Joseph C. Morrell

Who was Joseph Morrell?


We know from accounts by Gustaf Unonius and A.M. Jönsson that Joseph Morrell was the owner of a jewelry store in Buffalo.  

The Buffalo city directories from 1840 to 1844 list the firm of Castle & Morrell at 191 Main Street.    In the next city directory (1847-1848), Castle was listed as a jeweler at 189 Main Street and there is no listing for Morrell, suggesting that Morrell had sold his part of the business.

Joseph Morrell had not been listed in the 1839 Buffalo Directory, but from the description by Gustaf Unonius we know that he had been a peddler for some time before he had opened the store.  

Castle&Morrell silver mark.jpg
Photo by Duvall Sterling, Saint Cloud, Florida, Ebay listing. (http://www.ebay.com/itm/COIN-SILVER-CASTLE-MORRELL-LARGE-ICE-TONGS-BUFFALO-NEW-YORK-/400525970145 accessed: 1 Feb 2015).  Note:  Daniel Castle filed away the ampersand and MORRELL and subsequently used the same stamp for his later work.


Castle_Danl.jpg
Daniel Castle's silversmith's mark. See Sterling Flatware Fashions and Facts website


Daniel Castle was a young silversmith. Joseph Morrell's expertise was as a salesman. It seems reasonable to guess that it was Morrell's success that provided the backing required to begin Castle & Morrell.

1842 Walker's Buffalo City Directory, p 246
Unonius described Morrell & Castle's store as one of the finest in Buffalo. The advertisements in the 1842 City Directory make it clear that they sold more than just jewelry. They also noted in their advertisements that they sold spectacle frames, fishing tackle, pistols, Music Boxes, Accordians, Violins and Fancy Goods, et al.

Unonius also noted that in addition to the storefront, Morrell had a dozen peddlers working for him selling merchandise door to door.

Sundevall's Letters


A letter written by Augustus Sundevall in 1845 provides additional biographical information about Morrell.  Sundevall was staying at Morrell’s house in Lewiston when he wrote home after Christmas.  This letter notes that Morrell had married the daughter of a rich farmer, and had a farm with 40 milk cows. It also notes that Morrell had been an apprentice with  Edlandsson in Ystad before coming to this America 14 years earlier (1832).


This letter confirms that a listing for the marriage of Joseph C. Morrell of Buffalo with Nancy Helen Hewitt of Lewiston on 6 September 1841 in Lewiston, Niagara County was indeed between this Swede and the only daughter of Joseph P.  and Lydia Hewitt of Lewiston.




Swedish Records


Sundevall's letters also provides information for establishing  a connection to Swedish documents.  The household of the saddlemaker Erik Erlandsson (20/9  1767 Lund -   ) included Joseph Morrell from 1821-1826 and notes that Morrell was born in Helsingborg in 1809.  

Joseph Christopher Morrell was born in Helsingborg 23 Nov 1809, the son of an Englishman named Joseph Morrell and his wife Maria Christina Gustafsdotter, the daughter of Gustaf Leonhard Gersonius and Catharina Gersoniusdotter of Ystad.  (Helsingborgs stadsförsamling (Maria) CI:5 (1798-1825) p 227.) Gersonius (1766 Ystad - 1821 Ängelholm) was a customs inspector who worked in Ystad and Gävle. His parents were married 26 October 1808 in Ystad (Ystads Sankta Maria E:2 (1772-1861) Image 51) and his father was listed in the marriage record as Kommissarien Josef Morrell.


MorrellJoseph-birth.JPG
Helsingborgs stadsförsamling (Maria) CI:5 (1798-1825) p 227.)


Joseph Morrell is listed as arriving in Helsingborg on 27 January 1806 (Inrikes Tidningar, Feb 6, 1806, p 1). There is a later reference to "Engelske Landtbrutaren J. Morell" arriving in Helsingborg on 16 October 1819 that is likely his father (Inrikes Tidningar, Oct 27, 1819, p 1). Otherwise, I have found no further documentation of his father. Joseph C. Morrell and his mother lived alone in Helsingborg until 1814 when they moved to Ystad.  Morrell was an apprentice with Erlandsson from about 1822 to 1826 when he left Ystad.

Based on the information from Sundevall, Morrell left Europe for America about 1832.  It is possible that his father’s nationality permitted him to leave the country without the special royal arrangements required prior to 1840.  A record of his immigration has not yet been found.

Naturalization records for Erie County show that Joseph Christopher Morrell became a citizen 28 October 1848 in Buffalo, New York.  This is the latest documental evidence of Joseph Morrell in western New York.

Additionally, this record indicates that he filed his petition for citizenship in New Orleans in January 1840.  No further evidence of this earlier time in New Orleans has yet been found. 


We know that Morrell was in Buffalo when he came to the aid of earlier travelers. This corresponds to the period when he was a partner in Castle & Morrell.  He was also likely in the region as early as 1840.


Morrell probably moved from Buffalo to Niagara County about 1844 and was well established by the time Sundvell was a guest in December 1845.   Joseph and Nancy Morrell's children were born from October 1843 to May 1850.


Joseph C. Morrell likely died in Niagara County in late 1849 or early 1850.  He is not included in the 1850 United States Federal Census with his wife and there is no further documentation of him.  Morrell was not listed in the mortality schedule for the 1850 census for Erie or Niagara County.  There are no estate settlements for him in Niagara or Erie County.


In the 1850 census Nancy H. Morrell is listed in her parent’s household along with four children:  Lydia, Joseph,  Alice, and Helen.  Her husband was not listed, the youngest child was 1 month old. She remains in her parents household and in 1880 she is listed as Helen Lynch (Nancy Helen Hewitt/Morrell/Lynch) living with her father, Joseph P. Hewitt and her youngest child, Augusta Morelle.  Augusta’s father is noted to have been born in Sweden.  This is a second confirmation that Nancy H. Hewitt’s husband was Swedish and that he was the same Joseph Morrell who Gustav Unonius was lucky enough to encounter in Buffalo in 1841.  



Morrell's demise and questions raised by some New Orleans records

Joseph C. Morrell's disappearance from records in Niagara County leave unanswered questions about Morrell.  

The 1855 NYS census is unfortunately not available for Lewiston so no additional information can be gained there.  If Morrell did not die at this time then there are likely court documents concerning divorce or abandonment (I have not searched for these to date).  In the 1860 census, Helen Hewitt Morrell had apparently remarried a man named Lynch and was a widow again with two additional children and a new surname and again in her parents' household.    Helen Hewitt died in 1878 and is buried in the cemetery in Lewiston.


The 1870 United States Census has a curious entry in the Asylum for the Old and Infirmed (likely Little Sisters of the Poor) in the Seventh Ward of Orleans Parish (New Orleans).  One man in their care was Joseph Morrell, 61 years old and born in Sweden.

I would normally discount this as coincidence, except that Morrell is a rare surname in Sweden, Joseph was a less than common given name in Sweden, the birth year is the same, and the record keeping indicates an effort to properly identify the individuals and their origins.

The 1880 United States Census Mortality Schedule notes that within the last year a man named Joseph Morrell, 71, born in Sweden had died in a charity hospital in New Orleans.  Records for Charity Hospital do not have a listing for Morrell, so it may be that these records are from the Asylum.

These coincidental listings combined with the absence of any citation in cemetery records in Lewistown, New York and Morrell's earlier presence in New Orleans (Petition to become a citizen) all make me wonder about this entry. 

References:


1841:  Gustaf Unionius and his biographical notes about Joseph Morrell


Gustaf Unonius traveled through Buffalo on his way to Wisconsin in 1841.  Unonius wrote that he was fortunate to have met there a Mr. Morrell who had helped Unonius clear up a discrepancy with the freight company about extra charges and storage of their luggage.
...Troligtvis skulle nya krångel uppstått , hade ej lyckan fört i vår väg en i Buffalo bosatt Svensk, som hjelpte oss till rätta. Denne Svensk, vid namn Morrcll, hade i många år varit i Amerika, var gift härstädes, och det var icke utan svårighet som han i början kunde underhålla samtalet på svenska. Efter några timmars konversation gick det likväl bättre. Han hade i Sverige varit sadelmakaregesall, men var nu juvelerare, d. v. s. icke till handtverket, men som försäljare, och innehade en af de mest eleganta butiker i Buffalo, med ett väl försedt lager af alla slags ur och klockor, guld, silfver och juvelerarearbeten. Enligt hans egen berättelse kom han hit med jemnt 25 cents , 1 Rdr Rmt, i fickan, och tog till en början tjenst någonstädes på landet. Snart märkte han likväl att han icke dugde till arbetare, men deremot vara klippt och skuren till handelsman. Han förskaffade sig derföre på ett eller annat sätt en liten lådamed spetsar,' nålar, ringar, kråsnålar och andra nipper, ett litet lager, med ett ord, af hvad här kallas Yankey-notions, hvars afsättning gifver en alldeles orimlig vinst.  De till större delen oäkta guld- och silfver- prydnaderna, inköpta i parti för ett ganska ringa pris, utminuteras såsom äkta bland de för bjefs och grannlåter ofta svaga armerdöttrarne på landet.  Med sin låda på ryggen vandrade Morrell från hus till hus, och der han icke kunde göra några andra affärer, så erhöll han åtminstone, såsom bruket är bland dessa Peddlers eller krämare, alltid sin middag och sitt nattqvarter emot någon messingsring eller några glasperlor. — Slutligen utvidgade han mer och mer sin rörelse; förstod att skaffa sig god kredit, och hade nu ett stort etablissemang, varifrån han dagligen furnerade ett dussin krämare, som sedan på vägar och gator afsatte hans varor till betydlig vinst för honom och sig sjelfva.
p 83-84.
No doubt we should have had more trouble still  had not our good fortune brought us into contact with a Swede who was living in Buffalo and who helped get things straightened out. This Swede, whose  name was Morrell, had lived in America many years and had married in this country.  At first he found it difficult to carry on a conversation in Swedish. After a few hours, however, he managed it with greater ease. In Sweden he had been a harness maker's journeyman,  but now he was a jeweler; that is, not one practicing the trade, but a vender of jewelry.  He had one of the most elegant stores in Buffalo with a valuable stock of all kinds of watches and clocks, as well as of gold, silver, and other jeweler's goods. According to his own statement he had come to Buffalo with twenty-five cents in his pocket.  At first he had  hired out as a farm laborer, but he soon realized he had not been born to hard labor.  He thought, though, he would make a success as a businessman. In some way or other he managed to obtain a small stock of lace, needles, rings, stickpins, and other trinkets — what is known as "Yankee  notions," the sale of which brings an immense profit.  Most of it consisted of imitation gold and silver ornaments, purchased in quantities at low prices and sold as genuine to farmer  lasses with  a weakness for gewgaws and  bits of finery.  With a box on his back, he walked from house to house.  Where he was unable to make a sale, he managed at any rate, as is customary among peddlers, to get his meals and lodging in exchange for a brass ring or a few glass beads. In the course of time he extended his  business and established his credit.  Now he had a large establishment from which he furnished  a dozen peddlers, who sold his wares on highways  and byways, at good profit to themselves as well as to him.

Gustav Unonius. A pioneer in Northwest America, 1841-1858; the Memoirs of Gustaf Unonius. Vol 1, translation by Oscar Backland and edited by Nils William Olsson, 1950, p. 84-85.

1844:  Anders Jonsson and his encounter with Josseph Morrell


Another Swede encountered the same difficulty in Buffalo and was assisted by the same Swede, Joseph C. Morrell, in 1844.
Friday, September 2, we arrived at Buffalo, next to New York the most important city we passed.  Here we had to make final arrangement with the agents of the transportation company, who demanded a dollar for each one hundred pounds (our goods were 1900 pounds overweight), but with the aid of a kindly countryman we succeeded in having it reduced to seventy-five cents.  We can never be grateful enough to this honorable and unselfish countryman, C. Morell*, a merchant, who assisted us in matters that we as strangers knew nothing about, giving much of his time and going to a great deal of trouble.  We remained in Buffalo until Monday, the 11th, when we continue our journey…   
*his address is 191 Main St.
A.M. Jönsson, Letter From a Swedish Emigrant in North America, Aftonbladet, March 2, 1844.  Translated by George M. Stephenson and reprinted in Letters relating to Gustaf Unonius and the early Swedish settlers in Wisconsin, Augustana Historical Society Publications, 1937, p 117-118.


1845:  August Sundevall’s letter with information about J. Morrell


Buffalo had been frequented by Swedish travelers before 1846.  Gustaf Unonius includes a couple of descriptions of the city published in Sweden in the 1830s.   From 1845 to 1847 a Swedish traveler was living in Buffalo and wrote to his family in Stockholm about his adventures in Amerika.  August Sundevall had come to Buffalo in September 1845.  At Christmas time, Sundevall was staying with J. Morrell in Lewiston, Niagara County where he writes to his brother on 26 December 1845.


He wrote a letter from Buffalo in October 1846 to his brother in Stockholm detailing his recent travel experiences.  While in Buffalo he had visited Magnus Piper and his wife in Lewiston, Niagara County.    Charles J. Tranchell, a member of an important commercial, industrial and political family from Goteborg had married an American and lived in Porter township, Niagara county. All were Swedes of the upper class.


Sundevall  was in Chicago when the passengers of Virginia arrived in August 1846.

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