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RG0943.AM:  William Rankin McGeachin, 1882-1965

Papers:  1919-1965

Lincoln, Lancaster County, Nebraska:  Engineer

Size:  1.0 cu.ft.; 3 boxes


William Rankin McGeachin was born on November 3, 1882 in Orleans, Nebraska. He attended the University of Nebraska, where he was a member of Phi Gamma Delta Fraternity and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering in 1903. He served as a Lieutenant in the Philippine Constabulary from 1903 to 1905 and from 1905 to 1913 worked for the Manila Electric Company. McGeachin traveled to Germany, Austria, and Hungary in 1909 and 1910 for an engineering research study. During World War I he served in France. Returning to Nebraska, he was employed in Lincoln as an electrical and natural gas engineer and eventually retired as General Manager of the Iowa-Nebraska Power and Light Company. He worked part time with the American Forestry Service from 1928 to 1956. He often accompanied U.S. Forest Rangers during the summer months on their routine work, including fire fighting near Nemo, South Dakota, where he spent most of his summers with his wife and family for over twenty-five years.

McGeachin is noted for his work on behalf of tree and shrub planting programs along Nebraska highways and across the state. He has also been credited as the force behind legislation to restrict billboards along Nebraska highways. He originated the Ornamental Tree Planting Program by Fifth Grade Students of Nebraska Schools in connection with Arbor Day.

McGeachin was a member of the American Forestry Association, the Soil Conservation Society of America, the National Small Watershed Association, Keep Nebraska Beautiful, the Lincoln Garden Club, the University Club, the Lions Club, and the Westminster Presbyterian Church. He also served on the board of the Red Cross for fifteen years. McGeachin died on March 6, 1965.


The papers of William R. McGeachin, contained in three boxes, are arranged in five series: 1) General Correspondence, 1919-1964; 2) Correspondence Concerning Highway Beautification and Tree Planting, 1954-1967; 3) Diaries, 1934-1952; 4) Printed Matter; and 5) Miscellany.

This collection relates to William Mcgeachin’s efforts to promote tree planting and Highway beautification in Nebraska.

The bulk of the papers consist of correspondence arranged in two series. Series 1 is a file of general correspondence. Series 2 contains correspondence on the subjects of roadside improvement and tree planting which includes notes, reports, and other papers relating to the correspondence. Series 3 consists of diaries that record McGeachin’s daily activities. Series 4 includes clippings, pamphlets, and magazines concerning highway beautification and tree planting as well as stories on McGeachin’s activities. Series 5 contains additional notes and reports on trees and the campaign against billboards.


Series 1 – General correspondence, 1919-1964

Box 1


  1. 1919-1950

  2. 1951-1959

  3. 1960-1961

  4. 1962-1964

Series 2 – Correspondence concerning highway beautification and tree planting, 1954-1965

  1. 1954-1956

Box 2


  1. 1957

  2. 1958

  3. 1959-1961

  4. 1962-1963

  5. 1964-1965

  6. Undated

Series 3 – Diaries

Box 3


  1. 1934-1949; 1950-1953; 1962

Series 4 – Printed matter

  1. Newspaper clippings, unidentified

  2. Clippings from South Dakota newspapers

  3. Clippings from Nebraska newspapers, undated

  4. Pamphlets and magazines on highway beautification and tree planting

Series 5 – Miscellany

  1. Land Records: leases, maps, conservation plan

  2. Bills, notes, and reports on tree planting

  3. Bills, notes, maps, and reports on highway beautification

  4. McGeachin Family genealogy; hospital bill, 1964; Army Air Corps Identification card, 1944; program of University of Nebraska Honors Convocation, 1936


Subject headings:

Billboards — Law and legislation — Nebraska

McGeachin Family

McGeachin, William Rankin, 1882-1965

Roadside improvement — Nebraska

Tree planting — Nebraska


Revised TMM        04-25-2007