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My daughter lives in Back Bay, Boston. It’s a lovely neighborhood for walking, and my favorite section has always been the Commonwealth Mall. It’s a green oasis in the city, a long avenue divided by a green park dotted with statuary of famous Bostonians. I had never examined these statues up close until recently, when I noticed that all the statues seemed to be literary figures. One of my favorite statues is that of Samuel Eliot Morison.
Morison was a famous Boston Brahmin, an Admiral, and most famously, a Harvard professor of history. However, his stature shows him wearing casual clothing, perched on the edge of a rock in a pose that looks as if he were gazing out to sea. Since he was very famous for his books on maritime history, it seems appropriate. His most famous books were about New Hampshire’s own John Paul Jones (John Paul Jones, 1960) and Christopher Columbus (Admiral of the Ocean Sea, 1943). He was a sailor, as well as a scholar, and earned two Pulitzer Prizes and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Being very outspoken and fairly old fashioned for the twentieth century, he was criticized for justifying slavery, and parents often boycotted some of the textbooks he co-authored. The elementary schoolbook “Growth of the American Republic” was criticized since its first publication in 1944, but changes were not made to its racial distortions until 1962. Morison is also well known for being the last professor to ride a horse to the Harvard campus. FDR was so impressed with his book on Columbus that he allowed Morison to join the Navy as a historian, where he wrote his fifteen volume set “History of the United States Naval Operations in World War II”. I supposed this was equivalent to today’s “embedded journalists” in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I began to wonder about the name Morison when examining the statue, and since Londonderry has a plethora of Morrisons in its history, I soon found a match in the good professor’s family tree. He was indeed a descendant of some of the original Nutfield settlers, and also a descendant of U. S. Senator Harrison Otis Gray, of Boston.

The Morison lineage:

Gen. 1: John Morison born 1628 in Aberdeen, Scotland, died 16 Feb 1736 in Londonderry, New Hampshire; married to Unknown. He immigrated to America between 1720 and 1723 with his brothers James and Halbert, and settled in Nutfield (Londonderry, New Hampshire.) He married secondly to Jeanette Steele.

Gen. 2: John Morison born 1678 in Ireland, died 14 Jun 1776 in Peterborough, New Hampshire; married to Margaret Wallace, born 1687, died 18 April 1769.

Gen. 3: Thomas Morison, born about 1710 in Ireland, died on 23 November 1797 in Peterborough, New Hampshire; married on 2 October 1739 in Lunenburg, Massachusetts to Mary Smith, born in 1712, died on 29 November 1799.

Gen. 4: Robert Morison, born on 29 November 1744 in Lunenburg, Massachusetts, died on 13 February 1826; married to Elizabeth Holmes, daughter of Nathaniel Holmes and Elizabeth Moor, born on 23 June 1754 in Londonderry, New Hampshire, died on 17 May 1808 in Peterborough, New Hampshire.

Gen. 5: Nathaniel Morison, born 9 Oct 1779 in Peterborough, New Hampshire, died 11 September 1819 in Natchez, Mississippi; married on 13 September 1804 to Mary Ann Hopkins, daughter of John Hopkins and Isabella Reid, born 1781 in Londonderry, New Hampshire, died 27 August 1848 in Medina, Michigan.

Gen. 6: Nathaniel Holmes Morison, born 14 Dec 1815 at Peterborough, New Hampshire; married to Sidney Buchanan Browne.

Gen. 7: John Holmes Morison, born Jan 1856 in Baltimore, Maryland, died 1911; married 26 Jun 1886 in Boston to Emily Marshall Eliot, daughter of Samuel Eliot and Emily Marshall Otis, born 14 Feb 1857 at Roxbury, Massachusetts, died in 1925.

Gen. 8: Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison, born 9 July 1887 at Boston, Massachusetts, died 15 May 1976; married to Elizabeth Shaw Greene, and second to Priscilla B. Shekelford.

Several other books by Samuel Eliot Morison:

“The Life and Letters of Harrison Gray Otis, Federalist”, 1765–1848 (1913)
“The Story of Mount Desert Island” (1960)
“Of Plymouth Plantation, 1620-1647” editor (1952)
“Samuel De Champlain: Father of New France” (1972)
For more information:
“The History of the Morison or Morrison Family,“ by Leonard Allison Morrison and Frederick William Thomas, Boston, Mass: A. Williams & Co, 1880.

Copyright 2009, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

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