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April 19, 2005 > Perry Morrison

Perry Morrison

Perry Morrison was born in Dearborn County, Indiana, October 6, 1818 and lived on farms near Indianapolis and Louisa County, Iowa until 1847. He came across the plains that year with a train of 18 wagons to Oregon City, Oregon. Perry worked at sawing logs until September 1848 when he heard about the discovery of Gold in California.

Joining the "rush" to California, Perry mined on the Feather River until August 1849 when he moved to Alameda County and married Miss Martha Hastings, a native of Vermont. They had two surviving children, Samuel and George P.

Emmeline Morrison, Perry's sister, married William Tyson. Perry wrote a glowing letter to his brother-in-law inviting him to come to the valley near Mission San Jose and become a farmer. William came as soon as he could. They came to California with Perry's brother, William. Elias Beard said that William and the Morrison brothers were at the village of Mission San Jose in 1849. Tyson and Perry Morrison bought adjoining 200-acre farms from a settler name Jeremiah Fallon who had come here with the Donner party. They paid Fallon $2,000 for each place and began farming operations.

Tyson and Morrison received clear title to their properties from the U. S. Government in 1867. The county road from Mission San Jose to Hayward ran through the center of the property. They divided their acreage into two separate tracts in 1869 with the partition line along the present Overacker Avenue. These two farms stretched from the present Bart Station east to the foothills - from Peralta to Stevenson Boulevard. The Morrison fence line was used as a survey reference to define other properties.

William Tyson and Perry Morrison introduced one of the pioneer reapers to the area in 1852. They sold the wheat they harvested for 11 to 15 cents a pound and were listed among the largest landowners in the first assessment roll for Washington Township in 1854. The Pacific Railroad published a notice of condemnation of lands for the use of their road addressed to Perry Morrison and his neighbors in May 1865.

Tyson and Morrison did not pay to have their ranches pictured in the 1878 Atlas of Alameda County. Morrison's farm was listed at 200 acres, but marked at 195 acres on the map. Tyson was recognized as a leading fruit grower and his land was used to define the boundary of Niles School District. The map locates the house on the east corner of an orchard adjacent to the railroad.

Pioneers called the nearby canyon "Perry Morrison's Canyon," and a petition for a road in 1876 called it by the same name. The county road was later named for the canyon that already had an accepted name. The canyon was described in 1904 as a pretty little wooded ravine with the largest variety of wild flowers in Washington Township.

Perry Morrison's home and ranch were mentioned in an 1898 newspaper publication. He was cultivating 58 acres of fruit with 14 acres devoted to almonds, 13 to pasture, and 22 to grain. Perry also had a large ranch near Pescadero.

The Morrison home was built about 1873 near the present Mission Boulevard-Morrison Canyon Intersection. It was painted outside and papered inside in 1889 by W.R. Cole of Centerville and modernized and refurnished before 1898. The house was pictured in 1898 in Alameda County Illustrated as a large two-story home with a corner balcony on the second floor and a decorated railing on the peak. It was surrounded by trees and shrubs and had a picket fence in front.

Henry J. Philpott's mother, Abigail Harden Philpott, was Perry Morrison's cousin. Henry moved his family to the Niles Area about 1889 in search of better health. The family apparently lived for awhile with the Perry Morrison family as Henry died in the Morrison home in 1893.

Morrison subdivided his land and began to sell parcels beginning with the 50-acre tract between the partition line and the county road (the present Overacker Avenue). The first parcel Morrison sold was a 5-acre plot on the northwest corner of the 50-acre tract. This lot was apparently purchased by Thomas Bedard, a blacksmith and wagon maker at Niles. The plot is shown on Thompson and West's 1878 map. Joseph Tyson, the fourth son of William and Emmeline Tyson, bought part of the 50-acre tract and became a "fruit farmer." Morrison filed a subdivision map in 1889 creating 16 lots of five acres each on the northern part of his property, just east of the Southern Pacific line and the county road. Morrison Avenue led to the county road.

The first lots were sold in September; Loring Pickering purchased several to establish his country summer estate. An article in a local newspaper in March 1889 noted that Eli Dennison and J. Jackson were going to erect homes on their lots in the Morrison tract. Apparently, all the lots were sold by 1898 when the ranch was listed at 58 acres.

Perry was 93 years old in 1912 and enjoyed solo boat trips around the Bay. He was reported to be a great lover of Shakespeare with a "mind stored with favorite passages."

Morrison family members who visited the area in 1931 said the house was located on Mission Boulevard. They described it as a green stucco with a dormer on the roof. The lady who lived there said it had once been a full two stories. There is a story about the Morrison home being cut in two pieces when Mission Boulevard was widened but it probably refers to the Bonner house that was cut in two and moved back from the road.

Apparently none of the Morrison buildings have survived. Morrison Street became Pickering so there are no streets to identify the Morrison property. The most lasting memorial to this pioneer family appears to be Morrison Canyon Road.

 
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