HON EDMUND N MORRILL
More than forty-three years have passed since the Hon. Edmund N. Morrill came to Kansas, and through the intervening period his name has figured conspicuously in connection with the annals of the commonwealth. He has been prominent in the business affairs of the state, his name being widely known in banking circles, while in public life he has been an important element in moulding the policy of Kansas. It is a well attested fact that the greatness of the state lies not in its machinery of government nor even in its institutions, but in the sterling qualities of its individual citizens and their capacity for high and unselfish effort and their devotion to the public good. The goal toward which Major Morrill aimed during his many years of toil and endeavor is that which is attained only by such as have by patriotism and wise counsel given to the world the impetus toward the good; such having the right and title to have their names enduringly inscribed on the bright pages of history. The highest honors within the gift of the people have been conferred upon him, and in all public relations he has commanded universal respect ever placing the state and national welfare before partisanship and the best interests of his fellow men before self-aggrandizement.
Major Morrill was born in Westbrook, Cumberland county, Maine, on the 12th of February, 1834. which was the birthday of President Lincoln. He is of English lineage, the Morrill family having been founded in America by three brothers of that name who emigrated from England in 1620 and thereby became pioneer settlers of the new world. His father, Rufus Morrill, was born in Maine, in 1796, and was a tanner and currier by trade, which business he followed for many years. He was chosen as one of the selectmen of the town and was an influential citizen. He married Miss Mary Webb, a native of Maine, and also of English descent. Her father was Edward Webb, one of the valiant soldiers of the Revolutionary war.
Edmund N. Morrill spent his bovhood days in his native town and acquired his education there, pursuing his studies in Westbrook Seminary. He afterward learned the tanner's trade and subsequently became identified with educational interests, serving as supervisor of the schools of Westbrook for one year. In 1856 he was elected a member of the school board of the town for a term of three years, but at the end of one year resigned to go to Kansas, and while serving in that capacity he examined and granted a teacher's certificate to a young and healthy looking man, named Thomas B. Reed, who was for many years a member of congress and the honorable speaker of the house of representatives. Early in 1857, when twenty-three years of age, Mr. Morrill came to Kansas, locating in Brown county, a few miles west of Hiawatha, where, in connection with other parties from Maine, he founded the town which they called Hamlin, in honor of one of Maine's United States senators, subsequently vice-president of the United States. Mr. Morrill secured a claim of one hundred and sixty acres and when the land came into market purchased the tract from the government at the usual price of one dollar and twenty-five cents per acre, and there purchased a saw mill and engaged in the manufacture of native lumber, successfully operating the mill for four months, at the end of which time it was destroyed by fire. He rebuilt and operated it for three years.
At the outbreak of the Civil war Mr. Morrill became a pronounced Union man and October 5, 1861, believing that his duty was at the front, he enlisted as a private in Company C, Seventh Kansas Cavalry, under command of Colonel Jenneson. On the 10th of October, of the same year, he was promoted to the rank of sergeant and on the 9th of August following he was commissioned commissary of subsistence at Rienzi, Mississippi, by President Lincoln. He was with General Grant at Corinth and at the expiration of his service he held the rank of major by brevet. He was mustered out on general order October 26, 1865, and returned home with an honorable military record, for he had ever been faithful to the duties imposed upon him and loyal to the old flag.
Returning to Hiawatha, Kansas, Major Morrill was appointed to fill a vacancy in the position of clerk of Brown county and in the fall of that year was elected to the office, in which he served for three terms. This, however, was not the beginning of his public service, for in October, 1857, he had been chosen a member of the territorial legislature, the first free state legislature of Kansas. While a member of that body he submitted the able report in favor of forming a state comprising a great portion of the present state of Kansas and that portion of Nebraska south of the Platte river, but the scheme failed because there were too many ambitious politicians and towns in both territories. In 1858 he was elected a member of the legislature under the Lecompton constitution. Again in the fall of 1872 he was chosen to represent his district in the senate chamber of the state, being elected a member of the upper house, where he served until 1874. In 1876 he was re-elected and served until 1874. He was chosen speaker, pro tem, of the senate and served on the ways and means committee, the most important committee in that body. In 1882 he was nominated on the Republican ticket and elected to congress as one of the four members from the state at large, and in 1884, 1886 and 1888 he was re-elected as a member of the first district. In 1890 he declined re-election, preferring to devote his energies to his business interests. As a member of congress he was industrious and laborious, and for several terms was a leading working member of the pensions committee, and during his last term was chairman of the committee on invalid pensions. In that capacity he introduced what is known as the dependent pension and disability act, which has proven a great blessing to many old soldiers. In 1891 he was selected by congress as a member of the board of managers of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers. His party nominated him for governor and he was elected in November, 1894, receiving the unanimous support of his party. His administration was progressive and under his leadership many needed reforms were secured. Again in 1896 he received the unanimous support of the Republicans of Kansas, but was defeated by the Populist party.
During all these years Mr. Morrill was prominently connected with the business interests of Hiawatha and also extended the field of his labors in the other districts. In 1871, in company with W. B. Barnett and C. H. Janes, he organized a bank in Hiawatha, the firm conducting business under the name of the Barnett-Morrill Company. In 1886 the business was incorporated as the State Bank and Mr. Morrill was made president, which position he has since filled with marked ability. The high reputation which the bank enjoys is largely due to his efforts, his conservative and honorable methods commending the institution to the confidence and regard of all. He was also president of the First National Bank of Leavenworth, Kansas, and a member of its directorate, and is likewise a member of the board of directors of the International Bank of Kansas City.
On the 27th of November, 1862, Mr. Morrill was united in marriage to Miss Elizabeth A. Brettun,of Leavenworth, daughter of William H. Brettun. She died in September, 1868, and on Christmas day of 1869 the Major was again married, his second union being with Miss Caroline J. Nash, of Boston, Massachusetts, in which place she was born and educated. By this marriage there are three children, namely: Susan B., wife of Cornelius Baker, of Rochester, New York, by whom she has two children, Dorothy and Helen. Grace W., wife of Charles Dixon, of Junction City, Kansas, president of the Dixon Livestock Commission Company, of Kansas City, by whom she has two children, Edmund M. and Carolyn; and Frank N., who was graduated in Harvard College with the class of 1898, and will complete the law course in that institution with the class of 1900.
Major Morrill is president of the board of trustees of Hiawatha Academy and the cause of education finds in him a friend. He is prominent in Masonic circles, has attained the Knight Temphar degree and has been connected with the fraternity for thirty-six years. His honorable, straightforward conduct and his incorruptible integrity in all the walks of life has commanded universal respect and confidence. He has gained an eminent position in business and political circles by reason of his fitness for leadership, his fidehity to trusts reposed in him, and his record is one over which there falls no shadow of wrong. A mind carefully disciplined, analytical and of broad ken, his deep perception, sound judgment make him a power in any field of labor where he is found.