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A Tsmola cache, with many thanks to Shamrock Bones for info and photos of the murder house
Who killed Mr. and Mrs. Henry Morris on September 28th, 1879?
There was a cache in this cemetery by Shamrock Bones back when I started caching. (since archived) This was one of the first places I considered for hiding a cache. After Don archived his hide, I hadn't planned to put one here, but the spot felt like it was calling to me, begging me to place a new one here....Bring a camera, this a beautiful little cemetery and a very quiet place to explore and reflect.
Mr. and Mrs. Henry Morris are buried in this cemetery, the couple was murdered on the night of September 28th, 1879 not too far from the cache area.
Note: Mr. Morris' first name on the stone and the one listed in the history book are different. Thanks to wrenburied and my mom for helping to clear this up. My mom noted Chas might have been short for Charles. wrenburied noted that "On the 1870 census it is listed as Henry C Morris which is probably what he went by." thanks wrenburied!
This story written from info contained in "A Scrap Book History of Decatur, MI and Vicinity 1829-1976 Volume I"
The story goes that the night of September 28th, 1879. Mr. and Mrs. Morris went to bed at about 8:30. The only other person in the house was a woman who worked for them by the name of Jennie Bull.
A drawing of the house as it likely appeared at the time of the murders.
Thanks to Shamrock Bones for sending me these photos, the first I've ever seen of the house itself where the murders took place! Seeing pictures of the house and of Mr. And Mrs. Morris really helps paint a vivid picture of what may have happened.
The house, before it was arsoned. Taken in 1960, or 61.
The porch area, where Mr.Morris spent the last moments of his life.
The house itself was situated back from the road with no other houses close by. According to Bull's testimony, she went to bed at around 8:00, the Morris' soon after. This is where the story gets strange. The time of the murder was determined to be around 9:30 P.M. Mr. Morris usually kept a revolver by his bedside. But when a knock on the door woke them, he left it behind. Upon opening the door and stepping out on the porch he was shot in the chest. The unknown assassin fired a second shot as he fell which struck him in the neck. Mrs. Morris, it is assumed heard the shots. She grabbed her husband's revolver and ran out into the kitchen where she encountered the killer. However, she was apparently so frightened she dropped the revolver without firing a shot or even cocking the hammer. She retreated to her bedroom, but the killer followed and fired two more shots missing her before he cornered her in the closet where the murderer shot her twice in the chest. She passed away quickly.
Seeing his deed was done, the killer went out to the barn on the Morris property and selected the best horse in the stable. Then, he placed a saddle and bridle on the horse that he had brought with him. (None of the saddles or bridles in the Morris barn were disturbed) It was clear from this that this crime had been well-thought out and the killer had a knowledge of his surroundings. The killer saddled the horse and rode off, never to be caught. There was one witness who saw the horse thief. Charles Rosewarne later testified that he was on his way home between 9 and 10 P.M. and encountered a man on horseback. Unfortunately, Rosewarne could tell authorities little about the suspect except that he wore a "funny hat and a had a mask covering his face" He recognized the horse he was riding as the one belonging to Mr. and Mrs. Morris.
In another strange detail, in spite of all the shots being fired, Jennie Bull was not awakened by all the commotion downstairs. She even testified she wasn't a sound sleeper! She discovered the bodies the next morning. It is unclear if the killer even knew Jennie Bull was in the house. Jennie's bedroom was directly above the part of the house where the killing took place, and her window was open that night! My own research made it unclear as to whether authorities ever suspected if Jennie had a part in the crime. She just seems to vanish from historical record after the murders.
Examinations of the crime scene revealed more bizarre details. The motive wasn't robbery, as $130 and two gold watches lay in plain sight in the bedroom. The only thing taken was the horse. Thus many concluded the killer was there to murder the Morris'and nothing else. The horse, which was found a few days later in South Bend, was just a getaway. The Morris' had been married about 10 years at the time of their death and they were well-liked and respected in their community. So the question that was on all the locals mind was of course, Why?
Despite an investigation by detectives, including the famous Pinkertons, and an insistence by law enforcement officials at the time that the killer would be captured, he, or she never was. The trail eventually went cold and the murders are unsolved to this day. It is unlikely that it will ever be solved either. Whomever committed these crimes just may have gotten away with the perfect crime. Today, Mr. and Mrs. Morris are buried in Anderson cemetery, more commonly known as Morris cemetery.
Back of the Morris Stone, it reads:
"In memory of Chas H & Esther A. Morris
Murdered at their own home on the night of September 28, 1879"
The double headstone was erected that stands under a tree in the middle of the cemetery is shown above. The house were the murders took place burned down in 1962. (Arson was suspected, no one was ever charged) Today the headstone is the only landmark left that tells anything of the event.
Few final notes
This cemetery, like my Ghosts of Frost cache, is said to be haunted. However, the spirits here are said to be friendly. Whereas the Frost cache has a very sinister feel when you visit at night, this place is much more peaceful. There is much less spiritual activity here. (you can choose for yourself to believe it or not for either caches) It is said the spirits of the Morris' can be seen if you visit this place on the night of the murder, Sept. 28th. I haven't tried this, but I will be doing so this year. Bring a light if going at night as there is no light on the grounds. The gates in the front are locked the majority of the time, but there is a path that takes you around the fence to the right. Enjoy, and feel free to include your own theories as to what really happened that late summer evening back in 1879 in your log.
FTF prize is a un-carved stamp. Carve it for your own letterbox or use it for your own personal stamp.
Congrats to Shamrock Bones on the FTF! Fitting because he had the original cache here and is the only person I know who had been inside the Morris' home.
This cache is part of Tsmola's series of caches: Haunts and Local Legends
Every town has it's local legends, and it's haunted places. Tsmola's Haunts and Local Legends series is designed to not only take you to these places, but also to give you some info on the background of the place as well. If you know of a place that would be idea for a Haunts and Local Legends Cache let me know. Morris Murder Mystery is #3 in the series.
"A Scrap Book History of Decatur, MI and Vicinity 1829-1976 Volume I"
Pics of Mr. and Mrs. Morris and their home taken from: Van Buren County Michigan USGenWeb Project
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- Back of Morris Stone
- Morris Home
- Morris Stone
- Mr and Mrs Morris
- Porch where Mr. Morris was shot.
- RevolverThe murder weapon was said to be a .45 cal Navy Revolver. I can only assume it was similar to this which is an Army model from 1873.
- Scene of the CrimeA very rare photo of the house where the murders took place. Thanks goes to Shamrock Bones for sending me photos of the house.
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Coordinates are in the WGS84 datum