The life of the subject of this biography has not been altogether devoid
of the spectacular, but has been entirely free from ostentation, and he has
never forced himself on public attention, yet his fellow citizens recognize
in this venerable character a man of genuine worth, whose every duty has
been discharged with commendable fidelity and whose influence has always
been exercised for the good of his kind. He has traveled extensively and
come in contact with the world in such a way as to quicken his perception,
enlarge his mental vision and give him ideas of men and things such as he
could not have obtained by spending his life in one locality, and as a
result of his altogether consistent career he has won the esteem of all who
Col. Napoleon B. Morrison was born in Water ford, Vermont, February 12, 1824, and reared in New Hampshire by sturdy New England parents. He is the son of Moses F. and Zilpha (Smith) Morrison. Grandfather Morrison was of Scotch-Irish lineage from Londonderry, Ireland, who settled in Londonderry, New Hampshire. Our subject is a direct descendant of Samuel Morrison, who was a charter member of Londonderry. Grandfather Smith was a Revolutionary soldier. He was born in New Hampshire, where he spent his days on a farm. He had eight children, seven boys and one girl; all lived to maturity.
The subject's father was a graduate of Dartmouth College and became a physician, devoting his entire life to practice, having remained in the eastern states. He was an extensive writer and was assistant geologist of the state of New Hampshire. A number of his manuscripts are yet in perfect condition, and they are considered of much value. He lived to be about seventy years old. He was a Christian man of advanced thought and culture, who could not be tied down to any dogma or creed. He followed his profession with energy, enthusiasm and love, love for the science and love for the patients, therefore he not only became well grounded in his profession but had hosts of loyal friends. He endeavored to discover the cause of disease and treat it from that standpoint.
Eight of his children grew to maturity. Two died in infancy. They followed the various avocations of educated men.
The subject of this sketch first attended the public schools in New Hampshire, later went to the academy at Newburry, Vermont, where he prepared for college. He then took a course in civil engineering which profession he followed for a period of twenty years with great success in New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Ohio and Illinois. In 1849 and 1850 he surveyed and located the Marietta & Cincinnati Railroad from Chillicothe to Cincinnati, Ohio, which has since been absorbed by the Baltimore & Ohio Railway, and became a part of that great system. It is now known as the Baltimore & Ohio Southwestern.
In 1862 he settled in Odin, Marion county, where he has lived ever since. Twenty-three years ago, from 1908, he opened the coal mine here which has been running successfully all the time since, and it has been under his immediate management ever since it was started. It is incorporated and our subject has been the president from the start. The capacity is one thousand tons daily. Last year the mine produced two hundred and forty thousand tons. It is operated with two hundred miners and is always a very busy place.
The coal produced here is of a very high grade and always finds a ready market. Colonel Morrison also has large farming interests in this county, and an excellent stock ranch. He breeds high grade cattle, having some thoroughbreds. His cattle are usually fattened on grass for the market, and no small portion of his yearly income is derived from his shipments of live stock which always demand high prices owing to their fine quality. His farms are kept in a high state of improvement and are up-to-date in every respect, showing that a man of unusual soundness of judgment has their management in hand.
Colonel Morrison has frequently been called upon to display his innate ability in public offices, having faithfully served for twelve years as Police Judge, and he served his people in a most praiseworthy manner in the legislature for two terms, during which time he won an enviable reputation as a law maker, and his advice and sound counsel were always listened to with the greatest respect by his colleagues in the house.
Colonel Morrison likes to tell of the early days. When he was born there was neither mill nor railroad in his section of the state. He was three years old when the first stone was hauled to build the Bunker Hill monument. The entire railroad and telegraph system has been built up since he can remember. He was in Chicago when the contract was let for building the Illinois Central Railroad. Mr. Morrison will soon be eighty-five years old, and is as active and hale as ever, being as active in his business management as at any time during his life. He built the first dwelling house in Odin. He has seen land sell under the government for twenty-five cents per acre that is now worth two hundred dollars per acre. He has long been actively associated with the locating and building of railroads, and is an enthusiastic believer in the useful results obtained by means of railroad facilities.
Colonel Morrison's married life dates from 1853, when he was united in the bonds of wedlock with Lavinia M. Smart, daughter of Judge Hugh and Elizabeth (Hughes) Smart, of Ohio. Six children have been born to Colonel Morrison and wife as follows: Sadie; Jean, who is the wife of Hamilton Rapp, of Santa Fe, New Mexico. He is an architect, plans and superintends the territorial buildings. Jessie, the subject's third child, is deceased; Helen is the wife of Doctor Fyke, of Centralia, Illinois, and the mother of three daughters, Jean, Helen and Lavinia; Charles Hugh has charge of the coal mine and its interests, and is general manager of his father's business. He was a student of the State University at Champaign, Illinois, and as a business man he ranks high in the county, being well and favorably known to the business world; Vedie, the subject's sixth child, is deceased. When Colonel Morrison came to Illinois there were neither settlements nor settlers in this part of the commonwealth on all of the broad prairies. From 1892 to 1898 he was a member of the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois, and was chairman of the Committee on Agriculture. After an investigation he found there was but one professor and four students in the agricultural college of the state of Illinois. He at once set about remedying this condition, and it was due to his agitation and efforts that this department was brought up to its present day state of efficiency, it being recognized at present as one of the most effective departments of the State University. He has on his own farm an experimental station which is conducted under the supervision of the Agricultural College at Champaign, and also of the agricultural department at Washington. He has as a result of his faithful work, been invited to accompany special trains which have traveled over all the trunk lines in Illinois, giving lectures and practical demonstrations of the excellent work which has been accomplished at the college. On the Illinois Central road he also visited the states of Mississippi and Louisiana in this capacity.
Extracted 27 May 2019 by Norma Hass from 1909 Biographical and Reminiscent History of Richland, Clay and Marion Counties, Illinois, pages 571-574.