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Henry Ellsworth Morton


Submitted by Robin Lacey VanderKooi and Bill Moore


   Henry E. Morton.  The eminence of Muskegon among the industrial centers of Michigan has been due to the presence here of a group of men possessed of remarkable genius as manufacturers and of fine capabilities as organizers and business builders.  Of those industries which may be regarded as the direct product of inventive genius and the personal ability of their founders, the Morton Manufacturing Company at Muskegon Heights is probably the most conspicuous.  The founder of this industry was the late Matthew Morton, who started in life a poor boy on a farm.  Talent for mechanics and an original genius started him in the line, which brought him success and enabled him to give to the world  machinery, which has lightened the burdens of men throughout the civilized country.  He had the courage, ability and determination.  He was not only a good manufacturer, but a remarkable salesman, took great pride in his work, and as he prospered his business grew until it became the nucleus of one of the important industries of the state.

   Henry E. Morton, a son of the founder of the Morton Manufacturing Company, and now president of that concern, was born at Lapeer, Michigan, September 16,1863.  His mother was Sarah T. Strong, who was born in Lapeer, Michigan, April 27,1841, and is still living.  On July 4,1859, she married Matthew Morton, who was born near Ayershire, Scotland, in 1837, and who died in 1909.

   The late Matthew Morton came to America with his parents at the age of eight years, settled on a farm at Romeo, Michigan, and lived in the country until he was twenty-one years of age.  While on the farm he manufactured from his own tools a foot lathe, took this machine to Armada, and started his career as a manufacturer.  A number of years later his enterprise was located at Lapeer.  There his enterprise expanded to the construction of steam engines and saw mill and grist mill machinery and he became head of the Lapeer Steam Engine Works, which was conducted at Lapeer until 1870.  Returning to Romeo, he then founded the firm of Morton & Hamlin.  This firm continued the manufacturing of steam engines and other machinery until 1873.  St. Clair was the next center of operations and the business was continued there under the name St. Clair Iron Works, its output being stationary steam engines and marine engines.  Again returning to Romeo, Matthew Morton took up the manufacture of agricultural machinery.

   In 1879 he invented the Morton Check valve, a device which proved its immediate usefulness in connection with all steam power plant installation.  In 1880 was organized the Morton Check & Pump Valve Company, a copartnership, for the manufacture of the valves in different sizes, and as a sideline agricultural machinery was made, chiefly machines invented by the genius of Matthew Morton.  In the manufacture of this product a key seating machine was required, and as there was nothing on the market available for the purpose.  Matthew Morton designed and built a machine that was so successful that all machine shops in the country took steps to secure the device.  In 1884, the first patent for the machine was issued, and from that time its manufacture was an inportant part of the Morton Enterprise.  The business was kept at Romeo, until 1891, when the plant was transferred to Muskegon and established in Muskegon Heights.  In the same year the Morton Manufacturing Company was incorporated with Matthew Morton as president, Henry Morton as vice-president and William Rowan as secretary and treasurer.  Its capital stock was one hundred thousand dollars.  Matthew Morton continued as president of this large concern until his death.  After developing the largest line of key setting machines in the world, his attention was given to the development of draw cut shapers and traveling head planers.  These machines were exhibited the first time at the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893.  The products of the Morton Manufacturing Company have been sold and operated in nearly every civilized country of the world.  Many of the tools have come into general use in some of the largest ship building industries in Scotland, and after delivering a consignment of machinery in Scotland;  Matthew  Morton superintended their installation and operation.  The business has grown to remarkable proportions and its agencies are now found in foreign lands.  The career of the late Matthew Morton was remarkable not only for its genius and ability in organization, but also from the fact that he started out a poor boy without a dollar, and his success was largely the direct result of his own efforts.  He was a Republican in politics and belonged to the Methodist Protestant Church.  There were three children:  Harriet is the wife of James Millikin, a farmer at Cairo, Michigan, and county treasurer and member if the state legislature; Mary E.; and Mason B., vice-president of the Morton Manufacturing Company.

   Henry  F. Morton after a common school education entered the shops with his father at the age of fourteen, and has been identified with the Morton Enterprise ever since.  By experience and long study he is familiar with every detail of the industry, and in his position as president of the company directs its affairs in such a way as to reap the benefit

of the originating genius of its founder.  Much of Mr. Morton’s time is taken up with travel in connection with his business.

   On April 6,1887, Henry E. Morton married Ora Gertrude Chrissman, daughter of Michael H. Chrissman, who was a farmer near Washington, Michigan.  To their union have been born five children:  Margaret S., who finished a college education at Olivet;

Henry E., Jr., who has taken his first year of college work at Lansing; Matthew H., now in high school; Ora in the seventh grade of the common schools; and Alice N., also in school.  The family belong to the Methodist Episcopal Church, and Mr. Morton is a Republican in politics, and at one time was president of the Muskegon Heights Village.


Source: History of Michigan by Charles Moore-1915   pages 1451-1452


Henry Ellsworth Morton, Deceased, Muskegon Heights, Michigan


Submitted by Lisa Hoffius and Bill Moore


Henry Ellsworth MORTON*, born at Lapeer City, Michigan, September 16, 1863; son of Mathew and Sarah T. (STRONG) MORTON.


Mathew MORTON**, born in Ayrshire, Scotland, May 5, 1836, son of James MORTON, who also was a native of Scotland.  When 8 years of age, Mathew MORTON was brought to America by his parents, who settled in Section 7 of Armada Twp., Macomb County, Michigan.  It was here that Mathew MORTON was reared and attended school.  When a young man he was associated with a foundry and machine shop at Armada, Michigan, one year, after which he moved to Lapeer City, where he engaged in the manufacture and repair of engines, 14 years.  In 1861, he manufactured his first engine, for which he made the drafts and patterns, as well as melting the iron, and executing the mechanical work, after which he set up the engine for operation, unassisted.  In 1870, he developed an improvement for the engine of a flourmill in Detroit, by which a saving of one-half was gained in fuel, and of more then one-half, in time.  Within two weeks, he also invented and made a machine with which he bored out four locomotive cylinders in 20 hours, resulting in a saving of 75 percent in time, with no reduction in quality.  In 1871, Mathew MORTON moved to Romeo, Michigan, where in partnership with A. HAMBLIN, he engaged in engine and railroad work, operating a company known as MORTON & HAMBLIN, which in 1875, was moved to St. Clair, Michigan, where they remained three and a half years.  The company then resumed operation in Romeo, and in 1891, was moved to Muskegon Heights, Michigan, where it was incorporated as the MORTON Manufacturing Company, of which firm Mathew MORTON was president.  In 1879, he invented a check valve, on which he was granted a letters patent, and soon afterward, a company was organized for this manufacture, which together with the manufacture of tread-powers, upon which he also secured a patent, and drew-cut tools, and finished machine keys, now forms the work of the present MORTON Manufacturing Company, of Muskegon Heights, Michigan.  Mathew MORTON died in 1909.  His wife, Sarah T. (STRONG) MORTON, whom he married July 4, 1859, was born April 29, 1841.  Her parents were Lorenzo and Harriet STRONG, of Lapeer City, Michigan.  Mathew and Sarah T. (STRONG) MORTON, who were both members of the Methodist Church, were the parents of 3 children:  Harriet, born April 3, 1860.  She married J. MILLIKEN.  Henry Ellsworth, born September 16, 1863.  Mason, born August 29, 1873.


Henry Ellsworth MORTON, was reared in Lapeer, and Romeo, Michigan.  He attended village school through the eighth grade, and when 14 years of age, began work in his father’s blacksmith and machine shop at Romeo.  He first assisted his father in the design and development of agricultural machinery, and later of iron-working machine tools.  He later designed machinery, and was supervisor of shop and road work in sales and installations, for the MORTON Manufacturing Company, many years, and following the death of his father, which occurred in 1909, was made president of the firm.  Mr. MORTON, who also handled design and engineering work, and was in charge of the sales and finance of the company, devoted many years to the invention, designing, and building of draw-cut machine tools for railroad and industrial shops.  He served as a director of the Lincoln National Life Insurance Company, of Fort Wayne, Indiana, the Muskegon (Michigan) Gas Company, and for many years, was a director of the City Rescue Mission of Muskegon.  Mr. MORTON, who is now deceased, was a Republican, a member of the C. of C., and the M.E. Church, in the latter of which he was chairman of the board of trustees.  His hobby was his work.


On April 6, 1887, at Washington, Michigan, Henry Ellsworth MORTON married Ora Gertrude CRISSMAN, daughter of Michael H. and Margaret (KERN) CRISSMAN.  Children:  Margaretta Sarah (MORTON) PALMER.  Henry Earl MORTON, who is now president of the MORTON Manufacturing Company Matthew  Hugh MORTON, who is secretary-treasurer of the MORTON Manufacturing Company.  Ora Gertrude (MORTON)ALLEN.  Alice May (MORTON) PREMO.


* For further data regarding Henry Ellsworth MORTON, see Charles Moore “History of Michigan” (Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, 1915), vol. 3, p. 1451. (above)

** For further data regarding Mathew MORTON, see “History of Macomb County”.


Source:  Citizens Historical Association Indianapolis   Number  2 B532 D20 E61 F93  AGA/KLA  August 15, 1936



Henry E. Morton


HENRY E. MORTON, who is now president of the MORTON Manufacturing Company, an important concern engaged in the manufacturing of iron working machinery in the city of Muskegon, became the chief executive of this company upon the death of his honored father who had founded the business many years previously at Lapeer, this state, whence it was removed to Romeo, Macomb county, in the early seventies, the enterprise having there been continued twenty years, at the expiration of which, in 1891, a final removal was made to Muskegon.  Here, with more metropolitan facilities, the business has since been continued on a larger scale and with distinctive success, so that the concern was lending in large measure to the industrial and commercial prestige of this progressive Michigan City.  Henry E. MORTON was born at Lapeer, judicial center of the Michigan County of that name, and the date of his nativity was September 16, 1863.  He is a son of Mathew and Sarah T. (STRONG) MORTON, and thee other two children are Mrs. Harriet MILLIKEN, of Caro, Tuscola county, and Mason B., who is vice president of the MORTON Manufacturing Company, and who is the subject of a personal sketch on another page of this work.  Mathew MORTON was one of the pioneer businessmen of Lapeer and it was there that he founded the business of the MORTON Manufacturing Company.  In the early seventies he removed with his family to Romeo and there he continued as president of the MORTON Manufacturing Company during a period of twenty years prior to the removal of the industry to Muskegon Heights.  In the latter city he remained the executive head of the company until his death in 1910, the well-equipped manufactory being established in the Muskegon heights district.  Mr. MORTON was a man of fine personality, upright and honorable in all the relations of life, a loyal and liberal citizen and a man of exceptional business ability, as is attested by the status of the company which he organized and the business of which was developed under his efficient management.  He was seventy-four years of age at the time of his death and his wife passed away when about seventy-four years of age, both having been honored pioneer citizens of Michigan, and both having been earnest members of the Methodist Episcopal church.  Henry E. MORTON was eight years of age at the time of the family removal to Romeo, and there he received the advantages of the public schools, besides which he there gained his initial business experience, through active association with the MORTON Manufacturing Company.  This experience eventually was made to include all phases and details of the business, and thus he was admirably fortified for the important executive duties that came to him when he succeeded his father as president of the company in 1910. In this and all other relations he is well upholding the honors of the name which he bears, and he is one of the representative figures in the industrial circles of Muskegon.  As before stated, the factory of the company is at Muskegon Heights, and it is in that place also that Mr. MORTON and his family reside.  He is loyal and public spirited in this civic attitude, is a staunch advocate and supporter of the cause of the Republican party, and he and his family hold membership in the Methodist Episcopal church. April 6, 1887, was marked by the marriage of Mr. MORTON to Miss Ora G. CRISSMAN, daughter of Michael H. CRISSMAN, of Mount Vernon, Macomb County, where he still resides, his wife being deceased.  Marguerite S., eldest of the children of Mr. And Mrs. MORTON, is the wife of Edward C. PALMER and they reside in the city of Chicago; H. Earl is associated with the MORTON Manufacturing Company, as is also Matthew H.; Ora G. is the wife of Clayton T. ALLEN, of Muskegon Heights; and Miss Alice May is a successful and popular teacher in the public schools of Muskegon Heights.



Source:  “Historic Michigan”, George N. Fuller/ James L. Smith, (1925)

Vol. III, pp. 231-232


Submitted by Lisa Hoffius and Bill Moore


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