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BIOGRAPHY and GENEALOGY
(1818 – 1891)
Josiah Morris was born May 26, 1818, on the Eastern Shore, Maryland to Jeptha and Eliza A. (White) Morris, both natives of Maryland. “He was a strikingly handsome gentleman; nervous, yet always suave and graceful in manner; scrupulously well dressed after the fashion of a businessman, and with small outward evidence that the weight of sixty-eight years is given him to bear. His figure was yet erect, his step elastic, and countenance alive to every passing interest.”
Morris was preparing for college in his native state when an unanticipated change of circumstances brought him to the far South. First, he came to Columbus, Ga., and entered the employment of a mercantile house, then a lad of fifteen years. “Arriving at the duties of manhood he engaged in merchandising and the cotton trade, as was then the custom in the interior towns of the Cotton States.
After nineteen years of residence and business occupation in Columbus, Mr. Morris, in his thirty-fourth year, the year 1852, went to New Orleans to enter the greatest cotton trade of the Union. There he followed his chosen course with distinguished success for four years.”
In 1856 Mr. Morris moved to Montgomery, Alabama to devote his whole attention to private banking. “His conservative course never varied to admit any kind of speculation. The bankers of Montgomery advanced large sums to cotton planters to make their crops in spring and summer, and large sums to cotton brokers to move the cotton bales stored in the warehouses of the city in the fall and winter. The number of bales stored is about 120,000 annually. The value of the crop of each year is about $6,000,000. The banks of the city handled most of this, and a sum equally great, representing the trade of the merchants in farm supplies with the cotton planters only.”
Mr. Morris married, in his twenty-sixth year, to Miss Elizabeth Harvey, a native of Georgia.
They had one daughter, who married a Dr. B. J. Baldwin, a young physician of Montgomery. He was the nephew of one of the most widely known physicians of the South, Dr. William O. Baldwin, of Montgomery.
“The family of Mr. Morris was active members of St. John’s Protestant Episcopal Church. They lived without ostentation, but in style of home life becoming to the large fortune he has accumulated.
Mr. Morris was the organizer of the Elyton Land Company. His perfect acquaintance with the agricultural conditions, before and after the revolution of 1860, in the magnificent agricultural country for which Montgomery was the distributing center, taught him to appreciate fully the new and timely opportunity, opened to capitalists by the railroads about to cross each other in Jones Valley, for founding an iron manufacturing city at the crossing.”
“At the suggestion of John T. Milner, Chief Engineer and General Manager of one of those roads, the South & North, Mr. Morris came forward and took up the options placed by J. C. Stanton, Superintendent of the other road, the Alabama & Chattanooga, before known as the North-East & South-West, when it became known that Mr. Stanton’s financial inability had disappointed his own expectations, leaving him unequal to close his land trades.”
Besides his large interest in the Elyton Land Company’s stock, Mr. Morris owned valuable real estate in the city.
“Mr. Morris displayed wisdom, sagacity, and courage of the highest order when alone, and surrounded by the doubt and dismay of the times, he came forward in 1866-67 to pledge his faith in the future of the city to be founded.
The bank of Josiah Morris & Co. was an essential aid to the State of Alabama in its efforts to rectify great financial errors of management in the period of revolution from 1866 to 1876.
In association with others, he secured for Montgomery the location of the State Agricultural and Horticultural Fair, by donating to the Association which manages it the splendid grounds, some forty acres, necessary for the buildings and race tracks.
Mr. Josiah Morris died March 9, 1891, and is buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Montgomery, Alabama.
- Jefferson County and Birmingham, Alabama: Historical and Biographical, 1887 By John Witherspoon DuBose Southern Historical Press
- Findagrave.com # 62405884 # 62405861
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