George Pierson Morehouse, lawyer, ranchman, and ex-state senator, was born at Decatur, Ill., July 28, 1859, a son of Horace and Lavinia F. (Strong) Morehouse, both natives of the State of New York, where they were married in 1849. It is a matter of Morehouse family pride that its ancestors were among the pioneer settlers of this country. Some of them came across the Atlantic prior to 1640 and were noted for their activity in the founding of early New England towns and settlements and in the formation of the government of the colonies. They were energetic in business, military, civic, political and religious affairs and many of them became prominent in the stirring scenes of the colonial epoch. The family is of Scotch-English origin, the name first appearing about 1100 in North EnglandYorkshire and adjoining countieswhere the name was Moorhouse, from having built their houses upon the English moors. These were called "Houses-on-the-moor" or "Moorhouses." In this way the name became the surname of the clanfirst used by English neighbors and afterward adopted by the Scotch immigrants to England. During the crusades of Richard I (Coeur de Lion) to the Holy Land, warriors of the family performed valiant service and were awarded the most honorable charge in heraldry, viz: the large Saltire or St. Andrew's cross, the symbol of resolution and a reward given only to those who had actually served in religious wars and scaled the walls of fortified towns.
Thomas Morehouse, the first immigrant ancestor to America, was at Wethersfield, Conn., as early as 1640, and seems to have been the head of nearly all the branches of the Morehouse family in this country. In 1641 he removed to Stamford, Conn., where he was one of the thirty original white settlers who purchased the site from the Indians for 100 bushels of corn. In 1653 he settled at Fairfield, Conn., and died there in 1658, leaving a widow, Isabel, and the following children: Hannah, Samuel (who had five sons), Thomas II, Mary, Jonathan and John. The last named was an ensign in King Philip's army in 1676; settled at Southampton, Long Island, and was the ancestor of George P. Morehouse.
In the early records of the family the name is often spelled "Moorhouse." Before the Revolutionary war, the descendants of these Morehouse families were found among the prominent old families of Connecticut; near Newark and Elizabeth, N. J.; in Saratoga county, New York, and in the northeastern part of that state. Most of those in southwestern Connecticut and in Dutchess and Putnam counties of New York descended from Samuel, Jr., III, James III, John III, and Daniel III. About forty of the Morehouse name served in the continental ranks in the Revolutionary war from the State of Connecticut alone. It is fairly estimated that fully 200 descendants of Thomas Morehouse I, of Fairfield, Conn., enlisted and fought in that historic struggle for American independence. In course of years, branches of the family crossed the ranges into Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and other middle states as sturdy pioneers in the westward march of civilization, and later crossed the prairies into Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri, Kansas, Texas and the mountain states, and to other western and southern localities. While they have not been as forward as some families in political affairs, those who have been called to official positionwhether in civil or military lineshave always acquitted themselves with credit, adding luster to the family name and leaving a history of honorable achievement worthy of the respect of their countrymen. For many years George P. Morehousehaving been selected as genealogist and historian of the family by the Morehouse Associationhas been gathering historical and genealogical material relating to the family, and has recently come into possession of a large amount of similar material collected and prepared by others, which gives him the most complete accumulation of Morehouse family data in the country. This material he is now arranging for publication as a "History of the Morehouse Family," which when finished will rival in completeness any similar publication in the country.
Horace Morehouse, the father of George P., is a retired merchant and farmer, still living (1912) at the age of eighty-seven years, and is a native of Tompkins county, New York. He lived for a number of years with his father, Stephen Pierson Morehouse, at Albion, N. Y., but in the early '50s removed to Decatur, Ill., before a railroad had reached that place, and there engaged in the hardware business, establishing the house which later became widely known as the Morehouse-Wells Company under the management of his younger brother, George F. Morehouse, to whom he sold his interest during the Civil war. Horace Morehouse was one of the founders of the Republican party in Illinois and was active in securing the nomination of Abraham Lincoln for the presidency in 1860. He helped to build the noted "Wigwam" at Decatur, in which was held the first Republican state convention, where Lincoln rails were displayed and where Lincoln was first mentioned as the "rail-splitter candidate." In company with Maj. P. J. Potts, in the year 1871, he drove overland in covered lumber wagons from Assumption, Ill., to Diamond Springs, Morris county, Kansas, and opened up a stock ranch, where the family lived for many years. This place, known as the old "Morehouse Ranch," one of the best stock farms in the state, is now in the possession of, and operated by, the subject of this sketch. Like his father before him, Horace Morehouse is an elder in the Presbyterian church and active in its work. Besides the parents, the family consisted of four sonsCharles H., George P., Robert H. and James Hazen. Charles H., long a resident of Wichita, Kan., where he lived in frontier days, engaged in the realty business, and as assistant postmaster now resides at Salt Lake City, Utah, where he is manager of a mortgage trust company. He is a frequent contributor to papers and magazines in short character sketches of frontier life and experience. Robert H. is a well known jeweler and the Santa Fe watch inspector at Topeka, Kan. James Hazen Morehouse, for several years clerk of the United States court and recorder at Nowata, Okla., is now a resident of Bliss, Idaho, engaged in irrigation, fruit and alfalfa farming. Lavinia F. Strong, the mother of these children, was born at Auburn, N. Y., in 1826, and died at Diamond Springs, Kan., in 1885. She was a lady of scholarly tastes an[sic] attainments, a clever writer of prose and poetry, and it was her influence which early inculcated in the subject of this sketch an ambition along the same line and aroused in him a thirst for a more liberal education than the frontier district schools afforded. She was the only daughter of Noble Davies Strong, a Presbyterian minister, author and educator, for many years at the head of the academies at Auburn and Cortland, N. Y., and a lineal descendant of Elder John Strong," who came over in 1630 as a Puritan from England in the good ship "Mary and John" and was one of the founders of Northampton, Mass. Elder John Strong was the father of the numerous and noted Strong family of America, which has produced so many authors, educators, divines, jurists and public men, such as United States Supreme Court Justice Strong; Caleb Strong, of Massachusetts, who served the Old Bay State for twenty years as governor and United States senator; William B. Strong, for many years president of the Santa Fe railway system; and Mayor Strong, of the city of New York. In 1887 Horace Morehouse married Martha Maxey, a native of Hardin county, Kentucky, and a daughter of Rev. William B. Maxey. To this union has been born one son, Maxey M. Morehouse, who studied civil engineering and was with the Western Pacific railroad survey through Nevada, after which he graduated in the agricultural course in the University of Missouri and is now engaged in farming near Springfield, Mo.
George P. Morehouse came to the State of Kansas in 1871, when the family settled at Diamond Springs in the southwestern part of Morris county. There he grew to manhood and became inured to the rough and tumble life of the frontier. From early boyhood he has been an expert as a hunter and horseman, and he earned his first dollar by driving a herd to a ranch at the present site of the city of Herington. His early expense money for clothes and school books was procured from the sale of furs, skins and wolf pelts. His early education was acquired in the short, broken terms of the district schools. Preparing himself by self-study, he entered the Albion (N. Y.) Academy, where he graduated in 1884, and also became an academic graduate of the University of New York. He seemed to adapt himself to the change from the rigors of western ranch life to the refinements of eastern schools; for before returning home he was honored with being president and orator of his class, and won three prizesthe Bailey prize in anatomy and physiology; the Coann prize in oratory, and the Inter-Academic oratorial prize. While in New York he began the study of law, but came home and managed the cattle ranch for two years, finishing his legal education at Council Grove, where he was admitted to the bar in 1889. Receiving the appointment of city attorney of Council Grove, he served in that capacity for about six years, and he was also elected county attorney of Morris county. The first official positions he ever held were census enumerator and trustee of Diamond Valley township, in Morris county. Before he was old enough to vote, Mr. Morehouse was active in politics and early railroad matters, and was a frequent speaker and debater on the stump. He has often been called upon for addresses upon patriotic, literary and historical occasions, many of which have been published. For a number of years he practiced law by himself at Council Grove, but for several years past he has been in partnership with Clarence A. Crowley, who has charge of the office in the absence of Mr. Morehouse. In 1900 Mr. Morehouse was elected state senator of the Twenty-third districtMorris, Marion and Chase countiesby over 1,000 majority and served the full term of four years. In the senate he was chairman of the Congressional apportionment committee, and an active member of the judiciary, elections, education and public health committees. He was the author of the first legislation in Kansas for the regulation of the running of automobiles, and of the law declaring the sunflower the state flower and floral emblem of Kansas. (See Sunflower in Vol. II.) He was also author of parts of the Australian ballot law; was an active advocate of the new manual training and industrial education law, and of other reforms in the system of education and taxation. In 1903 he was president of the Kansas State Republican League, often referred to as the "Boss Busters," the pioneer organization which had much to do with the nomination of E. W. Hoch for governor. While a member of the senate, the Council Grove Republican gave him the following favorable mention:
"The Kansas state senate has always been a body of bright menable lawyers and individuals of more than local influence and reputation. To maintain a standing among the Kansas Solons, one must possess a high grade of tact and ability. Among the leaders of that body is Senator George P. Morehouse of the Twenty-third district, composed of Marion, Morris and Chase. * * * While Senator Morehouse does not shun the bustle of political campaigns and is an effective speaker and popular political mixer,' yet his tastes are of a scholarly character and have been gratified by travel and as a student of the best books, of which his fine private library is filled. He is active in literary and educational work&$151;such as the Shakespeare club and the Library Associationand is a member of the Presbyterian church of this city. * * * His political convictions along Republican lines are such that his friends or opponents are never in doubt where he stands upon public questions. In the senate last winter, he was placed upon six of the leading committeessuch as judiciary, elections and public healthand was one of the hardest worked members of that body. He took an active part in the committee and upon the floor of the senate in securing the enactment of many important measures. He helped frame the new election law, which has proven the rock upon which fusion has been broken, and an able exponent of stringent temperance legislation and frequently defended it against the attacks of the whiskey power.
"His nomination for state senator was after a most spirited contest, which tested his popularity and political ability; for state and Federal patronage were thrown against him. Many predicted his defeat as a result of this contest, but at the polls he surprised both friends and opponents and was elected by the largest majority received by a Republican in twelve years. Senator Morehouse, by his presence in the senate, lent an odor of clean politics to the surroundings of that prominent body, and when he arose to express a view upon any matter before the senate, he always commanded the respect and attention of both members and visitors. His every act and word were in the interest of his constituents and the state at large, and won for him many kind words from the press and public men. There is hardly a paper in the state that has not commented favorably on Senator Morehouse and felt proud that he was a member of the senatewell knowing that his characteristic was but nobleness at purpose and a progressive spirit, when it came to good laws and good government. Council Grove feels proud that she possesses such a good citizen and representative in the senate."
When the Soldiers' Monument bill was up for consideration in the senate, in which body it passed, it drew out numerous remarks from the ablest speakers in the senate. Of these the Topeka Herald said: "Morehouse made the first and most eloquent speech for the measure." The Topeka Capital, in referring to the matter, publishing most of Senator Morehouse's address, said: "One of the best speeches in the senate on the bill for a monument for Kansas soldiers was by Senator George P. Morehouse. He is one of the most forceful speakers of the senate and his address on this occasion was one of the best efforts of the session."
During the session, Senator Morehouse never missed a roll-call nor never left the chamber to avoid being recorded as for or against a measure. It was often remarked that he spent more hours in the day on legislative matters for the interests of his constituents than others, and he was generally successful in his efforts to secure the legislation he most desired. He was one of the first promoters of the movement to mark permanently the old Santa Fe trail, and delivered a number of historical addresses at the dedication of several of the monuments at historic places along that famous overland highway. Numerous articles and poems written by him relative to the history and legends of this old trail have been published in newspapers and magazines. He is an active director and life member of the Kansas State Historical Society and a frequent contributor to its publications. Years ago he commenced the preservation of the language, lore and legends of the Kansa or Kaw Indians, of which he has the most complete collection in the country, some of which have been published and the rest will follow. He is the author of the only history of this tribe, and at one of the last councils of the remnant of these Indians was chosen their official historian. As a working member of the International Society of Archaeologists he has made some important discoveries relative to the inhabitants of prehistoric Kansas, and as a student of early aboriginal, Spanish and French occupation of old Kansas, he has brought to light many important and interesting facts and circumstances not mentioned before by Kansas historians. He has found historical authority for spelling the name Kansas in about 150 different ways, and has demonstrated that the name is neither of Indian nor French, but comes from the Spanish word "Escansaques"the name applied by early Spanish explorers as early as 1601 to the tribe of Indians which were afterward known as the Kansa or Kawthe word Cansa or Kansa meaning a troublesome people who disturb and harass others. It comes from the Spanish verb "cansar," which means to molest, to stir up and harass, and the Spanish noun "cansado," a troublesome fellow, a disturber, etc. Senator Morehouse often writes for the newspapers and other publications upon historical, archaelogical and political topics, and during the years 1910-11 was president of the Kansas Authors' club. He belongs to the Knights of Pythias, the Modern Woodmen of America and the First Presbyterian Church of Topeka. While residing in Council Grove he was for about ten years superintendent of the Presbyterian Sunday school there.
In 1906 Mr. Morehouse married Mrs. Louise Thorne Hull, formerly of Morgantown, W. Va., and a descendant of some of the prominent families of the Old Dominion. Her grandfather, Col. Ralph Berkshire, was a colonel of Virginia troops in 1820 and served several terms in the legislature of that state. In 1834 he became a pioneer to Newcastle, Henry county, Indiana, where he also was a member of the legislature and probate judge of the county for seven years. Her cousin, Judge Ralph L. Berkshire, of Morgantown, was one of the early circuit judges and afterwards Presiding Judge of the Supreme Court of Appeals for some six years. He was active in the organization of the new state and was a member of the committee at Morgantovn, which on April 17, 1861, drafted the resolutions which were widely published and called "The First Loyal Voice from West Virginia." Mrs. Morehouse has lived in Topeka a number of years. She is a lady of education and refinement, personally popular and widely known for her business ability and her substantial support to educational and moral institutions. The Morehouse home, opposite the state capitol, is noted for its informal and generous hospitality, and for several years past it has been the frequent meeting place of the Kansas Authors' club, where Kansas writers and literary people have passed many pleasant hours.Pages 80-85 from volume III, part 1 of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed December 2002 by Carolyn Ward. This volume is identified at the Kansas State Historical Society as microfilm LM195. It is a two-part volume 3.
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