JAMES ELMORE MORROW - ELEVENTH PRINCIPAL, 1872-1873
James Elmore Morrow was hired as the first assistant to James B. Powell in 1871. When Powell left in 1872, Morrow was hired as the College’s eleventh Principal. His son’s biographer wrote, "The title attached to this position was more lavish than its emoluments, although the latter were supplemented by free lodging within the college building itself." Morrow’s tenure as Principal lasted only a year. The events leading to his departure were described by Benjamin Thackston: "Prof. Morrow and Miss [Lidia] Dearing [third assistant teacher] had a serious disagreement; and, at the end of the school year, the Regents accepted Miss Dearing’s resignation and appointed in the place of Prof. Morrow, J. Beauchamp Clark, of Kentucky." A student from the period described what may have led to the disagreement:
An alumnus from the early teens whose family was associated with the Normal School at the time of Dr. Morrow’s resignation reported that Dr. and Mrs. Morrow held a wedding reception on campus for one of their children and served alcohol. This was strictly forbidden as no alcohol was permitted on campus or within the community. The alumnus reported that the serving of alcohol resulted with the immediate termination of employment for the Normal School’s first principal.The recollection of a wedding may be accurate, but the bride or groom could not have been one of Morrow’s children; he had only been married for six years. Thackston is also mistaken, because Miss Dearing worked until the end of the 1873 school year, suggesting that the Regents may have sided with Dearing and decided not to renew Morrow’s appointment.
James E. Morrow was born on March 28, 1837, the son of Alexander Morrow and Sarah Jane (Wilson) Morrow, in Fairview, the county seat of Hancock County, (West) Virginia. Morrow eschewed the life of a farmer, and his family sent him to Jefferson College [now Washington and Jefferson University] at Cannonsburg, Pennsylvania. He entered at the age of fifteen and graduated with a bachelors of arts in 1856, with the intention of practicing law. However, the realties of earning a living intruded and he took a position as a teacher in a school near his home in Fairview. After two years, he resigned and took a position at the law offices of O. W. Langfitt of Wellsburg, where he read law and passed the Pennsylvania Bar in 1859.
At the outbreak of the Civil War, he enlisted in the 1st West Virginia Infantry at Wellsburg, (West) Virginia, on October 30, 1861. He advanced through the ranks to captain, commanding Company F. He had "months of hard service at points along the Baltimore and Ohio railroad between Cumberland and Washington, was wounded and retired to mend at Wheeling, West Virginia, with less active service in mustering in troops." He apparently considered remaining in the army at the war’s end, but his commanding officer dissuaded him because of his health, and he was mustered out on November 26, 1864.
After the war he, with two of his brothers, traveled west and established a private academy near Omaha, Nebraska. After this experience he abandoned his interest in the law and "devote himself to educational work—an accurate choice, the beginning of the second epoch in his life." From then on he "turned to teaching and spent his life in that vocation."
During the war, apparently while recuperating at Wheeling, he met his wife, Clara Johnston, who was "winding bandages." They corresponded frequently after he left Wheeling. He returned east from Nebraska and married her on September 19, 1867, at Cumberland, Maryland. They had eight children, five boys and three girls—three of the boys died in infancy.
Before teaching at Marshall College, he conducted a private academy in his hometown of Fairview. In 1871 he was hired as the first assistant at Marshall College, and became its Principal during the 1872-1873 school year. After leaving Marshall, he was hired at West Liberty Normal School (now West Liberty University), West Liberty, West Virginia. He left in 1875 to accept a position at Oakdale Academy near Pittsburgh, where he remained three years. In 1878 he accepted a position as teacher of mathematics and physics at the Central High School in Pittsburgh, and in 1880 he became principal of the Fifth Ward School (now Conroy School) in the same city. From 1889-1890, he served as principal of Slippery Rock State Normal School (now Slippery Rock University). In 1889 he received an honorary doctorate from Washington and Jefferson College. In 1891 he returned to Central High School when he was selected as the school’s principal, where he remained for the next thirteen years.
In 1904 he took a leave of absence for health reasons. While visiting his son, Dwight W. Morrow, at Englewood, New Jersey, he suddenly passed away on the morning of December 12, 1904, at the age of 67. A former colleague said that he was " a well-knit sturdy figure of medium height with brown eyes, full of fire, a clear and accurate mind and a shrewd kindly manner. He impressed us as a man of energetic purpose who found his highest happiness in his chosen life work." He was buried in the Uniondale Cemetery, Allegheny, Pennsylvania.
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