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Report of Site Location: Morris

 

By Jim Wheat

   Driving through the intersection of Miller and Centerville roads would not reveal the slightest existence of the once-thriving settlement of Morris.

   Morris, sometimes referred to as "Morristown," was in existence as early as 1880, when the census records revealed a business-oriented community--Austin Morris was listed as a "retail grocer," and in whose store was probably located the post office; Sam C. Payne, was employed in the flour and grist mill; William E. Wharton, an engineer, possibly at the gin, and Benj. T. Davis, Sr., a miller, who probably owned the flour and grist mill.

    The primary occupation in the community was farming, and appearing on the 1880 census in that capacity, were the following:  R. Thomas Mills, George H. Brandenburg, John W. Davis, John H. Houston, Henderson Coyle, Joseph W. Harris, James and John Mills (both "retired"), J. Clark Jacobs and Festus Tinsley.  There were probably others, but the boundaries of the Morris proper are not discernible.

   According to postal records, the settlement was originally known as "Davis Mills"--the name apparently derived from two prominent families of that area.  When Austin Morris, the candidate for postmaster, applied for a post office, he enetered the proposed name of "China Grove."  However, there was a change of mind, and "China Grove" became "Morris," which was officially established on April 5, 1880.

   The post office was discontinued on February 1, 1881, for reasons not recorded.  However, it was re-established on October 18, 1882, when Benj. T. Davis was appointed postmaster--a position he held for over six years.  Prior to re-establishment, a name change to "Davis Mills" was considered, but once again, Morris proved the unanimous choice.

    In Polk's State Gazeteer & Business Directory for 1884, Morris boasted the following businesses: Davis & Newman's gin and flour mill, S. N. McSpadden's drugs, groceries and dry goods and Wesson & Miller's corn mill and general store.  The population was given as 50.

    With the introduction of the railroad through the area in the early 1880's, and its bypassing of Morris by a fourth of a mile, the decline of the settlement appeared eminent. and, in January of 1887, postmaster Benj. Davis submitted an application to Washington for a change of site for Morris--the proposed location being at a depot on the Greenville & Dallas railroad, approximately one mile east of Rowlett Creek, some 2 1/2 miles northeast of Morris' original location. "Report of Site Location" reports indicate that on February 18, 1887, the location of Morris was indeed changed.

   Schooling in Morris began as early as 1880--indicated by the number of "students" listed on the 1880 census.  Dallas County school records reveal that Sallie Embree was teaching there in 1887 and W. L. McCauley, 1888-1889 (with 57 pupils).  Benj. T. Davis began teaching in November 1889, with 54 pupils and continued to as late as March 1891.  Records were not found for the years 1892-95.  W. M. Wyatt was teaching as early as December 1896, and continued until as late as 1898. The Morris School District was combined with the Centerville district around 1901.

     Ben Davis stepped down as postmaster on December 14, 1888, probably to assume the duties of teaching school at Morris.  His successor as postmaster was Benj. A. Harris, who, in later years, was a physician in Rowlett.

    On February 19, 1889, the post office at Morris ceased to exist, and on the same day, postal activity was transferred to the bustling community of Rowlett, two and a half miles to the northeast.

    The weather-beaten remains of the old Chiesa homeplace and two worn millstones are the sole survivors of a way-of-life laid to rest by progress.

 


GARLAND NEWS.

_________

A Good Rain - Cotton Gins Destroyed by
Fire

      James D. Alexander of Garland is in the city to-day. He says the rainfall was general and the farmer rejoiceth. Mr. Alexander also stated that John Cheisa's gin at Morris, three miles southeast of Garland, was destroyed by fire Sunday night. A day or two ago, the gin owned by Wilson & Fisher, at Rowlette, was consumed.  Origin of fire unknown.

- September 26, 1893, Dallas Daily Times Herald, p. 2
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Map content based on Sam Street Map of 1900,
and interview with Ben Chiesa in 1974.