Historical Collections of the Great Lakes
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J. S. Morton Collection - GLMS 58
The J. S. Morton Collection contains photocopied material made from original items in the possession of the Federation of Women's Clubs in St. Joseph, Michigan, the administrators of the Morton House in Benton Harbor, Michigan. The copying was performed in 1985.
The Historical Collections of the Great Lakes' collection may be reproduced for scholarly purposes and literary rights are dedicated to the public.
Processing of this one cubic foot collection was completed in January 1994 by Mark. J. Barnes.
J. Stanley Morton was born September 16, 1850, in Benton Harbor, Michigan, and died in the same city on October 1, 1936. The Morton family was an early arrival in the history of Berrien County, Michigan. Eleazer Morton, grandfather of J. S. Morton, arrived from Syracuse, New York in the late 1840s. By 1849 the house that held four generations of Mortons at what became the intersection of Territorial Road and Hull Street was under construction. J. S. Morton's parents, Henry C. Morton and Josephine Stanley Morton, expanded the house into the form that survives today. J. S. Morton lived most of his life in this house except for a few brief childhood years in Toledo, Ohio, and a short period before his marriage when he lived in another Benton Harbor house.
Morton married Carrie Heath in June 1871. Four children were born to the Mortons, but only two survived infancy. Raymond and Will lived to adulthood but died before their parents.
The primary commercial achievement of J. S. Morton was his co-founding and administering of the Graham and Morton Company shipping firm. Morton began his own steamship company in 1874 with one vessel that carried freight between Benton Harbor and Chicago. In 1875 Morton entered a partnership that formed the Graham and Morton Company. The growth of the fruit industry in southwestern Michigan provided Morton with the opportunity to expand his company with profits from shipments to the large consumer market of Chicago. The Graham and Morton Company was successful until a series of unfortunate events in 1914 and 1915, along with increased competition from trucks, placed the company in financial distress.
A heavy investment in new dock facilities and the purchase of the CITY OF GRAND RAPIDS required significant income to offset these expenses. The summer of 1915 was unusually cool. This event coupled with the deaths of hundreds of people on the Graham and Morton Company vessel EASTLAND at Chicago sent revenues plummeting as bookings failed to materialize. Over the next decade the Graham and Morton Company was in receivership several times.
A merger with the Goodrich Company of Chicago was completed in an effort to combat the growth of trucking companies that captured larger shares of the produce traffic headed for Chicago. Unfortunately, the Goodrich portion of the new company quickly went into receivership. A series of auctions followed in the 1920s and 1930s that brought an end to the Graham and Morton fleet after more than fifty years of shipping service.
J. S. Morton retired at the age of 75 but remained active in Benton Harbor civic activities. Morton was a mason and was involved in numerous fundraising projects in his community. At his death, numerous friends eulogized Morton as a community leader and valued contributor to the economic growth of southwestern Michigan.
This one cubic foot collection contains photocopies of original items in the possession of the Federation of Women's Clubs in St. Joseph, Michigan. Collection material dates from 1884 to 1951.
The principal item in the collection is J. S. Morton's diary for the years 1920-1932. The diary is contained in twenty-six of the thirty-one folders in the collection. The entries reflect Morton's interest in the shipping commerce of Benton Harbor-St. Joseph, Michigan area. Vessel schedules are noted. Comments on the business conditions in the Great Lakes are recorded.
Morton's community is described in three publications related to the Benton Harbor-St. Joseph, Michigan region and the commercial interests in the Graham and Morton company.
A scrapbook on Morton's life provides biographical information and details on the Graham and Morton Company. Many of the Graham and Morton vessels appear in the photographs in the scrapbook.
News clippings from 1912 describe the launching and maiden voyage of the popular steamer CITY OF GRAND RAPIDS that was part of the Graham and Morton fleet.
Series contains a diary maintained by J. S. Morton. The diary is a photocopy of the original owned by the Federation of Women's Clubs in St. Joseph, Michigan. Entries usually include weather observations followed by brief comments on events of each day. Arrivals of vessels in Benton Harbor and St. Joseph, Michigan are noted. Observations on business matters and personal appointments appear frequently. Entries focus on shipping matters rather than on other events. Entries at the time of the 1929 stock market crash, for example, make no mention of the event but do note the inquiry into the foundering of the WISCONSIN.
1915, 1951, n.d.
Series contains photocopies of publications on the history of the St. Joseph-Benton Harbor, Michigan area. The material in Reminiscences of the Lower St. Joseph River Valley was written by Morton. Benton Harbor: Memories of the Michigan Fruit Belt, published by M. W. Alger, and a Graham and Morton fleet list were not written by Morton.
SCRAPBOOKS AND SCRAPBOOK MATERIALS
Series contains photocopies of clippings regarding J. S. Morton and the Benton Harbor, Michigan area. Biographical information on the Morton family is included in obituary material following the 1936 death of J. S. Morton. Clippings other than biographical in nature reflect the commercial activities in the port facilities of Benton Harbor and St. Joseph, Michigan. Numerous photographs of vessels from the Graham and Morton Company are included. The pages are numbered but not placed in chronological order.
Series contains news clippings from Grand Rapids, Michigan newspapers regarding the launching, christening and maiden voyage of the CITY OF GRAND RAPIDS in March-June 1912.
- Diary, January-June 1920
- Diary, July-December 1920
- Diary, January-June 1921
- Diary, July-December 1921
- Diary, January-June 1922
- Diary, July-December 1922
- Diary, January-June 1923
- Diary, July-December 1923
- Diary, January-June 1924
- Diary, July-December 1924
- Diary, January-June 1925
- Diary, July-December 1925
- Diary, January-June 1926
- Diary, July-December 1926
- Diary, January-June 1927
- Diary, July-December 1927
- Diary, January-June 1928
- Diary, July-December 1928
- Diary, January-June 1929
- Diary, July-December 1929
- Diary, January-June 1930
- Diary, July-December 1930
- Diary, January-June 1931
- Diary, July-December 1931
- Diary, January-June 1932
- Diary, July-December 1932
- Benton Harbor: The Metropolis of the Michigan Fruit Belt, 1915
- Graham and Morton fleet list in Detroit Marine Historian, July-August 1951
- Reminiscences of the Lower St. Joseph River Valley, n.d.
- Scrapbook, ca. 1884-1941
- Clippings, 1912
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