Saturday, August 16, 2014

Dorilus Morrison (1814-1897)

Portrait from "Genealogy: Strobridge Morrison of Morison Strobridge, 1891."

   The city of Minneapolis, Minnesota can lay claim to having one of the oddest named mayors on record, Mr. Dorilus Morrison, who was a transplant to that state from his birthplace of Maine. A wealthy lumber dealer as well as one of the primary organizers of the Northern Pacific Railroad, Morrison etched his name into the history books in 1867 when he was inaugurated as the first mayor of the incorporated city of Minneapolis, certainly a fitting honor for a man with such an unusual first name!
   The second child of six born to Samuel and Betsey Benjamin Morrison, Dorilus Morrison was born on December 27, 1814 in Livermore, Maine. Bestowed the name "Dorilus" upon his birth, this name is as mysterious as it is strange, with nothing being known of its origin. Morrison's education in Maine is described as "limited" and early in his life took to working as a clerk in a Livermore general store, furnishing local lumbermen with tools and supplies for their work. After accumulating substantial funds from his work Morrison removed to Bangor in 1842 to stake his claim in the area's lumber industry, becoming a merchant and timber dealer. He married in Maine in May 1840 to Harriett Whitmore, and the couple later became the parents to five children, two of whom died in infancy. They are listed as follows in order of birth: De Witt Clinton (born 1842), George Henry (born 1843), Harriet Adele (died in infancy in 1846), Grace Everett (born 1846) and May Evelyn (died in infancy in 1848).
   Morrison and his family resided in Bangor until 1853, when he sold off his business and removed to Hudson, Wisconsin. He resided there but a short period and then moved to the small community of St. Anthony's Falls, Minnesota, where he reentered the timber industry, being the founder of the lumber manufacturing firm of D. Morrison and Co. Within a short amount of time Morrison had staked a claim as one of the largest lumber dealers in the state, owning "approximately 11,000 acres of Minnesota's valuable white pine". Active in other business concerns, Morrison was one of the thirteen organizers of the Northern Pacific Railroad, and between 1870 and 1874 the construction firm (of which Morrison was a member) laid "240 miles of road from Duluth to Fargo". This consortium later took another contract which laid a further 200 miles of track from Fargo to Bismarck, North Dakota, concluding work in 1874.

                  A youthful Dorilus Morrison, from the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. 9.

  Dorilus Morrison first entered the political field in Minnesota shortly following his resettlement, serving as a member of the Minneapolis town council in 1858. In November 1863 he was elected to the state senate from the 5th district of Hennepin County. Serving in the session of 1864-66, Morrison was named to the committees on Elections, Military Affairs, Railroads and chaired the committee on Prisons. Shortly after the conclusion of his senate term Morrison was elected as the first mayor of  Minneapolis in February 1867, the city having been consolidated a short time before. He was returned to the mayor's office in 1869 and served until 1870. 
  Morrison continued involvement in Minneapolis affairs after leaving office, being elected to a two year term on the city board of education in 1871. In the following year he was unsuccessful in his bid for another term as Mayor of Minneapolis and in 1878 won another term on the board of education, serving for a time as board president. Morrison was beset by tragedy in 1881 with the death of his wife Harriett, who died while on vacation in Vienna, Austria. Following her death he remarried to Abby Clagstone, who survived him upon his death in 1897.
  In 1883 Dorilus Morrison was named to the Minneapolis board of park commissioners, and the St. Paul Globe notes that for nearly twenty years prior to his appointment Morrison had been a strident advocate for the creation of a park system in the city, and in the 1860s had seen a bill struck down by the Minneapolis city council which would have accomplished just that. 

This portrait of Morrison appeared in the Minneapolis Herald on January 21, 1906.

  Throughout the latter portion of his life Morrison continued to have a hand in numerous business opportunities in Minneapolis. Beginning in 1876 he and his son Clinton assumed control of the Minneapolis Harvester works, and under their fifteen year stewardship the company employed hundreds of workers, which in turn helped bolster the growth of South Minneapolis. 
   In 1878 Dorilus Morrison entered into the flouring milling industry, establishing the Excelsior Mill in Minneapolis. The mill is recorded as having been ravaged by fire in 1881 and was later rebuilt by its owner, continuing operations until 1889, when management was transferred. During this time Morrison also held the ownership of the Standard Mill of Minneapolis, which he had founded with business associate E.V. White. 
   By the dawn of the 1890s Morrison had largely retired from public life, and a year prior to his passing had visited New York, where a physician informed him that "he could not be expected to live for more than a year." After returning to his home "Rose Villa" in Minneapolis Morrison continued to make periodic visits to his business office in the city until health concerns prompted his being confined to his home. Shortly before his passing Morrison experienced a bout of "stomach trouble" which was a contributing factor in his death, which occurred on June 26, 1897. The 82 year old ex-mayor was lauded as having led a "grand life" and following his death was interred under an impressive obelisk at the Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis.
  
Dorilus Morrison, 1814-1897.

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