The following is the background of some ancestors as related to me by my father, Thomas Herbert Morrell, Sr. , and Uncle Charles Morrell. The Morrell ancestors were two brothers, Alfred and John, in Kentucky. The descendants of John started small slaughter houses and later the Morrell Packing Company.
The descendants of Alfred Morrell were more agricultural and horse raising minded. Prior to the Civil War, our ancestors had one of the first Kentucky thoroughbred horse farms. The Confederate soldiers stole most of their horses except some carefully guarded and hidden prized breeding stock.
My grandfather, Thomas E. Morrell, was assigned the task of taking the prized breeding stock to Kansas which was neutral territory. He was born in 1849; so at 13 years of age, he was given this assignment. He was to travel by night and hide in woods in the daytime. Within a few miles of Kansas and east of Hume, Missouri, some Confederate soldiers attacked him, took his horses and his clothes and left him, thinking he was dead. A farmer found him, took him in and nursed him back to good- health. He worked for this farmer and saved some money. While still a teenager, he moved across the Kansas Missouri line and homesteaded near Prescott, Kansas.
He met and married Mariah Holmes during the late 18601s. To them were born three sons, Charles, Andrew and Thomas Herbert. Thomas Herbert was a year and one half in 1876 when his father, Thomas E. Morrell died. He was known as the watermelon king of Eastern Kansas. Mariah Morrell remarried, a man whose last name was LeMasters. To this marriage were born four daughters, Mima, Sabrina, Martha and Lulu. Charles and Andrew did not get along with LeMasters, and they left home as teenagers.
When my father, Thomas Herbert, was 10 years old, there was a big snow storm. My father was sent by foot several miles to Hume, Missouri to get whiskey and tobacco for LeMasters. His fingers and toes became frost bit on the return trip. LeMasters became an alcoholic and Grandmother kicked him out of their home. My father quit school after Sth grade to help make a living for his mother and the 4 half sisters. In the meantime, Grandmother was injured in some type of farm accident which left her handicapped.
Thomas Herbert Morrell, Sr. met Ada Mabel DeMerritt, a school teacher in the Prescott, Kansas area. They were married June 21, 1900. They had seven children -Ray, Paul, Lloyd, Elsie, Pearl, Mabel and Thomas Herbert Morrell, Jr. Ray married Eva Burkhead and they had six children -Virginia, Charles, Ralph, Arthur, James and Patricia. Elsie married Warren McGee, and Paul married Florence McGee, a sister to Warren. Paul had no children. He and Florence were married New Year's Day 1927. Paul died of cancer of the stomach in November 1927. Elsie and Warren had five children - Earnest, Ada Grace, Wallace, Richard and Leonard. Lloyd married Opal Dizmang and had two children, Vernon and Wanita. Herbert married Blanche Alice Smith, and they had three children -Judith, Dennia and Rebecca. Pearl married George Weatherbie and they had one daughter - Donna.
Mabel never married. She was the artist of the family. She won first prize and a scholarship to the Kansas City Art Institute for her "Folgers Coffee" commercial drawing. For many years she was head dress designer in New York City for the Wentworth Company. The Wentworth Company was one of the largest cotton dress manufacturers in the world.
Uncle Charles Morrell was adventuresome. As a teenager, he rode a large wheel bicycle across the state of Kansas to Colorado. In the late 1890's there was a bumper potato crop, and to sell potatoes was difficult. He built a raft, loaded it with potatoes and floated it down the Mississippi River. He stopped and worked for farmers where he could get a job and traded potatoes for some meals. About 1900, he settled down and married Lacey. (I never knew her maiden name.) Uncle Charley bought and built on to a nice dairy on North Washington Street in Iola, Kansas.
I have some fond memories of my childhood visits to Uncle Charley and Aunt Lacey's home and to see his beautiful Guernsey cows. He had his own small processing plant. He milked the cows by hand at first and he also delivered the milk by pedaling a tricycle. They had two sons, Don and Ralph. Don was quite a few years older than Ralph. Don was an electrician and quite a humorist in Iola.
Two tragedies struck this family. Ralph was more adventuresome of the two sons. When in high school during the mid 1920's 2 or 3 of his friends helped to build a boat. Several rains came, the Neosho River flooded at the time the boat was finished. They couldn't wait for the flood to recede to tryout the new boat. They launched the boat and started down stream. They passed by the place where they were to be picked up by the father of one of the lads. One survived to tell what happened. As they passed under the limbs of a tree, one called to the one in the front of the boat, “Grab that limb". He did, and the current upset the boat. The others were swept under by the undertow. Ralph Morrell's body was found about 2 or 3 miles down stream where he had drifted and lodged against a log. The lad that grabbed the tree limb was the only survivor. He climbed out on the tree and alerted others as to what happened.
The second tragedy occurred a few months later when Aunt Lacey was told that she had cancer of the breast. Her religion was Christian Science. She refused to have surgery and lived only a few more months. Don married Myrtle, and they lived with Uncle Charley until Don died of a heart attack. Uncle Charley sold his dairy in the mid 19301s. He traveled some and during World War II he worked in an aircraft engine plant in Kansas City.
Uncle Andrew was the inventor. He claimed to have invented the trimotor airplane but the plans were stolen by representatives of Ford Motor Company. He became an executive in a balloon factory in southern par of San Francisco. My father experienced a drought in early 19001s; so he spent one winter with Uncle Andrew at the balloon factory. Andrew met the girl of his dreams, and they were to be married. However, the famous earthquake in 1906 caused the multi-story apartment house where she was living to collapse and she was killed. Uncle Andrew never married.
The family had not heard from him for about 20 years when he suddenly showed up at one of my aunt's home in Kansas City in 1928. I was 12 and became inspired by his background of inventions, his knowledge and ability at fishing and of industry in general. He was a principal owner of a paint and varnish company which unfortunately went broke during the 1930's depression. He said, "I wish now that I had invested in land in Eastern Kansas." Some more information about him is included at the end of this article.
In 1955, I was asked to present the XO-121 technical paper to the California Section of Society of Automotive Engineers. Before I left Oakland, I found Uncle Andrew and visited with him. He was living on small social security payments. He was a very proud gentleman and wanted no assistance from his family.
In 1911, the old homestead farm near Prescott, Kansas was sold, and the family moved to a farm two miles east and three miles north of Blue Mound, Kansas. My father liked the farm because it had limestone that he could use for his concrete building business and farmland, some springs and a stream running through it. Aunt Mima married a man by the last name of Sparling in Kansas City. They had one son Lawrence who was about the same age as my brother Lloyd.
Lawrence’s father died when he was small. After a few months, Aunt Mima met and married a widower. His name was Frank Thornton. He had one son Frank, Jr. Lawrence Sparling and Frank Thornton, Jr. could not get along with each other. Lawrence moved out and lived with Aunt Sabrina. He was an expert motorcyclist and put on many shows of trick riding before fair audiences. He also won some motorcycle races.
One prize was a deluxe 4-cylinder Indian motorcycle. He used his motorcycle to deliver fish early in the morning to special restaurants and Friday was his biggest day. He married the daughter of a famous Kansas City policeman. Her name was Bonnie. They had one son, Randall. Bonnie divorced Lawrence. This was a sad time for Lawrence. He started drinking alcohol and then lost his job. He came to our farm and worked for us in the early 30's for a few months. He remarried, but he died of a heart attack about 1940.
Another tragedy for Lawrence was the death of Mima, his mother. Aunt Mima and Frank Thornton visited Aunt Lulu who was married to Collier Harrison. The two couples decided to visit relatives near Prescott, Kansas. The Ford dealer in Ft. Scott was trying to set a record of 90 miles in 90 minutes from Kansas City to Ft. Scott in his new Model A. North of Prescott, he was traveling in excess of 100 MPH. Uncle Col1ier tried to cross Highway 73E (now 69), not realizing that the other car was traveling at such high speed. The new Ford crashed into the right rear door of Uncle Collier's car. Aunt Mima died in the Ft. Scott hospital two days later. Aunt Lulu was seriously injured and was in the Ft. Scott hospital for some time and finally recuperated.
Aunt Sabrina married a German immigrant, Frank Bailey. His profession was a special delivery service. Frank came from Germany at age 17 when he disagreed with the German military tactics prior to World War I. They lived in Southern Kansas City, Missouri near the Kansas-Missouri state line about 79th street south. She had a nick name of "Biby" because some of the nephews and nieces couldn't pronounce Sabrina. They had one daughter, Marea. She was about the same age as Mabel.
She married Wallace Warner. Wallace was involved in a number of professions including some work for Walt Disney before Disney's company moved to California. They had one daughter, Linda, who married Eddie (I don1t remember his last name) in Torrance, California. Wallace became interested in other women; so he and Marea got a divorce, and then after a few years they re-married. A year or two later, Wallace died. Marea died about 1989 in Napa, California.
One of my growing up highlights was to visit Aunt Biby. I was allowed $1.00 for a day at Fairyland Park. I would buy 2 street car tokens and a ticket to Funland where I spent the rest of the day after the dollar was spent. Aunt Martha married Harry Featherstone in Kansas City. He worked at the Corn products plant in North Kansas City, Missouri for a number of years. They had two children, Estel and Lennie Mae. Estel was about the same age as Lloyd and Lennie Mae was about two years older than me. Estel married Gertrude and they had one son, Estel, Jr. Estel was a foreman at the Kansas City chevrolet assembly plant for a number of years. He was a heavy cigarette smoker and died young of lung and heart complications.
Lennie Mae married Randy (I don't remember his last name). They had three children, one boy and two girls. They lived at Lake Lotawana, southeast of Kansas City, Missouri. Randy had his own business in downtown Kansas City, Missouri to provide copies of blue prints and related services. They became expert sailors and traveled extensively in the summer time, competing in sailboat races. They moved from Lake Lotawana during the 1950's or 60's, and we lost track of them. Lennie Mae was a registered nurse.
Uncle Harry Featherstone told Aunt Martha that when their children were on their own, he was going to divorce her and marry a young lady. After the divorce, Aunt Martha married Harry Knecht who had three prize fighting sons. Harry and his sons were interior decorators which meant painting and paper hanging. Uncle Harry and Aunt Martha died about the same time. They lived in southern Kansas City, Missouri, about 89th street.
I worked at Columbian Steel Tank Company during the summer of 1937. I rented a room from Aunt Martha. Also, I worked for Uncle Harry on Saturdays when he needed help. They then lived at approximately 27th and Wabasha. This was a very interesting summer with many experiences that would fill a book.
Aunt Lulu was the youngest of the LeMasters girls. She married young and had one daughter Grace. I never knew her husband's name. He died quite young. When my parents moved to Blue Mound area, Grandmother Morrell came with them. After they got settled, Aunt Lulu and Grace visited my parents and for how long, I don't know.
Lulu met the Harrison brothers, Fred and Collier. The bachelor brothers owned 160 acres of land across the road west of my parents' new farm. They also owned 160 acres south of their house, 80 acres 1 mile west and 1½ miles north of their house, and 40 acres of timber 1/2 mile east of our farm. Aunt Lulu married Collier and they had two children, Amos Lee and Helen Ruth.
When it was time for Grace to go to high school, Aunt Lulu talked Fred and Collier into renting the farms and moving to Blue Mound. They bought a home in Blue Mound about 1 block west of the new high school building built in 1925. Grace met and started dating Russell Dizmang. Russell was a cousin of Lloyd's wife Opal. A family of 3 girls and 1 boy, the McAlvains, rented the farmland except the 80 acres and the 40 acres which my father rented. The Harrison brothers were considered quite wealthy farmers. They loaned money to people to buy several farms. During the early 30's, Harrisons sold their home in Blue Mound and bought a home in Ottawa, Kansas. By 1936, they were land poor because many farms had been given up to them. For sometime, they had to borrow money to pay the land taxes. However, in the late 1930's Harrisons had arranged good renters for the farms and made back a good percentage of their losses. One by one, the farms were sold.
Lee and I spent one year together at the University of Kansas in 1936-37. He was a senior in education and I was a freshman in mechanical engineering. Lee had a temporary eye problem as a result of malnutrition during his first years at K.U. I read for him, I took true and false quizzes for him, and I typed papers for him.
Meanwhile, I am trying to work my way through K.U. All of these activities did not leave much time for sleep and recreation. My main stress reliever was to go to church every Sunday morning and to the church forum in the evening when I could. Helen Ruth was going to a business school in Lawrence, Kansas to be a secretary. She took bookkeeping and other such business courses.
She met and married a fellow by the name of Harold Elliott while Blanche and I were at Kansas University. They had a daughter and soon after that, they moved to California. where the daughter played some minor child parts in some movies. Elliott died young from some complications passed on to him from his family. Helen Ruth remarried and their life style was unacceptable to the rest of her family; so they lost track of Helen Ruth. Lee was quite active in Boy Scouts and his profession was teaching. After retiring as a teacher he became a "wine taster" for some local wineries in Napa Valley. He died a few years ago.
Russell and Grace moved to Ottawa, Kansas where they both worked for the newspaper. Then, later they moved to California in the Napa Valley area where Russell continued in the newspaper business. Fred Harrison died first in Ottawa. Uncle Collier died a few years later. Aunt Lulu sold the home in Ottawa and moved to California to be near Grace. She met another man and married him. After he died and she became rather feeble, she went into a rest home where for years Grace visited her and helped prepare her for the night.
Grace and Russell had two sons who became doctors, and at least one has a vineyard near Yountville, California. Russell has spent some of his retired time helping with the vineyard. We have always kept in touch with Grace and Russell at least through Christmas letters. Blanche and I visited them in June 1975 when I was at University of California at Davis to accept the award of "fellow" from the American Society of Agricultural Engineers.
My grandmother Mariah was a sister to Will Holmes. My father's Uncle Will had 6 children by his first wife. She died young. Uncle Will married his second wife Amanda, and they had II children. When each one of his children was married or reached age 21, Uncle Will would give each couple 80 acres of land or the equivalent in cash. Uncle Will Holmes had died before I could remember anything about the family.
When I was growing up, we frequently went to the Holmes Reunion the first Sunday in June to honor Aunt Amanda. I got acquainted with a few cousins about my age. However, there were so many and to try to relate each to their family was over1vhelming. Truly, I did not look forward to or like this occasion. Ned Holmes was about my age, and he tried to be the "bully" of our age group. We tangled a few times, and I will never forget his biting my cheek and drawing blood.
One of Uncle Will's daughters married Professor Brown. He was head of the Chemistry Department at Iowa State University at Ames, Iowa when we were going to K.U. To this marriage identical twin boys were born, Frank and Holmes Brown. They both graduated in business from Iowa State. They were a part of Iowa State's tennis team and won many honors. They were 2 years older than me. When I started to work for Remington Arms Company at Bridgeport, Connecticut, in June 1941, I learned that both Frank and Holmes and families lived in Bridgeport. Holmes was a principal member of General Electric's advertising department for home appliances, and Frank was in the sales department. Holmes and Mary Ellen had twin sons about 1944 in western Pennsylvania where Holmes had changed jobs. We have kept in touch with the Brown twins through Christmas letters. Holmes and Mary Ellen live in Charlottesville, Virginia. Frank and Betty had three children, Gaylord, Elizabeth and Holmes. Gaylord died young from some odd ailment: Betty died a few years ago. Frank is retired in East Windsor, Connecticut.
I met Blanche in the First Christian Church in Lawrence, Kansas early in 1938. We dated occasionally for a short time and then rather steady to church Forum on Sunday evenings by the end of the semester. My father wanted to see this young lady I thought was so wonderful. In the summer of 1938 we were on a pleasure trip and not far from Horton, Kansas. We stopped and visited Blanche, Virginia and Glen Smith. Blanche’s mother and sister Madge were visiting her father who was working in McAllen, Texas. Blanche came home with us for a visit. We became engaged in 1939 while I was working at the Enid Elevator Corporation, Enid, Oklahoma.
Blanche and I graduated from K.U. in 1941. She was the last one of the college, and I was the first one of the engineers; so we got to sit together at Baccalaureate and Commencement. Immediately after graduation in 1941, Blanche's family moved to Washington, D.C. We were married December 25, 1941 in 15th Street Christian Church in Washington, D.C. We started in a room, then an apartment in Bridgeport. And then we moved to a small house near Trumbull, Connecticut.
World War II was over in the spring of 1944 as far as small arms ammunition was needed. Our oldest daughter Judy was born in Bridgeport on March 19, 1943. We moved to Charles City, Iowa in October 1944. We first rented a house and then in 1946, we bought our own home. Dennis was born April 10, 1947. He was about 6 weeks old when my father died in May, 1947. Rebecca was born October 10, 1949. Judy married Alan Lumb in 1964. Timothy was born in 1968 and Jeffrey in 1969. Judy received her B.S. and Master's degree from K.U. and her Ph.D. in microbiology from Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. Alan graduated from Stanford with Ph. D. in civil engineering. Jeff graduated from University of California at Santa Cruz in June 1993. His field is writing and literature. Tim is working and going to Georgia State University in Atlanta. His field is education and physics. He will graduate next December. Neither Tim nor Jeff are married.
Denny got his B.S. degree from K.U. and his Ph. D. in chemistry from University of California at Berkeley. He married Barbara Kuc in 1970. She has her master's degree in chemistry from Johns Hopkins University. They have two children, Christopher and Anna. Chris is a top student in high school and has won many awards for his academic achievements. Anna is the athlete and artist of the family. She goes to a private school and has been active in soccer, field hockey and basketball and does well in her schoolwork.
Becky got her B.A. degree from K.U. and Master's degree from University of Washington at Seattle in Social Work. She married Ronald Schmitz in 1970. They have two children, Curtis and Cassie. Ron has his B.A. degree from K.U. in East Asian studies. They bought some older homes and have converted them to apartments in Fairfield, Iowa. This is where Ron spends most of his time. He is also a professional photographer. Becky does special education social work for several school districts near Fairfield. Curtis is in seventh grade and very active in basketball and wrestling. His hobby is collecting professional athletes' cards. He is often quite busy trading, buying and selling these cards. He is a good student in school. Cassie is also a good student in 5th grade. She has become an accomplished swimmer and has qualified for a state meet in Fort Dodge, Iowa March 6 in 2 relays and one individual competition. We are planning to meet Beckys' there for the State Meet. Blanche keeps busy "looking after" me, church volunteer work, playing bridge, P. E .0. and other activities. Herbert keeps busy with volunteer work for Kiwanis, a service club, church committee work, corresponding member of some committees in the technical societies, American Society of Agricultural Engineers (ASAE), Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), American National Standards Institute (ANSI), OSHA and Equipment Manufacturers Institute (EMI).
Respectfully submitted this February 23, 1994
T. Herbert Morrell
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