by Ethel Nielsen
© 2011

     This story is about Wilbur Morrison who, in the 1930’s, interviewed, recorded, and published the history of many pioneer families that were still living in Harrison County, WV. Wilbur worked for the Clarksburg newspapers from about 1899 until sometime in the 1930”s.

     The following photograph shows Wilbur in front of the daily Telegram when it was located on Third Street around 1904.

The caption under the picture says:

“Top: Mrs. Florence Mathews Camp was a designer of hats in the vicinity around 1906. (Mrs. Charles Gaylord) There were 10 employees and the paper had a circulation of approximately1,000. Employees were: Front: Sheets Flanagan, Wilbur C. Morrison, Charlie Kinniared, J. R. Smith, ?Frank Peck, Frank Watson and Carl Drummond.”

Editorial Office as it appeared in early 1900s

     In 1902, The Clarksburg Daily Post was purchased and named William L. Geppert and Wilbur C. Morrison as editors of the Daily Telegram. (Wilbur and William Geppert remained friends for life). For 12 years this paper appeared six days a week and in 1914 the Sunday Edition was added and the name changed to the Clarksburg Telegram. The paper was printed in the basement of the Empire Building. This photo of Wilbur was taken in the early 1900’s.

     History of Harrison County, by Dorothy Davis, page 827, says The Clarksburg Exponent first appeared in 1910. Guy Tetrick managed the paper from October 1915 until the early thirties. The Telegram Company bought out the Exponent Company August 27, 1917 and moved the Telegram to the Clarksburg Publishing Company building so both papers could use the same presses. The Exponent was a morning paper, Tuesday through Saturday, and the Telegram the evening paper Monday through Saturday. On Sunday it was the Exponent-Telegram.

     At the 1997 dedication of the TETRICK collection to West Virginia University, Joy Gilchrist, (President of Hacker’s Creek Pioneer Descendants) said Guy Tetrick began a Bible contest in the newspaper in the 1930’s and about the same time hired Wilbur as a reporter. The project seems to have lasted about 3 years. (Wilbur would have been 65 years old in 1933). It is not known when he retired but when his sister Agnes Morrison died in 1942 in San Francisco, he made arrangements to bury her and gave his address as Jacksonville, Florida.

     Wilbur used Guy Tetrick’s county census returns for the addresses of pioneer families and then traveled around the countryside interviewing families, recording and writing stories about them. These stories were then published in the Clarksburg Exponent newspaper. The Family Stories, & Bible Records of Central West Virginia have been reprinted by Lolita Gunthrie in four volumes and can be purchased from Hacker’s Creek located in Hornor, W.V.

     Upper Monongahela Valley, page 1169, says Wilbur attended public schools, Broaddus Institute, and the Rochester, N.Y. University. His first employment was school teacher, for which he was eminently qualified, and since 1899 had served as editor of the Telegram, one of the leading newspapers of Clarksburg. As shown by his long connection with the Telegram and its great success, Mr. Morrison's service as editor has been eminently satisfactory and he is one of the best known editorial writers in the state. He is a stockholder in the Empire Nat'l Bank of Clarksburg. He is a Baptist in religion, a Republican in politics, and holds membership in the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, is vice-worthy president of Clarksburg Aerie, No. 445, Fraternal Order of Eagles, and Elks Club.

Wilbur’s Heritage

     Wilbur wrote stories about many pioneer families but one wonders WHY did he skip writing about his own heritage? The closest he came to discussing his ancestors was when he wrote the obituary of his Uncle Nimrod Russell Morrison, a brother to Wilbur’s father Isham Alexander. Nimrod’s obituary was published in the Clarksburg Exponent on June 1, 1931 but Wilbur never once indicated a relationship.

     Wilbur was the only son of Elizabeth Ellen Mines and Isham Alexander Morrison. He was born January 29, 1868 in Wilsonburg and died June 9. 1955. His given address was the Waldo Hotel where he had been living He died of cerebral hemorrhage, was 87 years old, and had been ill for 3 months. The informant of his death was his god-son, William H. Geppert of Cumberland, Md. son of his former co-editor William L. Geppert.

     When Wilbur was 6 years old, his father, Isham Alexander Morrison (1831-1874), was killed taking cattle to market. He was standing up in the cattle car when the train went under a bridge near Cumberland and he was knocked off. He left his wife Elizabeth Mines with five young children to rear. Clara McKinley, Phoebe Campbell, Agnes Morrison, Laura Hammond, and Wilbur. Wilbur’s mother, Elizabeth Ellen (1835-1889), was the daughter of James Madison Mines (1812-1896) and Ellen King (1810-1904).

     Wilbur was raised in the Wilsonburg area of Clarksburg and was a charter member of the Wilsonburg Baptist Church organized on May 29, 1887. Other charter members were his mother, Elizabeth E. Morrison, his sister Agnes Morrison, his cousin Charles C. Morrison, D. W. Hammond, E. C. Smallwood, and Flavious Drummond. Wilbur was the first Church Clerk and D. W. Hammond was the first treasurer. In 1888 a Sunday school was started and Wilbur was the first Superintendent. In 1958 the church had 50 members.

     Wilbur’s father, Isham, was a farmer, merchant and live stock shipper and made a lucrative living. He was a Baptist in religion and a Democrat in politics. He was also a contractor. The book Covered Bridges of Harrison County, Harvey Harmer, 1956, page 33, says in 1872 the City contracted with Isham to build a new bridge for $670 to be completed by October 15. On the 12th of November 1872, Jacob Cork reported Morrison had completed the covered wooden bridge across the creek on the Northwestern Turnpike, two and one-half miles west of Clarksburg for $800.

     Two of Isham ‘s brothers, William and Thomas, were neighbors of Peter W. Ash; they went fox hunting together and frequently took the Morrison slaves (Jack, Joe, George, Mose, Beverly, Armstrong & Ed) along who entertained them with Virginia Plantation songs (Vol. 2, p 126-131, Family Stories & Bible Records by Lolita A. Guthrie).

     In 1890, Wilbur married Prudence Titcheral. She was tubercular and died shortly after the wedding. After her death, Wilbur went away to school and graduated from the University of Rochester in New York.

     When Wilbur died, a reference next to his name listed a Lillian Morrison, died 28 August 1949, 77 years old with parents Herman B. Davis and Elizabeth McWilliams. She died of Myocarditis. A marriage certificate has never been located.

The Davis Funeral Home, Clarksburg, had the following record of Wilbur’s funeral: The minister was Dr. S. O. Bond, former president of Salem College and Dr. James P. Wilbourn, Pastor of Clarksburg Baptist Church. Interment I.O.O.F. Cemetery His residence was the Waldo Hotel and his wife Lillie died several years ago. His will is in Book 42, page 116, and his estate settlement in Book 181, pg 38. Wilbur was 84 years old in this last known photo.

     David Houchin, Harrison County Genealogical Society, looked at the probate records after Wilbur’s death and discovered he had left $500 legacies to eight nieces and nephews; his sister Phoebe’s four sons and two daughter and his sister Clara’s two daughters, Irene and Virginia. The remainder of his estate went to the son of his former co-editor at the Telegram, William L. Geppert. The son, William H. Geppert, reported the death of Wilbur and received over twenty thousand dollars in cash as well as stock certificates valued at nearly sixty thousand dollars. David speculated that Wilbur probably owned an interest in the Exponent and Telegram companies and probably bought the 75 shares (left to his Godson) at the time of the merger in 1927 when Wilbur was also a co-editor and director of the newspaper.

     This story closes with a quote made by David Houchin several years ago: “There is no memorial to Morrison despite his long service” to the city and the people of Clarksburg!
          David Houchin, 2008

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