ORSEMUS MORRISON

Source: Album of Genealogy and Biography, Cook County, Illinois with Portraits 3rd ed. revised and extended (Chicago: Calumet Book & Engraving Co., 1895), pp. 51-52.

ORSEMUS MORRISON        , one of the esteemed pioneers of Chicago, was born at Cambridge, New York, and died in Chicago, January 4, 1864, at the age of seventy-eight years.  He was a son of Ephraim Morrison and Sally Adams, who became residents of Chicago a few years subsequent to the arrival of their son.  Ephraim Morrison spent the balance of his life in this city, and among the investments which he made here was the purchase of the lot at the northeast corner of Clark and Madison Streets, where he built a residence.  A portion of this lot was afterward condemned by the city for the purpose of widening Madison Street, which had been originally laid out only forty feet in width.  The silver with which he paid for this lot was brought from New York in an old-fashioned kettle, such as was usually hung on a crane over a fire-place.  It was the proceeds of the sale of his farm at Cambridge.  The six sons of Ephraim Morrison, named, respectively, Orsemus, James M., Ezekiel, Ephraim, Charles and Dan, became residents of Chicago, but all are now deceased.

Orsemus Morrison became a mechanic and builder, and was employed for a time as foreman in the construction of the Government Breakwater at Buffalo, New York.  Thence he came in 1833 to Chicago, for the purpose of attending the first sale of school lands.  Among the purchases which he made at that sale was a lot at the southeast corner of Clark and Madison Streets, with a two-hundred-foot front on the former.  The price paid for this property was $62 in silver.  It is still held by his heirs, by virtue of the original United States patent, being one of the few parcels of real estate in this city which has never changed hands since becoming private property.  Another purchase which he made at the same sale was Block 7 of the School Section Addition, fronting four hundred feet on Halsted Street and four hundred and sixteen feet on Harrison Street, the price of this block being $61.  Though many of his friends scoffed at his lack of judgment in buying land so far out of town, he was sagacious enough to foresee its ultimate value.

Mr. Morrison built a frame residence at the corner of Clark and Madison Streets, and afterward further improved his lot by the erection of a row of tenement houses, cutting timber for the frames of these building on the North Branch of the Chicago River.  From time to time Mr. Morrison made other investments in Chicago realty.

At the first election held in the village of Chicago, Mr. Morrison was elected to the office of Constable.  To the ordinary duties of this office were added those of Collector and Coroner.  One of the first inquests which he held in the latter capacity was on the body of a stranger who came to Chicago and started out from the hotel for an evening walk, got lost in the woods and was frozen to death.  His corpse was found next day at the corner of La Salle and Washington Streets.  Mr. Morrison continued to hold the office of Constable for several years.  He was a physical giant, weighing nearly three hundred pounds, and, though very peaceably inclined, he was perfectly fearless, and was ever a terror to evil-doers, whether acting in his official capacity or as a private citizen.  On more than one occasion (notably on the evening of the election of John Wentworth as Mayor) he quelled a crowd of noisy and belligerent men unaided, by force of his strength and courage.  Upon the organization of the city, he was elected Alderman from the Second Ward, and also served as Street Commissioner for some years.

Of his children, but two survive: Hannah M., wife of G. W. Spofford; and Lucy M., Mrs. D. W. Mills, both residents of Chicago.

Mr. Morrison was very generous, and always befriended the poor and sick.  No case of suffering ever reached his knowledge without being promptly relieved.  His charities were always bestowed without ostentation, and frequently without the knowledge of the members of his own family.  His memory will long be cherished among the early residents of Chicago, to whom his virtues and noble characteristics were best known.

                                -- Submitted on 9/15/99 by Sherri Hessick ( slhessick@crosswinds.net )