Open main menu

MORRIS, Mrs. Esther, justice, born in Spencer, Wyoming county, N. Y., in 1813. She comes of a long line of English ancestry. Her early years were spent amid the struggles of pioneer life following the Revolution. Daniel McQuigg, her grandfather, fought on the side of the American colonies and afterwards served as a captain under General Sullivan in the expedition that drove the Indians out of western New York. Under his commission her father was entitled to a farm, which he located near Owego, N. Y., and was one of the first twelve settlers of Tioga county. ESTHER MORRIS A woman of the century (page 532 crop).jpgESTHER MORRIS. Esther's efforts to better the condition of women arose from no sudden conversion. Left an orphan at eleven years of age, she was early thrown upon her own resources. For a number of years she carried on successfully a millinery business in Owego. Before her marriage, at the age of twenty-eight, she had acquired a competence. She became the wife of At tennis Slack, a civil engineer by profession, and at that time engaged in the construction of the Erie Railroad. He died several years thereafter, leaving his wife a large tract of land in Illinois, where he had been engaged as a chief engineer in building the Illinois Central Railroad. With an infant in her arms, she removed to the West. During the settlement of that estate she fully realized the injustice of the property laws in their relation to women. In the long conflict with slavery she was an early and earnest worker. In 1845 she became the wife of John Morris, a merchant of Peru, Ill., and for more than twenty years resided in that place, rearing her family and being an earnest helper in the church, schools and other good works. In 1869 she joined her husband and three sons in South Pass, Wyoming, and there she administered justice in a little court that became famous throughout the world. During her term of office, which covered a period of one year, Judge Morris tried about fifty cases, and no decision of hers was ever reversed by a higher court on appeal. She became a widow in 1876. since which time she has resided in Wyoming, where her three suns are prominently identified with the growth and progress of the new State. She is justly regarded as the mother of woman suffrage in Wyoming, having inaugurated the movement there. She was the first woman who ever administered the office of justice of the peace. It has been sometimes said that the law giving equal rights to women in Wyoming was passed as a joke and as a means of advertising the new Territory of Wyoming, but Colonel Bright, who is now a resident of Washington, asserts that it was no joking matter with him, that he favored it because he believed it was right The condition of Wyoming at that time is of interest. With an area greater than all of the New England States combined, Wyoming, in 1869, had a population of less than ten-thousand, mostly scattered in small frontier villages along the line of the newly-constructed Union Pacific Railroad. The northern portion of the Territory was given over to roving tribes of wild Indians, with here and there a few mining camps held by adventurous gold-seekers. Several hundreds of those miners had penetrated into the country known as the Sweetwater mines, the chief town of which was South Pass City, and contained about two-thousand people. There Governor Campbell commissioned Mrs. Morris to hold the office of justice of the peace.