MORRILL, SIMEON, tanner, currier, and businessman; b. in Vermont, 11 Aug. 1793; d. London, Ont., 20 June 1871.
Simeon Morrill was raised in Maine and was a tanner in Kingston, Upper Canada, in September 1817. Nothing else is known about him until his arrival in 1829 in London, Upper Canada, where within a year he had established a tannery. He rapidly expanded this business by adding a factory for boots and shoes, and he was noted as the first businessman in this area to pay cash for hides and as wages. In 1861 he had approximately $20,000 capital involved in his tannery, employed ten persons, and had hides valued at $15,000. He was forced, however, to declare insolvency in 1868, and his affairs were finally wound up in 1876.
As the city grew, so did Morrill’s other financial interests: he was a trustee of the London Savings’ Bank, 1847–65; in 1853 an incorporator of the London and Port Stanley Railway (which he later served as director), and a trustee of the London Gas Company. He was also a founding member of the Board of Trade in 1857.
Like many other American emigrants to the area, Morrill was a Reformer in politics, and in December 1837 he participated in a midnight meeting of radicals supporting William Lyon Mackenzie*. In a by-election in 1844 he ran against a Tory, Lawrence Lawrason*, to represent London, but, to quote the London Inquirer, “the Reformers evinced great apathy” and he was forced to concede. He was more successful in municipal politics and represented St Andrew’s ward on the council for several years. He was elected first town mayor in 1848 and held the office again in 1850 and 1851. As mayor Morrill broke a tie vote on the route of the Great Western Railway in 1851, and the line ran across his property next to his tannery. He was appointed a justice of the peace in 1841. In the 1840s he played an important part in reorganizing the Mechanics’ Institute and in establishing the volunteer fire brigade and the Board of Health.
Morrill, a Wesleyan Methodist, was known as a generous contributor to a variety of educational and religious charities. He was particularly active in the London Temperance Reformation Society, and his tombstone proclaims that he was “For forty years a consistent advocate of the cause of Temperance.” He married first Margaret Andrews, by whom he had a large family, and secondly, Eleanor Beach (c. 1809–78). There were no children from his second marriage.
Middlesex County Registry Office (London, Ont.), Joint Stock Company register, Liber A (1851–66), 6. PAC, RG 31, A1, 1861, London (City). University of Western Ontario Library, 234/2 (Proudfoot family papers, William Proudfoot journals, 1832–1850), entries for January 1844; 332/8 (Middlesex County, Ont., Court of Common Pleas, appearance and pleading books, 1874–75, and Insolvency Court register, 1865–81), p.19 and supporting papers.
J. of Education for Ont., XXIV (November 1871). Kingston Gazette, 25 Nov. 1817. London Advertiser, 23 June 1871. [Archie Bremner], City of London, Ontario, Canada; the pioneer period and the London of today (2nd ed., London, Ont., 1900), 35, 84, 105, 119, 132. C. T. Campbell, Pioneer days in London; some account of men and things in London before it became a city (London, Ont., 1921), 53, 92, 122, 125–27. History of the county of Middlesex, 62, 74, 196, 258, 268, 284, 285, 303, 321, 362. Fred Landon, Western Ontario and the American frontier (Toronto, 1941). Augusta Gilkinson, “The Great Western Railway,” London and Middlesex Hist. Soc., Trans., II (1909), 31–44. Fred Landon, “London and its vicinity, 1837–38,” Ont. Hist., XXIV (1927), 410–38.