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JUDGE JAMES MORRISON

 

 

 

The following was taken from Early reminiscences of Indianapolis : with short biographical sketches of its early citizens, and a few of the prominent business men of the present day by John H. B. Nowland Indianapolis : Sentinel Book and Job Print. House, 1870, pages 212-216.

Compliments of David F. James

 

 

 

     It is when I attempt to write a fitting tribute to the memory of such a man as Judge Morrison, that I feel the magnitude of the task I have undertaken, and my incompetency to hand down to posterity and future generations, that they may have a proper appreciation of his great legal ability, and his many moral and social virtues.
     My acquaintance with Judge Morrison began when I was a boy, and before he had reached the noonday of life.  Forty years ago I was often his fishing companion upon the banks of White River and Fall Creek, he angling for the fine black bass with which those streams abounded at that time, and I for the tiny minnow he used for bait.
     He was a great smoker, and carried a tinder-box for the purpose of lighting his cigars (this was before such a thing as locofoco matches was thought of).  I have often been attracted to his place of concealment on the banks of these streams by the clatter of his tinder-box, or the curling smoke from his fragrant Havana, rising above the bushes.  This was when the vanities of sorry conceits of the world were strangers to me, and when my youthful spirit had known but little of the evils of this inconstant world.
It was upon the banks of these streams that I learned much of the true dignity of character he possessed, and before either of us thought we would ever bear the relation of attorney and client to each other, which we did for years afterwards.
     Although my hair is now silvered o'er, and my brow bears the marks of time, I have not outlived the memory of those happy days in the early history of this city; the days of so much enjoyment that I passed when a boy, and the reflection of whose pleasures linger with me yet.
     In the "Indianapolis Journal" of the 22d of March, 1869, I find the following announcement of his demise:

     "The early settlers of the State, and the founders of our city are dropping off in such close succession that we are warned of the near approach of the time when all shall have passed away, and the birth of Indianapolis have ceased to be a memory to any, and faded into history.  Since the beginning of the year two have left us, and in the last decade they far outnumber the years.  We cannot think but with profound sorrow of the inevitable hours when all the names so long identified with our prosperity and honored as the links that still bind the present to the past, have ceased to speak a living presence, and to offer a living example of beauty, of goodness, and a well spent life."
     "Among all that have left such sad vacancies, no one has filled a more prominent place than the Hon. James Morrison; though for some years his failing strength and feeble health have secluded him from active life, his presence has been felt, his existence has been an influence, and his death is not so much the end of a flickering light as the extinguishment of a gleam that leaves darkness in its place"
     "He died on Saturday evening, the 20th instant, of pneumonia, after an illness of several days"

     From the "Indianapolis Sentinel" of the same date, I copy as follows:

     "Judge Morrison was born in Ayrshire, Scotland, the birth place of Robert Burns, in the year 1796.  His parents came to this country when he was quite young, and settled at Bath, in Western New York.  He studied his profession with Judge William B. Rochester, a distinguished jurist of that State, and when admitted to the bar he emigrated to Indiana and located in Charleston, Clark County, where he practiced law for many years with the late Judge Dewey, who was one of the truly great men of the nation."
     "He remained in Charleston about ten years, and a gentleman who knew him during his residence there, says his devotion to his family (he was the oldest son) was most remarkable, and that he was their main reliance."
     "In the winter of 1828-29, he was elected Secretary of State by the Legislature, and removed to this city, then a town of 1,100 inhabitants, January 1st, 1829.  Subsequently he filled the offices of Judge of this Judicial Circuit, President of the State Bank for ten years, succeeding Samuel Merrill, Esq., Attorney General, the first to fill that office, and other trusts of less importance.  So high an appreciation had the members of the bar for his qualifications for the judgeship, that they presented him with five hundred dollars to induce him to take it."
     "Of the Clark County bar he leaves but two survivors, we believe, Judge Thompson, now in the city, and Judge Naylor of Crawfordsville."
     "Of the Indianapolis bar of 1829, the year he became connected with it, he was, as we recollect, the last, not one now left.  Harvey Gregg, William Quarles, Hiram Brown, Henry P. Coburn, B. F. Morris, Andrew Ingram, Samuel Merrill, Calvin Fletcher and William W. Wick, who were his associates then, all passed away before he was called to his final rest."
     "As we call the familiar names of those so prominent in the early history of the bar of Indianapolis, the convulsive throbs of many hearts will attest their worth and the appreciation with which their memories are still cherished.  Yet the sadness with which we recur to the ties of early associations, and the early friendship of the past thus served, will give place to the eheering thought that those endearing ties will be renewed, refined and strengthened in the new life upon which they have already entered."
     "Judge Morrison was also identified with the history of the church in this city;  he was one of the first class that was confirmed here about thirty years ago, and the rite was administered by the now venerable Bishop Kemper, of Wisconsin, who was then Missionary Bishop of the Northwest.  For twenty-five years he was Senior Warden of Christ Church, in this city, and since the organization of St. Paul's Church he has filled the same office in that parish.  He was educated a Presbyterian, but became a Churchman after thorough investigation, and remained so with steadfastness through life."
     "Judge Morrison was a man of decided convictions, strong prejudices, with fixed habits that only physical inability could change or overcome.  He had opinions upon all subjects and questions to which his attention was directed, and, as would be expected from his peculiar mental organization, they were always positive even to ultraism.  His thoroughly a lawyer.  His eminent talents and active mind were peculiarly adaptd to the profession in which he attained such high reputation, only yielding active participation in it when compelled to surrender to the great enemy of man.  He was learned and profound, and had thoroughly mastered the science of law."
     "As a husband and father Judge Morrison was affectionate, devoted and indulgent, and he leaves a wife, sons and daughters who will, through life, cherished the memory of his many virtues and unfailing affection and kindness."

     I cannot add more than I have said in the beginning of this sketch, and what is said in these Extract from the "Journal" and "Sentinel," announcing his death.

"Friend after friend departs;
Who hath not lost a friend?
There is no union here of hearts
That finds not here an end."

 

 

 

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