Museum logo
Museum logo

Person Record

  • Email This Page
  • Send Feedback
Name Morton, Julius Sterling, 1832-1902
Othernames J. Sterling Morton
Born 04/22/1832
Birthplace Adams, New York
Father Morton, Julius Dewey, 1808-1865
Mother Morton, Emeline (Sterling), 1812-1890
Notes Julius Sterling Morton was born in Adams, Jefferson County, New York, on April 22, 1832 to Julius Dewey and Emeline Sterling Morton. J. Sterling, as he came to be known, was the eldest of the three children, with the other two William D. and Emma. Morton's father operated a general store in Adams but in 1834 decided to try his business fortunes farther west and moved the family to Monroe, Michigan where he became engaged in the produce and commission business.

Morton obtained his early education in a private school and at age fourteen matriculated at Wesleyan Seminary in Albion where he remained until 1850 when he entered the University of Michigan. His student years were marked with his native intelligence, warm and engaging personality, innate speaking and literary abilities and his mischievous behavior. Six weeks before he was to graduate from the University, Morton was expelled for his outspoken views and controversial behavior and accepted employment as a reporter for a Detroit newspaper. Later the University and Union College, in Schenectady, New York, both granted him undergraduate degrees.

In Detroit on October 30, 1854, Morton married his school sweetheart, Caroline Joy French, born on August 9, 1833, in Hallowell, Maine. They were to be blessed with four sons, Joy, Paul, Mark, and Carl. The family maintained a close relationship and in late June 1881 when Caroline died, Morton suffered an irreplaceable loss in his family. Immediately after marriage the young couple left for Nebraska Territory, stopping for a winter in Bellevue, before moving to Nebraska City in April 1855 where Morton accepted the editorial duties of the Nebraska City News.

Practically from the day of his arrival in the Territory, Morton plunged into politics, and while he was rarely elected, his many candidacies, devotion to the principles of the Democratic Party and enthusiasm in campaigning were seldom equaled. He was elected to, but not seated in, the first Territorial Legislature but later served in the second and fourth sessions where he was active in trying to locate the capital in the South Platte country. He was Secretary of the Territory from April 30, 1858, to May 19, 1861, and upon the resignation of Governor William A. Richardson became Acting Governor from December 5, 1858, to May 2, 1859. Besides the controversy over the capital location, Morton had to deal with the problems of the disposition of public printing and an Indian scare.

In 1860 Morton was the Democratic nominee for Delegate to Congress but was not seated because of a post-election controversy over voting irregularities. With his failure to capture the governorship in 1866, Morton devoted his efforts to his family and business interests, and did not seek political office until the 1880s, when he was a candidate for governor in 1882, 1884 and later in 1892. In these and other unsuccessful campaigns for the Senate and Congress, Morton was noted for his conservative and outspoken views including the advocacy of free trade and the gold standard.

When Morton was not a candidate for public office his affairs centered on the operation of Arbor Lodge, encouraging and advising his sons on their careers, the advocacy of tree planting and his promotional work for several railroads, including the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy. Morton's agricultural development activities started with the purchase of a claim near Nebraska City and the gradual evolution of this tract into Arbor Lodge. Tree planting became a hobby with him and to encourage other persons to adopt this practice, he proposed that one day be set aside to undertake this work. From 1885 when the Nebraska Legislature established April 22nd as Arbor Day and declared it a legal holiday, the practice of planting trees has spread to many other states and nations.

Morton's knowledge of agriculture and his adherence to the principles of conservative Democracy were among the reasons why President Grover Cleveland selected him to be Secretary of Agriculture in 1893. Morton's four years as Secretary were marked with his efficient administrative methods, including the addition of many positions to the Civil Service system; and his methodical reduction of Departmental expenses, such as the temporary elimination of free seed distributions, the reduction of governmental trip expenditures, and the elimination of unnecessary services and employees.

Upon completion of his Department of Agriculture duties Morton returned to Nebraska City where he continued to write and discuss contemporary issues through The Conservative, founded in July of 1898. His other interests remained with his family and Arbor Lodge and his additional activity of compiling a History of Nebraska. In January of 1901 the death of his youngest son, Carl, inflicted a second great personal loss on Morton which contributed to his failing health. He died in Lake Forest, Illinois, on April 27, 1902, at the home of his son, Mark.
Occupation Acting Governor of Nebraska, 1858-1859, 1861
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, 1893-1897
Spouse Morton, Caroline Joy (French), 1834-1881
Children Morton, Joy Sterling, 1855-1934
Morton, Paul Morton, 1857-1911
Morton, Mark, 1858-1951
Morton, Carl, 1865-1901
Deceased 04/27/1902
Deceased where Lake Forest, Illinois

Associated Records

Image of RG1013.AM - RG1013 Morton, Julius Sterling, 1832-1902

RG1013.AM - RG1013 Morton, Julius Sterling, 1832-1902

This collection consists of original papers, microfilm, and oversized scrapbooks relating to the life and activities of Julius Sterling Morton, including materials relating to his early education; family history; political, agricultural and business activities; and to his writing, research, and publishing career. Also present are papers relating to Arbor Lodge and Arbor Day. The collection is arranged in two Subgroups comprising a total of twenty-one Series: SUBGROUP 1: MICROFILMED RECORDS SERIES 1: Incoming Correspondence, 1849-1902 SERIES 2: Incoming and Outgoing Correspondence, 1850-1902 SERIES 3: Outgoing Correspondence, Bound Letterpress books, 1874-1902 SERIES 4: Farm

Image of RG1030.AM - RG1030 Hubner, Charles Morton, 1855-1935

RG1030.AM - RG1030 Hubner, Charles Morton, 1855-1935

This collection consists of correspondence dating from 1892-1896. It includes a letter from William Jennings Bryan, June 6, 1892 in which Bryan discusses Hubner's opposition to Bryan's position on the silver issue. Also present is a letter of transmittal for religious material from J. Sterling Morton, March 8, 1895. (The material discussed by Morton is not included in the collection).

Image of RG1047.AM - RG1047 Olson, James Clifton, 1917-2005

RG1047.AM - RG1047 Olson, James Clifton, 1917-2005

This collection consists of manuscript material and index files arranged in two Subgroups. Subgroup 1: Writings; and Subgroup 2: Correspondence and Subject Files. These materials related to James Olson's time with the Nebraska State Historical Society as well as the University of Nebraska. The materials in Subgroup 1 are further divided into series which relate to the publication of <em>Red Cloud and the Sioux Problem</em>, <em>J. Sterling Morton</em>, the <em>History of Nebraska</em> and to various other writings, including articles, book reviews and speeches. Included are correspondence, research notes, and drafts of the manuscripts. Subgroup 2 consists of correspondence and subje

Image of RG1052.AM - RG1052 Watkins, Albert, 1848-1923

RG1052.AM - RG1052 Watkins, Albert, 1848-1923

This collection consists of three boxes of material arranged in four series: (1) General Correspondence, 1888-1943; (2) Manuscripts; (3) Printed Matter, and (4) Legal Documents. Most of the correspondence in this collection relates to the business management and publication of the Morton-Watkins Illustrated History of Nebraska. The second series contains manuscript material and speeches relating mainly to the history of Nebraska, settlement of Nebraska Territory, Indian problems, politics and prohibition. Some of the articles also deal with the Civil War, the Negro Question, and World War I. Although the origin of many manuscripts is unclear, most appear to be written by Albert Watkins.

Image of RG1109.AM - RG1109 Irwin, John, 1805-1893

RG1109.AM - RG1109 Irwin, John, 1805-1893

The collection contains primarily land transaction records for John Irwin of Otoe County, Nebraska. The land covered by the collection was bought and sold in Lancaster, Otoe, and Douglas Counties in the late 1850s to early 1860s. One letter, dated April 13, 1869, is written by Thomas P. Kennard to Irwin concerning the sale of 80 acres of land in Lincoln, Nebraska. Another letter, dated March 11, 1893, is written to Elijah D. Marnell from J. Sterling Morton from the Department of Agriculture in Washington DC concerning the employment of Sadie Hawley in Nebraska City, Nebraska.

Image of RG2632.AM - RG2632 Allen, William Vincent, 1847-1924

RG2632.AM - RG2632 Allen, William Vincent, 1847-1924

This collection consists of two boxes of manuscript material containing correspondence (1889-1924), speeches (1893-1898, 1903), biographical information, newspaper clippings (ca. 1893-1934), scrapbooks (1893-1897), and a few miscellaneous items. The bulk of this collection consists of correspondence, speeches, and clippings relating to William V. Allen's career in the U.S. Senate 1893-1901. The scrapbooks contain news and editorial comments printed during his first term in the Senate, 1893-1897.

Image of 13339-2-(1-2) - Cover, First Day; Nebraska Statehood Stamp, with card

13339-2-(1-2) - Cover, First Day; Nebraska Statehood Stamp, with card

White envelope with a sepia-toned design on the proper right half. The design depicts the Nebraska Capitol Building and official Centennial medal surrounded by names of famous individuals and Native American tribes. Lettering above the design reads "Nebraska / Centennial / 1867-1967." Beneath the design is "Official First / Day Cover." Nebraska Statehood five cent postage stamp in upper proper left corner. Stamp depicts a ear of corn with a cow in front of it. Hand stamp beneath postage stamp reads "First Day of Issue." Postmarked at upper center "Lincoln, NB / Jul / 29 / 1967." Informational card included with envelope gives an overview of the history of Nebraska statehood, the Capitol

Image of 13339-3-(1-2) - Cover, First Day; Nebraska Statehood Stamp, with card

13339-3-(1-2) - Cover, First Day; Nebraska Statehood Stamp, with card

White envelope with a sepia-toned design on the proper right half. The design depicts the Nebraska Capitol Building and official Centennial medal surrounded by names of famous individuals and Native American tribes. Lettering above the design reads "Nebraska / Centennial / 1867-1967." Beneath the design is "Official First / Day Cover." Nebraska Statehood five cent postage stamp in upper proper left corner. Stamp depicts a ear of corn with a cow in front of it. Hand stamp beneath postage stamp reads "First Day of Issue." Postmarked at upper center "Lincoln, NB / Jul / 29 / 1967." Informational card included with envelope gives an overview of the history of Nebraska statehood, the Capitol

Image of 2705-1 - Cane, Gold Head; J. Sterling Morton, Inscription, See History

2705-1 - Cane, Gold Head; J. Sterling Morton, Inscription, See History

Wood with gold Image: floral design on head COLORS: gold, black

Image of RG1013.PH000001-000006 - Print, Albumen

RG1013.PH000001-000006 - Print, Albumen

Portrait of J. Sterling Morton.

Image of RG1013.PH000001-000019 - Ambrotype

RG1013.PH000001-000019 - Ambrotype

A studio portrait of J. Sterling Morton, as a young man.

Image of RG1013.PH000002-000013-1 - Print, Albumen

RG1013.PH000002-000013-1 - Print, Albumen

A studio portrait of J. Sterling Morton (1832-1902).

Image of RG1013.PH000003-000001-1 - Photograph, Cabinet

RG1013.PH000003-000001-1 - Photograph, Cabinet

A studio portrait of J. Sterling Morton.

Image of RG1013.PH000003-000006 - Print, Photographic

RG1013.PH000003-000006 - Print, Photographic

A studio portrait of J. Sterling Morton.

Image of RG1013.PH000003-000011 - Print, Albumen

RG1013.PH000003-000011 - Print, Albumen

A studio portrait of J. Sterling Morton.

Image of RG1013.PH000003-000017 - Print, Albumen

RG1013.PH000003-000017 - Print, Albumen

A portrait of J. Sterling Morton in his office.

Image of RG1013.PH000004-000002 - Print, Albumen

RG1013.PH000004-000002 - Print, Albumen

A studio portrait of J. Sterling Morton and one of his children.

Image of RG1013.PH000031-000011 - Print, Albumen

RG1013.PH000031-000011 - Print, Albumen

A group portrait of J. Sterling Morton surrounded by his four sons and their wives as well as his sister Emma.