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John N. Morton


Posted By: Fran Hunt, Volunteer
Date: 10/3/2001 at 11:08:45

From the Portrait and Biographical Album of Jefferson and Van Buren Counties – 1890 County
We take great pleasure in presenting to the readers of the album this sketch of the life work of Mr. Morton, a prominent merchant and farmer of Keosauqua Iowa. He was born in Windsor County Vermont, July 30, 1832, and is a son of John Morton. His father was born in Wellington North Carolina, in 1795, of English parentage, and when a lad of eleven years he shipped as a cabin boy on a vessel loaded with sugar for St Petersburg. During the voyage the ship was wrecked in the Baltic Sea and the greater part of the crew was lost, but Mr. Morton, with a few others succeeded in gaining land. For a time he then remained with a Dutch farmer, but the spirit of adventure was strong within him, and tiring of the dull routine of that life he again boarded a vessel and followed the sea until twenty-two years of age. About 1817, landing at Cape Cod, he there found a party of emigrants en route for Vermont, and joining the colony he located at Weathersfield, where he became acquainted with and married Miss Silence Ranney. The following year he removed to Rochester Vermont where the death of Mrs. Morton occurred in 1820. He afterward wedded Miss Polly Morgan, a native of the Green Mountain State, and by their union were born five children, who lived to mature years, namely: Silence R., who became the wife of Milton Packard, and is now deceased; Emeline, wife of G.L. Chaffee, of Rochester Vermont; John N., of this sketch; Mary E., wife of B.F. Hackett, of Appanoose County Iowa; and Calista F., wife of Henry Moss of Butte City Montana. The father of this family died in 1870; and his wife died in 1888.
Our subject spent the days of his boyhood and youth in the state of his nativity, where he acquired a good English education in the common and select schools. Studious by nature, and possessing a retentive memory, he soon mastered the common branches, and at the age of eighteen embarked in teaching, being employed at West Rochester, where he received $10 per month and “boarded ‘round,” in the manner common at that day. Having thereby acquired some funds, the following winter he entered the Bethel Lympus School, but before the term had expired his health gave way, and for nearly a year he was confined to his bed. As soon as he had partially regained his strength he entered the story of Briggs & Price as a salesman, remaining with that firm eight months, after which he was employed in that same capacity in what was known as the “Union Store,” for three years, at $75 per year. It was in 1856 that Mr. Morton came west in search of health and fortune on the broad prairies of the Mississippi Valley. He first made a location in Galesburg Illinois, and secured a position in an establishment where thirteen clerks were employed, but he being the newcomer was forced to bear all the drudgery, and had to give up the position as his constitution was not able to bear the strain thus placed upon it. He then resolved to seek his friend, Dr. Guernsey, who was living in Van Buren County Iowa. He made his way by rail to Mt Pleasant, then the terminus of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Road, and by stage proceeded to Keosauqua arriving at his destination in 1856. The first night in Van Buren County he spent under the roof of James Shepherd one of the early settlers, who kept a hotel or public house.
The following day Mr. Morton sought out his friend, and by the succeeding Saturday had made a permanent location in Van Buren County, having secured the position of teacher of the school in what was known as the Joseph Moore district. After teaching through the winter season, in the spring of 1857 he embarked in the mercantile business, opening a small general store in Lebanon. In January of 1858, he came to Keosauqua, where he formed a partnership with Mr. Gaines, the connection continuing until the fall of the same year, when they sold out. The same autumn Mr. Morton purchased a stock of drugs, and formed a partnership with Dr. Guernsey, they continuing business together until the spring of 1866, when Mr. Morton purchased his partner’s interest, and has since been alone. As time has passed he has added different departments to his store, and now has one of the largest general stores in the city. Since 1858 he has been connected with the mercantile interests of Keosauqua, and throughout the county is widely and favorable known as a man of sterling worth, upright and honorable in all of his dealings. His courteous treatment and desire to please his customers has secured for him a liberal patronage, and the establishment of which he is the head, ranks among the leading business interests of the community.
In the fall of 1865, in Bridgewater Vermont, Mr. Morton was united in marriage with Miss Emma V. White, daughter of Gilbert and Viola White, who were residents of that place. They are members of the Congregational Church, and occupy a high position in the social world. Mr. Morton may truly be called a self made man, as his success is due entirely to his own efforts. His life may well serve as an example to young men who like himself, has had to enter the world with no capital, save the talents with which nature has endowed them with. It may well encourage them to renewed efforts when reverses overtake them, and like a beacon star in the sky of the future point the way to success. As to all, reverses came to him, but by a determined will, industry and enterprise he overcame such disadvantages and worked his way upward to a position of affluence, and through all his honor has remained unsullied, and no one in the community stands higher in the estimation of his fellow citizens that does J. N. Morton of Keosauqua.
I am not related, and am only copying this for the information of those who might find this person in their family.


Van Buren Biographies maintained by Rich Lowe.
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