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March 2, 2001

The question has been asked, “Did Will T. Little, the naturalist who planted the original crop of elm tree saplings in the courthouse park, also plant the durable and stately pine trees in Grace Hill Cemetery?” A reader, Don Stoddard, provides a possible answer. Here is what he related:

“(This) brings to mind a story that is told within my family. I had an uncle (Royal “Roy” Stoddard) 1889-1915, who was killed in an industrial accident at the age of 26, before I was born. The story goes that he helped to thin-cut the young trees that were planted by Will Little in our courthouse park in 1896 and that he helped to re-plant some of them in another of our city parks. Your book (The First Generation) also says that some of those trees were replanted in one of our city parks, but it doesn’t specify which one…. I’m going to assume that the other city park is the one we now call ‘Leo Park’ The story goes on to say that Uncle Roy also helped to plant all of the pine trees at Grace Hill Cemetery. He is buried next to one of the stately old pine trees that he helped plant. This story doesn’t tell us exactly who made sure those beautiful old pine trees got planted at Grace Hill, but reading between the lines, I would venture a guess that it was Will Little.”

Thanks to Don for providing that interesting bit of family lore. Here’s more about Mr. Little as reported in The First Generation: “When Will T. Little came to Oklahoma in 1893, he could stand in the middle of his farm homestead and not see a tree in any direction. He suffered from a severe sinus condition and his life was nearly unbearable when the wind and dust blew on a hot afternoon during those early days. A nature lover and ecologist before the term was coined, Mr. Little devoted his mind and energy to making life more pleasant for future generations by planting trees. He believed that trees ‘reduced wind velocity, prevented dust storms and increased atmospheric humidity.’

“In 1896 Mr. Little received permission from the county commissioners to supervise the planting and tending of elm trees in the Perry courthouse park. He proposed to plow up the alfalfa, disc and harrow the ground, and plant 8,600 seedling Wisconsin white elm sprouts in furrows extending east-west. The sprouts were from six to eight inches long, and apparently each one took root. He agreed to charge nothing for his time if the commissioners would provide funds to purchase the trees and pay for preparing the grounds. Enough trees were sold from this crop to repay the county for all the expense of stock and planting.

“Mr. Little also planted a second city park (location not designated) of three acres, plus two school reserves of three acres each. Trees were donated to school districts around the county for planting on school grounds. Perry’s lush courthouse park today is a living memorial to Mr. Little. He was a newspaperman who had homesteaded in Black Bear township. He served as Perry postmaster, became Noble county’s representative in the Territorial Legislature and is credited with founding the Oklahoma Historical Society.

“Mr. Little also devoted himself to teaching soil culture and publishing Oklahoma, a quarterly magazine with advice for farmers about the planting and care of trees, and about soil and irrigation. A monument in the park takes note of his contributions to beautification of the courthouse square.”

If we had a Noble County Pioneers’ Hall of Fame, Will T Little should be among its occupants. More on this subject will follow shortly.