Van Buren County
Also see [Railway Officials in America 1906]
DOLPHIN MORRIS was the oldest son of Samuel and Rebecca Morris, and was born in Loudoun Co., Va., Aug. 16, 1798.
When but a small boy his parents moved to Ross Co., Ohio. His edution was confined to what a youth could learn
in about four or six weeks. He learned the alphabet and to write his signature, though not a very legible hand.
However, in after years he learned to read, and took great comfort in reading his Bible and the newspapers. When
he was twenty one years old, in company with a number of other young men, he started on a voyage down the Mississippi
River, on a boat laden with corn and bacon, bound for New Orleans, then a small town. Before reaching their destination
the boat grounded, and remained so for several days. The company becoming impatient, decided to undertake the journey
on foot, so they (fourteen in number) provided themselves with cooking utensils, blankets, and a limited supply
of provisions, thinking to accomplish the journey in a few days. But after several days’ hard travel through forests,
marshes, and streams, they began to get discouraged. As their supply of provisions was growing less every day,
and no means of replenishing, they abandoned the idea of reaching the city, and concluded to turn their steps homeward
as best they could, with but a small amount of money and no guide. The undertaking was a perilous one. Their supply
was soon exhausted, or supposed to be. It turned Out that Morris and two of his companions had each a biscuit,
which they cut into fourteen pieces and distributed equally. These precious morsels sufficed to appease the gnawings
of hunger, which were becoming almost unbearable.
The party still pursued their journey; three days passed and they had not tasted another morsel of food, their
situation was becoming desperate. Death by starvation, or how to avert it, were thoughts that occupied their attention.
Would they resort to cannibalism or would they starve? The former was finally decided upon, and it was privately
understood that the cook, an Irishman, who was one of their party who proposed it, should be the first victim.
But Providence interfered and sent relief by way of a large terrapin, which the party succeeded in capturing. It
was made into soup, which all partook of with a greedy relish, and the small fragments of meat distributed. Young
Morris received the tail for his portion, and as he often remarked, “That was the sweetest morsel I ever tasted.”
The next day the party came upon an Indian village or encampment. The Indians being friendly, supplied the party
with dried venison and such other provisions as they had.
The party being in a strange country and not knowing which way to go, tried to hire a young brave to pilot them
to the settlement, but he would not go for any price, but kindly gave directions as best he could. The next day
they reached a rude habitation, where they rested and were furnished with a supply of boiled cider, which, for
the time being, revived their drooping spirits. Here they laid in a fresh supply of provisions, which lasted till
they reached the settlement, where they were safe.
Though uneducated, he was a man of good ideas and sound judgment, an excellent calculator, and free frommost of
the vices which beset young men. His father being poor, he was early in life thrown on his own resources, and young
Morris turned his attention to agriculture. He being sober and industrious, had no trouble in leasing land “on
shares and furnished.” He thus worked for several years, until he had the nucleus of a small fortune formed. He
then conceived the not uncommon idea “that it was not good for man to be alone,” and sought the hand and heart
of Nancy Beaver, then a young girl of about eighteen years of age. They were married March 27, A.D. 1823. After
the birth of three children—Samuel, Zarilda (now deceased), and Amos—Mr. Morris concluded to seek his fortune in
the wilds of Michigan. In July, 1828, he, in company with his father, came to Michigan to see the country, and
before he returned to Ohio made a claim on La Grange Prairie, now known as the Ritter farm. Immediately on his
return home he was taken ill, which prevented his moving until the 1st day of November, 1828, when he and his brothers,
Samuel, John, and James, with his family and effects, and his father and family, all started for their future home.
They arrived at Joseph Gardner’s (a relative), at Pokagon, on the 1st day of December. Here they remained for the
winter. During the winter he visited Little Prairie Ronde, and made his location on the south half of section 35,
township of Decatur, on the north side of Little Prairie Ronde (having abandoned his former claim). In February,
about the 15th, he came to Little Prairie and cut the logs for a cabin which he raised. A severe snow-storm precluded
further operations, so he returned to his family. About the 1st of March he returned and completed his cabin, and
moved his family into the same about the 20th of March, 1829.
This cabin was the first built in Van Buren County, and was known far and near, and many a weary traveler reposed
beneath its rude roof and was warmed by its cheerful fire. For nearly two years Mr. Morris was the only settler
in this county. His rude cabin not only sheltered the first white family resident in this now prosperous county,
but under its roof the first school was taught by William Alexander, in the winter of 1833—34. Here was born the
first white child in the county, Lewis Creighton Morris, Aug. 4, 1830, and here the little fellow left for his
angel home, December 20th of the same year. Here was born, May 11, 1832, Elias Morris,
the oldest living white person born in the county, now living in Cass County. Here it was that Daniel Alexander
and Margaret Tittle (Peggy she was then called), the second couple married in the county, spent their honeymoon.
A building that served to shelter the first family, was the first hotel, church, school-house, where the first
birth and death occurred, where the first domestic altar in the county was set up, deserves more than a passing
tribute, and its site should be marked, as a reminder of our early history.
Mr. Morris was a noble-hearted man, assisting all who came within his reach. Many of the early settlers bear testimony
to his kindness. The family now living remember distinctly very many of the hardships incident to pioneer life,
through which they, with their parents, passed. Many of these accidents are detailed in the township history.
Here, amid these hardships, Mr. Morris remained, and made for himself and family a home, to which by prudence and
economy he was enabled to add, until at one time he was the owner of over eleven hundred acres of good farminglands.
Subsequently he gave to each of his children a fine farm; all located in the immediate vicinity of his home.
In 1865 the First National Bank of Paw Paw was organized, and Mr. Morris was one of the stockholders, and for about
three years prior to his death he was one of the directors of the same. For twenty-five years prior to his death
he was a very consistent member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and many a weary “circuit-rider” sought his
home and shared his hospitalities
In October, 1869, he was taken ill, grew gradually worse; finally, after an illness of nearly three months, surrounded
by his sorrowing family and friends, he quietly passed away, gathered in as a sheaf ripened and ready for the Reaper.
History of Berrien and Van Buren Counties, Michigan
With Illistrations and Biographical Sketches
of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers.
D. W. Ensign & Co., Philadelphia 1880
Press of J. B. Lippincoff & Co., Philadelphia.