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April 15, 2002

Diary of Philemon Delacy Morriss, Sr. (1807-1883)

"Sold out my land in Ioway on Monday the 19 day of March 1852 and know for Orrgon," wrote Philemon D. Morriss, Sr. (diary page 3).

Just 50 years earlier, Meriwether Lewis [1] was said to be travelling " country totally unknown...on a river he had never heard of that went he know not where." The Morriss family, though by no means the first to journey West, still embraced that early pioneer spirit. What courage! What an adventure! And what a heritage!!

Philemon D. Morriss' life was full. While working in a small settlement in Illinois he met and befriended a young Abraham Lincoln. While married to Nancy Jackson he fathered 7 children. Following her passing, he married Minerva Pierce and fathered another 9 children. And at 44 years of age, he set out for Oregon. The focus here is on that trek to Oregon, revealed in a diary he kept. His diary was transcribed and typed some years ago and it appears at least some copies of that transcript have been circulated.

Now 150 years later, I was given access to the original document complete with Philemon's thoughs, observations, his phonetic spelling and, yes, even his doodling. With great care and some minor risk to the document, I scanned (EPSON Perfection 1240U), stored (Dell Dimension, Pentium III, model 220-5392) and copied the diary on compact discs (CD's) so that is contents may be shared easily and preserved indefinitely.

Physical characteristics of the diary:

  • Width: approximately 6 1/8 inches.
  • Height: approximately 7 5/8 inches.
  • Depth: approximately 1/2 inch.
  • Number of Pages: 92 (excluding the front and back covers and the missing pages identified below).

While worn, the diary is still very readable with few exceptions. The diary's overall good condition has to be due, in part, to the fact that it has been kept in a safe deposit box out of the light and protected from damaging and handling. The front and back covers are particularly worn, as are the first and last few pages. Additionally, there are stubs of some missing pages that appear to have been cut out with a sharp instrument. The missing pages are at these locations:

  • Following the front inside cover, 14 pages are gone (28 counting front & back),
  • Following page 76 (a blank page), 5 pages (10 front & back),
  • Following page 84, 4 pages (8 front & back), and
  • Following page 90, 1 page (2 front & back).

If you received only this introduction, you can contact me at the location below for CD's containing the full diary. If you already have the CD's, read, enjoy, and share in the fascination.

Gary Barker Salem, OR

[1]: Stephen E. Ambrose, Undaunted Courage (Simon & Schuster, 1996), p. 232.