Lee County Biography

Nathaniel G.H. Morrill
Dixon


This name is widely known and honored throughout Lee and adjoining counties as that of a prominent pioneer of this part of Illinois, who was long and intimately associated with the rise and growth of Dixon. For nearly half a century he made this city his home,a nd was a conspicuous figure in the annals of the city from that day, for back in its past history, when first he settled within its boders, until death stayed his busy hands and stilled his active brain, while nature all around him was awakening into renewed life that seemed to whisper in every spring breeze of the life immortal, in which he had such abiding faith.

Mr. Morrill was born October 6, 1808 in Massachusetts, a son of Joseph MOrrill, who is supposed to have been a native of the old Bay State. He was there married, and when our subject was in his childhood removed with his family to Contocook, NH where he and his wife passed his remaining days on a farm, and died when full of years. Our subject grew to manhood on that pleasant New England farm set among the eternal hills of the Granite State. He early displayed a mechanical genius, which was cultivated, and he became very skilful in that line. He was in due time married, but having the misfortune to lose his wife after a brief wedded life of a few years duration, the year following her death he decided to try life on the frontier, and in 1838 came to Illinois,which was then regarded as in the far West, being accompanied on his journey by his younger brother, Jacob, and by the families of John Lord, S.S. Crowell and Gilbert Messer.

Dixon was then scarcely more than a hamlet, and in the years that followed, Mr. Morrill became prominent as a mechanic and contractor who was very active in the upbuilding of the city, and there are many buildings still standing within the precincts that attest to his skill and ability. The old stone schoolhouse wherein a generation now passing off the stage of action, received the rudiments of an English education forty years ago, was the joint handiwork of himself and John Brown; and nearly all the old residences and public buildings in the city bear evidence to his craft. He built the first bridge accross the river at this point, and did efficient work in the the construction of the dam.

A fine stroke of policy prompted Mr. Morrill to build at his own expense a wagon bridge connecting that part of Dixon with the rich agricultural districts of Palmyra Township. The bridge is now defunct, but for a time it secured the trade of that section for that part of the city. One of his memorials is that portion of Dixon known as Morrilltown, which he laid out when the Illinois Central Railway was constructed through there. He also built the large hotel on Water Street, which has been used for other purposes for a good many years. In connection with his extensive business as a contractor, he ran the North Side saw-mill for a number of years, it being the only one then in operation in this section of the country.

For some years in the early history of DIxon, Mr. Morrill was Constable, an office that was by no means a sinecure in those days, and he vigorously aided in bringing outlaws to justice. He was the means of suppressing much counterfeiting in this section of the country when it was new, and also helped run down several noted horse thieves, including the famour trio, Fox, Baker and Rogers.

Not alone with the material welfare of his adopted city did our subject concern himself, but he was deeply solicitious to advance its moral, educational and religious status, and was a promoter of all schemes that tended to the spiritual uplifting of the people. He was generous almost to a fault, his benevolent principles being vital with him, and his unostentatious benefactions were scattered far and wide. his features are said to have borne a remarkable semblance to the rugged but benevolent face of old John Brown, of Harpers Ferry fame.

For many years, Mr. Morrill held strongly to the Universalist faith, and was the prime mover in the construction of the church of that denomination which is one of the large public odifices of the city, and giving liberally of his money toward its erection. He afterward,however, renounced Universalism, finding himself more in sympathy with the doctrines of the Methodist Episcopal Church with which he connected himself for a time. But that change did not satisfy his religious nature, and he shortly after embraced the Spiritual philosophy, and to that he clung with all the fervor of his being until death drew aside for him the vail that separates the visible from the invisible world, and he stepped across the border May 12, 1886, into "his father's house, where there are many mansions."

Mr. Morrill was twice married. His first marriage which took place before he left New Hampshire, was with Miss Eliza Giles, who was born and reared in that State, as were her parents also. Their wedded life was terminated by the untimely death of the young life in 1837. She left two children, one a babe that soon followed her. The other is Susan, wife of Dr. McKinney of Deadwood, N.Dak.

The maiden name of our subjects second wife, to whom he was married in Dixon, and who survives him, was Caroline Meyers. She was to him all that a true wife can be. She assisted and encouraged him in his work, and sympathized with him in his religious views, finding strength and consolation in Spiritualism, and accepting that faith with him while he was in the earth life. SInce his death she has conducted the business that he left with remarkable success, displaying a genuine talent for managing affairs. In 1888 she moved to the farm on Section 17, South Dixon Township, which comprises a quarter-section of well-improved land, and which came into Mr. Morrill's possession before his death.

Mrs. Morrill was born in the Kingdom of Hanover Germany, December 26, 1818. Her father, Christian Meyers, was also a Hanoverian by birth, and was of German parentage. He was preparing to come to America when death terminated his career, when he was only about 30 years of age. He was an active young farmer. He had married Miss Dorothea Dunkelmeyer, who was of German antecedents, and five children had been born to them. After the sad death of the father, the mother came to the US with four of her children in 1832 and settled in Chicago before the completion of the old Lake House, when the Worlds' Fair City was a mere hamlet lying in the mud and swamps of the early years of its settlement. She removed with her family to Dixon in June, 1838, and here died April 15, 1872, when nearly 84 years old. She was a devoted Christian, and all her life was connected with the Lutheran Church, in which her husband also held membership while he lived.

Mrs. Morrill is the mother of seven children of whom these five are now dead; Joseph, who married Miss Lydia Hayes, and died leaving one child, who is with her in Dixon; Mary, who married Harry Meyers, and both died in Leadville, leaving one child, CHarles M. who now lives in New mexico; Lucy; Jacob, and an infant, all of whom died young. The two children remaining to Mrs. Morrill are Elizabeth and Eliza. The former married Seth Thomas, a farmer near Dixon, and they have six children. Eliza married Everett Post, and they live on and manage a farm belonging to her mother. They have seven children.

1892 Portrait and Biographical Record Lee Co Pg 329

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