Jeremiah Morrow
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The History of Warren County, Ohio

Jeremiah Morrow


Transcription contributed by Arne H Trelvik 27 July 2004

The History of Warren County Ohio
Part III. History of Warren County
Chapter VIII. The Distinguished Dead
(Chicago, IL: W. H. Beers Co, 1882; reprint, Mt. Vernon, IN: Windmill Publications, 1992)


This pioneer and farmer-statesman was born October 6, 1771, in what is now Adams County, then York County, Penn., not far from the place where the great battle of Gettysburg was fought. He was of Scotch-Irish lineage. His

father was a native of Pennsylvania, but his more remote ancestors were Irish by nativity, Scotch by extraction and Covenanters in religion. The name Morrow is a modification of the Scotch surname Murray, an older form of which is Moray, and it is certainly known that in the family of the subject of this sketch the modification was made in this country soon after the middle of the last century. The grandfather of the subject of this memoir, whose Christian name also was Jeremiah, emigrated from Londonderry, Ireland, to America, about the year 1730; he died in 1758, leaving one son and several daughters. His only son, John Morrow, was a farmer and a man of influence in his neighborhood. His name appears in the history of York County as Commissioner in 1791, 1792 and 1793, before the organization of Adams County. He died in 1811, having lived to see his eldest son elected for the fifth time a Member of Congress from the new State of Ohio.

The early instruction Jeremiah received in the local schools did not extend beyond the rudimentary branches of reading, writing and arithmetic; to these, however, he added an acquaintance with some of the higher mathematics and surveying, by attendance, when a young man, for one summer, at a school of a higher order. Perhaps the most important part of his intellectual education was the result of a habit of industriously reading the best books within his reach, which he continued through life. He grew up a young man with a better education that his associates, of robust understanding and a mind stored with a fund of useful information. Without an acquaintance with the rules of technical grammar – the English language not being taught grammatically in the schools of his boyhood – he acquired the power of expressing his thoughts on paper in a style always clear, generally correct, and, while free of rhetorical ornament, sometimes characterized by elegance and grace. This capacity of fully conveying his thoughts, proved, in after life, of incalculable advantage to him, as well while serving as a member of the Legislature in the woods of the Northwest Territory, as when chairman of a committee in the halls of Congress.

In his twenty-fourth year, he determined to seek his fortunes in the Territory Northwest of the Ohio. He arrived at the village of Columbia, now a part of Cincinnati, in the spring of 1795. Remaining here two or three years, he worked at whatever he could find to do in the new settlements; he raised corn on rented ground in the fertile valleys about Columbia; he surveyed land, and, for a short time, taught school. Having determined to located in the Miami country, he contracted with Symmes for the purchase of lands on the Little Miami, about twenty miles in a direct line from its mouth. The purchase price was $1.50 per acre. In the winter of 1796-97, Mr. Morrow, Thomas Espy and John Parkhill, who had determined to settle in the same vicinity, surveyed their lands, enduring the privations of camp life in a wilderness in a winter of unusual severity. On February 19, 1799, Mr. Morrow was married to Miss Mary Parkhill, who was born in Fayette County, Penn., July 8, 1776. They began pioneer life in a log cabin about half a mile from the Little Miami River. The forests around their rude home were almost entirely unbroken; their neighbors were few; the church they attended was at the Mill Creek settlement, twelve miles distant. One day their cabin was destroyed by fire, with every article of household conveniences it contained. The settlers for miles around gathered together not long after, and, in a single day, erected a new house in place of the burned one, constructing it, as all the first homes, of the pioneers were constructed, of round logs, clapboard roof and puncheon floor.

In 1800, Mr. Morrow was first called into public life, being chosen to a seat in the legislature of the Northwest Territory, and attended the session which met at Chillicothe November 23, 1801, and in that body favored the formation of a State government. In 1802, he was a member of the convention

which formed the first constitution of Ohio and was Chairman of the committee which reported the fourth article of the constitution on “Elections and Electors.” In 1803, he was a member of the Senate in the first Legislature of Ohio, and, in June of the same year, was elected the first Representative in Congress from Ohio.

Having resigned his office as State Senator to accept that of Representative in Congress, Mr. Morrow was summoned early in the ensuing autumn to attend a special session of Congress convened by the President, and made the first of sixteen journeys from his home to the national capital to attend the annual sessions of Congress, in as many successive years, all of which he performed on horseback, for almost the entire distance. He took his seat as a member of the Eighth Congress October 17, 1803, the first day of the called session. He continued a Representative in Congress for five successive terms; each time he was a candidate for re-election, leading his opponent by a decided majority. During this period of ten years, he was the only Representative of Ohio in the Lower House of Congress. After the State was divided into six Congressional Districts, he was chosen by the Legislature a United States Senator, for six years, from the 3rd of March, 1813. His election to the highest legislative council in the world was a triumphant one; of eighty-one votes on the joint ballot, he received sixty-three.

During the long period of his uninterrupted service in both Houses of Congress, his course was marked by the most scrupulous and unwearied application in the discharge of his public duties. He was always at his post; he was present on the first day of the session; he attended all the committees to which he was appointed; he was punctual at every place where duty called him. He never acquired distinction by powers of oratory and debate – those showy talents, which, in this country, more than any other, attract and dazzle popular opinion; but he had the capacity of administering public affairs with sound judgment, energy and industry. His talents were useful in the committee room, in drawing up a report, in the presentation of facts and figures and in casting the intelligent vote.

He served as Chairman of the Committee on Public Lands in both Houses of Congress; almost all the laws relating to the survey of the public land domain, during the period he was in Congress, were the productions of his pen; and his opinion on any question connected with the important branch of the public business uniformly commanded the respect of Congress. As he was about to leave the Senate, Senator Crittenden pronounced him the “Palinurus of the Senate in everything that related to this important subject;” and Henry Clay, in his great speech on the Public Lands, in the Senate, twelve years after, thus eulogized his administration of these interests: “No man in the sphere within which he acted ever commanded or deserved the implicit confidence of Congress more than Jeremiah Morrow. A few artless but sensible words, pronounced in his plain Scotch-Irish dialect, were always sufficient to insure the passage of any bill or resolution which he reported.”

His term as United States Senator expired March 3, 1819, and he retired to private life, believing that his public career had closed. He had not sought official station, and had been elected to high offices without any effort on his part; he was now content to retire to the management of his farm and his mill. The next year he was solicited to allow his name to be used as a candidate for Governor; this he felt compelled to declined, as his friend, Gov. Ethan Allen Brown, who was serving his first term as Chief Magistrate, was a candidate for re-election. Before the succeeding election for Governor, he accepted the office of State Commissioner of Canals.

In 1822, he was a candidate for Governor and was elected. His principal

opponent was Allen Trimble, who, before the election, became Acting Governor, on the election of Gov. Brown to the Senate. Questions of national politics seem to have had little influence in this election, some counties casting almost their entire vote for their favorite candidate. Mr. Morrow received a very large majority in the southwestern part of the State, and in the township in which he resided but a single vote was cast against him, and this vote was possibly his own. Two years after he was re-elected. He took the oath of office, and delivered his inaugural address December 28, 1822. So few were the duties devolving upon him, under the constitution he had assisted in framing, that during the four years he held the office of Governor, when the Legislature was not in session, his presence was only occasionally required at the State Capital, and the greater portion of his time was spent on his farm, ninety miles distant from Columbus. The chief themes of his annual messages were the Common School System and Canal Navigation.

The law authorizing the construction of the Ohio State Canals was passed at the same time as the school law, the two measures being carried by a union of the friends of each. Ground was first broken in the construction of the Ohio Canal at Newark, on the 4th of July, 1825. Gov. De Witt Clinton, the distinguished advocate of Canal Improvement, was present, by invitation of the Commissioners, and, after appropriate and imposing ceremonies, Gov. Clinton and Gov. Morrow broke ground at Middletown for the Miami Canal.

In 1825, it became the pleasing duty of Gov. Morrow to welcome La Fayette, the nation’s guest, to Ohio. La Fayette arrived at Cincinnati May 19, 1825, and his formal welcome to Ohio was truly a grand demonstration of popular enthusiasm, in which 50,000 grateful people participated. At midnight, La Fayette embarked on the steamer Herald, for Wheeling, to which place Gov. Morrow accompanied him.

At the October election, succeeding his retirement from the office of Governor, he was unexpectedly elected State Senator from Warren County, to fill a vacancy. In accordance with his rule never to seek nor decline office, he accepted the position, and the next winter occupied a seat in the Legislature. At the Presidential election of 1828, his name was placed at the head of the Adams electoral ticket in Ohio. In 1829, he and Thomas Corwin were elected Representatives, from Warren County, in the Legislature. Being a strong opponent of the policy of the administration of Gen. Jackson, Gov. Morrow represented his Congressional District in the National Republican Convention, which met in Baltimore December 12, 1831, and nominated Henry Clay and John Sargent for President and Vice President; and the next year he headed the electoral ticket in Ohio for these men. The last legislature in which he served was that of 1835-36. This Legislature granted the charter for the Little Miami Railroad, and, for several years following, he devoted much of his time to the enterprise of constructing this, the first railroad in the Miami Valley. He was from the beginning a leading spirit in the work, and the President of the company. Amid all the doubts, delays, discouragements and financial embarrassments under which the road was constructed, his courage never gave way. On July 4, 1839, he laid the corner-stone of the Capital at Columbus. The address he delivered on this occasion has been much admired.

In 1840, he was elected a Member of Congress, to succeed Hon. Thomas Corwin, resigned, and served three years. He was then seventy-two years old. “My old associates,” he said, “are nearly all gone. I am acting with another generation. The courtesies which members formerly extended to one another, are, in a great measure, laid aside, and I feel I am in the way of younger men.”

He declined a re-election, and never consented to be a candidate for a public office again. He declined a seat in the Constitutional Convention, in 1850, saying that “he had assisted in framing one constitution, it was worn out, he was worn out with it. The new one ought to be framed by those who would live under it.” He continued, however, to serve as President of the Board of Trustees of Miami University. His interest continued in the church and in the school until the last. The winter before he died, old as he was, he traveled across the State to attend an educational convention.

His last days were passed in peaceful retirement, in a plain dwelling, on the bank of the Little Miami, not far from the spot where he had built his pioneer cabin. He retained the full possession of his faculties, and was able to use his extensive library or pour out in conversation the rich treasures of his memory, until his last brief illness. He died as he lived – a Christian; he was buried without ostentation, and in a country graveyard a plain tombstone, not larger nor costlier that those around it, marks his resting-place, bearing the simple inscription: “Jeremiah Morrow. Died March 22, 1852, aged 80 years 5 months and 16 days.”

The career of Gov. Morrow was one of the happiest and most pleasing in the history of the West. Building his cabin in the frontier woods, with no ambition but to seek an honest livelihood and do good to those about him, he rose to distinction by the force of his own sound judgment and sterling worth, filled with honor the highest offices in the gift of the people of his State, passed an honored and serene old age in peace and content, and died without a blot on his fair fame.

In person, he was rather below the medium height, strong, compactly built and active, with dark hair and animated eyes. In his dress, he was negligent, but the story of his receiving La Fayette in his working clothes is not true. He had a strong relish for the facetious, and told a story admirably. He never was above labor with his own hands, and, when Governor of Ohio, the Duke of Saxe-Weimar found him on his farm engaged in cutting a wagon pole. With a kind and obliging disposition, he was greatly beloved by his neighbors, yet he could say no with decision when necessary, and would not violate a principle to oblige his best friend. He made it a rule never to become surety of another in a business transaction. He served as President of a railroad without compensation, but he would not help to pay for printing tickets to elect himself to Congress. He disdained to employ a public position for private ends. The friend of Jefferson, Madison, Monroe and the younger Adams, and the supporter of their administrations, he never sought or secured an office or a contract for any of his relatives. Long at the head of the Public Land System, he never engaged in land speculation, and died in possession of a little more than a competency.

Judge M’Lean on Gov. Morrow.

The writer believes that he cannot better conclude this sketch than by quoting Justice John McLean’s estimate of Gov. Morrow, as given in a letter to Robert F. Adair, of Kentucky, dated at Cincinnati August 10, 1852. McLean and Morrow were well acquainted. They lived in the same county for several years, and boarded at the same house in Washington, McLean being a Representative and Morrow a Senator:

Gov. Morrow was an extraordinary man. He was not classically educated, but he had read much and reflected much on what he had read and observed. He was modest and retiring, and seemed not to appreciate his own talents. No man was firmer in matters of principle, and on these, as indeed in matter of detail, he always maintained himself with great ability. His mind was sound and discriminating. No man in Congress who served with him had a sounder


John Perrine
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judgment. His opinions on great questions were of more value, and were more appreciated in high quarters, than the opinions of many others, whose claims of statesmanship and oratory were much higher than his. Mr. Jefferson had great reliance in him, and Mr. Gallatin gave him, in every respect, the highest evidence of his confidence.

“There never sat in Congress a man more devoted to the public interests, and of a fairer or more elevated morality. He was noted for his industry and strict attention to the interests committed to him. Though a decided friend and supporter of the administrations of Jefferson and Madison, he never cast an aspersion upon his political opponents. He was firm in his party views and action, but his opponents were treated courteously, and he never failed to command their respect and confidence. He enjoyed wit in a high degree, and his mind was well stored with the actions and sayings of distinguished men with whom, in the course of his long service, he became acquainted. His memory was tenacious, and, although his utterance was slow, his remarks in conversation and in speaking were characterized by strong sense. He was a most interesting companion. It is believed that no one ever doubted his integrity or candor.

“Rufus King, Henry Clay and every leading member of Congress, esteemed him most highly. He bore his honors so meekly that no one envied his high reputation. As little selfishness could be found in him as in any other human being. In his last session in Congress, he found that he belonged to the past age – an age where the leading men were generally, if not universally, possessed of high talent and of a noble patriotism, which gave elevation to the action of their country. He had not kept up with the progress of Young America. he was a stranger to the spoils systems, and knew nothing of those impulses which a hope of public plunder produces. He felt no desire to prolong a service which in former years had deeply interested him, but had become irksome and disgusting. he carried to his retirement melancholy forebodings of the future.

“It will be a most happy thing for the country if our young politicians should form their principles by such a model as Jeremiah Morrow. This would bring back the Government to its old way-marks, and make it what it was intended to be, a government of the people. It would dispense with the machinery now used, not so much for the good of the country as for the success of a party.

Mr. Morrow, early in life, became a member of the Associate Reformed Church, and his whole life was consistent with this profession. His unassuming manner and fine sense invited the confidence and affection of all his acquaintances. He was impelled by a nature upright, noble and generous. His acquaintances carried with them, form every interview with him, some new thought or fact worthy of being remembered. He lived more than eighty years. His end was peaceful, as the end of such a life ever must be.”

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This page created 27 July 2004 and last updated 25 November, 2008
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