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On The Road: Morrison, Illinois

Updated on April 15, 2016
 "But in looking back at the
  places I've been
  The changes that I've left
  behind
  I look at myself to find
  I've learned the hard way
  every time."
       ~Jim Croce~

Shades Of Green

We lived in Morrison from June 1997 until December 2007; ten and a half good years in quintessential smalltown America.

Located in northwestern Illinois, it’s just eleven miles east of the Mississippi River. The Quad Cities, which includes several communities in Illinois and Iowa, is a short forty-five mile hop to the southwest.

U.S. Route 30, the coast-to-coast historic Lincoln Highway, intersects with Illinois Route 78 in Morrison.

Morrison’s population is 4,500 not counting the dogs, cats, horses, cattle, chickens, rabbits, goats, sheep or llamas. Yes, llamas; a small herd of the exotic animals roam some wooded acres near a golf course.

The slow-paced, well-served city is stitched out of a quilt of farmland. Corn and soybeans are rotated, which means fields are planted with one then the other in alternate years. As summer ripens, each patch comes to maturity in varying shades of green, which is actually quite remarkably beautiful.

Intersection of U.S. Route 30 & Illinois Route 78
Intersection of U.S. Route 30 & Illinois Route 78
The Black Hawk sculpture by Lorado Taft overlooks the Rock River 45 miles northeast of Morrison
The Black Hawk sculpture by Lorado Taft overlooks the Rock River 45 miles northeast of Morrison

Lincoln & Black Hawk

Morrison is the county seat of Whiteside County. One of Whiteside County’s claims to fame is that Ronald Reagan was born in the county community of Tampico.

For most of our sojourn in Morrison we lived across the street from the County Courthouse. Not to be too cryptic, but I developed some tight connections and often broke bread with a buddy who was a longtime prince of the county.

Whiteside County came into existence in 1836. It was named for Samuel Whiteside, an Illinois militia officer who boosted his public profile by leading a regiment during the War of 1812.

Years later, and by then promoted to General, Whiteside commanded the militia during the Black Hawk War of 1832. He was responsible for commissioning a young lawyer named Abraham Lincoln.

Captain Lincoln, eager to serve and capture some glory, led a company and advanced his political career in the process.

The Black Hawk War is one of the few wars in U.S. history named after a person. It was a series of skirmishes fought over possession of lands in northern Illinois and present-day southern Wisconsin. The Sauk leader Black Hawk was appointed war chief by his people, and led a band of 500 warriors along with 1000 old men, women, and children.

While on the topic of Abraham Lincoln and the Black Hawk War, local lore claims that while traveling to the battlefield action, Captain Lincoln and his troops camped in a hollow near the Fenton Bunker just south of Morrison. Of course that’s difficult to establish as fact, but as a tall-tale told around a campfire at father-son outings, it sure was easy to embellish the details.

Champions

In the autumn of 2009 the citizens of Morrison were stirred up into a near frenzy following their Boys High School Football Mustangs.

In Morrison, as elsewhere across America, Friday nights are events during football season; high school football has near talismanic power to unite and galvanize.

Emmanuel Reformed Church incorporates this dynamic into its ministry by hosting youth-focused Fifth Quarter Parties after every home game. An uncounted number of teens and young adults have had their lives impacted for eternity because of this faithful service to the community.

In 2009 the Mustangs kept winning. The team couldn’t be stopped. There were a few nail-biters and others in which the Mustangs simply dominated.

The embryonic excitement of the regular season became full-blown mania during the play-offs. Then on November 27, 2009 the Morrison High School Football Mustangs defeated Maroa-Forsyth 36-14 to win the IHSA Illinois State Division 2A Championship.

In an eruption of joy and civic pride, the date is likely destined to be chiseled in stone and displayed in a prominent place.

We visited in mid-December 2009, and were pleased to note that our friends and former neighbors hadn’t gone completely wild during the celebrations. The town hadn't been burned to the ground. There weren’t even any smoldering buildings to be seen on any street corners.

MIT - Student Center
MIT - Student Center

MIT & Crossroads

Morrison is home to MIT, which is not a branch of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, though the two-year college does play on that famous abbreviation. The Morrison Institute of Technology is just south of town on Route 78.

This MIT specializes in engineering, with an emphasis on Computer Aided Design and Drafting. It is very much a hand’s on learning experience, having some unique options of study, which given the advances and ever increasing pace of change in the technology field, is a definite plus.

My good friend Curtis, who happens to be a drummer extraordinaire, is an MIT graduate presently putting his skills to work at Wahl Clipper in Sterling, IL.

The MIT campus was undergoing a significant expansion of its facilities when we were preparing to leave town. It now houses a weekend tenant for services Saturday evenings and Sunday mornings.

After we departed the area, some folks at Crossroads Community Church had vision along with the gumption and resources to successfully launch a healthy, growing cell in the body of Christ. It meets in a new buidling at MIT, and is a satellite of the parent church based in Freeport, IL.

The grapevine reports that longtime Morrison residents satisfied with culturally palatable and institutionalized Christianity are a bit miffed. In my view, that’s not bad at all. Anytime the status quo of church gets shook up is a good deal.

A scene from the Lakeview Pavilion on a rainy Sunday morning.
A scene from the Lakeview Pavilion on a rainy Sunday morning.
Lake Carlton, a stream fed resevoir in Morrison-Rockwood State Park, is named in memory of L. Carlton Anderson, a local civic and conservation leader.
Lake Carlton, a stream fed resevoir in Morrison-Rockwood State Park, is named in memory of L. Carlton Anderson, a local civic and conservation leader.

Natural Wonder

Just north of Morrison is a jewel of 1,164 acres. The morning after we arrived in June 1997, I stopped at Morrison-Rockwood State Park. A large angle-iron sign in the shape of Illinois greeted me.

I parked and started walking along the roadway. It was a beautiful day, with the sun just peeking over the edge of the tree line. The air was fresh, clean, quiet, and still.

I thought and prayed about the journey ahead. The challenges were real. And I was scared. Then in his infinite wisdom God granted me a gift of natural wonder.

A white-tailed doe poked her head out of the forest and took several steps toward the road. I stopped in my tracks at the exact moment she did. Less than ten feet of real estate separated us. She began feeding on the lush grass, munching on it as she eyed me.

As I stood watching the doe, it came to me that everything was going to be fine, and then familiar sounds blasted above and behind me. I turned to see a flock of Canada Geese flying over. There were a dozen of them conversing loudly, which caused a great shivering chill to wash over me, because their honks were interpreted as a bunch of bold exclamation points.

The geese disappeared, the notes of their song echoing. The doe was gone. The moment of perfect clarity was over. Nothing in the ten and a half years that followed ever destroyed the sense of peace on that crystal clear morning.

     "As I travel on 
      life's pathway,
      Know not what
      the years may hold;
      As I ponder, hope 
      grows fonder,
      Precious memories 
      flood my soul."
      ~J.B.F. Wright~

Memories & Pressing On

A decade is a long time. Seven of them mean one has been blessed with a good life; eight decades for those who are truly strong. That’s what an ancient Hebrew leader determined: “The length of our days is seventy years—or eighty, if we have the strength . . .”

For just over a decade at Morrison, we worked shoulder-to-shoulder with willing co-laborers in many exciting efforts. We may not have conquered every giant we came up against, but at least we tried. We gave it the best we had, and sometimes, in a fallen world full of troubles and heartaches, that has to be enough.

All the friendships we formed in and around Morrison are treasured. Though given the transient nature of modern life, many faces and memories fade into the long, deep shadows of time.

Age, coupled with life and ministry experiences, has worked to make me more and more pragmatic. The fact that life does what it’s supposed to do is settled in my bones. We simply accept it and move on, always running well and leaning forward, endeavoring to hit the finish line hard.

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    • RevLady profile image

      RevLady 7 years ago from Lantana, Florida

      Thank you Ken for introducing me to Morrison, a city in Illinois I have never visited.

      I have reached the point in my life, where, like you, I accept life on its own terms. I do not fight against it, I move with it. May the Lord bless and keep you.

      Forever His,

    • Ken R. Abell profile image
      Author

      Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      RevLady - You're welcome. It's a great town. Thank you for stopping in & sharing. Peace & blessings to you.

    • 50 Caliber profile image

      50 Caliber 7 years ago from Arizona

      Ken, a fine and pleasant hub with a description of life there the chamber of commerce should post on their web site, if they have one. It sounds like a place they might want to leave just as it is. Peaceful and wholesome. Thanks for the vivid story.

    • Ken R. Abell profile image
      Author

      Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      Thanks, Dusty. Maybe I'll send a link of it to them. It can't hurt.

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 7 years ago

      Thanks so much for sharing your memories with me. Morrison sounds like a great place to live.

    • Ken R. Abell profile image
      Author

      Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      breakfastpop - You're welcome. Thank you for visiting & sharing. Morrison was & likely still is a great place to live.

    • UlrikeGrace profile image

      UlrikeGrace 7 years ago from Canada

      Ken, your description of Morrison was so inviting...I love small towns, there is a comaraderie there that one cannot get in the larger urban settings. I especially praise God for your park experience. If we would let Holy Spirit interpret our experiences more often it would be a marvel at what would be revealed. Bless you and yours Ken, and thanks for sharing Morrison and this part of your life with us.

      UlrikeGrace

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 7 years ago from United States

      Ken, Morrison sounds like an excellent place to live and I enjoyed reading all your memories about your life there. Very nice hub.

    • Ken R. Abell profile image
      Author

      Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      UlrikeGrace - Thank you for stopping in & sharing. Your comments are much appreciated. Blessings to you.

    • Ken R. Abell profile image
      Author

      Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      Pamela - Thank you. I'm glad you enjoyed it. Peace.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Off hand I can't quite place Morrison, although I have heard of it. I worked about twenty years at the Rock Island Arsenal, and live in Moline and Viola, Il. I rather miss Illinois and it's crazy politics.

    • Ken R. Abell profile image
      Author

      Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      dahoglund - You were just 45 miles southwest of Morrison. I flew out of the airport in Moline more times than I can remember. Illinois, crazy politics? You don't say . . . :>)

    • profile image

      MBanks 7 years ago

      We miss you in Morrison- hope you are doing well!

    • Ken R. Abell profile image
      Author

      Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      Thanks, Missy. It's nice to be missed. :>) I pray that you & family are doing well. Take care. And be encouraged.

    • Micky Dee profile image

      Micky Dee 7 years ago

      Nice thoughts and video. Thanks

    • profile image

      Paul 7 years ago

      Your article brought back some good memories for me as well. Thanks!

      Paul

    • Ken R. Abell profile image
      Author

      Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      You're welcome, Micky Dee. Thanks for the visit.

    • Ken R. Abell profile image
      Author

      Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      You're welcome, Paul. One thing I thought about after I'd finished it was those deer at the park on the southside of town. Remember them?

    • Dave Mathews profile image

      Dave Mathews 7 years ago from NORTH YORK,ONTARIO,CANADA

      Ken thankyou for the intro to Morrison, Ill., MIT, and all the various things the city has to offer. Sounds like a marvellous place to visit sometime.

      Sincerely,

      Dave.

    • Ken R. Abell profile image
      Author

      Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      You're welcome, Dave. It's a great place to visit & to live, actually. Blessings to you.

    • nancy_30 profile image

      nancy_30 7 years ago from Georgia

      I really enjoyed reading about Morrison. It really does sound like a great place. I also loved your pictures.

    • Ken R. Abell profile image
      Author

      Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      Thank you, Nancy. Glad you enjoyed it. Blessings.

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 7 years ago from malang-indonesia

      I am glad to know about the story of the city. I am really impressed read this hub and see the beautiful picture. Thanks

    • Ken R. Abell profile image
      Author

      Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      prasetio30 - You're welcome. Thank you for visiting & sharing comments. Much appreciated.

    • Hannah Ministries profile image

      Hannah Ministries 7 years ago

      Thank you for your hUB. i love small town. I'm thinking of moving at one myself. Hopefully I will ever visit yours. Blessings

    • Ken R. Abell profile image
      Author

      Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      Hannah Ministries - You're welcome. Thank you for sharing. Glad you enjoyed it. Best wishes on your move.

    • susansisk profile image

      susansisk 7 years ago from Georgia, USA

      Enjoyed reading about Morrison. I feel like I have visited now, after reading this.

    • itakins profile image

      itakins 7 years ago from Irl

      Ken R Abell-

      I really enjoyed this visit-it's nice to get a glimpse of small town USA.Thank you.

    • Ken R. Abell profile image
      Author

      Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      susansisk - Glad you enjoyed it. Thank you for stopping in.

    • Ken R. Abell profile image
      Author

      Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      itakins - Glad you enjoyed this glimpse of smalltown USA. Thanks for the visit.

    • profile image

      Kathi E 7 years ago

      I really enjoyed your article about family (your dad and grandparents) and this one about Morrison. Wish you were still here to come to the fentonbunker.

    • Ken R. Abell profile image
      Author

      Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      Thanks, Kathi. Yeah, this once a year stuff ain't quite the same. That job still open? :>)

    • prettydarkhorse profile image

      prettydarkhorse 7 years ago from US

      Hmm nice trip down there Ken, I enjoyed it, and the Morrison Institute of Tech hehe, thought it is MIT hehe

      And Ronald reagan is from that Tampico County as well, seem a nice place, peaceful and agricultural, i love it, Maita

    • Ken R. Abell profile image
      Author

      Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      Malta - Thank you for the visit. Glad you enjoyed it. Blessings to you.

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