Brothers of George Morris
    The Morrisites vs. Brigham Young

 

 

 

 

 


Joseph and William Morris (L-R) - brothers of George Morris

The Morrisites - Joseph Morris as a Prophet -
One instance of importance revolves around George's brother Joseph Morris, who also came to Utah from
England as a convert to the Mormon Church. When he was in England, he worked in the coal mines and had
been in an accident that left him "touched" mentally.  When he came to Utah, he felt that he was also a
prophet of the Mormon Church and made trouble for Brigham Young.  When Young was not receptive to
this idea, Morris gathered a group of people around him he called the "Morrisites" and started his own version
of the Mormon Church on the Weber River near Ogden, Utah. 

Stories vary, but Morris and other leaders of his group were killed by the militia.

I was contacted by Julie Martin in Orem, Utah.  She sent excerpts from George Morris' journal that she had
transcribed from a copy she found on microfilm. What follows is that transcription, in which she has left the
original verbiage and spellings. To my knowledge there are three versions of George's autobiography
The first was owned by Sarah LeCheminant Johnson and donated to the LDS Church archives before her
death.  The second is a copy that was owned by Kent Buckner and has since also been donated to the LDS
Church archives. The copy that Julie has transcribed was on microfilm and who owned the original
is unknown.

Mentions of Joseph Morris in the journal of George Morris

"…in the fall of 1853 my Bro Joseph came into the valley.  He was Baptized into the
Church in 1842 in the Town of Dukenfield, Cheshire, England.  He was very Zealous
and soon obtained the gift of Tongues so thorowly that it was said by June that he could
speak 7 different languages.  He had the misfortune to get burned very severely two different
times while working in the coal mines – by explosions of the fire damp, which affected his
mind a good deal and he became very enthusiastic on Religious matters. 

He emigrated for America about the year 1847 and when he arrived it seems he had no
means to bring him any further – so he staid there and went to work on a steam boat and
soon was stricken down with a severe spell of sickness and his mind became still worse
affected and run stronger upon religious matters.  He would read and study the scriptures,
and memorized nearly all the hymns in the hymnbook, and had dreams and visions and
had an excellent memory, and was a fluent speaker on religious subjects.  And he soon
became very visionary and entertained many strange ideas.  He had to stop up at St. Louis
several years before he could make a start for the Valleys.  He drove a team for someone
across the Plains and when he came in he had a wife and one child and they were very
destitute.  I took them in and made them a home through the winter.

 
A few days after they came he was sitting by the stove with his head hanging down. 
After a while he raised it, and straightened up, and said:  “well, when I was back in the
Old Country, and in St. Louis, I used to think that when I got to the valley where our
George was, that he would be able to sit down and tell me all about the mysteries of
the Kingdom.  But now I’ve got here I find that I’m ahead of him – I find that I know more
than he does.  He had a great deal to say about the heir ship of the Priesthood – that it
never descended straight from the father to the oldest son, according to heir ship, but
that the Lord generally passed by the oldest and made choice of some younger member
of the family to bestow His choicest blessings on, and placed them at the head and it
would be so in his case.  The Lord designed to place him at the head of his father’s family
 – he said the Lord had revealed to him that He had a great work for him to do and he
would have to get a better wife than the one he had.  She was not good enough for him. 
When spring opened his wife persuaded him to go down south to where she had a brother
and some other acquaintances.  I did not want him to go.  I told him that his wife would
leave him when they got down there, but they went, and in about 4 months he came back
to me feeling very bad. He said it had happened just as I had told him.  When they got to
her brothers, she refused to live with him any longer.

So he made his home at my house, and I took him with me to help me dig wells, and
other kinds of work.  He had no idea how to make agreements for work himself.  He
would go around and when he found anyone who wanted work done he would say
“I’ll do it for you”.  I would ask him what he was going to get for it and he would say
“I don’t know, I guess he’ll do the right thing by me – he looked like an honest man
and I left it to him.”  I told him that he would find our pretty soon that it was necessary
to make a firm bargain with a latter-day Saint as well as with anyone else.  He said he
did not see how I got my pay so well, folks didn’t seem to want to cheat me, like they
did him.  He said that he could always get along a great deal better when he worked
with me than he could when he took jobs for himself. 

Sometime after he had come back he got married to a widow, by the name of Elisebeth
Mills, but he said that she sees need to think more of me than she did of him and he
believed that she wanted me and if I wanted her he was willing to give her up to me. 
I told him that I did not want her.  They did not live together very long.  He then went
down to Provo to live, and they made a Block Teacher of him, and he became acquainted
with a young woman by the name of Eliza Jones, and they got married and some of the
authorities in Provo said that he had used undue authority over her, in persuading her
to have him, and they got them separated.

This was about the time when the great reformation was going on in 1857.  He came
up to SL City to see me about his troubles, and the robotizing had commenced in the
City and I was doing a great deal of baptizing in the 17th Ward and he presented
Himself for Baptism and I was permitted to baptize Him.  He then went back to Provo
and began to preach the reformation, saying that he was the only one that was authorized
to preach it, for he had been rebatized and no one else in Provo had.  He came in contact
with some of the authorities down there and came back and made his home with me again. 
But he had become by this time so unsettled in his mind, and had lost confidence in everybody,
that he did not stay in any one place long at a time.  While he was with me this time he wrote
several letters to President Young, and had several interviews with him, and contended
with him about the authority to lead the Church.  President Young told him to go home to
his brother, and go to work and quit his visionary  schemes.  He said that he had always
thought that President Young was a reasonable man, but he had found out at last that he
was no better then any of the rest.  He (Joseph) was a great man for prayer – he would as
soon have gone without his breakfast any time as to have missed going up into a ravine
on the side of the mountain early in the morning to pray.  He received a great many
revelations at this time.  He brought one to me and said that the Lord had told him to
reveal it to me and no one else, and that if I would receive it I was a rightful heir to the
Apostleship.  I told him that he was being led by delusive spirits and that if he did not
cease following them that he would run against a snag before he had gone far.  I told him
that I would rather follow him to his grave than to see him going on in the way he was
going.  He put a wrong construction upon what I had said and went up to Weber and told
the people there that his Brother George was the greatest enemy that he had upon the earth
– for He wanted to shed his blood and follow him to his grave.  That ended our associations. 

He went on and gathered around him a number of shrewd old apostates, and many that
were disaffected and other weak minded people, to the number of about 8 hundred and
organized a Church with himself at the head with two counselors, Apostles, High Priests,
Bishops and so forth.  And together on what is called the Common Stock Principle, all
putting in their property together and all receiving their supplies from the same source. 
They raised no crops for 2 years, considering that they had enough to last them until the
Lord would cut off the people called latter-day saints on account of their great wickedness
and then they would get their supplies from what they (LDS people) left. So sanguine was
Joseph about these things that he would give dates in some of his revelations about when
they would transpire; but when the time arrived they were not  - then there were other revelations
given to explain why they were not fulfilled.  And so it went on until some of the people got
dissatisfied and wanted to leave, and wanted some of the property back (that they had paid in),
but the leaders were unwilling to let them have it.  Two men in particular were determined to
have some, so they intercepted a wagon that had been sent from the camp with a load of grain
to the mill to be ground and appropriated to themselves.  But they were arrested and brought
into camp and confined as prisoners.  Complaints were made to Judge Kinny at S L City, who
sent Judson Stoderd with some papers demanding their release.  But they were not heeded so
a detachment of 500 men from the Nauvoo Legion were sent up to the camp, armed and equipped,
under P T Burton, to bring down the leaders “dead or alive – dead first or alive after". They also
took a cannon along to make sure work of it.  A good many more joined them on their way
going up there.  They drew up in battle array on the hill above the camp.  Burton sent a paper
into camp by a herd boy who was herding cows from the camp upon the Hill (the herding was
on the hill, not the camp) with a demand for their surrender “in a very short time or the
consequences would be very disastrous.”  When the time that was allowed them had expired,
and they having not surrendered, a cannon was fired into their meeting place while they
were holding meeting - it was Sunday. One woman was killed and another had her chin shot off. 
The fire was then returned and after two days fighting they surrendered.  Two young men of the
posse were killed and eight in the camp.  A white flag was waved in camp and Burton, and his
men, went down and disarmed them.  After they were disarmed there was a large group of them
standing together and Joseph was talking to them, saying that he had taught them the principles
of righteousness and he would like to know how many of them would stand by him to the death
 – when Burton spurred up his horse and tried to ride on to him saying “will you give up now?
will you give up now?” when they had already given up and were disarmed.  Joseph caught
the horse by the bit and set him back upon his haunches, when he spurred him up again, saying
“will your God deliver you now? We have had enough of  your damned apostacy, we’ll try
your God now” and then drew his pistol and shot him in the face.  He reeled and fell dead. 
When a young woman who was standing by, holding in her arms the baby belonging to the
woman who was killed by the first cannonball that was fired spoke up and said “you bloodthirsty
hell hound what did you kill that good man for?”  When he said “no woman can say that to me
and live” and took deliberate aim at her and shot her dead too and someone else went up
behind John Banks and shot him in the back of the neck, but did not kill him.  And it was
said that he would probably have lived had it not been for some doctoring that he had
during the night following.  So after having gained such a glorious victory, they were
ready to start home with all the men of the camp as their prisoners. 

Before they reached my house Orson P. Arnald came on ahead and wanted to know
if I wanted to take my brother’s dead body and bury it.  I told him that as they had killed
him it was as they could do to bury him, for I was not able to do it.  They took them and laid
them upon the floor of the Little Old Jail at the city hall and threw a sheet over them and
kept them there on exibition during the next day.  I went there and stayed all day and did
not leave until evening.  I had my reasons for doing so.  While there I saw some feelings
exhibited that I have not yet forgotten.  I will mention one dastardly act – a brave bishop
came along and stepped over my brother’s body and took hold of his beard and pulled up
his head by it, a foot from the stone floor, and then dumped it down again using considerable
force in doing so. 

When I came away I endeavored to ascertain from those in charge when he would be buried
 – telling them that I would like to be there.  I was told that it would be done early the next
morning, before people got around, for fear that there might be some excitement.  So I got
there by daybreak, but when I got there the bodies were gone and all was still.  I inquired
when they were taken away and where they were buried but I could not ascertain – nobody
seemed to know anything about it.  Finally I was directed to two fresh graves on the strangers
burying ground, but whether they were buried there or not I am unable to say but I am inclined
to believe that they were not from remarks that I have had made to me – that they were dumped
in some hole like other rubbage.  But if that was the case it don’t affect my faith in the gospel
in the least.  That is men’s work, it is not of God. 

After a lapse of about 17 years and after being hidden away and disguised most of the time,
and after the witnesses were scattered and nearly all had left the territory, Burton was
willing to stand a trial for murder.  So he employed some shrewd lawyers and had a jury
of those who were friendly to him and the results was he got a verdict of Not Guilty.  But he
done the killing all the same.  It might be argued that Mormonism had nothing to do with
all this, that it was all United States work, but to me it appears to be all the work of
“so-called Mormons”.  Even Judge Kinny himself was a Mormon.  Those prisoners had
a kind of mock trial and some were fined and some had all their real propery confiscated
to pay the expenses of the expedition and all the rest were pardoned by Governor Harding. 
But President Young forbid all the Elders baptizing any of them into the church again
without his permission. 

Thus ended the short and troublesome career of a poor, unfortunate, weak, and deluded
mortal cut of by the hand of a murderer in the prime of life in the 38th year of his age -
on June 15, 1862.

I attended Burton’s trial all the time it was in Progress and carefully read the account
of it in the papers afterwards, anxious to discover if there was anything that would justify
Him in the least for taking the lives of those poor deluded mortals, but I failed to find any
justifiable reason for the shedding of one drop of blood – or anything that changed my
first convictions in the least.  I cannot conceive how any one who claims to be far in
advance of the average degree of intelligence can take pleasure or satisfaction in
seeking out vengeance upon a poor, weak, incompetent mortal,  for I never did consider
that Joseph was a competent person.  But we are all of us poor, weak, unworthy creatures
and we are in the hands of a merciful God and we shall have to appear before a righteous
tribunal to give an account of the deeds done in the body and if there has been any murder
commited, or Innocent blood shed,  the God of all the Earth will give a righteous decision
and all unrighteous decisions that have been given upon this earth will come up before
the Grand Supreme Court of all and be corrected.

(A story about well-digging with Joseph):
On the 28th of Aug, 1857 I had a very narrow escape from being killed in a well which
I was digging for Wm H Hooper a little east of the Deseret National Bank Corner.  I had
dug down to the depth of 50 feet and had got water and had just begun to wall it up
when my brother Joseph, who was assisting me, let a rock as large as a 5 year old child’s
head slip out of his hands and fall down the well while he was loading the bucket. 
When it slipped out of his hands he uttered a fearful groan, which startled me so that
I sprang up from a stooping position and crowded myself up as flat as I could against
the side of the wall, and at that instant the rock came down singing like a cannonball
and grazed the rim of my hat and the end of my nose, and fell between my feet which
were spread apart.  So I felt like giving God the glory in the fall of this year, for saving
my life again as he had done many times before.

(Later he was thinking of performing ordinances for the dead)
I very naturally came to the conclusion that there will be a great deal of anxiety among
the dead who have received the gospel in the Spirit World to have the Ordinances of the
Gospel attended to here on earth by proxy in their behalf.  So I set myself to work first to
see what I could do by writing a letter to President Young, on the 6th of March, about the
case of my brother Joseph who was killed up at Weber.  I stated in my letter to him that
I thought that the shedding of his blood would atone for all the sins that he had committed
and that I did not really consider him responsible for the organization that was effected
up there at Weber, for he had not the abilities to organize individually and never would
have organized that camp had it not been for some shrewd old apostates that had gathered
around him.  I told him that Joseph had been very severely injured by an explosion of gas
in a coal mine when he was a young man and that it had effected his mind and the leading
trait in his character was religious enthusiasm and that he had never experienced
anything else but trouble, affliction and disappointment all through his short and
unfortunate life and that his life had been taken from him in a violent manner – and that
he had been sent to a premature grave.  He had not had his endowments or entered into
any gospel covenants, further than what is contained in the ordinances of baptism and
the first principles of the gospel and perhaps one or two ordinations to the priesthood.

On the 15th of March I received the following from Pres. Young: 

Elder George Morris
Dear Brother, 

In reply to your note of the 6 inst. I will say, you have the privilege of officiating in the ordinances
for your brother for the simple reason it can do you no harm to act for him – nor make his case any
worse if he should reject your labours.  But if he should gladly receive them he would be benefited
thereby.  It would be better to officiate for ten that are unworthy than to neglect one that is worthy,
just as it is here better to feed ten persons who are unworthy than to neglect one that is worthy or
turn one worthy person from our doors without feeding him.

                                                                            Your Brother in the Gospel

                                                                            Brigham Young

The above information is a first person by George Morris, brother of Joseph Morris. The Morrisites,
today still have a small faction of followers.  There is a modern group of Morrisites in Montana.
---------------------------------

The name change - from 'Morris' to Morriss'

It is noticeable that after this 'embarrassment' - the George Morris family began using an extra 's' at the end
of the family name.  It is not written anywhere as fact, but the name change seems to transpire about the time
of the Morrisite incident.

Additionally, when my grandmother married my grandfather, grandfather's parents disowned him for marrying
my grandmother Almena Mae Morris.  I believe that because of the Morrisite War her own father Joseph
Newberry Morris, was probably implicated by his name as being part of the old war waged by Brigham
Young.  My grandfather Samuel Forest Hill's family were loyal to Brigham Young's faction. 

After John Taylor took the helm of the Church, the Hill's were instrumental in hiding their President when the
army came into Salt Lake looking  to prosecute the polygamy issue. Therefore, my grandparents were fighting
probably  not only  the fact that Almena's grandmother was Native American; they were protecting the family
from shame the Morrisite name inflicted upon them. Her grand father's brother Joseph Morris for whom her
father was named, was probably not yet forgotten for his transgressions against Brigham Young.
George's journals show this name change - The journals were written later in his life when he was not as busy
with work, living as a bachelor in his 70's.

William Morris
lived in Parowan, Utah.  Not much is currently known about him.

More info on the Morrisites

THE MORRISITES

"On 13 June 1862 a five-hundred-man posse positioned itself on the bluffs south of Kingston Fort in Weber
County. Cannons ready to fire sat on two small ridges overlooking an estimated five hundred disciples of
Joseph Morris who were housed within a makeshift enclosure. The Morrisite War, a short but unfortunate
episode in Utah history, was about to begin. Participants on both sides, especially the two leaders, must
have reflected on those events that had precipitated what was to be a violent confrontation.

Joseph Morris, prophet and leader of the Morrisites, was born in 1817 and joined the Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter-day Saints when he was twenty-three years old while he was living in England. He married Mary
Thorpe and brought her to America, where they resided in St. Louis for two years. Moving to Pittsburgh,
Pennsylvania, Joseph became the local Mormon congregation's branch president. Morris and his family
immigrated to Utah in 1853 and resided for a time in Sanpete County, subsequently moving to Provo,
and then Slaterville, before settling in the small community of South Weber.

He claimed to have received numerous spiritual manifestations, but it was in 1857 before he recorded
his first official revelation. This revelation established Morris's prophetic calling, placing him at odds with the
leadership of the Mormon Church, designated him as the seventh angel of the apocalypse, outlined ten steps
to godhood, explained the doctrine of reincarnation, and proclaimed the "immediate" second coming of
Christ. Morris also taught that Brigham Young was a fallen prophet and that no more Mormon missionaries
should be sent into the world.

Gathering a few followers in Slaterville, Morris moved to South Weber, where he converted Mormon bishop
Richard Cook. About two hundred former LDS Church members subsequently became disciples of Morris.
In February 1861 Morris, Cook, and fifteen others were excommunicated from the Mormon Church by
apostles John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff. On 6 April 1861 Joseph Morris organized a new church,
headquartered in South Weber, and issued a proclamation that all of his followers should gather at Kingston
Fort. Firmly believing that "Christ will come tomorrow," they held all things in common and, according to
some authorities, even trampled some of their crops into the ground as evidence of their faith.

Because of their expectation of Christ's immediate return, the Morrisites were largely a consumer community;
thus, by the spring of 1862, food was scarce. Latter-day Saints were counseled by their leaders to have no
dealings with the Morrisites, which meant that the residents of Kingston Fort had to travel to Kaysville to have
their wheat ground into flour. They aroused the wrath of Davis County Sheriff Lot Smith when his attempt to
levy a tax was met by armed men and he was ordered out of the fort.

When William Jones, one of Morris's first converts, became dissatisfied and attempted to leave the community
and take with him what was left of his consecrated property, he was detained along with two other men who
possessed similar feelings. However, within a few days the three escaped with a yoke of cattle and a wagon.
Pursued and captured, they were placed under guard in a small log cabin. When word reached Chief Justice
of the Third District Court John F. Kenney that Joseph Morris was holding prisoners in violation
of the law, he issued a writ of habeas corpus commanding that the prisoners be set free.

The Morrisites refused to receive the writ, insisting that they were no longer subject to the law. Robert T.
Burton, deputy marshal, with a posse of about two hundred men (other soldiers were added in Davis and
Weber counties as the posse moved north) was sent to capture Joseph Morris and other church leaders and
bring them to Salt Lake City to stand trial.

Meanwhile, Morris had received additional revelations indicating that Christ would come and deliver his
followers  just a few days after a spectacular pageant called "The Foreshadowing of the Kingdom of God
Day," which was scheduled for 30 May 1862. Therefore Joseph Morris saw the appearance of the army in
the middle of June as a certain sign that the time of the Second Coming was imminent. Upon arriving at the
fort, Robert Burton instructed a Morrisite herd boy to deliver a message to his leader requesting their
surrender. After growing weary of the Morrisites' delay in responding to his demands, Burton ordered two
warning shots to be fired to speed up the decision. The second ball struck the plowed ground in front of the
settlement and ricocheted into the fort itself, killing and maiming as it went.

Joseph Morris immediately received a revelation of comfort and reassurance while some Morrisites returned
the fire, killing Jared Smith of the posse. On the third day of the siege, as the Morrisites were in the process
of surrendering, hostilities again broke out and Joseph Morris, his counselor John Banks, and a few others
were killed. The rest, seeing their leaders dead, surrendered. The prisoners, numbering about ninety, were
taken to Salt Lake City to stand trial before Judge Kenney. They were then placed under bond to appear at
the next session of court. In March 1863 seven of the Morrisites were convicted of murder in the second
degree, sixty-six were convicted of resistance, and two were acquitted. However, the new territorial governor,
Stephen S. Hardy, pardoned all of them, and the Morrisites scattered into Idaho, California, Nevada, Montana,
and other places to begin their lives anew. Seven years later, in the midst of an upsurge of anti-Mormonism,
Robert T. Burton was tried for the murder of Mrs. Isabella Bowman, one of two Morrisite women killed during
the surrender proceedings, but was acquitted. The Morrisite war was officially over."


See: C. LeRoy Anderson, For Christ Will Come Tomorrow: The Saga of the
Morrisites (1981).
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