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Records of the Kansas Governor's Office : administration of Governor E. N. Morrill (1895-1897)

Creator: Kansas. Governor (1895-1897 : Morrill)

Date: January 14, 1895 - January 11, 1897

Level of Description: Sub-collection/group

Material Type: Government record

Call Number: See individual series

Unit ID: 308731

Restrictions: None.

Biographical sketch: Thirteenth governor of the State of Kansas, 1893–1895 (Republican); of Hiawatha.

Abstract: Correspondence and other items received from the administration of E. N. Morrill, governor of the State of Kansas from 14 January 1895, to January 1897, includes general letters; official response letters from & letters concerning State agencies; applications, recommendations, & related correspondence pertaining to State government jobs; and subject files; some proclamations are also included. Additional records of Governor Morrill are in separate series common to several governors including Executive proclamations, 1861-1980; Pardon and parole files from the Women's Industrial Farm, 1863-1919; Letter press books, 1865-1904; a Letter register, 1871-1895; a Record of death sentences, 1872-1906; Death sentence warrants, 1872-1908; Requisitions on governor from governors of other states for persons accused of crimes, 1873-1960; Prisoners in Kansas State Penitentiary, ca.1875-1897; and Citizenship pardons, 1876-1960.

Space Required/Quantity: 3 ft. (7 boxes)

Title (Main title): Records of the Kansas Governor's Office : administration of Governor E. N. Morrill (1895-1897)

Titles (Other):

  • Correspondence files
  • Correspondence received
  • Kansas Governor E. N. Morrill correspondence received
  • Records of the Kansas Governor's Office : E. N. Morrill administration (1895-1897)

Part of: Records of the Kansas Governor's Office.

Language note: Text is in English.


Biog. Sketch (Full):

Edmund Needham Morrill, thirteenth governor of the State of Kansas, was born on 12 February 1834 at Westbrook, Maine.

Edmund Morrill came from humble beginnings at Westbrook attending common schools, and he mastered the tanning and fur trade at an early age. He also attended, and graduated from, Westbrook Seminary in 1855. He was the son of Mr. Rufus Morrill; a tradesman in the tanner and furrier works, and Mrs. Mary Webb Morrill, he grew up with one sister and one brother.

Like his predecessor, Lorenzo Lewelling, Edmund Morrill had the instinctive quest for knowledge. His reading and study on many subjects was excessive, especially those relating to education, religion, human rights, and public affairs. He was an industrialist hard working individual, and at age twenty-one he engaged in the laborious nursery business with his partner, John W. Adams. Edmund was a lightning rod for education; he was also elected a member of the School Board of Westbrook.

In 1857 Morrill decided it was time for a life change; he "went for broke" and moved 1,600 miles west to Brown County, Kansas. The year 1857 was an interesting time in history because the issue of slavery had not yet been settled.

After surveying several parts of eastern Kansas, Edmund built his homestead on Walnut Creek in Hamlin Township of Brown County, near the present day village of Hamlin. There he built a sawmill that later burnt down in a ravaging drought fire. Politically, and morally, Edmund felt right about the Free State (antislavery) agenda looming on the horizon, and by October 1857, he was elected from Brown and Nemaha counties as a member of the first Free-State Legislature in the Kansas Territory. Edmund Morrill played a shadowy but conspicuous part in reversing the laws that were earlier enacted by the official Territorial Legislature composed largely of non-resident men from Missouri.

By January 1858, Morrill had made a mark for himself in the political arena and was elected a Free-State member of the proposed Legislature under the terms of the Lecompton Constitution; this body never met. He was one of the many “minds” that were determined to steer the ship of Kansas toward a Free State territory. Then came the drought stricken calamity of 1860. A famine that would horrify its pioneers of the day, and so devastating was the fire-causing drought, the mill owned by Morrill and his partner was burned to the ground. The famine impoverished many settlers for much of 1858 and 1859, and for up to three months going without food, other than green field corn for an occasional winter corn meal.

With internal war erupting in the eastern half of the country, on October 5th 1861, Edmund Morrill enlisted in the army at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and was assigned to Company C, 7th Kansas Cavalry Regiment. His daily routine and attention to detail in his cavalry duties were so impressive that later led to increased command responsibility. In August 1862, Morrill was a cavalry sergeant when he received an appointment as commissary officer of subsistence from President Abraham Lincoln. This appointment was made at the recommendation of Vice-president Hannibal Hamlin, perhaps because Hamlin was also a native from Maine. But this new responsibility came with a promotion to captain, and Morrill was ordered to report to General Ulysses S. Grant at Corinth, Mississippi. Captain Morrill was charged with managing the large perishable and non-perishable stores at Forts Henry, Heiman, and Donelson in Tennessee.

In January 1864, during the tactical planning stage of General William Tecumseh Sherman’s march toward Atlanta, Captain Morrill was dispatched to Clarksville, Tennessee, and ordered to procure several thousand pounds of beef, game and flour for subsistence for Sherman’s army. In his duties as chief commissariat, Captain Morrill was responsible for millions of dollars worth of stores and supplies. His noble executive abilities did not pass without due recognition from the commanders under whom he served. On October 20, 1865, he was promoted to brevet major for meritorious service, and mustered out of the Army.

After the war, Edmund Morrill returned to Brown County and the town of Hiawatha where he established his home and embarked in the mercantile business. In 1871, he also decided to engage in the banking business. From 1866 to 1871 he did several stints as District Court and county clerk. In 1872, and again in 1876, he was elected to the Kansas State Senate. In the last year of his second term as state senator, he was president pro tem of the Senate and chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. In that committee he forged a plan to stem a State financial crisis by changing the sessions of the Legislature from annual to biennial, which also helped him raise the funds needed to build a new wing and a new center section for the Capitol building. Morrill was also successful in getting two railway lines to traverse Brown County. In the Legislature Edmund Morrill was always at center stage for supporting state, education, and charitable institutions. His practical legislative example was typically known for his equilibrium and fairness in state government, while promoting temperance, good morals, education, and law.

In 1876 Edmund Morrill wrote and published a historical record of Brown County, and in 1882 he established the Free Public Library of Hiawatha, and simultaneously founding the first bank in Brown County. But his greatest contribution to humanity came in 1878 when he gave generously to suffering settlers in western Kansas by delivering enormous quantities of dry stores. All the while, Morrill’s name appeared repeatedly in the press as the most able man for governor and for Congress. In fact, in 1882, the press elevated him forward for Congress with singular unanimity. However, he would not support his own cause. However in the June State Republican Convention, Morrill was nominated as congressman from the state at large along with three others and received 282 delegates.

In the fall of 1882, a majority of about 40,000 elected him to Congress, running ahead of the ticket in about twenty counties. Truth be told, Edmund Morrill would have been just happy to remain in Congress for a working career. But at the urging of his closest friends, he was drawn to the nomination for governor in 1894. His vast popularity in the State ensured his election later that year, and he served one term. At 61 years of age, Governor Morrill was the oldest person elected to the office of Kansas governor to that time. He won with a respectable 188,322 votes to the incumbent Governor Lorenzo Dow Lewelling’s 148,697 votes.

Governor Morrill understood, probably better than any Kansas politician of the day, the real and depressing issues people were facing in the State of Kansas. His inaugural address was heated with indictments on unrest, discontent, and disloyalty going on throughout the State. Morrill’s addressed concerns were on the heels of a national economic depression that only exacerbated the political calamities he was facing: drought, the influence of existing mortgage laws, and the extreme high rates of interest for farmers. Of particular concern were the lack of safety conditions for miners, the State purchase of seed and coal for impoverished farmers, and the overwhelming problem of "street people" roaming the cities. But Morrill stopped short of enacting any laws that would affect these issues, and a mostly divided House and Senate in 1895 made it almost impossible to get any bill to the Governor for signature.

The Governor’s greatest challenge was enforcing the increasingly unpopular Prohibition amendment and the metropolitan police laws. Literally at his wits end, Morrill decided to alienate himself from party leaders and allow for the local policy option for saloons, and this act in effect was the beginning of the end for Prohibition in Kansas. Morrill was equally unsuccessful in his efforts for a new constitutional convention.

As a former nursery tradesman, the governor understood the imperative of farming irrigation for crop survival and thus established a Board of Irrigation, and a $30,000 appropriation for State irrigation development. Governor Morrill also established the appellate court process so the issues of drought, bankruptcy, mortgage laws, and high interest could be litigated fairly in a court of law.

In 1896, Governor Morrill was re-nominated by the Republican State Convention but lost to the combined Democratic and People’s Parties candidate, John W. Leedy, by only 7,500 votes. During his two-year stint as governor, Morrill resided at the Copeland Hotel in Topeka, Kansas. After his defeat for reelection, he returned to his previous residence at Hiawatha, and as president of the Morrill and Janes Bank.
Edmund Morrill also served as president of the First National Bank of Leavenworth, Kansas, and was later director of the Interstate National Bank of Kansas City, Kansas. He opened and directed a loan company in Atchison, Kansas, and an 880-acre apple orchard. Morrill, Kansas, in northwestern Brown County, was named after him.

He died of natural causes on 14 March 1909, at San Antonio, Texas; he is buried in Mount Hope Cemetery, at Hiawatha.

Administrative History

Administrative History:

The Wyandotte Constitution of 1859 established the office of the governor of the State of Kansas. Some of the more important duties, functions, and responsibilities of the governor are to see that the laws are faithfully executed, to require written explanations from other executive officers — at that time the lieutenant governor, secretary of State, auditor, treasurer, attorney general, and superintendent of public instruction — upon any subject relating to their respective duties, convene the Legislature by proclamation on extraordinary occasions, communicate in writing such information as the governor may possess in reference to the condition of the State at the commencement of every legislative session, recommend such measures as he may deem expedient, and commission officers of the State.
No formal qualifications for the governor have been legislated, aside from the provision that no member of Congress or officer of the State or United States can serve. The governor is elected by a plurality, not necessarily a majority of votes cast. The governor takes office the second Monday in January following election. He was authorized to hire a private secretary, pardon attorney, and other staff as appropriations permitted.

At the beginning of Morrill’s term, the governor had the power to appoint Militia officers; members of part - time boards of directors, trustees, or regents of the State Penitentiary (now Lansing Correctional Facility), schools of higher education, the State insane asylum (now Osawatomie State Hospital), and schools for deaf and blind students; a Board of Visitors for the State Agricultural College (now Kansas State University); the Bureau of Immigration; the Commission for Care of Destitute Orphans and Children of State Soldiers; the State librarian; the superintendent of insurance; and a number of minor commissions. He was also an ex officio member of the State Board of Canvassers, boards of directors of the Agricultural College and Normal School, the Bureau of Immigration, the Board of Treasury Examiners, and other committees.

During Governor Morrill's term, the governor was given the authority to appoint a state accountant; an inspector general, with the consent of the Senate; and four of the seven trustees of the Industrial and Educational Institute of Topeka.

Scope and Content

Scope and content:

The records of the Governor E. N. Morrill administration consist of one series of Correspondence Files, 1895-1897, series 193422, http://www.kshs.org/archives/193422 , containing 155 folders.

Items in the series are primarily letters received by Governor Morrill, however there may also be proclamations and some petitions, reports, copies of letters sent, and other types of documents. The correspondence is organized into four sub-series: (1) Alphabetical File; (2) State Agencies File; (3) Applications, Endorsements, and Remonstrances File; and (4) Subject File.

Documents that may have been addressed to Governor Morrill but dated or pertaining to the time period after his term expired in 1895 may be filed with the records of his successor, Governor John Whitnah Leedy.

A more complete list of contents of this series by folder is in the "Summary: Detailed Description of the Records" section on web page http://www.kshs.org/archives/193422 . A detailed description of each sub-series is there as well.

Selected records from Governor Morrill's administration have been posted on Kansas Memory, the Kansas Historical Society's digital archives. These can be found at http://www.kansasmemory.org/locate.php?categories=4894-4796-4955&

A number of series of records of the Governor's Office, while not specific to this administration, contain information from Governor Morrill's time in office. Some of these are described below; the complete list is in the Contents section of this record.

Some of the files in the series Pardon and Parole Files: 1863 – 1919, #193660, are from the Morrill administration. The records are arranged alphabetically by inmates’ names, so identifying records for this period would require looking at each file and determining its date. There are restrictions on access to these records.

Letter Press Books, 1865 – 1904, Series 193397, contain copies of letters and telegrams sent. Recipients included citizens of Kansas and other States, other elected officials, heads of State institutions and departments, the adjutant general, members of the Kansas congressional delegation, other governors, members of the Legislature, railroad officials, newspaper editors, military officers, local officials, and the president and vice president. Topics addressed included State institutions, departments, and programs; appointments; events; counties, investigations; the cattle trade; land; claims; the military; State funds; immigration; Native American issues; laws and legislation, pardons; and other topics mirroring letters received by governors. Secretaries and other staff wrote some of the letters. Some volumes have alphabetical indexes by recipient and subject.

Entries in the Letter Register, 1871 – 1895, Series 193463, for individual letters received contain the dates the letter was written and received, the name and city of the writer, and a brief summary of the contents. There is an alphabetical index at the front of each volume.

A Record of Death Sentences, 1872 – 1906, Series 193782, begins with an alphabetical index and then initially lists the convicted, the court and county, the date convicted, whose murder they were found guilty of, and the date of the warrant and of the filing. Remarks are usually referenced to a later page. The format quickly switches out of list form and devotes pages to each condemned person in turn. While the same information is usually covered, the jury’s verdict and other related documents that may be found in Death Sentence Warrants, Series 193781, are usually handwritten onto these pages.

A volume of Prisoners in Kansas State Penitentiary, circa 1875 – circa 1897, Series 193784, contains information about inmates such as name, county, date of sentence, crime, and term of sentence. The first letter of the inmate’s last name arranges entries.

Citizenship Pardons, 1876 – 1960, Series 193802, are declarations of pardon, which contain information about the crime committed and the date of the pardon.

Records of other offices of Kansas’ government — particularly the secretary of State, Record Group 622, and attorney general, Record Group 82 — will give additional information about State activities during this period. Papers of other prominent political figures of the time, most of which are held by the Kansas State Historical Society, may also offer insights about Kansas politics and government during the Morrill administration.

The Kansas Historical Society has two small Morrill collections relating to E. N. Morrill and his family in its manuscripts collection:


Records specific to this administration:

Records including this administration:

Portions of Collection Separately Described:


No Locators Identified

Related Records or Collections

Related materials:


Finding Aid Bibliography:

Connelley, William E. A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, 1918; Open Library website; https://archive.org/details/standardhistoryo00conn (viewed 23 July 2014).

Drury, James W. The Government of Kansas. 3d ed. Lawrence: Regents Press of Kansas, ©1980. Available in the Kansas State Historical Society (KSHS) Reference Room: call no. K 350.7 D845 1980.

Harder, Marvin A. The Governor of Kansas: An Analysis of Decision-Making Opportunities, Constraints, and Resources. Topeka, Kans.: Capitol Complex Center, University of Kansas, 1981, ©1982. Available in the KSHS Reference Room: call no. SP 378 Z C172 pam.v.1 no. 1.

Socolofsky, Homer E. Kansas Governors. Lawrence, Kans.: University Press of Kansas, ©1990. Available in the KSHS Reference Room: call no. K BB So13.

Index Terms


    Kansas. Governor (1895-1897 : Morrill)
    Kansas. Governor (1895-1897 : Morrill) -- Archives
    Kansas. Governor (1895-1897 : Morrill) -- Records and correspondence
    Kansas -- Military policy
    Kansas -- Officials and employees -- Selection and appointment
    Kansas -- Politics and government -- 1865-1950
    Morrill, E. N. (Edmund Needham), 1834-1909
    Government correspondence -- Kansas
    Governors -- Kansas -- Archives
    Public institutions -- Kansas
    Public records -- Kansas
    State-local relations -- Kansas

Creators and Contributors

Agency Classification:

    Kansas State Agencies. Governor's Office. Main Office.
    Kansas State Agencies. Governor's Office. Specific Administrations. Morrill, Edmund Administration.
    Kansas State Agencies. Governor's Office. Main Office. Pardon and Extradition Attorney.

Additional Information for Researchers

Restrictions: None.

Use and reproduction: Notice: This material may be protected by copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code). Most documents created by governmental entities, including the State of Kansas, are considered in the public domain, although copyright to documents found in public records that were written by individuals or organizations and sent to government agencies may be owned by the writers or their heirs.

Add'l physical form: Selected items: Also available on Kansas Memory, electronic resource. Topeka, Kan. : Kansas State Historical Society, c2007-14; http://www.kansasmemory.org/locate.php?categories=4894-4796-4955&

Cite as:

Note: [document, folder, subseries, or series description], Morrill administration (1895– 1897), records of the Kansas Governor’s Office, State archives Record Group 252, Library and Archives Division, Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka.

Bibliography: Kansas, Governor’s Office, Morrill administration (1895– 1897). Records, 1895–1897. State archives Record Group 252, Library and Archives Division, Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka.

Action note: Inventory written by David F. Manning, volunteer, 2008.

Accumulation/Freq. Of Use: No additional records are expected.

Holder of originals: Kansas State Historical Society (Topeka).