Historical Albion Michigan
By Frank Passic

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Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.

MORTON SALT AND THE ALBION CONNECTIONS

Morning Star, June 14, 2009, pg. 15

Take this article with a grain of salt, for when it rains, it pours. Hey, where have I heard those phrases before? A new book, written by James Ballowe, Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Bradley University, has just been published by the Northern Illinois University Press of DeKalb, IL. It is entitled “A Man of Salt and Trees: The Life of Joy Morton.”

Joy (not Jay) Morton (1855-1934) was the founder of the Morton Salt Company, as well as the Morton Arboretum near Chicago. The book is hardcover, 302 pages. ISBN 978-0-87580-398-2.

Did you know there are some Albion connections? Much of this is found in the book’s prologue and the first chapter. Joy’s father Julius Sterling Morton (1832-1902) was the founder of Arbor Day (1872), and served as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture 1892-1896 in the Cleveland administration. If you look at Albion College’s 1955 classic purple-colored hardcover book, “Eminent and Interesting Albionians,” pages 6 through 9 devote ample space to Julius Sterling Morton.--one of Albion’s most famous alumni.

J.S.’s father Julius Dewey Morton was “a Methodist leader and pro-union Republican,” states the author. J.D. enrolled his 14-year old son J.S. at the Wesleyan Seminary at Albion (now Albion College) in 1846. This was when Albion operated a college-prep high school. Subsequently, J.D. served on the Albion College board of directors in 1864 as its president.

J. S.’ future wife Caroline Joy French (1833-1881) arrived at the Seminary here in 1847, where the two became closely acquainted. They both graduated from the prepatory portion of Albion in 1850. The couple were married in Detroit on October 30, 1854, and then moved to the new Nebraska Territory.

In Nebraska, Caroline befriended Mrs. Hannah Ferguson. Her husband Fenner was the first chief justice of the Nebraska Supreme Court. The Ferguson’s had also formerly lived here in Albion where Fenner served as an early Albion attorney beginning in 1847. The Ferguson’s infant son Charles (b/d.1851) is interred in Block 12 of Riverside Cemetery here in Albion.

Albion graduate J.S. Morton became clerk of the Territorial Supreme Court under Ferguson. J.S. later became acting Governor of Nebraska 1818-1859, and was Secretary of the Nebraska Territory. Caroline Morton returned to Detroit to give birth to her first son, Joy, who was born on September 27, 1855. She then returned to Nebraska to where the family had then settled in Nebraska City and their family was raised.

Another “Albion connection” of sorts occurred in early 1871, when at the age of 16, Joy enrolled himself in his great-uncle’s (by marriage) Ira Mayhew’s Business College in Detroit. Ira, of course, was the third principal of the Wesleyan Seminary at Albion 1853-54, and later operated his Business School in Albion from 1860 to 1869 before moving it to Detroit. Ira’s wife Adeline Sterling was the sister of J.D.’s wife Emeline Sterling Morton. The book states, “Throughout his life, Joy credited his three months at Mayhew’s Business College with giving him ‘an idea of business methods and of the value of system in recording business transactions.’” (Pg. 34).

The book, of course, is about Joy, his Morton Salt Company, and the Morton Arboretum. It is fascinating reading, and I encourage our readers to get a copy at your nearest bookstore. The early Albion connections are quite evident. For those who like genealogy, there are family genealogical charts in the back so you can easily figure out “who is who.” You’ll also find yours truly mentioned in some of the footnotes printed in the back of the book, as I had correspondence with the author on several occasions. But it’s the Albion College connections with Joy’s parents and grandfather that we would like to think had a part in influencing and shaping his life.

From our Historical Notebook this week we present a photo of the book cover featuring Joy Morton, founder of the Morton Salt Company.


Book cover: "A Man of Salt and Trees: The Life of Joy Morton."

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