Category Archives: State Symbols

Happy Arbor Day Wyoming! April 28th

First celebrated in 1872 in Nebraska, Arbor Day is an annual event that encourages the planting of trees all over the country. Wyoming has celebrated the event for 127 years, since the 1888 Territorial Legislature passed the law proclaiming that Arbor Day be observed by schools on the last Friday in April . Even before its official start, many citizens of Wyoming were interested in and encouraged the planting of trees on the treeless plains to beautify, block wind and encourage the productivity of the native soil. Read more about the early efforts in the Wyoming Newspaper Project.

In 1947, the State Legislature designated the Cottonwood as Wyoming’s official state tree. The specimen tree, thought to be the largest cottonwood in the world at the time, was located on the Clyde Cover ranch near Thermopolis. In 1941, the diameter of the tree’s truck measured 29 feet around at a point 4 ½ feet off the ground and was estimated to be about 60 feet tall. Unfortunately, this exceptional tree was lost to fire in 1955.

In 1961, it was discovered that the incorrect scientific name for the state tree was used in the 1947 bill, so the legislature amended the statute to read Populous saragentii rather than Populous balsamifera.

A new specimen tree was chosen in 1990, just in time for the state’s centennial. The new official tree was found through a contest sponsored by the Wyoming Chapter of the Society of American Foresters. The winner and largest tree nominated measured 31 feet in circumference, 64 feet tall and the average crown spread (how far the branches stick out) was just over 100 feet. The tree is located on the Flying X Ranch in Eastern Albany County. According to the story told in 1990 by Owen McGill, who had owned the ranch for many years, the tree had been planted around 1890 by Arthur Dover of England who had homesteaded at that spot in 1885. Dover had carefully tended the tree for many years and took great pride in his sapling, as did the McGills, who purchased the ranch in 1908.

Other historical trees of note in Wyoming:

– The “Wedding Tree”—This tree stood at the crossroads between Glendo and Esterbrook and was a convenient place to perform ceremonies, being halfway between these communities in Northern Albany and Southern Converse counties and Douglas, the closest courthouse.

– The Indian Sign Tree—This tree was found on the A.B. Fowler Ranch near Sunrise, Wyoming. In 1922, it was estimated to be about 400 years old and showed carvings of Indian signs, canoes, river boats and the dates 1854 and 1856. This tree was cut down in 1922 in order to preserve the carvings as the tree’s location was drowned by the reservoir. According to contemporary newspapers, the portion of the tree with the carvings was brought to the Platte County Library.

– The “Mystery Tree”—This Crook County tree, near the site of Welcome, Wyoming, was a giant pine tree that served as a marker for a group of hidden cabins purportedly used either by either the Hat Creek bandits or miners hiding from soldiers during the Black Hills Gold Rush. A scaffold had been built up the side of the tree and the tree was felled at this point, leaving a very tall stump some 3 feet in diameter.

– The Tree-in-the-Rock—Still one of the most memorable sites on I-80 between Cheyenne and Laramie, the pine tree grows out of a crack in a large granite boulder. Originally on the Union Pacific Railroad line, legend has it that the tree was watered and kept alive by train crews who watered the tree when they passed it going up the summit. The tree was a major landmark on the Lincoln Highway, the first transcontinental highway, when it took the place of the tracks when they were moved farther south. Lincoln Highway became I-80.

– The National Capitol Christmas Tree—Found off of Pacific Creek in Bridger-Teton National Forest, the 65 foot tall conifer was selected and transported to Washington D.C. to serve as the official U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree in 2010. This was the first tree of this distinction to come from Wyoming.

Gov. Mike Sullivan helping a student plant a tree on the front lawn of the Capitol Building while other students watch (Wyoming State Archives)

Gov. Mike Sullivan helping a student plant a tree on the front lawn of the Capitol Building while other students watch (Wyoming State Archives)

Tree-in-the-Rock on the Lincoln Highway between Cheyenne and Laramie, 1920s(Harrington Neg 128, Wyoming State Archives)

Tree-in-the-Rock on the Lincoln Highway between Cheyenne and Laramie, 1920s(Harrington Neg 128, Wyoming State Archives)

The CCC was a government run program designed to employ young men who were unable to find jobs during the Great Depression. The CCC planted millions of trees, built roads, trails and buildings in state and national parks. The Museum at Guernsey State Park is a wonderful example of CCC architecture. Two members of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) preparing to plant a pine tree, 1930s (Sub Neg 514, Wyoming State Archives)

The CCC was a government run program designed to employ young men who were unable to find jobs during the Great Depression. The CCC planted millions of trees, built roads, trails and buildings in state and national parks. The Museum at Guernsey State Park is a wonderful example of CCC architecture. Two members of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) preparing to plant a pine tree, 1930s (Sub Neg 514, Wyoming State Archives)

The grounds of the Wyoming State Capitol Building is home to many specimen trees. The Wyoming State Forestry Division produces a brochure on the trees, most of which are native to the state. Wyoming State Capitol Building in Spring, photo by Richard Collier, ca 1981 (P88-63/10, Wyoming State Archives)

The grounds of the Wyoming State Capitol Building is home to many specimen trees. The Wyoming State Forestry Division produces a brochure on the trees, most of which are native to the state. Wyoming State Capitol Building in Spring, photo by Richard Collier, ca 1981 (P88-63/10, Wyoming State Archives)
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Esther Morris Turns 50…

Or at least her statue turned 50 earlier this month. On December 8, 1963, the bronze statue of Esther Morris was unveiled in front of the Wyoming State Capitol Building.

Secretary of State Thrya Thomson standing beside the statue of Esther Morris. This photo was taken during the 75th Anniversary of statehood celebration in 1965.  (WSA Sub Neg 2669)

Secretary of State Thyra Thomson standing beside the statue of Esther Morris. This photo was taken during the 75th anniversary of statehood celebration in 1965.
(WSA Sub Neg 2669)

The bronze is a replica of the sculpture on display in the National Statuary Hall in Washington, D.C. Sculpted by Avard Fairbanks, the statue commemorates Esther Hobart Morris and those who worked to give Wyoming’s women the right to vote in 1869. This piece was the first to represent the state of Wyoming in the national capitol and was joined by one depicting Chief Washakie in 2000. The statue of Morris was the third to depict a woman in the statuary hall.

The story of the statue starts in 1953 when the State of Washington presented their statue depicting Doctor Marcus Whitman. Apparently, it was mentioned during the presentation that Whitman and his wife had crossed South Pass in 1853 on their way to Washington. Senator Lester Hunt, the man behind the bucking horse license plate, witnessed the ceremony and the wheels began to turn. In November of that year, he finally wrote a letter to Frank Bowron, president of the Wyoming Historical Society, laying out his grand vision.

“Each time as my work in the Capitol takes me through this great room of Americana, I have a renewed desire to see Wyoming represented among our sister states…”

(WSA RG0013, Esther Morris Memorial Commission)

Hunt’s letter to Frank Bowron.
(WSA RG0013, Esther Morris Memorial Commission)

Hunt felt that the women of Wyoming would be best qualified to handle the project. Though he proposed to leave the decision in their capable hands, he did offer the suggestion that perhaps Esther Morris should be memorialized for her work in championing suffrage in the state.

The official Esther Morris Memorial Commission was created by Governor Simpson in 1955, at the request of the State Legislature. The Wyoming State Historical Society asked interested parties around the state for their opinion as to who should be memorialized. Morris was by far the most popular, with Jim Bridger coming in a weak second. But not everyone was happy with the decision. Dr. T.A. Larson, professor of history at the University of Wyoming, wrote several lengthy letters to the editor of the Laramie Boomerang that were published. He believed that was little proof that Morris was as influential as folklore claimed she was.

Once the decision was made to immortalize Morris, members raised the funds necessary and commissioned Dr. Avard Fairbanks, who had inspired Sen. Hunt with his statue of Whitman.The statue was unveiled in Washington D.C. in 1960 with former Governor Nellie Tayloe Ross representing the state and office of the governor. State Representative Endness Wilkinson made the official presentation. All three of Wyoming’s congressmen, Sen. Joseph O’Mahoney, Sen. Gale McGee and Rep. Keith Thomson also spoke at the ceremony.

Tourism Photos, Esther Morris statue unveiling crop1

Removing the covering from the statue. Secretary of State Thyra Thomson watches to the side.
(WSA Dept of Tourism slide)

In 1961, the State Legislature provided $7500 to place a replica of the statue to be placed at the state capitol building. The Commission was organized by Governor Jack Gage and consisted of seven citizens, some of whom had served on the original commission.

On a clear but chilly December day in 1963, the statue was finally placed in front of the Capitol Building. According to the newspaper “A crowd of 125… stuck by the ceremonies despite temperatures in the low 30s and a bone-chilling wind which caused most speakers to pare their remarks drastically.” Thyra Thomson stated that this statue honored not only the women of Wyoming but also “the men who put action to their words.”

Tourism Photos, Esther Morris statue unveiling crop2

Governor Cliff Hansen, the only male speaker at the ceremony, gives his very brief comments. According to the newspaper he “skipped all but the last paragraph of his prepared speech.” The Central High School band, who provided the day’s music, is seated on the steps of the Capitol behind him.
(WSA Dept of Tourism slide)

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Filed under State Symbols, This Day in Wyoming History..., Women's Suffrage