The first settlers of the Morrison area arrived in 1831. Morrison was surveyed and platted in 1855 by W.S. Williamson. The original plat was bordered by Knox, Grape, South, and Clinton Streets. The City of Morrison was named after John H. Morrison who was a wealthy merchant from New York. In 1857, the community decided at a meeting at Johnson’s Hall that they should be incorporated as a Town under the state laws. In 1869, the state legislature passed a bill to change to a City form of government. The reorganization was completed on April 15, 1873 with the election of a slate of officers.
The railroad made its way to Morrison more by accident than by plan. It became part of the Galena-Chicago Railroad. In 1852, the railroad had made its way from Chicago to Freeport. However, by that time the Milwaukee Road had extended to Galena, so the railroad took a turn and went south to Dixon in 1854 and then made its way to the Mississippi River at Fulton. This railroad was the only one in the U.S. not subsidized by the government. Because of this, the railroad took longer to build and was done so in spurts. This resulted in the change in direction of the railroad. In Morrison, the rail line went through what is now the cemetery, immediately in front of the vault. The train was to go through Unionville with a station there, but the people demanded such a high price for the right-of-way that the route was moved to its current southern location. The railroad chose this route even though it resulted in a longer grade and route. This route ended up costing much more than the price they would have paid going through Unionville. In the 1890’s, the businesses placed an emphasis on developing the use of the railroad instead of concentrating on local markets. Of the first few businesses that focused on this was the Davis greenhouse and refrigerator factory. The coming of the railroad was the most important factor to the beginning of Morrison.
While the naming of Morrison as the county seat was the second. Morrison was made the county seat in 1857 when the citizens of the county voted to move the county seat from Sterling. This ended a 20-year controversy of naming the county seat. Having the county seat helped the growth of the city then and still plays a major role in Morrison today.