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Dec 05

J.E. Owen Arboretum

Posted on December 5, 2019 at 10:09 AM by Ken Kocher

The James E. Owen Memorial Arboretum was dedicated in 1996 by J. E. Owen Arboretum, Inc., organized by the Boxwood Garden Club. The five acre arboretum, connected to the nature trail located behind the elementary school, served as an outdoor classroom for children of the surrounding Morgan County schools, as well as providing an educational attraction for visitors to the area and community members. The arboretum consisted of six “living classrooms,” each capable of holding 24 persons. Around each classroom, 34 trees that hold special meaning to the history of the United States were featured. The living classrooms focused on six areas of significance: past Presidents of the United States, African-Americans, American Veterans, the Civil War, the Revolutionary War, and regions of the United States. 

Arboretum Map 2.jpg

A former county school superintendent for Morgan County and a state school supervisor for Georgia, James E. Owen invested a total of forty-two years in public school service prior to his retirement from the field of education. He began his teaching career in the schools of Cherokee County before coming to Madison in 1924 to teach at the Madison A&M School. He was Morgan County School Superintendent from 1933 to 1944, before becoming a state school supervisor in 1945, a post which he held until 1955. As county school founder's markersuperintendent, he was instrumental in securing for the county, as gift from the state, the land and facilities of the discontinued A&M school for use as a county educational facility. The Morgan County primary, elementary, and high schools now sit on this approximately 257 acre site. 

“Mr. Jim,” as he was known to most of his friends, was born in Jasper, Georgia, in 1892, the son of Mr. and Mrs. George Washington Owen. He was a graduate of North Georgia College, from which he received his B.S. degree, and the University of Georgia where he earned his Master’s degree in public school administration in 1935. This Who’s Who in Georgia served his community admirably as an educator, church leader, and civic leader, passing away in 1990. 

The nature trail, around which the James E. Owen Memorial Arboretum was constructed, originated with the Garden Earth project, designed to help individual school systems tie in an outdoor educational project with the University of Georgia Botanical Gardens. In 1991, a native tree arboretum was established near the school. The following year, a half-mile nature trail leading from the elementary school to the high school was constructed, as was a wildflower meadow along the trail. Raised vegetable beds were subsequently added. A multitude of individuals gave of their time, energy, and expertise to make Garden Earth a stimulating educational experience, including City of Madison and Board of Education employees, Morgan County High School’s FFA, and BSA Troop 91 Eagle Scouts, the same troop now working to restore the James E. Owen Memorial Arboretum.

arboretum aerialBSA Troop 91 Eagle Scouts candidates have been working tirelessly to restore the Arboretum for students, faculty, and staff, as well as residents and visitors alike. Six specimen trees were planted to replace dead or dying trees in 2015 using The Rickett’s Environmental Excellence grant program. The trail kiosk was rebuilt and an updated map of the nature trail and arboretum was installed. Benches and bridges will be repaired or replaced along the trail and throughout the Arboretum. The James E. Owen Memorial Arboretum will soon be a delightful respite and stimulating outdoor classroom for all to enjoy. 

If you would like to apply for a tree through The Ricketts Environmental Excellence grant program, contact Monica Callahan at (706) 342-1251 x1207 or by email.

Madison Moments, a weekly blog highlighting Madison's rich history, is a creation of the Madison Historic Preservation Commission in collaboration with other City Boards and Departments. This installment was contributed by the Greenspace Commission and written by Mollie Bogle, GSC staff. Since 1990, this volunteer board has provided a focus for the conservation of the municipality's natural resources.


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