The Okmulgee County community of Morris is located eight miles east of Okmulgee, at the junction of U.S. Highway 62 and State Highway 52. The town grew around a cattle stop on the Ozark and Cherokee Central Railway (later the St. Louis and San Francisco Railway) which ran between Muskogee and Okmulgee. George W. Clark was Morris's first business operator and postmaster. The post office was established on January 4, 1904. In spring 1904 T. F. Randolf of Okmulgee bought eighty acres from a Creek, Phillip Scott, and mapped out the town of Morris. The two main streets were Ozark (named after the railroad) and Hughes (for Charles E. Hughes). The origin of the name Morris is uncertain.
By the end of 1904 Morris had a bank, a mercantile store, a cotton gin, two lumberyards, three churches, and four hundred residents. The Morris News, established in 1910, has remained in operation. Morris's largest growth came during the oil-boom days, being in the Morris Pool. Much coal lay close to the surface around Morris and was mined. Ranching and farming have remained important aspects of the town's economy. The population began to decline during and after World War II and was 1,294 in 2000. The highest number of residents was 1,926 in 1920 and its lowest was 982 in 1960.
Among the most interesting historical events in Morris's history are bank robberies that occurred in Morris. The most talked about were those by Charles Arthur "Pretty Boy" Floyd. Floyd was popular in the Morris area and was befriended by several families. Many local residents surrendered their properties to banks during the Great Depression, and Floyd was regarded as a modern-day Robin Hood.
The most significant happening ever to occur in Morris was the tornado of April 26, 1984. That storm destroyed the entire business section as well as about one half of the housing. Nine people were killed, and many more injured. Only in the last decade of the twentieth century did the town begin to rebuild. In 2000 Morris supported eight churches, about forty businesses, a school system, and a Lions Club, which served as the unofficial chamber of commerce.
SEE ALSO: SETTLEMENT PATTERNS.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Morris, OK Centennial, 1904-2004 (Rich Hill, Mo.: Bell Books, 2004). "Morris," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City.
Marvin V. Layman
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