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Morris, Morris

Was from Carlisle, Nicholas County, Kentucky.  He and his eldest son, Austin, had come to the bluffs of White River in 1821, and put in a crop of four acres of corn.

    At the sale of land in Brookville, in July, he purchased a quarter section that lay about a mile from the donation, and adjoining the sixteenth section that had been reserved for school purposes, and on the west side of the river.

    To this land he moved his family about the first of October, and a few days before the first sale of lots.  Soon after he settled in his new home his whole family were taken sick with chills and fever.  This discouraged him very much, so much so that he wished to return to Kentucky, and would have done so had not Mrs. Morris opposed it, and to her Indianapolis is indebted for what afterwards [sic] turned out to be several of its most valuable citizens.  Mr. Morris brought the corn he had raised at the bluffs to within a mile of his house in a boat.

    He was candidate for clerk of the county at the first election, held in April, 1822, and was defeated by the "in yonder on Whitewater" vote, which outnumbered that of the Kentuckians.

    He represented this county several years in the Legislature, and was afterwards elected Auditor of State, and served two or three terms.  He made a very efficient and popular officer.

    His family consisted of six children when he first came to the new purchase, four sons, Austin, Milton, Thomas, and John, and two daughters, Amanda and Julia, to which was added, after they came here, Elizabeth and William.

    Austin was for many years, and up to the time of his death, in 1851, a leading man and a successful politician, and enjoyed the confidence of his (Whig) party to a great extent.  I believe his first office was that of colonel of militia.  He represented the county several times in the Legislature.  He was an enthusiastic member of the Methodist Church, and a devoted Christian.

    Milton was for several years a clerk for the late Nicholas McCarty, and then engaged in the mercantile business at Covington, Fountain County, and was quite successful.  He died in the South many years since, where he had gone with several boats laden with produce. 

    The third son we have now in the person of Gen. Thomas A. Morris, one of our most prominent men.  He was a graduate of West Point, but resigned to follow pursuits more congenial to his taste.  While he was in the army he was considered one of the best disciplinarians in it, as he is now one of the most skillful of civil engineers.  He was for many years employed on the public works of the State, was chief engineer on the Cincinnati and Indianapolis Railroad, and has had some connection with nearly all the roads centering to this city, and is at this time President of the Indianapolis and St. Louis Railway, which is being constructed under his supervision.  In the early part of the rebellion he rendered signal service in Western Virginia for which others got the credits.  He was tendered a prominent position in the army but declined (as I understand), because the Government had not properly appreciated his services already rendered.

    John D. Morris, the fourth son, has for several years been engaged in the freight office of the Cincinnati and Indianapolis Railroad, and to him the writer is indebted for having stood by him at a very trying time, and he takes this occasion to return him thanks, after twenty-nine years, for the prompt manner in which he performed his part.  True, he made a slight mistake at the altar in handling the minister the money instead of the legal document. 

    Amanda was the wife of one of our leading physicians, Dr. John L. Mothershead.  She had been dead several years, and so has William, the youngest child.

    Julia is the wife of Mr. Ross, formerly superintendent of the Cincinnati Railroad, but now engaged in one of the departments at Washington. 

    Elizabeth is the wife of John D. Defrees, for several years Superintendent of Public Printing at Washington, and for many years editor of the Indianapolis "Journal," and a leading Whig politician of Indiana.  It is to John D. Defrees that the present Vice President of the Untied States is indebted for his high position, and, as the New York "Tribune" remarked in regard to Grant and Rawlings, so with Colfax and Defrees: had there been no John D. Defrees there would have been no Vice President Colfax.

    Mr. Morris had the faculty of holding on to the city property which he bought at an early day, and which now constitutes the finest business property in the city.  He owned the entire square north of and adjoining the Union Depot, which made his heirs quite wealthy. 

    When Mr. Morris first came to Indianapolis our parents were known only as "dad and mam," or "pa and mammy," but we soon learned to call them "pa and ma," from Mr. M.'s children.

    His house was ever the home of ministers of all denominations, among whom was numbered, as the particular friend of Mr. M., the late James Havens.  Mr. and Mrs. Morris were, from time immemorial, called, by both old and young, Pa and Ma Morris.  At the time of Mrs. Morris' death, which occurred in 1864, they lacked but one month of having lived together sixty years--an ordinary lifetime.  He died in 1867, at the ripe age of eighty-three.

            "Howe'er it be, it seems to me,
              'Tis only noble to be good;
            Kind hearts are more than coronets,
              And simple faith than Norman blood."


Nowland, John H. B., “Early Reminiscences of Indianapolis, with Short Biographical Sketches of Its Early Citizens, and of a Few of the Prominent Business Men of the Present Day,” 1870, pp.105-108.