A History of the M.J. Blackford Arboretum

A History of the M.J. 1On June 6, 1968, a committee of Brodhead school personnel met to discuss the possibility of a school forest on city land or an arboretum on the SE corner of the school property. It was decided there would be legal problems with the city land, so the school land idea would be studied first.

Miss Ruth Amerpohl (Primary Dept.), Miss Marjorie Blackford (Intermediate Dept.), Mr. Frank Gombar (Jr. High), Mr. Robert Keen (High School), Mr. Ron Albrecht (Elementary Principal), Mr. Larry Landerholm (Jr. High Principal), and Mr. Gus Thompson (Superintendent) comprised the first arboretum committee.

This committee met on February 10, 1969 with a DNR representative to discuss the use of two acres of school land for a school arboretum. By April of 1969 the first plantings of trees were completed.

history 2 Miss Marjorie Blackford led fifth grade students in paper drives, science fairs, bake sales, card sales and candy sales to raise monies for the arboretum along with other gifts and memorials. New plantings were watered by fifth grade students under Miss Blackford’s supervision using buckets and a hand pump.

In 1974 a log cabin was built in the middle of the arboretum to house an electric pump and pressure tank. An arboretum handbook was created by Miss Blackford and Miss Amerpohl in 1977 for use by students and teachers. By 1979 posts with tree identification tags were being used.

The Brodhead Arboretum was dedicated to Miss Marjorie J. Blackford on Arbor Day of 1982. The dedication plaque reads: "This arboretum founded in 1969, is dedicated to M.J. Blackford. She was a lifelong Brodhead resident who taught here for twenty-two years. The arboretum grew and prospered through her efforts. Dedicated April 30, 1982".

An updated arboretum booklet was produced by Mike Miller, Paul Roemer, and Beth Stafeil in 1991. Multiple copies of this booklet are available in the Elementary IMC.

Beginning in 1994, native Wisconsin prairie plants have been added to open areas in and around the arboretum by elementary students. Trees and shrubs are often planted in the spring.

history 3The Brodhead Community Cabin, on the north side of the arboretum, was given to the BrodheadSchool District in 1993 by Bruce and Jo Wagner. Dedicated in 1995, the Brodhead Community Cabin serves as a rustic nature center and teaching station. Many past and present Brodhead area residents, organizations, and businesses provided physical and financial assistance to restore the cabin.

Over 20 informational signs were installed by Ben Pawlisch and a group of Boy Scouts in 1996. A Split rail fence was added to three sides of the arboretum in 1997 and 1998 with help from the Brodhead Boy Scouts and Steadman Construction.

In 1998, a major planting of 14 trees and shrubs in memory of Laila Yaun and Ron Jones in the northwest corner of the arboretum involved nearly 600 elementary students. The arboretum continues to provide the Brodhead community a place to study many trees, plants and wildlife.