By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Celebrate tree history with the mayor
Arbor Day was April 27. An annual commemoration to encourage and celebrate trees. J. Sterling Morton founded Arbor Day on April 10, 1872, and his efforts that year resulted in an estimated 1 million trees planted throughout Nebraska. His son was Joy Morton, founder of the Morton Salt Company and the 1,700-acre Morton Arboretum, an outdoor tree museum just southwest of Chicago.

I was glad to announce at a recent Monroe city council meeting another Arbor Day proclamation- this time celebrating the city of Monroe's 30th consecutive year as a Tree City USA. An extra special honor was also brought forth in remembrance of Paul Klinzing, our late city forester. Three trees were planted at Twining Park during our Arbor Day commemoration as a living legacy to Paul.

Trees have been utilized for ceremonies such as this and many other distinguished events in history.

The Wisconsin Territory was created by an act of the United States Congress on April 20, 1836, yet a few years before, surveyors were traversing our countryside setting up the townships and boundaries we know today. The records they created tell a picture of early settlement as they recorded legal descriptions and geographical points in part on trees. These were called bearing trees and if you analyze and review these past records, you can envision the landscape as species and sizes were recorded in their journal entries.

Trees shaped our history. Northern Wisconsin virgin white pine populations created an industry and needed sawmills sprang up in cities like La Crosse and Wausau; our landscape was deforested to devastating levels and further influenced its path. Coupled with the decline of wheat production due to intensive practices, we altered our agricultural practices and the dairy industry rose from the devastation.

For a smaller example of trees influencing our history, one can look north to Peshtigo. Extensive farming, logging and industrial practices all contributed to the million acres burned and the largest loss of life in American wildfire history.

Franklin D. Roosevelt was president from 1933 to 1945. During this timeframe, voters were asked their occupation and Franklin listed his as "Tree Grower."

Dwight D. Eisenhower, our 34th president in the 1950s, had a tree named in his honor at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia. It was a loblolly pine that he unsuccessfully lobbied to take down as it interfered with his golf game. Mother Nature finally came to the aid of golfers in 2014 as an ice storm created irreparable damage to this southern gem and it was removed. Loblolly pines struggle to survive ice storms, but they have evolved a unique survival adaption to fire. I witnessed this survival technique while conducting prescribed fires in Georgia; the seedlings of the loblolly pine have a globe-like growth of pine needles on a single stem that when a fire crawls through the pine stand, these needles curl up around the end of the seedling, covering and protecting the terminal bud. Once the fire creates an opening in the canopy, this young survivor can reach skyward and grow to great heights.

Each spring Washington, D.C., experiences its famous and beautiful bloom of cherry trees. These cherry trees were gifts from Japan, but the first shipment of 2,000 trees in 1909 were ordered destroyed by President Taft due to a nematode infestation. Fortunately, the second gift from Tokyo provided a successful planting of 3,000 cherry trees.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources maintains records of the largest trees in the state, which are called Champion Trees. Many grand specimens are found throughout the state, but right here in Monroe you can find the grand champion gingko tree. The fall foliage of the gingko provides a unique spectacle as when the leaves decide to finally drop they will all drop "at once" providing a rain shower of golden leaves.

Be a part of history, plant a tree!

- Louis Armstrong is the mayor of Monroe. His column appears monthly on Saturdays in the Monroe Times. He can be reached at