Category Archives: Trees

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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Lander: Wyoming’s Apple City

“It has recently been demonstrated that the Garden of Eden was not in Palestine, but is still situated on the Shoshone Indian reservation in Wyoming and that the variety of apple with which Mother Eve was tempted is still grown on a ranch just outside the reserve.” — Gov. Fenimore Chatterton, speaking at the Louis and Clark Exposition, St. Louis, Missouri, July 11, 1904.

Ed Young's apple orchard near Lander, 1903 (WSA JE Stimson Collection Neg 682)

Ed Young’s apple orchard near Lander, 1903.
(WSA JE Stimson Collection Neg 682, hand colored lantern slide)

It all started in 1882, when Lander rancher Ed Young planted his first apple trees, the first planted in Wyoming, on his homestead on the Little Popo Agie. Despite setbacks caused by climate and weather, Young kept experimenting with varieties and grafting techniques. By the turn of the century, Young’s apples were known throughout the region for their quality and his displays were the highlight of county and state fairs.

In addition to selling fresh apples, Young also made cider.  (WSA Wind River Mountaineer 12-16-1904, p3)

In addition to selling fresh apples and other fruits to local stores and restaurants, Young also made cider.
(WSA Wind River Mountaineer December 16, 1904, p.3)

Ed Young with one of his

Ed Young with one of his “Wealthy” apple trees, 1895. This was one of his most successful varieties. These hardy and prolific trees were developed by pioneering Minnesota horticulturalist Peter Gideon. In 1897, nearly half of Young’s 2,000 trees were Wealthys.
(Fruit Growing in Wyoming, no. 34, 1897, by B.C. Buffum, p.126)

Governor Chatterton, an enthusiastic promoter of Fremont County, mentioned the apples in his address on Wyoming Day at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis in 1904. Young’s apples lived up to the hype and though they did not win awards, were highly praised as making great progress in the region.

Governor Chatterton's praise was well deserved. Fremont County's apples won prizes at the World's Fair.  (WSA Wind River Mountaineer January 27, 1905, page 1)

Governor Chatterton’s praise was well deserved. Fremont County’s apples were highly praised at the World’s Fair.
(WSA Wind River Mountaineer January 27, 1905, p.1)

By 1904, Young’s orchard of more than 2,000 trees was said to produce 60,000 pounds that season. That same year, the newspapers and promoters began calling Lander “Apple City” and Ed Young the “Apple King of Wyoming.” The town used Young’s success to help promote settlement in the area and even made an unsuccessful bid for moving the state capitol from the “temporary” Cheyenne to the more hospitable climate in Lander.

Lander began to be called

Lander began to be called “Apple City” in 1904, in no small part because of Young’s successful orchard.
(WSA Wyoming Tribune September 28, 1904, p.8)

The town of Lander's promotional campaign was in full in 1904 when they hosted a

The town of Lander’s promotional campaign was in full in 1904 when they hosted the Wyoming Press Association. A tour of Young’s apple orchard was a headliner. (WSA Copper Mountain Miner August 16, 1907 p1)

Despite the success of his orchard, which included cherry, plum, peach and other trees, the Great Depression was hard on Mr. Young who was no longer very young. Only a few weeks before his death in 1930, at the age of 86, Young lost his farm to taxes. Still, he is remembered fondly for his passion for horticulture and left a lasting legacy in Wyoming’s fruit industry. His successes in Fremont County inspired many other farmers and ranchers to attempt orchards in Wyoming’s difficult climate. And more than 100 years later, some of Young’s apple trees are still producing.

The Wyoming State Journal, Lander's local newspaper, recounts how Young first came to Fremont county as a scout for the US Army and homesteaded the land he would turn into his lush orchard paradise.  (WSA Wyoming State Journal April 16, 1930)

The Wyoming State Journal, Lander’s local newspaper, recounts how Young first came to Fremont county as a scout for the US Army and homesteaded the land he would turn into his orchard paradise.
(WSA Wyoming State Journal April 16, 1930)

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