Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Warder attended Jefferson Medical College, M.D. 1836. He then practiced medicine in Cincinnati, Ohio for nearly two decades. From 1850 to 1853, he edited Western Horticultural Review and contributed to the American Journal of Horticulture. He fostered landscape gardening and park beautification. In 1855, John Aston Warder decided to give up his medical practice to devote all his time to his main interest, horticulture. Dr. Warder had previously served as president of the Cincinnati Society of Natural History and was active in the Cincinnati Horticultural and Astronomical Societies. He purchased more than 300 acres near North Bend, Ohio, from President William Henry Harrison's widow and moved from his Clifton residence into a frame house on his property overlooking the river. Soon work began on his permanent home, "Aston", built in the style of an English manor house. One acre of the front lawn was laid out as a formal rose garden, while iris bordered the driveway. Beyond stretched fruit orchards and plantings of ornamental trees and shrubs of which Warder made a systematic study during the following years. Essentially this farm was the first agricultural experimental station in the United States, though it was never actually called that.
Despite the duties of caring for a family of seven children, Dr. Warder still found time and energy for much more. During the Civil War he was a Brigade Surgeon of the First Brigade of the Ohio Militia, and afterwards served on the boards of the Wine Grower's Association and Ohio Agricultural Board. Yet throughout his life Dr. Warder's labors in forestry were paramount. In 1873 he was appointed United States Commissioner to the Vienna World's Exposition, during which time he had the opportunity to visit and consult with European foresters. The experience convinced him that national legislation would be necessary in the United States for the forestry movement to make headway. As he wrote his official report in which he listed European forestry schools and associations of "forest managers", he noted that there was not a single organization concerned with forest conservation in the United States. So Dr. Warder's participation in the Vienna Exposition speeded the founding of the American Forestry Association in September 1875 and was its first president. In 1882 he was responsible for merging the Association with the American Forestry Congress, of which he had been an organizer. Thus the American Forestry Association continues as the nationís oldest citizenís organization devoted to conservation.
In it's 75th anniversary issue, the American Forestry Association's magazine, American Forests, stated: "The vigor and zeal with which the American Forestry Association launched its 'forestry and timber culture' crusade was due in large part to the leadership of John Aston Warder... whose fame as horticulturalist, forester, author, and physician had fanned out to distant areas of the nation."
Today, Warder's legacy lives on in the land that is Aston Oaks. His residence still stands on its hill overlooking the river, and is on the National Register of Historic Places. No longer are there any remnants of his fruit orchards, but how pleased John Warder would be that near his home stands the largest Buckeye tree in Ohio, and a towering oak that his beloved American Forestry Association has designated as the largest English Oak in the United States.
Source: Leaders of American Conservation. Henry Clepper. Natural Resources Council of America. 1971.
The John Aston Warder House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on 05/19/1978 and is located off Shady Lane Road in North Bend.
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