is a city in Grundy County
, United States
. The population was 11,928 at the 2000 census, and estimated to be 12,939 in 2005. It is the county seat
of Grundy County
Morris is home to the Dresden Nuclear Power Plant, which provides a substantial portion of the electricity supply for the Chicago metropolitan area. Included among the Dresden plant's reactors is the first commercial nuclear reactor, housed in a spherical concrete and steel shell; it has since been decommissioned, and two more modern reactors (of 1970s vintage) now generate its electricity.
Morris is located at (41.364739, -88.426143). According to the United States Census Bureau
, the city has a total area of 7.2 square miles (18.5 km²), of which, 6.9 square miles (17.8 km²) of it is land and 0.3 square miles (0.7 km²) of it (3.91%) is water.
Currently, Morris has one of the few prospering and historically intact downtowns in Illinois. Visitors and shoppers come a distance to enjoy the tranquil small town shopping atmosphere.
In addition to the downtown, there are outlying businesses such as five motels, a theater, restaurants, a furniture store, two drug stores, boat sales, three grocery stores, hardware stores, banquet hall, and numerous retail stores and gift shops.
Morris enjoys the benefit of being the Grundy County seat and has a large hospital and modern schools. There are many small parks, ball diamonds, tennis courts, two golf courses, and a swimming pool as well as the Gebhard Woods State Park and the William G. Stratton State Park for boat launching on the Illinois River.
Morris is situated along the Illinois River at the intersections of US 6, State Road 47 and Interstate 80. It has a population of 11,928 people with 21 full time police officers, a volunteer fire department and ambulance service and district library system.
History of Morris Township and City
Morris, situated in the township of that name, is the county seat of Grundy County
, as well as the largest town in the county. Aside from the record of the incorporation of the township, the history of this division is that of the city itself. The latter is on the northern bank of the Illinois River
, twelve miles (19 km) from the junction of the Kankakee
and Des Plaines
rivers which form the Illinois. Nettle Creek passes through the city, while the Mazon
empties into the Illinois River south of the public square. In addition to these natural bodies of water, the Illinois and Michigan Canal
runs between the city and the river, so it is easy to see why early pioneers located themselves in this area, so well supplied with navigable streams. While Morris itself is flat, just back of the city is considerable elevation that adds to the beauty of the scenery. At one time on the present site of Morris were mighty forests of oak and hickory and many plum trees, while hazelnut
bushes, with their wealth of brown nuts in season were found in profusion. A number of boulders indicate that the site of Morris dates back to the glacial period.
Located half way between Joliet and Ottawa, and 61 miles southwest of Chicago, Morris commands a wide territory both as a source of supply for its shipping interests, and also as a field of operation for its merchants and manufacturers, and consequently a number of important business concerns are to be found within the city. The Chicago, Rock Island Railroad and Pacific Railroad, and two interurban roads propelled by electric power, one of which is in process of construction, offer unsurpassed transportation facilities, and the shipping is very heavy from the country regions. Not only is the railroad utilized for freighting, but the urban roads and the river and canal are called into service as well.
The township of Morris was organized in 1849, and both Morris and Braceville each have a supervisor and assistant supervisor on the County Board, while all other townships in the county have only a supervisor.
Seat of justice
Coincident with the movement for the organization of the county, to leave the Mound Builders
and come down to more recent times, was that for locating the seat of justice at Morris. George W. and William E. Armstrong
were the men who took the most active part in securing this distinction for Morris. The latter, recognizing the advantages the situation of the city on a site commanding such water facilities, secured the passage of an Act of Legislature which appointed Ward B. Burnett
, Rulief S. Duryea
and William E. Armstrong as a committee to act in conjunction with the canal commissioners to select a seat of justice for Grundy County. Much discussion arose, but finally Section 9 was chosen, and on April 12, 1842, the plat of Morris was acknowledged by Isaac N. Morris
, Newton Cloud
, R.S. Duryea
and William E. Armstrong. Having faith in the future of Morris, Mr. Armstrong moved his family from Ottawa to a cabin built by Cryder and McKeen for John P. Chapin in 1834. This was constructed of logs and contained only one room, 16 x , and yet in it Circuit Court was held, while it served as the meeting place for the people of the neighborhood. In 1841, Mr. Armstrong and Mr. Chapin laid out what was called Chapin's addition to Morris, and it was also known as Grundyville or Grundy. In it Mr. Armstrong built and opened what was known as the Grundy Hotel. This same year, a petition was sent to the post office department asking for a post office, but the request was refused.
In 1845, the matter of having Morris selected for permanent county seat was again taken up, but dissention was had over the exact location. At last, as before stated, Section 9 was agreed upon, and after several names were suggested, that of Morris was adopted, in honor of Hon. Isaac N. Morris.
The final survey was made March 7, 1842, by Leander Newport, surveyor, with Perry A. Claypool and George W. Armstrong, chairmen.
First Building and First Resident
The little cabin occupied by Mr. Armstrong upon his settlement in Morris was the first building in this city (at Jefferson and Nettle Streets). John Cryder, for whom this cabin was originally built, was the first resident here. He was followed by John and Thomas Peacock, Englishmen, who built on Section 2, which is west of the present city, during the latter part of 1834. They bought the land in 1835, married and reared families. Early in the spring of 1838, Peter Griggs built a log cabin on the present site of the aqueduct.
Other Early Settlers
In 1841, James Nagle built a large log cabin on Section 3, and in it he kept the archives of the county until suitable housing was provided, for he was Clerk of the Board of County Commissioners. James Hart conducted the first saloon in Morris, having it in his house. Andrew Kinchella was another early settler of Morris who developed a fine farm.
Anthony Horan, an Irishman, built one of the first log cabins of the place. It was consumed by fire, and Mr. Horan was arrested, being accused of setting fire to it. Deputy Sheriff P. Kelly started with him for Ottawa, as there was then no jail at Morris, but the prisoner escaped, and later fearlessly returned to Morris, but subsequently went to Pennsylvania. Perry A. Claypool built a cabin in 1842, but after a year, Samuel Ayres came into possession of it and kept a boarding house in it. Mr. Ayres was deputy sheriff and coroner at one time, but left Morris for Texas about 1848.
Morris owed its first courthouse to the public spirit of Mr. Armstrong, for he had built at his own expense a frame building in the winter of 1841-2. This was put up on the northwest corner of the present Court House Square, and was 20 x in dimensions and two stories in height. It was constructed of hardwood lumber, as there was no pine in the neighborhood, with oaken floors and siding. For this Mr. Armstrong received in all $350.06. Later, the building was lathed and plastered, making a total cost of $525.36, and this somewhat primitive building served every purpose until a substantial stone one was erected in 1856. The second courthouse was later replaced by the present one, but a full history of these buildings and a description of the artistic structure now standing on Court House Square is given in another chapter.
Early Business Enterprises
In 1839, citizens volunteered to build Shakey Bridge across the Nettle Creek in order to influence the route of Fink and Walker's stagecoach line from Chicago to Ottawa. It wasn't until 1845 that the route was established when the post office department delivered daily mail and for that purpose changed the stagecoach line through Morris. This gave Morris its first public transportation. They carried the mail until 1848 when the canal opened.
The second hotel of Morris was known as the Plow Inn and was built during the winter and spring of 1842 by Robert Peacock.
P.P. Chapin established a brick yard, near the present gas plant, about 1842 and conducted it for many years. It was William E. Armstrong and James Hart who built that portion of the Illinois & Michigan Canal that runs through Morris.
James Hart came to Morris in the fall of 1841 and was much occupied with his contract for work on the canal. He, with his partner Mr. Armstrong, suffered a heavy loss because the state paid them in scrip which was worth only one-third the par value of a dollar.
Hon. P.A. Armstrong, who became one of the leading attorneys of Morris, as well as a man well known in its political history, came to the city in 1842.
Michael DePrendegast arrived in the winter of 1843-4, building a double log cabin on the present site of the First National Bank, and was an early justice of the peace. Later, he built a fine, brick business block, known as the Bank Block, and proved a man of substance.
With the coming of the Illinois and Michigan Canal in 1848, the village grew around the courthouse square where it still stands today. The farmers then had a way to ship their grain to market in and to receive lumber, salt, and merchandise from around the world. Aux Sable stone was carried to Chicago and passengers had a smoother trip than by stagecoach.
With the opening of the Illinois and Michigan Canal and the railroad, the town prospered and grew to the north towards the railroad. The first factory was the Plow Factory in 1857, located west of Liberty Street on Illinois Avenue, followed by Gebhard Brewery in 1866.
In 1873, Coleman Hardware was built with the businessmen of Morris donating $19,000 to bring in a factory.
Northwestern Novelty arrived at 1909 to be near the Coleman Hardware as they produced the castings for its Yankee Match Lighter.
The Morris Paper Mill was established in 1915.
Without doubt Dr. Luther S. Robbins was the first physician of Grundy County, coming to Morris in 1842, but he died in 1845, having been probate justice of the peace for several years prior to his demise.
Bartholomew McGrath was also an early settler of Morris, and built a number of the first buildings of the place, although he died in 1846.
Business and Philanthropy
James McNellis came here in 1844, building one of the first frame houses of Morris, which he used as a boarding house and saloon. When the canal was opened in 1848, he bought a canal boat and made money transporting grain. He built the first grain elevator of Morris and was one of its heaviest grain dealers for many years. In addition, being truly religious, he erected a four-story brick building on ten acres of land, which he donated to be used as a Catholic school which was the beginning of St. Angela's Convent. He also donated two acres of land for a church building and parsonage and $3,000 in cash. Not confining his contributions to the Catholic Church, he gave $250 to the Congregationalists, $100 to the Presbyterians, $100 to the Baptists and $250 to the Methodists, all of Morris. Another enterprise in which he was interested was a distillery at Aux Sable, near Morris, but he failed in operating it successfully.
Judge Patrick Hynds was another arrival of 1844, a blacksmith by trade, and he built and operated a shop. Later, he was made justice of the peace and still later county judge, first by appointment in 1851 and later by election in 1853. Mahlon P. Wilson arrived in May 1844, and from then on was one of the best coopers Morris has ever had.
Adam Lamb came to Morris as a canal contractor in 1844, and built one of the first stores in the town. The honor of being the first storekeeper is divided between Mr. Lamb and Col. William L. Perce. Both stores were opened for business in 1843, so the first had only a month or so advantage over the other.
Col. William L. Perce held the contract for the erection of the aqueduct across Nettle Creek, and came here in 1845. Colonel Perce opened his store in the American House, placing C.H. Goold as manager. Elijah Walker carried on a boot and shoe business from 1841 until 1856, when he left Morris for Iowa. There were other early settlers of Morris who had an important part to play in the development of the place, but having later moved away, their names are not obtainable.
Morris was not incorporated until August 15, 1850, when an election was held to determine whether or not it was to become a village.
During 1856, Morris secured a charter creating it a city, with a mayor, council, police magistrate and other city officials. F.S. Gardner was the first mayor.
Start of Super Outbreak
Morris was the first town hit by the Super Outbreak
tornado system of April 3-4, 1974. However the damage was relatively minor.
As of the census
of 2000, there were 11,928 people, 4,831 households, and 3,067 families residing in the city. The population density
was 1,734.0 people per square mile (669.4/km²). There were 5,084 housing units at an average density of 739.1/sq mi (285.3/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 95.35% White
, 0.34% African American
, 0.23% Native American
, 0.51% Asian
, 0.03% Pacific Islander
, 2.45% from other races
, and 1.10% from two or more races. Hispanic
of any race were 6.94% of the population.
There were 4,831 households out of which 31.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 50.8% were married couples living together, 9.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 36.5% were non-families. 31.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.40 and the average family size was 3.03.
In the city the population was spread out with 25.0% under the age of 18, 8.7% from 18 to 24, 29.6% from 25 to 44, 20.4% from 45 to 64, and 16.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 95.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.0 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $44,739, and the median income for a family was $54,987. Males had a median income of $44,071 versus $25,206 for females. The per capita income for the city was $22,256. About 5.0% of families and 6.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 7.2% of those under age 18 and 6.7% of those age 65 or over.