Many descendants of Philemon Morriss have lovingly crafted histories and done research on his family. This website consolidates all records on Philemon and Minerva in one place. You can simply download a .zip file of documents. On this site, you'll find:
- An interactive, scanned diary (in its entirety) from Gary Barker of Salem,Oregon
- A legible transcription of Philemon's diary
- Original survey and land records
- Court documents
- Marriage certificates
- Census and tax records
Who Were Philemon and Minerva Morriss?
Philemon Morriss (born 1807 in Clark County, Kentucky) and Minerva Morriss (nee Pierce, born 1824 in Steuben, New York) crossed the Oregon Trail in 1852, leaving Iowa in April and settling in Sublimity, Marion County, Oregon in September. Philemon kept a trail diary, detailing miles made, sites seen, and other details. This diary has generated significant interest in the couple and their history, especially among descendants, many of whom still live in the Pacific Northwest.
Philemon married his first wife, Nancy Jackson, in 1827. By that time, he was living in Sangamon County, Illinois. Family folklore says that Philemon lived with Abraham Lincoln in New Salem, Illinois sometime in the 1830s, and Abraham Lincoln transcribed a family registry for Philemon and Nancy with family names and birth dates. Philemon and Nancy had many children together:
- Julia Ann, born 1833 in New Salem, IL, child of Philemon and Nancy Jackson
- Survigny, born 1835 in New Salem, IL, child of Philemon and Nancy Jackson
- Elizabeth, born 1838 in New Salem, IL, child of Philemon and Nancy Jackson
- Douglas, born 1843 in New Salem, IL, child of Philemon and Nancy Jackson.
- Philemon and Nancy had a number of other children -- Mary Jane, (born 1828), Lucy Ann (twin to Julia Ann) and Thomas (born 1830) -- who died in 1840 as young children.
Nancy died in early 1845, leaving Philemon with young children. In April of that year, Philemon met and married Minerva Pierce. On the day of Philemon and Minerva's marriage, Minerva gave birth to a baby girl in a hay loft. Court records state that she attempted to kill the baby through strangulation, and there is an implication that the child (called Alice) did not live. There are court records that show Philemon's attempt to divorce Minerva, along with accusations that she was sleeping and living with Amberry Rankin, a married man who was also the sheriff's son. Charges were dropped, and Philemon and Minerva stayed together in Illinois for a few years after their marriage.
During this time, Philemon fought in the Mexican American War and Minerva gave birth to Philemon Delacy and Amanda Vergilia. The family soon moved to Polk County, Iowa. There, they had Annis, named for Minerva's mother and sister, before leaving on the trail in 1852:
- Philemon Delacy, born 1846 in New Salem, IL, child of Philemon and Minerva Pierce
- Amanda Vergilia, born 1848 in New Salem, IL, child of Philemon and Minerva Pierce
- Annis Lorinda, born 1850 in Polk County, IA, child of Philemon and Minerva Pierce
Philemon and Minerva had four more children once they got to Oregon:
- Albert Scott, born in 1853 in Sublimity, Oregon, child of Philemon and Minerva Pierce
- Narcissa Amelia, born 1855 in Sublimity, Oregon, child of Philemon and Minerva Pierce
- Edwin Dunbar, born 1857 in Sublimity, Oregon, child of Philemon and Minerva Pierce
- Cordelia Perditta (known as Dit), born 1860 in Sublimity, Oregon, child of Philemon and Minerva Pierce
- Owen Lafayette, born 1863 in Sublimity Oregon, child of Philemon and Minerva Pierce, died 1865
Philemon and Minerva settled near Sublimity, Oregon on 320 acres. Philemon worked as a wheelwright and eventually became postmaster. He died in 1883 and is buried in Oregon City, Oregon. Minerva remarried Preston Hamilton but "eventually kicked him out" because he was "shiftless, could not provide." Family folklore says that Minerva's children built her a cabin in Mehama and cared for her in her old age. Minerva died in 1899 and is buried next to Philemon in the Farr Family plot in Oregon City (Minerva and Philemon's daughter Annis married into the Farr family).
Philemon's Oregon Trail Diary
Philemon kept a detailed account of his trip west on the Oregon Trail, and his first two winters in Oregon, in the small diary shown below. View a transcript and images of the original diary here.
Philemon and Minerva's Homestead
Philemon and Minerva received 320 acres near Sublimity Oregon through a Donation Land Claim. The map below shows the extent of their homestead. Overlaid on the map is the original 1854 survey of the Township No. 9 South of Range No. 1 East where the land was located. You can make out their house near the lower left corner of the property. You can also view an overlay of the 1863 survey.
An 1856 survey of Philemon's land claim described it as follows: This claim is quite broken, a considerable portion covered with oak bushes and scattering fir timbers, soil fair average.