live and bloom in trees, that whisper of the loved
and but in tummef leave t, are at imoeriehable a th: aiasons of the year
immortal as tht love of a mother. "J. Sterling Morton.
I SUPPOSE the story of a successful pioneer will always Interest
and encourage people. The narrative of a strong, far-sighted
man who makes something out of nothing seems to put heart
Into the average worker. That Is why I am telling the story
of how my father, J. Sterling Morton, and bis young wife, set
their faces toward the west, one October day In 1854, and built them
a home on the prairies. '
Arbor Lodge as it stands today, with its classic porticoes, its gar
dens and its arboretum, the present country home of my brother,
Joy Morton, is not the home that I remember as a boy. That was
a much more modest edifice. Yet even that house was a palace com
pared with the first one, which was a little log cabin standing on the
lonely prairie, exposed to blizzards and Indians and with scarcely a
tree in sight.
My father was a young newspaper man in Detroit, only recently
out' of college, when he took hit bride, two years his junior, out to
the little-known frontier. Attracted by the Information about the
new country brought out by Douglas and others In the ' Kansas
Nebraska debates In congress, he conceived and acted on the Idea
that here were fortunes to be made. Taking such household goods
as they could, they traveled to the new land, making the last stage
up the Missouri river by boat.
Nebraska at that time was the Indian's own country. There
were not over 1,600 white people' in the entire state. All the coun
try west of the Missouri was called in the geographies the Great
American Desert, and it took; a good deal of faith to believe that any
thing could be made to grow where annual fires destroyed even the
prairie grass and the fringes of cottonwoods and icrub oaks along
the rivers. Today this section, with a radius of some 200 miles, in
cludes perhaps the most fertile soil in the world and has become a
center of Industry, agriculture and horticulture for the middle west.
There was then no political organization, no laws; men went about
fully armed, Thero were no roads and no bridges to speak of in the
entire state; it was "waste land." .
This was part of the land of the Louisiana Purchase, and my
father bought a quarter section (160 acres) from the man who pre
empted it from the government. The price paid was $1.25 an acre.
Today the estate comprises about 1,000 acres and the land is readily
saleable at a hundred times this price.
On the spot where Arbor Lodge now stands my father built this
first log cabin. This was soon replaced by a modest frame houBe;
there was hot then another frame house between it and the Rocky
mountains, 600 miles away. On the same place two succeeding
houses were built by my father, the present, and fifth, Arbor Lodge
having been built by his sons after his death. My father called these
first tour houses "seed, bud, blossom and fruit."
The first winter was a mild one, fortunately, but there were
plenty of hardships for the young couple. There were so very near
neighbors, the village of Fort Kearny, now Nebraska City, being
then over two miles away. The Indians formed the greatest danger.
I can remember a day in my boyhood when we had everything packed
up, ready to flee across the Missouri to Iowa from the murderous
Pawnees and Cheyennes, who, fortunately, did not come that time.
A part of that first winter my father and mother spent in Bellevue.
When spring came they set about building their home. Later on
. they had young trees sent to them from the east, including some ex
cellent varieties of apples, peaches, cherries, pears, etc. Things
grow fast out there; it was only the prairie fires that had kept the
land a desert so long, and year by year these fires had enriched the
The farm was located on the old California trail, the favorite
route to Pike's Peak and the El Dorado. Many of the Mormon emi
grants crowed the river at that place, i can remember the big
trains of ox and mule teams passing the house.
My father's interests were always inseparably Joined with those
of the community; be was in publlo life from the start and Ne
braska's fortunes were his. His neighbors all had the same experi
ences and many a farmer who started with nothing is now wealthy.
The farmers had to bring in from Missouri and Iowa all the food for
themselves and their horses and cattle the first year. They were
living on faith. During the first spring and summer the anxiety was
great, but they were rewarded by a good harvest in the fall. The
success of that harvest settled the Nebraska question forever. It
was a land that could support its inhabitants.
But the end was not yet. The "get-rich-qulck" fever struck the
community. Immigration was over-tlmi'Iated and town lots were
manufactured at a great rate. In a tew months the Increased In
price from 1800 to $3,000 apiece. Banks were created and money
was made plenty by legislation. My father never caught this fever,
being always a sound-money man and believing In wealth based on
the soil.
At the end ot the second summer the crop of town lots and Ne
braska bank notes was greater than the crop of corn. But the les
son was not learned until the panic of 1867 drove out the speculators
and left the farmers in possession ot the territory. With the spring
ot 1868 sanity came to rule once more and there was less bank
maklng and more prairie-breaking. The cltlsens had learned that
agriculture was to be the salvation ot the new country. In 1857 $1
a bushel had been paid for imported corn, but In 1869 the same
' steamers that had brought It In bore thousands ot bushels south at
40 cents a bushel bringing more money Into the territory than all
the sales ot town lots tor a year.
The first territorial fair was held In Nebraska City la 1859, and
on that occasion my father made a speech In which he reviewed the
Listory of the new territory up to that time. I speak of these things
because my father was always a man ot public Interests and his tor
tunes were wrapped up In those of the territory. Ills hardships
came when the community went crazy, and his fortune grew when
sanity was onoe more restored.
Though not a working farmer In the strict sense of the word, my
father devoted much attention
to the agricultural interests of
the territory and state, as well
as to the development of his
estate. For many years he was
president cf the State Board of
Agriculture, a member of the
state legislature and finally na
tional secretary ot agriculture
at Washington during President
Cleveland's second administra
tion. He was the first to import
fine horses into -Nebraska and
made a" specialty of Devon cat
tle and Suffolk pigs. In 1873
he took the first exhibit of Ne
braska apples east to tljfi Pom
ological society ot Boston.
The present arboretum at Ar
bor Lodge is a witness to his
Interest in arboriculture. From
the first cottonwoods, trans
planted from the creek, he con
tinued to beautify the place
with trees, importing many rare
varieties. Furthermore, he
tried to teach his neighbors the
great value ot tree planting to
posterity, and In the early '70s
he put through the state legis
lature a law setting apart a day
each year to be devoted to tree
planting, becoming thus the or
iginator of Arbor day.
The idea was 'first given to
the State Horticultural society
in 1872, and in the same year
the plan was approved by the
State Board of Agriculture,
which offered a prize of $100 to
the county agricultural society
which should plant the largest
number of trees on that day,
and a farm library worth $2 5
to the Individual Nebraskan
who should plant the most. As
a result ot this stimulus over
1,000,000 trees were planted in
Nebraska on the first Arbor
day, April 10, 1872.
The success of this day
proved to be an inspiration to
Nebraska and started a world
wide tree-planting movement.
In March, 1874, my father's
birthday, April 22 was set
apart by proclamation by the
governor of Nebraska, and
since then Arbor day has been
adopted by practically every
state and territory in the coun
try, and by England, Japan and
other nations as well.
Public man though he was,
over and above his love for pol
itics my father loved trees. All
his life be preached trees, and
nowhere was his influence felt
more strongly than near home.
One may still drive overland for
miles in central Nebraska or
eastern Kansas and not see a
pine tree, but every farm near
Nebraska City has a few in the
dooryard, while at Arbor Lodge
pines are being grown by the
thousand. ,
The entire estate ot Arbor
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fctWftajjjsjpisMtwajsss sMsfc.-til mi misst ilTft ftasvi islss issti iTsnsfiiHi miTiaisi nsn lnisju ii s srr i i ii iinn i ' - i i
r J -M
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First, th Log- Cabin on the Prairie; Bpconfl, the Modcwt Pram
Houin; Third, the Homo of a I'roeporou Nebraskan; Fourth, the
Mansion of J. HterlltiK Morton, tho sc retary of AKiicullure; Fifth,
the Presanl Arbor i-jlc.
3 '-
4. it- ' : r i . -- , . . , i, 5
,.,.1 -i.v' "
in touch with the present condi
tion of the estate than I am.
He writes:
"The arboretum Is being ad-
ded to each year as we find out
what kinds are hardy here. As
much of the planting here was
entirely new and untried in this
state, we did not at first try
moro than one variety of a
species, and In many cases only
one species of a genus. A
party of forestry students from
the State university visited us
this summer to look over the
plantings and brought with
them a list of forty-seven trees
which they had already studied.
This list was increased to 116
in the1 two or three hours they
spent here, and then there were
a few left. I do not mean, of
course, that they could not havo
found more outside, but it wjll
serve to show that a large num
ber of trees here are not found
elsewhere In the state.
"The climate here la not sa
favorable to evergreens, es
pecially the broad-leaved kinds,
as it is In the east, but about
sixty varieties have done well
here for three or more years,
and we hope to have equal suc
cess with more in time. We
have some others which havo
lived through one winter and
we will try many more now
that the protective plantings of
the hardy pines and spruces are
getting large enough to shelter
colonies of the weaker varieties.
"It may Interest you to know
that the Nebraska State Horti
cultural society, in its bulletin
of 1907, says that it is abso
lutely useless to plant rhodo
dendrons, kalmlas and azaleas
outdoors in this state. Doubt
less they aro right for ordinary
conditions, but in the openings
in the grove of white pines
planted by Mr. J. Sterling Mor
ton In 1890 they seem perfectly
at home, and have bloomed
without a failure since they
were planted, five years ago.
Last winter their only protec
tion was a mulch of pine
needles and a light covering of
pine boughs. This spring we
bad a late, hard frcst which
killed the leaves on the native
oaks, but tho rhododendrons
were uninjured and bloomed br
usual. The Japanese maple
planted in tho shelter of this
grove did so weir that more
were used in other places, but
these others have tailed.
"The Garden .. Magazine,
about a year ago, recommended
the Canadian yew for hedges in
this state. I have been able to
raise it In the shade of the
pines, but even In sheltered
places. If it got full force of the
afternoon sun, It promptly
. ; '- mm mm m
, ' " " X
turned brown and died. Tho best hedge for eastern Nebraska,
aside from the coarse-growing Osage orange used for field fences,
is the Ibota privet. During a flvo-year trial this has proved very
satisfactory. It is perfectly hardy and stands wet feet or drouth.
We have a very fair hedge of It along the road, the hedge line com
ing within four feet of the trunks of a line of big old soft maples
which are about tho worst to sap the ground of anything I know.
For a low hedge the Thunberg's barberry is very good, and it is
one of the few plants which has brilliant autumn colors here.' We
have alao usod it along the walks in the formal garden,. When kept
trimmed to one foot in height it makes the best substitute for box
that will grow here. The Van Houtte splrca Is perfectly hardy here
as to the plant, and makes a very pretty, loose, graceful hedge line,
but the flower buds are often destroyed by late frosts.
"We have about twenty varieties of hardy perpetual roses and
find that nearly all the kinds commonly recommended by the nur
serymen do well as to hardiness and growth of bush. The flowers
are beautiful In tho morning, but are spoiled much more quickly by
the sun than in the east.. Gruss an TeplUz, Captain Christy and
Hcrmcsa, of tho more tender kinds, have also done well with the
protection of a foot of strawy manure during the v.inter. The ram
bler types are grown everywhere very successfully, and the wild
roses come up In the meadows from seed. v
"To sum up, we can grow nearly everything .here which can be
grown in Massachusetts, the especial difference being that we have
a deep loam and clay soil, containing a good deal of lime which
seems to be unfavorable to the beeches; we have a much drier cli
mate, hot winds and long, dry falls, which are very hard on thin
barked trees and broad-leaved evergreens unless well protected."
The gardening at Arbor Lodge was started by my mother, who
6et out a number of rose bushes, peonies, etc. There were flower
beds extending along the drive from the entrance of the estate to
the house a distance, all told, of a quarter of a mile. She did not
indulge In any very elaborate gardening, however, the terrace gar
dens, etc., having been developed since 1902.
There are many other Interesting features of the estate, though
the tree planting stands pre-eminent. Adjoining the estate there
are forty acres which have been leased to the Nebraska City Country
club for a golf course. On this tract there Is a piece ot the virgin
prairie, just as It stood In 1855, which has never known the plow.
It Is just as the Indians left It, and the fact, that it is probably the
only bit of land still unbroken In eastern Nebraska shows how ttaor
- oughly the country has been given over to agriculture since the flrBt
corn was planted.
There Is, unfortunately, very little water on the place. My
father tried repeatedly to make an artificial lake by damming the
creek In the gully south of tho house. At one time he was fairly
successful and there were boats on tho lake, which he called Lake
Jopamaca, after his four sons, Joy, Paul. Mark and Carl. But the
spring freshets carried away the dam every year and after spending
thousands of dollars on It he was forced to give up the attempt.
My. father started the importation of blooded stock Into Ne
braska, but he never did much with horses. That interest has fal
len to my brother Mark, who has gone Into horse breeding exten
sively on his place, a few miles away. The estate of Arbor Lodge
now makes a specialty of Shorthorn cattle and Poland-China hogs,
as well as nursc-ry stock, and although it is not yet self-supporting,
the income Is increasing annually and the estate has been put on a
Arm business basis. At present a flock ot Shropshire sheep is busily
engaged in cleaning up the stubble and enriching the soil.
The present house is largely colonial in style and includes the
fourth house In the series, which forms the rear portion of it. The
new part was begun in the fall of 1902, soon after my father's death,
and was finished In 1903. Its moBt prominent features are the
classic porticos which show In the pictures. It is a fine, large house
of which we aro all very fond. Inside It has been furnished luxuri
ously and, we think, artistically. There are spacious rooms and
bread staircases, and the ample fireplaces consume a hundred cords
of wood a year.
My brother has collected a number of good paintings, which are
a feature of the interior. In the library there Is a unique group.
First, thero Is an oil painting of a buffalo and one of an Indian, the
original owners of the land. There is a portrait of the Spanish
king who ceded the land to the French, and also a portrait (which
once hung in the French embassy in Washington) of Napoleon Bona
parte, who sold the land to the United States In 1803. Then follows
a portrait of Uncle Sam, and one of my father, whose title to the
property was conveyed by the United States fifty years later, making
a complete abstract of title by portraits from the orlgjnal owners
to the Morton family.
Another very Interesting historical picture hanging in the house
is a large oil painting depicting the concluding of the Pawnee Indian
treaty, which was effected by General Denver, then Indian commis
sioner, in September, 1857. The treaty n&a entered into on the very
land now occupied by Arbor Lodge, and my father was a wltnes
thereto. This was before the city of Denver had been named after
the commissioner. The picture, which was painted by William H.
Coffin of New York, portrays a complimentary war dance given by
, the Indians on account of the signing of the treaty by which they
added to the United States all the Interests the Pawnee tribe had in
the lands that now comprise the states of Nebraska, the Dakotas,
eastern Colorado, Wyoming and Montana.
Public life occupied my father's time to a great extent during his
later years, until about 1898, when he guvo his attention to the pub
lication of a paper, The Conseivatlve, devoted to political and eco
nomic questions. This paper he conducted until hlu death. It gave
him greater pleasure than almost anything else except bis trees, and
these crept occasionally Into his editorial columns.
I know' of nothing that better Illustrates my father's private
character than an editorial which ho wrote and published In The
Conservative a short time before the untimely death of my brother
Carl. The fact that both the author ard the 'two loved ones of
whom he so tenderly wrote have passed to the Great Beyond Imparts
(Gontlnued on Page Three.)