History of Morris Illinois

Morris, situated in the township of that name, is the county seat of Grundy County, as well as the metropolis of that section. Aside from the record of the incorporation of the township, the history of this division is that of the city itself. The latter is on the northern bank of the Illinois River, twelve miles from the junction of the Kankakee and Desplaines rivers which form the Illinois. Nettle Creek passes through the city, while the Mazon empties into the Illinois River south of the public square. In addition to all these natural bodies of water, the Illinois & Michigan Canal runs between the city and the river, so that it is easy to see why pioneers early located in this section, so well supplied with navigable streams. While Morris itself is flat, just back of the city is considerable elevation that adds to the beauty of the scenery. At one time on the present site of Morris were mighty forests of oat and hickory and many plum trees, while hazelnut bushes, with their wealth of brown nuts in season were found in profusion. A number of boulders indicate that the site of Morris dates back to the glacial period.

Located just half way between Joliet and Ottawa, and sixty-one miles southwest of Chicago, Morris commands a wide territory both as a source of supply for its shipping interests, and also as a field of operation for its merchants and manufacturers, and consequently a number of important business concerns are to be found within the city. The Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad, and two interurban roads propelled by electric power, one of which is in process of construction offer unsurpassed transportation facilities, and the shipping is very heavy from the country regions. Not only is the railroad utilized for freighting, but the urban roads and the river and canal are called into service as well.

The township of Morris was organized in 1849, it being one of the original number, in Grundy County and it and Braceville both have a supervisor and assistant supervisor on the County Board, while all the other townships have but a supervisor.

The Mound Builders

With its location on the site of the old Indian village and cemetery, there have been found many traces of the Mound Builders in Morris and vicinity. There were found nineteen separate mounds, which, without doubt, date back to the time of those prehistoric people. The largest of those mounds is now leveled, but was located near the present Court House Square, and was 10 feet high, and 50 feet in diameter. Thousands of relics have been exhumed from these mounds and the surrounding prairies, including skeletons, and much surmise has been entertained over the origin of these ancient people. Some contend that they were the lost tribes of Israel whose fate has been the subject of conjecture for centuries. From whence they came, however, they have passed away, and only the crumbling relics of this bygone age attest to their former existence. Where once these ancient people laid away their dead, stand business houses and the beautifully artistic courthouse, and the feet of the present alert generation press the soil once held sacred to their religious rites.

Morris Selected As Seat of Justice

Co-incident with the movement for the organization of the county, to leave the Mound Builders and come down to more recent times, was that for locating the seat of justice at Morris. George W. and William E. Armstrong were the men, who took the most active part in securing this distinction for Morris. The latter, recognizing the advantages the situation of the city on a site commanding such water facilities, secured the passage of an Act of Legislature which appointed Ward B. Burnett, Rulief S. Duryea and William E. Armstrong, a committee to act in conjunction with the canal commissioners to select a seat of justice for Grundy County. Much discussion arose, but finally Section 9 was chosen, and April 12, 1842, the plat of Morris was acknowledged by Isaac N. Morris, Newton Cloud, R.S. Duryea and William E. Armstrong. Having faith in the future of Morris, Mr. Armstrong moved his family from Ottawa to a cabin built by Cryder and McKeen for John P. Chapin in 1834. This was constructed of logs and contained only one room, 16 x 20 feet, and yet in it Circuit Court was held, while it served as the meeting place for the people of the neighborhood. In 1841, Mr. Armstrong and Mr. Chapin laid out what was called Chapin’s addition to Morris, and it was also known as Grundyville or Grundy. In it Mr. Armstrong built and opened what was known as the Grundy Hotel. This same year, a petition was sent to the postoffice department asking for a postoffice, but the request was refused.

Name Adopted

In 1842, the matter of having Morris selected for tile permanent county seat was again taken up, but dissention was had over the exact location. At last, in this year, as before stated, Section 9, was agreed upon, and after several names were suggested, that of Morris was adopted, in honor of Hon. Isaac N. Morris. Later, the county commissioners tried to change the name to Xenia, but as they could not agree upon how it should be spelled, did not effect their purpose.

The final survey was made March 7, 1842, by Leander Newport, surveyor, with Perry A. Claypool and George W. Armstrong, chairmen.

First Building and First Resident

The little cabin occupied by Mr. Armstrong upon his settlement in Morris, was the first building in this city. John Cryder, for whom this cabin was originally built, was the first resident here. He was followed by John and Thomas Peacock, Englishmen, who built on Section 2, which is west of the present city, during the latter part of 1834. They bought the land in 1835, married and reared families. Early in the spring of 1838, Peter Griggs built a log cabin on the present site of the aqueduct.

Other Early Settlers

In 1841, James Nagle built a large log cabin on Section 3, and in it he kept the archives of the county, until suitable housing was provided, for he was Clerk of the Board of County Commissioners. James Hart conducted the first saloon in Morris, having it in his house. Andrew Kinchella was another early settler of Morris who developed a fine farm.

Anthony Horan, an Irishman, built one of the first log cabins of the place. It was consumed by fire, and Mr. Horan was arrested, being accused of setting fire to it. Deputy Sheriff P. Kelly started with him for Ottawa, as there was then no jail at Morris, but the prisoner escaped, and later fearlessly returned to Morris, but subsequently went to Pennsylvania. Perry A. Claypool built a cabin in 1842, but after a year, Samuel Ayres came into possession of it and kept a boarding house in it. Mr. Ayres was deputy sheriff and coroner at one time, but left Morris for Texas about 1848.

First Courthouse

To the pubic spirit of Mr. Armstrong, Morris owed its first courthouse, for he had built at his own expense, a frame building, in the winter of 1841-2. This was put up on the northwest corner of the present Court House Square, and was 20 x 40 feet in dimensions and two stories in height. It was constructed of hardwood lumber, as there was no pine in the neighborhood, with oaken floors and siding. For this Mr. Armstrong received in all $350.06. Later, the building was lathed and plastered, making a total cost of $525.36, and this somewhat primitive building served every purpose until a substantial stone one was erected in 1856. The second courthouse was later replaced by the present one, but a full history of these buildings and a description of the artistic structure now standing on Court House Square, is given in another chapter.

Early Business Enterprises

The second hotel of Morris was known as the Plow Inn, and was built during the winter and spring of 1842, by Robert Peacock.

P.P. Chapin established a brick yard, near the present gas plant, about 1842, and conducted it for many years. It was William E. Armstrong and James Hart who built that portion of the Illinois & Michigan Canal that runs through Morris.

James Hart came to Morris in the fall of 1841, and was much occupied with his contract for work on the canal. He, with his partner, Mr. Armstrong, suffered a heavy loss owing to the fact that the state paid them in script which was worth only one-third the par value of a dollar.

Hon. P.A. Armstrong, who became one of the leading attorneys of Morris, as well as a man well known in its political history, came to the city in 1842.

Michael DePrendegast arrived in the winter of 1843-4, building a double log cabin on the present site of the First National Bank, and was an early justice of the peace. Later, he built a fine, brick business block, known as the Bank Block, and proved a man of substance.

First Physician

Without doubt Dr. Luther S. Robbins was the first physician of Grundy County, coming to Morris in 1842, but he died in 1845, having been probate justice of the peace for several years prior to his demise.

Bartholomew McGrath was also an early settler of Morris, and built a number of the first buildings of the place, although he died in 1846.

Business and Philanthropy

James McNellis came here in 1844, building one of the first frame houses of Morris, which he used as a boarding house and saloon. When the canal was opened in 1848, be bought a canal boat, and made money transporting grain. He built the first grain elevator of Morris, and was one of its heaviest grain dealers for many years. In addition, being truly religious, he erected a four-story brick building on ten acres of land, which he donated to be used as a Catholic school, and it was the beginning of St. Angela’s Convent. He also donated two acres of land for a church building and parsonage, and $3,000 in money. Not confining his contributions to the Catholic Church, he gave $250 to the Congregationalists, $100 to the Presbyterians, $100 to the Baptists and $250 to the Methodists, all of Morris. Another enterprise in which he was interested was a distillery at Aux Sable, near Morris, but he failed in operating it successfully.

Judge Patrick Hynds was another arrival of 1844, a blacksmith by trade, and he built and operated a shop. Later, he was made justice of the peace, and still later county judge, first by appointment in 1851, and later by election, in 1853. Mahlon P. Wilson arrived in May, 1844, and from then on was one of the best coopers Morris has ever had.

Adam Lamb came here as a canal contractor in 1844, and built one of the first stores in the place. The honor of being the first storekeeper is divided between Mr. Lamb and Col. William L. Perce. Both stores were opened for business in 1843, so the first had only a month or so advantage over the other.

Col. William L. Perce held the contract for the erection of the aqueduct across Nettle Creek, and came here in 1845. Colonel Perce opened his store in the American House, placing C.H. Goold as manager. Elijah Walker carried on a boot and shoe business from 1841 until 1856, when he left Morris for Iowa. There were other early settlers of Morris who had an important part to play in the development of the place, but having later moved away, their names are not obtainable.

Morris Incorporated

Morris was not incorporated until August 15, 1850, when an election was held to determine whether or not it was to become a village. There were forty-nine votes cast in its favor, and none against it, so August 22, 1850, an election was held for village trustees, and those elected were: Orville Cane, Eza P. Seeley, William S. Woolsey, Jacob Jacoby and Robert Kelley. At the meeting of the first village council, September 2, 1850, E.P. Seeley was elected president, and Henry Storr, clerk. The entire business of the first meeting was comprised in the following order:

“Ordered that the jurisdiction be extended over and embrace the following territory, viz.: The southwest quarter of Section 3; southeast ¼ of Section 4; north fr. of northeast ¼ Section 9; north fr. northwest ¼ Section 10, in Town 33, Range 7 east third P. M., and also that portion of the Illinois River lying opposite to the north fr. northeast ¼ Section 9, and the north fr. northwest ¼ Section 10 as aforesaid, and extending four rods on the margin of the south bank of said river, to be measured from the top of the bank.”

The second meeting of the board of trustees was held in the courthouse, January 13, 1851, when the regular meetings were arranged for, and the following officers received appointment: a constable, poundmaster, street commissioner, fire warden, clerk and treasurer. Those to hold these offices in order of their giving were: George Gillett, Charles L. P. Hogan, A.W. Newell and Robert Peacock, while Henry Storr, clerk, resigned, and Cap. Charles L. Starbuck was appointed in his place at the third meeting.

Ferry Charters

The Legislature had granted a charter to William E. Armstrong to establish a ferry across the Illinois River, on February 27, 1841. Mr. Armstrong died, and the board of trustees, being of the opinion that with his death also died the charter, passed a long ordinance relative to the license and running of a ferry. Col. Eugene Stanberry, Bryon Stanberry and George H. Kiersted secured a charter permitting them to run a ferry from Morris across the Illinois River for a period of three years, for which they were to pay $100 the first year; $101, the second year, and $104 the third year. A ferry rope was manufactured, and a flat-boat was bought, but the ferry was in operation but three days, when one lawsuit was started by George W. Armstrong, administrator of the estate of William E. Armstrong. Mr. Armstrong received judgment. The receipt of this judgment opened up a new phase of the case. Under the original charter, William E. Armstrong was allowed to charge just one-fifth what the new company was permitted to ask under their charter. Those who had paid this excessive amount to be ferried over, now threatened suit for extortion. With all this against them, the three partners abandoned the project, and the board of trustees of Morris did not attempt again to interfere.

Work of the Board of Trustees

When the board of trustees met in April, 1851, they granted licenses to four saloons, at $25 each, with a bond of $5O0. The board of trustees were paid for their first year of service, $3 each. Those were the days of civic economy, and sincere public spirit. The first sidewalk ordinance was passed April 17, 1852. The entire municipal expenses for the Town of Morris during its first year of existence were just $30.

A special charter was adopted May 2, 1853, although no change was made in the name or style, although the number of trustees became six, and the town was divided into three wards. The First Ward comprised all south of Washington Street; the Second, north of Washington Street, and west of Liberty; while the Third Ward was that portion lying north of Washington, and east of Liberty. The treasurer and constable were made elective offices, as was that of president of the board. The early boards which have succeeded the first seem to have been very economical, for the entire cost of operating the municipality for the first three years of its existence seems to be covered by $100. Morris did not possess a seal until the spring of 1854, and no finance committee was needed or appointed until January, 1854.

The existing charter of Morris was amended March 1, 1854, by the General Assembly, and the first Monday in April was set apart as election day. At the first meeting of the board elected at the election following this provision, the following standing committees were appointed, the first to be given to Morris: Finance and claims, L.P. Lott; fire department, G.W. Lane; streets and alleys, George Rurner; health, David LeRoy; Judiciary, C.H. Goold; and license, John Antis. By the time of the April election, 1855, Morris had still another charter, creating a Fourth Ward.

Morris Made a City

During 1856, Morris secured a charter creating it a city, with a mayor, council, police magistrate and other city officials, and F.S. Gardner was the first mayor. In the spring of 1861, Morris received another charter, which was really a copy of the one in force at Chicago, but when it was submitted to the people, it was rejected by a large vote. In this election 440 votes were polled, the largest cast that far in the history of the city. In 1867, the number of aldermen was increased to ten to meet the requirements of a newly created Fifth Ward.

Special Charter Abandoned

In 1877, the special charter under which Morris was operating was abandoned, and the city was organized under Chapter 24, of the statute entitled “Cities, Villages and Towns.”

In accordance with this charter, Morris was divided into four wards, as follows:

“All that part of the said city which lies south of the south line of Main Street, and east of Nettle Creek shall constitute the First Ward.

“All that part of the said city which lies west of Liberty Street, south of the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad, not included in the First Ward, shall constitute the Second Ward.

“All that part of the said city which lies east of Liberty Street, and between the south line of Main Street and the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad, shall constitute the Third Ward.

“All that part of the said city which lies north of the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad, shall constitute the Fourth Ward.”

The above conditions and divisions still prevail.

Morris Today

The Morris of today is entirely different from the group of houses clustered along the Illinois & Michigan Canal in the days when the fore-fathers of the present residents were laying the foundations for a solid structure that would endure, and hold the seat of county government as long as Grundy County maintains its present outlines. The center of business activity has receded from the banks of the canal to Liberty Street, and portions of Washington and Main streets that are adjacent, although the manufacturing industries have remained nearer the original site of the settlement. Stately trees line the residence streets, and give a grateful shade in heated periods, and picturesque appearance at all times, even when their bare branches are outlined against the winter skies. Well built sidewalks and paved streets have taken the place of dusty roads and make-shift paths, and electricity illuminates the night hours, as well as furnishes power for a number of the manufacturing concerns.

Placed where it commands instant notice and admiration is the stately courthouse, one of the most artistic in the state, if not the country, surrounded by a well kept lawn, and dominated by the towering monument erected in commemoration of the “Boys in Blue” who fought, and many died for the flag that still floats over the city. The entire plan of Morris is artistic, the shaded streets, the green of the lawns, the soft shadings of the house colorings, while the handsome stability of the business blocks and public buildings is noticeable. The slogan of the people here appears to have been, not how cheap, but “how beautifully effective,” and in their construction they have proven that ugliness is not necessary for usefulness, nor economy practiced by a choice of inferior materials.


In addition to the courthouse square, Morris has an exquisite little park given to Morris when Mr. Chapin made his second addition to the city, with the understanding it was always to be used for park purposes. It is 265 feet square, and is kept in the condition so characteristic of the city, which is perfect in every detail.

Recreations Plentiful

Amusements are furnished the people of Morris through the church entertainments; a most excellent moving picture management; various companies which play at the Empire Theatre, a well arranged house, capable of seating 800 people, and numerous social affairs given by home people. An enjoyable feature of the summer is the location in the city of some stock company which gives excellent entertainments in tents, presenting many of the new popular plays as well as old favorites. The lodges also are not backward in catering to the entertainment of their members, while lecture bureaus send representatives during the winter seasons. Religious services are well attended, for the people of Morris are not content with enjoying merely material advantages, but seek to cultivate their spiritual development as well, and charitable movements receive generous support whenever started.

Public Improvements

The city hall of Morris is a brick structure adjoining the waterworks, and contains the city offices and the police and fire departments. The older portion, now the home of the fire equipment, was erected in 1868, while the newer addition was built in 1910 to meet the necessity for larger quarters. During the period of reconstruction of the courthouse, some of the records and officials found temporary shelter in this building.

When the people of Morris were ready for cement sidewalks and streets, the administration gave them to them, there now being about six miles of the latter. With regard to the former an ordinance was passed providing that the city would pay one-half of the cost of laying of the cement walks, the property owners to bear the other half of the expense. Many of the more progressive citizens have taken advantage of this, and in due time the brick tiling sidewalks still found in some places, will all be replaced by the more desirable cement ones, giving a uniform appearance to the city, which will add to its many other advantages.

Water Works

In 1893, Morris secured city officials who favored the construction of an adequate waterworks system, and under the able management of Mayor Dr. A.E. Palmer, and Alderman U.C. Davis, Edgar Woefel, J.N. Bunnell, James Derenzy, J.W. Miller, James Cryder, William Wood and Marion Sharpe, experimental wells were sunk. In vindication of the policy of these gentlemen and their supporters, who were among the leading men of the city, the water was discovered to be of excellent quality. The city was consequently bonded to secure the necessary funds and in the fall of 1895, the water works constructed, and the mains laid. The original cost was about thirty-five thousand dollars, but additional machinery has been installed, and improvements made, so that a conservative valuation of the present plant would be $50,000.

Small Police Force

That the citizens of Morris are law abiding is proven by the fact that only four policemen are required to maintain order. Chief Fred Armstrong is the day man, and in charge of the three men who are on night duty.

Fine Fire Department

The volunteer fire department is presided over by Fire Chief T.H. Hall, who has twenty-five men, carefully trained, ready to respond to his call. The equipment which is one of the finest in this section of the state, and far surpassing any other in Grundy County, is valued at $20,000.

Hotels Excellent

It is unusual to find so many excellent hotels and restaurants in a city of the size of Morris where so many of the people own their homes. One explanation lies in the fact that Morris is not only frequently visited by those having business at the courthouse and with commercial concerns located here, but also by those who desire to benefit by the famous Shabbona mud baths or to enjoy the pleasures or rural life, amid distinctly urban surroundings. However, as it may be, the Commercial Hotel, the Washington Hotel (familiarly known as the Wagner House) the Carson House and the Kay House, all afford board and lodging, while the Saratoga Cafe, the Manhattan Cafe, Zimmerman restaurants, and others, furnish substantial meals.

The Carson House was founded by a connection of the Allen family, named Thomas Carson, and he was succeeded by two generations of his family. Several changes have taken place during later years. This hostelry is located just across from the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad Depot and contains forty rooms, the proprietors thus being able to accommodate a number of guests, especially those who want to keep near the depot. The depot of the Chicago, Ottawa & Peoria Railroad, familiarly termed the Interurban, is within a block of it. Just across the street from the Carson House, is the Kay House which is conducted by a Mr. Ferguson, but is owned by William Henry Kay.

The Commercial House, the largest hotel in the city, contains fifty rooms, and has ample lobby and parlor space. It is located on the corner of Washington and Fulton streets, and is conducted by Allen F. Mallory. This hotel was built in 1857 for store purposes, but in it was later held a Normal school. In 1880 Mr. Mallory bought the property, remodeled it, and since then has conducted it with the exception of a few years when it was in charge of his son-in-law, J.B. Hinds.

In 1875 Conrad Wagner founded the Wagner House, which is still in the hands of his descendants, it now being conducted by his granddaughter and her husband, Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Harder. When Mr. Wagner died, his widow assumed charge, and carried on the business very efficiently until about 1910, when the Harders and Mrs. Harder’s brother became the proprietors. A year later, Mr. and Mrs. Harder purchased Mr. Wagner’s interest, and have since been the owners. There is a homelike atmosphere about this hotel which appeals to the travelers and the cuisine is excellent, Mrs. Harder being famed for her cooking and efficient management. This hotel is now called the Washington Hotel.

Morris Public Library

For many years the people of Morris discussed the desirability of securing a fund with which to found a library. A number of the residents had fine private collections of books and were very generous about lending them, and several attempts were made to start and maintain a circulating library by private individuals. A library was started in connection with the schools, but it did not meet the needs of the community. Finally enterprising citizens appealed to Mr. Andrew Carnegie who, after the usual investigations and negotiations, donated $1,250, in 1912, and this amount was used to erect a substantial library building, artistically designed and furnished, which was opened December 5, 1913, with a collection of 2,000 books. Under the law governing libraries of this class, the library board will have at its disposal a sum amounting to $1,800 annually, so that the shelves will soon be filled with much wanted books upon various subjects. A well selected line of magazines are on the tables, and the librarian, Miss Ethel Thayer, reports encouragingly regarding the growing demand for new books, and the development of literary tastes, especially among the young people.

Representative Business Men

Among the representative business houses and professional and business men at Morris may be mentioned as a partial list: Abe Abrahamson, buffet; William R. Allen, grocer; Angus & Son, grocers; T.R. Dahner, meat market; R.E. Bannon, music store; Dr. O.M. Barker, dentist; E. Bartoli, fruit dealer; I.N.R. Beatty, lumber; Henry H. Baum, dry goods; Berg & Dee, meat market; Frank Black, buffet; Blasingham & Caisley, real estate; A.C. Bliss, Secretary Morris Cemetery Association; John L. Bonar, jeweler; F.C. Bowker, physician; R.R. Buck, proprietor of tile yard; W.E. Bullard, dentist; Campbell & Phalen, clothiers; C.C. Carlon, milliner; Elmer W. Carlson, photographer; Coleman Hardware Company; F.D. Condon, cigar factory; Connor Brothers, meat market; Cronin Brothers, hardware; P.K. Cross, real estate broker; U.C. Davis, furniture dealer; J.B. Dawson, druggist; George R. Dix, proprietor feed store; W.L. Dix, livery and feed stables; W.O. Dix, books and stationery; F.W. Pike, of the Elite Millinery Store; O. Erickson & Son, dry goods; Erickson & Strong, grocers; Leonhard Eridacher, tailor; Farmers Square Deal Grain Company; Farmers & Merchants National Bank; H.M. Ferguson, physician; H.W. Fessler, plumber; Fey Shoe Store; Frank L. Flood, attorney; Farmers National Bank; Flynn Brothers, cigar factory; First National Bank; William Gebhard, of Morris Brewery; John T. George, proprietor of Manhattan Cafe; Rev. A.C. Geyer; Walter Goode, garage; Gorham & Newport, general merchants; F.W. Graham, osteopath; Grundy County National Bank; J.C. Carr; Philip Haitz, cigars and tobacco; Charles F. Hanson, attorney; Jacob Harder, proprietor of Washington House; A.G. Harrison, dentist; H.H. Harrod, grocer; A.H. Hilliker, insurance and real estate; Hills & Baker, druggists; B.C. Hitchcock, plumber; P.D. Hobson, laundry; W.B. Holderman, grocer; John C. Horrie, jeweler; W.J. Horrie, grocer; W.B. Hull, clothier; Hynds Brothers, dry goods and shoes; Thomas Hynds and Brother, cigar factory; Illinois Foundry and Specialty Company; D.O. Johnson, feed yard; Herman Johnson, tailor; W.J. Jones, grocer; R.L.B. Kay, buffet; Frank J. Keibel, horseshoer; Frank Kindlestire, ice cream parlor; Phil H. Kohl, novelty store; H.E. Kutz, buffet; S.C. Lamson, sheet metal work; G.A. Leach, physician; H.W. LeRette, jeweler; J.O. LeRette, buffet; Louis Lowitz, cloaks and suits; Harry S. Mack, news depot; Essie Machey, grocer; C. Magner, Jr., grocery and market; Morris K. Magner; Herman Manns, clothier; Fred Martin, baker; S.S. Marvick, real estate; The Matteson Hardware Company; Israel Mayer & Sons, clothing; Alex W. Miller, The Model; Edward Moloney & Company, confectionery; C.S. Moore, furniture and pianos; A.J. Neff, stoves and furniture; Carl J. Nelson, nickel plating; Ole J. Nelson, insurance; A.R. Newport, hardware; Northwestern Novelty Company, factory; M.J. Olson, bakery; Gustaf Osbrink, bakery; William T. Ostrem, jeweler; Page & Young, jewelry; A.E. and F.A. Palmer, physicians; John G. Petteys, law and real estate; Phelan & Hoganson, furniture and undertaking; J.A. Ragan, veterinary surgeon; J.W. Rausch, attorney; J.A. Ray, livery; Cornelius Reardon, attorney; W.H. Reardon, sales barn; Reardon & Cameron, meat market; Bernard Roth, baker; Charles G. Sachse, attorney; W.G. Sachse, physician; L.E. Simrall, attorney; A.J. Smith, attorney; H.B. Smith, attorney; Sam Smith, physician; J. Wallace Steare, conservatory of music; Strawn Drug Company; F.H. Swartz, dentist; Frank Sykes, livery; O.J. Tasdall, buffet; Thomas Telfer, buffet; Bert Thorsen, garage; C.C. Underwood, general merchandise; Wagener & Pool, druggists; P.J. Walsh, grocer; R.E. Watkins, pool room; Weston & Sutcliffe, implements; P.T. Whalen, buffet; Roscoe Whitman, physician; Woelfeld Leather Company; James Wood, livery; William Wood, coal dealer; N.H. Woolsey, milliner; Lizzie Zimmerman, restaurant; Dr. F.A. Palmer, physician; William Reardon; Rev. Aarrestad; Rev. G.W. James; Rev. A.G. Harrison; Rev. A.W. Carlson; Rev. W.C. Magner, D.A. Matthews, capitalist, and a number of others who have retired from active life.

While Morris has no street car system, the place being too compact for its successful operation, it does have an excellent taxi-cab service, the charges of which are a revelation to travelers accustomed to the greedy demands of similar companies in less well governed cities.

Morris Newspapers

No history of Morris would be complete without a mention of its newspapers, for through them and the influence they have exerted, its improvements have been inaugurated and carried through to successful completion.

Morris Herald – Although it has been issued under several names and has absorbed more than one competitor, the Morris Herald is justly admitted to be the oldest paper of Grundy County. In 1852, the cornerstone of this reliable organ was laid when J.C. Walters founded the Morris Yeoman and published it on a Franklin press in an old adobe hut on Washington Street, near the present Commercial Hotel. Two years later the paper passed out of his control, and the firm of Buffington and Southard not only took charge, but changed its name, issuing on July 29, 1855, the first copy of the Herald. Within a year, Mr. Southard purchased his partner’s interest, and with the exception of a short period when Turner & Perry had charge, issued the Herald until 1874. In that year he disposed of the paper to the Hon. P.C. Hayes, who soon thereafter associated with him E.B. Fletcher, a practical printer. In the meanwhile changes were made in the place of location, the adobe hut giving way to quarters in a drug store conducted by a Doctor Gibson. Other changes were effected, until the present location was taken, but it is singular that in all the years of its history the Herald never moved from Washington Street. Governor Ray feels that the part played by the Herald in the birth of the Republican party, should not be overlooked or forgotten. With other newspapers all over the country, it advocated the principles that formed the first platform of that organization, and gave the candidates of that party its earnest support. In the meanwhile, Mr. Southard could not forget his love for Morris and its people, and returned within a year, prepared to buy back his beloved organ. Negotiations falling through, he founded the Advocate, with an entirely new plant, and conducted it successfully until he finally regained possession of the Herald, when he merged the two. In the meanwhile a daily paper had been started, known as the News, but it was purchased by Hayes & Fletcher, and issued as the Daily Herald. W.L. Sackett bought the Herald about July 1, 1891, and took possession of it in October of that same year. Since then, he has continued as editor said proprietor. For years the Morris Herald has been the organ of the Republican party, and the leader in politics in this locality.

Morris Gazette – On March 1, 1878 a semi-weekly journal, named The Independent was founded at Morris by Perry, Crawford and Kutz, and continued to be issued for some nineteen years, when it was taken over by Bucklin & Co. of Kankakee, and named the Sentinel. The Gazette was founded at Morris six years ago. It was absorbed by the Grundy County Publishing Company in February, 1914, Olaf Huseby being the editor and publisher. This newsy journal espouses the cause of the progressives, and under the capable management of Mr. Huseby is making rapid strides forward.

There were several other early papers of Morris, now long since dead, one being the Reformer, founded in 1872, by Joe Simpson, and conducted as a combined democratic and greenback sheet until 1876, when it passed into the hands of A.R. Barlow. Later Mr. Simpson regained the property, and in March, 1880, the Morris Democrat was founded by Colonel Blackmore. This latter was a campaign paper, and died during the thickest of the political fight.

Morris Illinois Cemeteries

The “Silent Cities of the Dead” are to be found all over the country. In some localities it has been the custom to inter the dead in some central cemetery, while in others, those who passed away, are laid to rest close to the place where living they had placed their interests. Grundy County has some very beautiful little graveyards which show the effect of tender thoughts and efficient work. Beneath the green sod of these little plots rest the dust of the pioneers as well as that of others more lately called to a last reward. Appropriate sentiments are carved on the marble shafts above these departed ones who have become members of the “Unknown Country.” These burial places are spoken of at some length in the articles concerning the townships in which they are found. The records regarding some are difficult to reach, as many were dedicated to private uses, and only opened to the public upon rare occasions.

The first cemetery of Morris was probably a little plot in the vicinity of the residence of R.M. Wing. Later another graveyard was opened on Nettle Creek, near the home of Judge Hopkins. A third one was that on the farm of A.W. Telfer on the west of the canal, east of Morris. Still another cemetery was on the site of the old Catholic cemetery. The history of the Catholic cemeteries will be found in connection with that of the Catholic church, further on in this article.

Morris Cemetery Association

On February 12, 1853, the Morris Cemetery Association was chartered by the Legislature with George Fisher, George W. Land, Charles H. Goold, L.P. Lott and Eugene Fisher as incorporators. On August 25 of that year, the association bought five acres two miles east of Morris, from Thomas Peacock, and later five acres from John Peacock, the two plots being joined by the St. George Cemetery, a plat given by a Mr. Peacock, an Englishman, for the use of Englishmen only. The two five-acre plats, to which a small addition was made quite recently, is known as Evergreen Cemetery, and it would be difficult to find one that is a more beautiful embodiment of that which is most sacred and touching in the esteem in which the dead are held, than this lovely spot. About three thousand six hundred persons have been interred in Evergreen Cemetery, among them being some of Grundy County’s soldiers, whose dust occupies what is known as the Soldiers’ Circle, in the older portion of the cemetery, near the last resting place of the old Chief Shabbona. The grave of the latter is marked by a huge arrow head carved from native stone, upon which appears the name “Shabbona.” There is a dignity in this simple monument that appears appropriate in relation to the Red Man who sought friendship with the race that despoiled him and his, and lived and died a lonely figure. A handsome mausoleum here, which has 180 crypts and four separate family rooms, adds to the beauty of the cemetery, and lies to the right of the entrance into the new part. It was built by the International Mausoleum Company of Chicago, and is exquisitely designed and decorated. A number of the crypts have already been bought, and some are filled. In the cemetery aside from this general mausoleum, there are three family vaults, belonging to the Woefel, Goold and Hill families.

Aside from the Masonic order, which is treated of at length elsewhere in this work, Morris is the home of a number of organizations, some of which are mentioned below.

Odd Fellows

Star Lodge, No. 75, I. O. O. F., was instituted at Morris by James T. McDougal, who is now deceased. He was of Joliet and received a dispensation from the R.W. grand master of the Grand Lodge of Illinois, on October 17, 1851. With him were associated L.P. Lott, E.M. Ross, O.S. Newell, and T. and A.H. Bishop. Some of the early members were: George W. Lane, Henry Benjamin, W.S. Woolsey, Miles Gordon, and P.A. Armstrong. The present membership comprises 235 active workers, and the officials are: W.H. Brown, N.G.; J.C.A. Goss, V.G.; F.A. Fay, secretary, and O.N. Barker, treasurer. The order owns its own building and the one adjoining it on Washington Street, in conjunction with the Knights of Pythias.

Knights Of Columbus

Du Pontaris Council, No. 845, was organized February 26, 1904, with seventy-nine members, and was named for Father Du Pontaris, who was the first priest to read mass within the present Grundy County. The first chaplain of the order was the Rev. W.G.J. Mecham, and this office is always held by a priest of the Catholic Church. The first officers were: J.B. McCann, G.K.; Cornelius Reardon, D.G.K.; J.W. Hines, treasurer; P.T. Murray, recording secretary; J.E. Connor, financial secretary; E.Z. Sattler, chancellor; P.S. Carolan, advocate. This order has a present membership of 140, and its present officers are: P.T. Murray, G.K.; Rev. J.J. Darcy, chaplin; Arthur Griffin, treasurer; Louis Schorsch, recording secretary; Fred Gabel, financial secretary; Cornelius Reardon, chancellor; and Thomas Fitzgerald, advocate. Meetings are held on the first and third Tuesdays of each month.

Catholic Order Of Foresters

This organization has a membership of forty-five members, and is an older order with regard to date of establishment at Morris, than the Knights of Columbus. Both these orders, with others pertaining to the Catholic Church are taken up under another chapter.

Knights Of Pythias

The order of Knights of Pythias founded their Morris lodge, known as Castle Hall, No. 178, in 1887, with marked success. The present officials are: Charles Maunders, S.C.; O.I. Meyer, V.C.; A.D. Martin, Prelate; H.D. Hitchcock, master of work; F.W. Washburn, master of arms; C.G. Bonar, master of finance; Horace D. Herrod, keeper of records and seals; A.A. Braun, master of exchequer; George Corke, inner guard; and W.A. Petteys, outer guard.

Eastern Star

Laurel Chapter of Morris was organized in 1889, Miss Jennie Bross being the first worthy matron, Mrs. Mary Massey, first secretary, and John N. Burnell, first worthy patron. There were fourteen charter members at that time. The present worthy matron is Mrs. Belle Root; Miss A.C. Bliss has been its secretary since December 11, 1900, and John Ray is the worthy patron.

Modern Woodmen of America

The Modern Woodmen of America at Morris received its charter in 1884, as Canokee Camp, No. 281, and its present membership is 200 members. The officers now in charge are as follows: H.J. Linden, V.C.; James Jeffries, W.A.; H.B. Foster, clerk; and Cornelius Reardon, banker.

The Lincoln Club

On February 12, 1889, the Lincoln Club of Morris was organized, and incorporated March 18, 1904, originally as a political club espousing the principles of the republican party, but on February 5, 1912, the object was changed and the by-laws revised, so as to make it into a purely social organization with the following object: “This club is organized for the purpose of promoting good government, to develop the growth and spirit of patriotism, and to cultivate friendly and social relations among the members, and to aid in any movement that means industrial and commercial progress and advancement of our city and the betterment of its citizens.” The present officials are: M.N. Hull, president; Horace Herrod, secretary, and A.W. Buck, treasurer. The headquarters of the club are at No. 120 E. Washington Street. The club is under the direct control of the board of directors, now composed of the following members: E.F. Hume, W.L. Sackett, H.E. Sparr, C.F. Hanson, C.E. Godfrey, G.W. Anderson, L.S. Hoge, F.T. Stephen, and F.G. Blassingham.

Morris Postoffice

The Morris postoffice is a second class office and does a business aggregating $14,000 annually. The present postmaster is J.H. McGrath, who was appointed September 24, 1913. One of the men connected with the Morris office, who died while in office, was Henry C. Claypool, who, at the time of his death, had been in office for nine years. The postmaster who preceded Mr. McGrath, was Mr. W.C. Magner. There are six rural free delivery routes out of Morris, and they and the business of the office are conducted admirably.

In Conclusion

Many features of Morris are taken up under special chapters, written by men thoroughly conversant with conditions, and interested in the proper exploitation of facts. In closing it is safe to state that it would be difficult to find a city of its size in the country which offers so much that is agreeable and desirable as Morris. Delightfully located, adjacent to one of the finest agricultural regions in the United States, possessed of natural scenery and resources, it is yet within a few miles ride of the metropolis of the West. Train schedules have been so arranged that it is possible for any one residing at Morris to go to either Joliet or Chicago for his daily business and return at night, or pleasure seekers can attend the theatre or social events in either city, and return home the same night. The air of Morris is delightful, its people gracious, courteous and hospitable, its manufacturing plants are flourishing, and its financial condition beyond cavil. To its residents and visitors, alike, it seems like the “garden spot” of the world in which the serpent of evil has no place, and from which its present inhabitants have no idea of going, and to which new corners are arriving, brought here by accounts of others who have fared well at the hands of Morrisites.


Those who have served Morris Township as members of the County Board of Supervisors have been: P.A. Armstrong, 1850; C.L.R. Hogan, 1851; Eugene Stansbury, 1852; P.A. Armstrong, 1853; Elijah Walker, 1854-1855; L.P. Lott, 1856-1858; John Barr, 1859-1861; Abel P. Bulkley, 1862-1864; John Barr, 1865-1866; John Antis, 1867-1868; George F. Brown, 1869-1870; John Barr, 1871-1875; J.W. Lawrence, 1876; Charles Sparr, 1877-1879; John Barr, 1880; J.W. Lawrence, 1881; L.W. Claypool, 1882; O.J. Nelson, 1883-1892; O.J. Nelson, 1893-1896, J.H. Pattison, Ass’t; O.J. Nelson, 1897-1907, M.B. Wilson, Ass’t; W.R. Allan, 1908-1909, M.B. Wilson, Ass’t; J.A. Wilson, 1910-1912, M.B. Wilson, Ass’t; J.A. Wilson, 1913, John Mack, Ass’t; D.A. Mathews, 1914, John Mack, Ass’t.


Source: History of Grundy County, Munsell Publishing Company, 1914


  1. Carol McMenamin Bartley

    Any information regarding “Morris Normal School” my maternal grandmother graduated as the only female in her class in approx. 1887-1897. Her name was Carrie Etta Spaulding.

    • Bobby Hamilton

      I’m looking for information, anything of where my parents lived in Hildy (Trailer Park) Mobile Home Park 1964ish. My father worked on a pipeline in the south but our family had a black and white trailer in this park. My memory tells me the park was a big circle behind the homes for a field. My brother passed at this address, so I hope you are able to provide links, info etc on this?

  2. Betty Hottinger

    My husband’s ancestors moved to Grundy in 1858 from Switzerland in 1858.
    Albert Henry Hottinger was born in Zurich, Switzerland in 1820. It is our understanding he, his wife and two children moved to Morris for job opportunities Do you have newspapers or obituaries that go back that far?

    • Erik

      Everyone is very helpful at the Grundy County Historical Society or the Library. Also, there are several workshops throughout the year at the Library to learn how to look up your past.

  3. Michael Lennon

    This site has very interesting history. My name is Michael Lennon and I mover to Morris from California in 2013. While I do not have ancestors here, my family did emigrate from Ireland to Joliet, Ilinoies in 1850. I currently own a property at 504 E. Washington Street in Morris – formerly know as the Walter G. Jones house. He was an early merchant in Morris. I would like to find out more about the property and the initial construction of the home. I would greatly appreciate your help. Thank you! Mike Lennon (714-812-9390.

    • Deanna

      To Michael Lennon, my family, Buck, came from Ireland to Morris Illinois. I have read one of my ancestors owned a house on Washington, I have been researching it, not sure if it’s the same house. I have also been trying to find more about the previous owners of my house in Mexico Missouri, so I understand why you’re interested in finding information on your house.

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