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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sonoma County


Harry B. Morris

The name of Morris needs no introduction to the residents of Sonoma county, and particularly those of Sebastopol, the deeds and accomplishments of two generations of the family being so closely associated with the upbuilding of the town that they are a part of history. The family is descended from good old New England stock, the first immigrant on these shores having settled in Massachusetts in 1632. In direct line from this early immigrant the history is traced to David H. Morris, the paternal grandfather of the subject of this sketch, who was born in New Jersey in 1769, and under General Wayne defended the cause of the colonists in the Revolutionary war. From New Jersey he later removed to Ohio, settling in Dayton, where he erected the first house in town. For a wife he chose Eva Ann Saylor, a Virginian by birth and the daughter of Jacob Saylor, a German by birth, who immigrated to the United States and settled first in Virginia, where his daughter was born, and later in Ohio.

One of the children born of the marriage of David H. and Eva A. (Saylor) Morris was Joseph H. P. Morris, who was born in Miami county, Ohio, January 19, 1828. Early in life he was left without natural protectors, for when he was seven years of age his mother died, and eight years later his father also died. He was then about fifteen years of age, and it was then that he started out to make his own way in the world. Leaving the home farm he went to Dayton and became a clerk in a dry-goods house, continuing there until giving up his position to come to California in the memorable year of 1849. He started on the journey and had gone as far as St. Joseph, Mo., when he was overtaken by sickness and compelled to return to Ohio. The following year, however, he went to St. Louis, Mo., for three years thereafter being associated with the wholesale dry-goods house of Eddy, Jameson & Co. The fact that his first plan to come to California was frustrated made him all the more determined to come, and all of his efforts thereafter were directed toward this ultimate end. Though not a sell prepared financially as when he first started for the west, in 1853 he again set out on the overland journey and arrived at the trading post of Millar and Walker in September of that year. For a year he worked as a clerk in the store of J. M. Millar, after which he opened a grocery store, on the present site of Sebastopol. With wise foresight he saw the possibilities of the location as a town-site, and in 1855 took up one hundred and twenty acres of land which he laid out into lots, calling the location Pine Grove. As an inducement to settlers he offered to give a lot to anyone who would embark in business, the first to accept this generous offer being John Dougherty, who that year opened a general merchandise store. The first recorded disturbance in the little settlement took place in this store, and as it has to do with the history of the locality a brief account of it here may not be out of place. A. Mr. Hibbs and one Stevens were in dispute and had come to blows when the former sought refuge in Mr. Dougherty’s store. The fight would have continued had not the shop-keeper refused entrance to Stevens. The Pine Grove boys thereafter called the store Hibbs’ Sebastopol, in so doing referring to the taking of Sebastopol in the Crimean war, and the name became so familiar that at the time of the incorporation of the town the name Pine Grove gave place to Sebastopol.

The enterprise which Mr. Morris had started proved so successful that in 1858 he purchased four hundred and fifty acres of land just west of town, and thereafter until 1862 was engaged in many enterprises for the upbuilding of the town. He was then attracted to Oregon through the mining possibilities of the John Day river, but was not satisfied with the results of his efforts and returned to Sebastopol, where from 1865 until 1868 he carried on a general store and served as postmaster. Two years thereafter he had charge of the Coleman Valley Lumber Mills, later went to Guerneville, where he assumed the management of the Heald & Guerne mills, besides having charge of the books of the concern for a number of years. He was later superintendent of Corbell & Bros. mill, on Russian river, a position which he held until 1875, when he returned to Sebastopol and opened a meat market, continuing this with splendid success until 1892, when he retired from active business. Four years later, October 26, 1896, he passed away in Sebastopol, the town of which he was the founder.

In 1860 Joseph H. P. Morris was married to Miss Maria L. Bullen, a native of England, the two children born of their marriage being Harry B. and Eva, the latter a resident of San Francisco. The mother of thee children passed away in 1908. Politically Mr. Morris was a Republican and fraternally he was a charter member, and for thirty years secretary, of Lafayette Lodge No. 126, F. & A. M. He was also a charter member of Sebastopol Lodge No. 167 I. O. G. T.

The only son of his parents, Harry B. Morris was born in Sebastopol November 10, 1863, and is now the only resident of the town that was living here at the time of his birth. as soon as his school days were over he became associated with this father in the management of a meat market in town, a business which they carried on for twenty-five years. Subsequently the younger man became interested in the buying and selling of real-estate, and is still interested in the business to some extent, although of later years he has given less attention to it than formerly. In 1908, in partnership with F. R. Matthews, he established an enterprise known as the Enterprise Bottling works, manufacturing all kinds of carbonated beverages, in addition to which they handle the Porter steam beer and malt extract and the famous Yosemite lager beer. Mr. Morris was one of the organizers of the Analy Savings Bank and since its organization he has served as a director. He is also a stockholder of the Sebastopol Times, a newspaper. He has been a continuous resident of Sebastopol for forty-eight years, a longer period than any other man in town.

Mr. Morris’ marriage occurred December 29, 1886, and united him with Miss Alpena Howell, who like himself is a native of Sebastopol. She is a daughter of L. V. H. Howell, who since the death of the elder Mr. Morris has been associated with the latter’s son in the management of the meat market. Two daughters have been born to Mr. and Mrs. Morris, Louise, bo9rn in 1888, and Maria, born in 1898. As was his father before him, Mr. Morris is a stanch Republican, and when the town was incorporated in 1892 he was made president of the first board of trustees, serving in this capacity for five years, and he is now justice of the peace. In his fraternal associations he is allied with all branches of the Masonic order, belonging to Sebastopol Lodge No. 126, F. & A. M.; Santa Rosa Chapter, R. A. M.; Santa Rosa Commandery, K. T.; Islam Temple, A. A. O. N. M. S., of San Francisco; and also belonging to Santa Rosa Lodge No. 646, B. P. O. E.; and Evergreen Lodge, I. O. O. F.

History of Sonoma County, California
Biographical Sketches of The Leading Men and Women of the County Who Have Been Identified With Its Growth and Development from the Early Days to the Present
History By: Tom Gregory
Historic Record Company, Los Angeles, California (1911)

Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011