The first settlers of the Morrison area arrived in 1831.

Our History

Surveyed & Platted

1855 by W.S. Williamson

City Named After

John H. Morrison, a wealthy merchant from New York


1852 Galena-Chicago Railroad

Only one in the U.S not subsidized by government

First Settlers of Morrison

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.


First Settlers


County Seat

photo of depot building that has a tall green roof with people milling about out front

Northwestern Depot – Morrison

black and white photo of main street lined by buildings on both sides and old car driving down the street

Morrison Main Street

Galena-Chicago Railroad

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.

The Chicago & Northwestern Railroad Depot in Morrison saw the first train roll into the station in October 1855. Morrison, at that time, was a newly laid out community, sparsely populated. John Furlong piloted the train in.  The next day his small house was moved in on a flat car from what is now called Round Grove. According to Wayne Bastians’ History of Whiteside there was no celebration of record for this momentous occassion.

Whiteside County Seat

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.

rectangular red brick building that is multi-story

Morrison Hotel – Main Street

black and white photo of the exterior of a post office with flag pole out front

Morrison Post Office 1950’s

old photo of the exterior of the mill with waterfall next to the multi-story building

Unionville Mill – Route 30

close up of the front of a red bring building that has 1892 in white letters above the windows

Morrison Downtown Buiding Detail

Morrison Statistics

Morrison is a city in Whiteside County, Illinois, United States. The population was 4,188 at the 2010 census, down from 4,447 in 2000. It is the county seat of Whiteside County. It is located on the Historic Lincoln Highway, the nation’s first transcontinental highway and in Morrison was the site of two concrete “seedling miles”, which served as prototypes of what an improved highway could do for the nation.

black and white photo of downtown with a horse drawn carriage on the street

Morrison City Hall and Fire Station

cars parked in front of buildings along main street

Morrison Main Street

trees standing in front of two buildings and sidewalks in the foreground

County Buildings

black and white image from the air of the buildings lining main street

East Main Street 1870

Rockwood State Park

The state park features Lake Carlton, a stream-fed reservoir, and offers a variety of recreational opportunities. Located north of Morrison off Highway 78, the park comprises 1,150 acres, including the 77-acre lake.

Morrison Rockwood State Park is an Illinois state park on 1,164 acres (471 ha) located north of Morrison in Whiteside CountyIllinoisUnited States. The park was established in 1971 and opened for day use that same year. It is named after the nearby Rock Creek and the heavily wooded park area “Rockwood”. Lake Carlton is located within the park. Lake Carlton is a watershed impoundment constructed in 1969 by building a 38-foot (12 m) high, 1,800-foot (550 m) long earthen dam across a tributary stream to Rock Creek. The lake was named in memory of L. Carlton Anderson, a local citizen who promoted the park and was an important civic and conservation leader.

canoe with two people sitting in the middle of a still lake with beautiful foliage behind them

Rockwood State Park – Lake Carlton

black and white photo of main street with horse drawn carriages parked outside of the buildings

Morrison Main Street – 1887

black and white photo of main street with antique cars driving the road

A Section of South Side Business Blocks

Whiteside County Fairgrounds

Morrison is a city in Whiteside County, Illinois, United States. The population was 4,188 at the 2010 census, down from 4,447 in 2000. It is the county seat of Whiteside County. It is located on the Historic Lincoln Highway, the nation’s first transcontinental highway and in Morrison was the site of two concrete “seedling miles”, which served as prototypes of what an improved highway could do for the nation.

black and white photo of crowd surrounding stands at fairground

Whiteside County Fairgrounds

black and white photo of horses racing around a dirt track

Whiteside County Fairgrounds

black and white photo of people lining a water way

Whiteside County Fairgrounds

black and white photo of a log cabin with people gathered on the lawn out front

Whiteside County Fairgrounds

Lincoln Highway Mural

As the designated Scenic Byway management agency overseeing the Lincoln Highway National Scenic Byway, the Illinois Lincoln Highway Coalition (ILHC) continues to seek ways to recognize the significance of the highway and ways to make the stories come alive. After receiving a National Scenic Byway Grant from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and an Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, Office of Tourism, Attraction Development (TAP) Grant, ILHC worked with our vendor, Jay Allen of ShawCraft Signs, to make this project come to life.

vintage photo frame surrounding black and white photo of car entering park and ticket stub for the fair

Lincoln Highway National Scenic Byway Mural

octgonal building with two levels sitting on green lawn

Whiteside County Fair Round Barn

Morrison’s Industry History

Refrigerator manufacturer, Illinois Refrigerator Company, was organized in 1892 by Edward A. Smith, J.B. Markey, George Brown, F.L. Sands, and F.R. Beals. Later it added school furniture to its line: Columbia School Equipment Company, which was a subsidiary of the Illinois Refrigerator Company. In 1914, Illinois Refrigerator Company acquired equipment to manufacture stoves, establishing the Summit Stove Company. Two additional school furniture companies formed the Illinois Seating Company and built a new factory in Morrison. The Morris and Rich Toy Factory of Sterling, IL moved to Morrison in 1928, locating in part of the Illinois Refrigerator Company building. In November 1929, a fire damaged two warehouses owned by Illinois Refrigerator Company, Rich Manufacturing Company, and Columbia School Equipment Company. The fire destroyed over 4,000 refrigerators and $35,000 worth of toys, including five or more carloads, which were on the nearby railroad tracks. The total loss was estimated at $500,000. By April 1932, the refrigerator company was bankrupt. Soon after, a new corporation was formed: Rich Illinois Manufacturing Company. The company made wood and metal refrigerators, electric refrigerators, toys, furniture, wood ware, and wood and metal fabricated buildings. In 1934, The City Ice and Fuel Company of Cleveland, OH, which operated under the name Ice Cooling Appliance Corporation (ICA), purchased the plant. The toy factory, Rich Illinois Manufacturing, moved to Clinton, Iowa. In 1954, ICA was sold to American Air Filter Company, Inc. at Louisville, Kentucky, which had consolidated with Herman Nelson Corporation of Moline, Illinois. In 1957, the Herman Nelson division established a factory in Morrison to manufacture air blowers, small portable heaters, and air conditioners, which eventually closed in 1966, moving to Brownsville, Tennessee.

General Electric started its Morrison plant in 1949, as a branch of the Schenectady, New York department. It became the Appliance Control Department in 1952 and was one of the first units to be established in a decentralization program. Early production included relays, switchettes, and sump pump switches, followed by cold and heat controls. In 1952, the manufacture of range timers was transferred to the Morrison factory from Somersworth, New Hampshire. In ensuing year, gas igniters, thermostats, and small d.c. motors were added. In 1965, a branch plant was established at Bridgeport, CT; the department’s headquarters remained at Morrison. The plant closed in 2010.

Current major employers within the community include Whiteside County government, Morrison Community School District #6, Morrison Community Hospital, Climco Coils, and Resthave Home. Because Morrison is the county seat, professional services such as attorneys, title and survey services, and financial and accounting services are well-represented. The agricultural sector remains a primary source of economic output.

antique cherry stained cabinet

Illinois Refrigerator Company

photo of warehouse that is light gray

General Electric Company

black and white photo of downtown street with cars parked in front of buildings

Morrison Main Street

black and white photo of street lined with trees and houses nestled behind them

Looking North on Base Street, Morrison, IL

image of wood etched with automatic Morrison Illinois symbol

This is a solid oak antique ice box and is marked on the front as the Automatic Morrison Illinois. The piece has none of the inside enamel or metal, but has a wonderful oak paneling. Measures 46″x38″x21.5″ This is anearly 1900’s piece.

black and white illustration of Morrison from the air

sepia toned photo of building with parade float pulled by horses going by

Morrison corner of route 30 and 78

black and white photos of building partially obscured by copse of trees

Morrison Country Club