FRANCIS M. MORTON, a man of more than ordinary ability and enterprise, proprietor of the celebrated Morton Stock Farm, one mile east of Jacksonville, in township 15, range 10, devotes his time to breeding high-graded stock and fast horses, and is one of the leaders in his line in Morgan County. He owns two of the best road stallions in the county, and has some of the finest and swiftest blooded horses in this part of the State.
The subject of this biographical review was born on the farm where he now lives, Oct. 8, 1841. He is a fine representative of one of the oldest pioneer families of Morgan County. In 1819, a daring high-spirited, self-reliant youth, over whose head but eighteen summers had passed, penetrated to the wilds of this part of Illinois, animated partly by a desire for adventure, and in part to select a suitable spot whereupon he might build a home on this virgin soil. This bold, stalwart youth, Joseph Morton by name, who thus early sought his fortune in a wild, unsettled country, and became one of its first settlers, was the father of him of whom we write. Himself the son of a pioneer, he was born in Tennessee in 1801. Upon coming here he located on the first farm west of this, and after a time went to Madison County. But during the year he spent there, he was making arrangements to locate here permanently. In after years he accumulated a large amount of property, and owned 800 acres of fine farming land, the most of which he brought to a fine state of cultivation. He became prominently identified with the stock-raising interests of Morgan County, and engaged extensively in raising thorough-breds. He was an important factor in developing the vast agricultural resources of the county, and aided greatly in its upbuilding. He was an interested witness of the early and entire growth of Jacksonville, from the time when he used to chase the wolves over its unpeopled site to the present size and importance as the metropolis of a wealthy, populous region. He lived on his old homestead, and venerated by the whole community, until his eyes closed to the scenes of earth, in 1880. In his early days he had the help of a devoted wife, whose maiden name was Mary Odele, and they reared a family of five children.
The son of these worthy people, Francis M., who forms the subject of this sketch, received a substantial education at Jacksonville, and on his father's farm a sound training in all that pertains to agriculture. After leaving school he engaged with his father, who was at that time breeding thorough-bred stock. In 1865 he bought the homestead of his father and now has a valuable farm of 360 acres of well-tilled soil, amply provided with commodious, well appointed buildings; and he also has a half-mile track on his land. In 1868 he sold all of the thoroughbred stock and engaged in general farming, continuing it until 1885, when he once more turned his attention to raising thoroughbreds. At that time he bought Pepper, registered in the stud book as No. 2361, who comes of the most famous trotting stock in the world, and has a fine record as a colt getter in Morgan County. He was sired by Harold, No. 4113,. Who was the sire of Maud S., the Queen of the trotting turf, whose wonderful record of 2.08 ¾ has never been lowered. 1st dam Lelia, by St. Elmo, No. 375, record 2:30 twenty-one years ago. 2nd dam, Frazier's Camden thoroughbred. Through his sire Harold, Pepper traces his blood back to imported Messenger, an English thoroughbred, brought to this country in 1790, the founder and sire of the American trotting horse, of whom it is said that "when that old gray came charging down the gangplank of the ship which brought him over, the value of not less than a hundred million struck our soil." Harold was by Rysdyk's Hambletonian (the celebrated son of Abdallah, who was in turn the grandson of imp. Messenger), dam Enchantress, by old Abdallah. St. Elmo by Alexander's Abdallah. Pepper is a bay, height fifteen and three-fourths hands, weight 1,250; he is powerfully built, with excellent limbs, heavy bones and great substance, has fine action and gentle disposition. Mr. Morton's stud is headed by Motor, registered No. 7411, a beautiful bay sixteen hands high, weight 1,180, with a high standard of individuality. He is considered a remarkably fine horse. He was bought in Frankfort, Ky., South Elkland Street Farm for $7,500. He is a three year old, sired by Onward, No. 1411, record 2.25 ¼; 1st dam Griselda, by Wm. Rysdyk; 2d dam by Amos, Cassius W. Clay. Mr. Morton keeps a fine lot of high bred mares and is constantly increasing his stock and bids fair to have the finest stud in the country.
January 27, 1863, Mr. Morton was united in marriage with Miss Louisa Orear, daughter of George Orear, and to them have been born two children, Gilbert and George, both of whom are still members of their household. Gilbert married Miss Nellie Mathews, and they have two children - Lousia and Franklin. Mrs. Morton's parents were early settlers of Morgan County, and she was born on their homestead eight miles east of Jacksonville, and lived there until her marriage.
Mr. Morton possesses in a rare degree a well-balanced intellect, acumen, foresight and business faculty so necessary to success in life, and added to these are force and decision of character, so that his success was assured from the start, and his place is among the most prominent and prosperous citizens of his native county. The characteristics mentioned as belonging to him have made his advice invaluable in civic affairs, and he has held responsible township offices. He has carefully avoided politics, although he does his duty at the polls, voting with the Democratic party.