When John George Morris moved from Goulburn to Bowral in 1873 with his wife Sarah and three step-children, it was still a small, homely place.
The Morris family, being Wesleyan Methodists, would have fitted in well as most of Bowral's early business people were strongly connected to that church, including the Ward and Duprez families, the Harrisons who ran the first store, newspaper pioneers Daniel and William Beer, owners of the Bowral Free Press from 1884, and John Joseph Campbell, a timber merchant and builder.
As told in the last article, JG Morris set up as a storekeeper and auctioneer, flourishing as the town grew. Despite ongoing poor health, he became a leading force in cultural and civic matters. In November 1891, while serving as Bowral's mayor, he passed away, his funeral being described as the largest the town had ever seen. Yet he soon faded from local memory, as his widow and step-children left the district and he was without children of his own to preserve his memory. An outline of his life continues here, sourced mostly from obituaries and other articles in early newspapers.
A notice in the Town & Country Journal of January 1876 lists JG Morris as one of the agents appointed by a NSW Veterinary Association member for the sale of horse and cattle medicines. The Goulburn Herald of September 1878 advises that tenders for repairs to Bowral Public School be submitted to JG Morris, Hon Secretary to the Public School Board at that place.
In the late 1870s, JG Morris employed William Stokes (a son of early Bowral residents John and Elizabeth Stokes) to manage his Bowral retail emporium, which was situated on Bong Bong Street's west side, midway between the Grand and Royal hotels.
Read more: Morris in a 'humble' town
From 1880, numerous notices in the Sydney Morning Herald indicate Morris had become active as a house, land and estate agent. For example, in November 1880: "Blocks for sale in Bowral. Hardie and Gorman, in conjunction with Mr JG Morris of Bowral, acting under instructions from PLC Shepherd Esq, will sell by public auction that large country estate known as the 'Gib' property, lying between Bowral and Mittagong on the GS Railway." Later, in October 1881: "Gentleman's country residence to let, a few minutes' walk of the station, 70 acres, orchards, gardens etc. The house contains 14 rooms, also stable, coachhouse, dairy etc. Suitable for a first-class boarding-house. JG Morris, Auctioneer Bowral."
The Sydney Mail reported in June 1882 that a large and influential meeting was held in the Bowral School of Arts to form an Agricultural, Horticultural and Industrial Society, which would hold annual flower shows, and that "Mr JG Morris brought forward good arguments in favour of holding shows in a central position".
In July 1882, the SMH advised that a public meeting was held at Charker's long-room, Bowral, to consider the desirability of building a new School of Arts. The meeting was well attended, Mr JG Morris occupied the chair, and a committee was appointed to collect funds.
In February 1883 the Kiama Independent reported that "Mr JG Morris has received instructions from Mr H Kennedy of Kangaloon (in consequence of his intended removal to Burwood) to submit to public auction the lease of his 150 acre farm with six-roomed cottage, stone dairy, etc." The Kiama paper noted on June 1, 1883 that "the Wesleyans of Kangaloon are deserving of great credit for their liberality and enterprise in erecting a substantial and commodious stone church. Mr JG Morris, Esq, of Bowral, was called to the chair and, after a few well-chosen remarks, called upon James Alcorn Esq to read the financial statement."
By 1883 Bowral was flourishing as the residential and social heart of the Southern Highlands, with numerous small dwellings having been built and large country residences erected by well-known men including PLC Shepherd, Samuel Hordern and Randolph Nott. As a store-owner, auctioneer and property agent, JG Morris thrived.
He contributed far more than that, however, being appointed a Justice of the Peace, serving as president of various community groups, and as mayor. His 1891 obituary noted that "he was for years the life and soul of Bowral" his great feature being "his quiet, unostentatious manner of life".
- Berrima District Historical & Family History Society - compiled by PD Morton. Part 2 of a 4-part series. To be continued.
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