The ninth governor of Ohio, Jeremiah Morrow, was born near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on October 6, 1771, of Scotch-Irish ancestry. His grandfather, Jeremiah Murray, a Covenanter from Londonderry, came to America about the middle of the eighteenth century and settled near Gettysburg, where the governor's father, John Murray, became a successful farmer. It was he who changed the family name to Morrow. Jeremiah spent his youth assisting on his father's farm and in securing a good education for the day, especially in mathematics.
At the age of twenty-three he caught the "Ohio fever" and started for the Ohio country in 1794, arriving the following spring in the Miami Valley. He settled first at Columbia, where he engaged in surveying, in farming, and in school teaching. A few years later he bought land in Deerfield Township, Warren County, made a clearing, and built a log house to which in 1799 he brought his bride, Mary Parkhill, a cousin from Pennsylvania.
Morrow's practical knowledge and sound judgment soon earned the esteem of his neighbors, and they elected him to the second territorial legislature, which met in Chillicothe in 1801. In that body he acted in accord with the Chillicothe Junto in opposition to the administration of Governor St. Clair and in favor of immediate statehood. This was the first of many public offices to which he was appointed or elected over a period of more than forty years. He was elected delegate to the constitutional convention of 1802, in which he served as chairman of the committee on the qualifications of voters.
In January 1803 he was elected one of the four senators from Hamilton County in the first general assembly under the state con- stitution. Six months later he was elected from a list of seven candidates as Ohio's first congressman. He was reelected to this position with little or no opposition for four consecutive terms, thus serving in the house of representatives from 1803 to 1813, the entire period during which Ohio was entitled to but one representative. At the close of his fifth term in the house he was elevated to the United States Senate and served in that body until 1819.
Morrow was not a brilliant orator and his career in congress was not spectacular, but it was highly constructive. He was conscientious in the performance of his duties and excelled as a writer of reports. He was considered the outstanding authority on land policy, and as chairman of the committee on public lands while in both houses, drafted most of the legislation passed on that subject during his stay in congress. The land act of 1820, which decreased the minimum price of land to $1.25 per acre and permitted the sale of tracts as small as eighty acres, put into effect Morrow's policies.
Morrow declined reelection to the senate in 1819 and returned to his farm. He was not permitted, however, to remain long out of office, for in 1820 and again in 1822 he was appointed a canal commissioner. In the latter year he was elected governor over Allen Trimble and William W. Irwin, and reelected in 1824 when Trimble was his only opponent. The lack of differences in policies advocated by the candidates in both elections made the results an indication of Morrow's personal popularity.
When Morrow became governor, Ohio was still suffering from the business depression following the bank crisis of 1819. During his four years as state executive several factors contributed to a rising trend toward recovery. One of these was the beneficial effects of the federal land act of 1820, for which Morrow was directly responsible, and another was the stimulus to commerce created by the completion of the Erie Canal. More important still were the internal improvements within the state: the extension of the National Road into Ohio and the beginning of construction on the Ohio and Erie and the Miami canals. Morrow had been a strong advocate of internal improvements, and it seems fitting that he should have participated with Governor DeWitt Clinton in the ceremonies which opened both canal projects in July 1825.
Several important measures were passed by the general assembly during Morrow's administration. In addition to the act authorizing the construction of the canals, the session of 1824-25 passed two other very important measures which had the support of Governor Morrow. One was the law establishing a state-supported common school system and the other was the law drafted by Thomas Worthington for the evaluation and taxation of property which is substantially the basis for the state's present system.
At the close of his second term as governor Morrow declined to be a candidate for reelection but served in the state senate for the 1827-28 session and in the lower house in 1829-30 and 1835-36. His constituents in the fourth congressional district sent him again to congress in 1841. At the expiration of his term in 1843, just forty years after he first entered congress, he refused to be a candidate for reelection, stating that he felt out of harmony with the times. Only one of his colleagues in 1803, John Quincy Adams, was still in congress.
An active politician, Morrow was one of the founders of the Whig party in Ohio. He was president of the convention in December 1827 of a group which became the nucleus of the Whig party and presided at the Ohio Whig convention in Columbus in 1836. He was a delegate to the Republican national convention in Baltimore in 1831, and traveled East for the first time by stagecoach over roads which he had ridden many times on horseback. On three occasions he headed the ticket of presidential electors from Ohio.
Although Morrow had been showered with the highest honors in the gift of the people of his state, he was the most unassuming of men. After having been senator and governor, he did not disdain the humble offices of township trustee, school director, and supervisor of roads. His last years were spent among his books in an unpretentious home near Lebanon overlooking his saw and grist mill on the Little Miami River and a section of the Little Miami Railroad, of which he had served as first president. He died there in 1852 at the age of eighty and was buried in a country cemetery nearby. He was survived only by his eldest son, one of six children. The Ohio Historical Society
S. WINIFRED SMITH
Ohio History Center 800 E. 17th Ave. Columbus, OH 43211 © 1996-2012 All Rights Reserved.