Spencer B. Morris

S.B. Morris wrote this letter to the Illinois Central Railroad regarding being a Gold Pass Veteran, April 24, 1953: "In reply to your letter, April 22, about biography of each gold pass veteran.
   I was born on a farm in Johnson County, in a small community called Flatwoods, in the year 1881. I am the second child of a family of six children.
   While I am one of the 50- year veterans, my devotion to the Illinois Central began many years earlier. As a pupil in grade school, an understanding teacher walked the entire school to Grantsburg and bought round trip tickets on the train to Simpson, Illinois for all of us, a distance of six miles. This is one of the most thrilling events in my life and was a big factor in helping me decide at that early age to make railroading my career. I later studied telegraphy in my home along with a number of other boys in the community. We strung wires from one farm to another and exchanged news and local events with one another with the telegraphy. After completing school, I sold my horse that had been a gift from my father to get money enough to go to Grantsburg and study station and telegraphy work with the Illinois Central Agent, the late Zera Kerley.
   Telegraphy study in those days was a slow and tedious process, however in the fall of 1903, I felt that I was qualified and made an application for the job of telegrapher. I was called to Carbondale and passed their examination and was sent to Swanwick, Illinois. After working some four months at this location, and experiencing my first homesickness, I was moved to Sand Ridge Junction. I was located at this place for eighteen months until Zera Kerley took the agency at Simpson, Illinois. I moved then to Grantsburg where I spent many happy hours loafing, hunting and fishing with the natives of this little Southern Illinois town. Grantsburg, like most little towns in those days had one general store which was owned by a Mr. Cowan, who later gave his daughter, Nellie Lou, to me in marriage. A big wedding was in order and in those days everyone in the community was invited, as my wife has so often said, that it would not have paid to have offended any of the customers.
   In 1910, my good friend, Zera Kerley, retired and I took the agency at Simpson because I was now a family man and the job paid twenty dollars a month more per month. I soon found that the increase in pay was small compensation for the added work. Express business at Simpson in those days was enormous. While working at Simpson, I was elected to the city council, however, our family was now increased with three children and we were thinking about schools, so in 1921 I asked to be sent to Benton, where I have remained. The change from Simpson to Benton was a big one for me, as I soon realized there was considerable difference between one man station and one that employed nineteen, five of them women. I finally realized that all of them had a job to do and that I wasn't called upon to do it all.
   For thirty two years, I have been with the Illinois Central in Benton, watched it grow to a nice size city and have served on its school board, been an active member of the Elks, a Deacon in the First Christian Church and member of Masonic Lodge A. F.& A. M. No. 778 and also a member of the Modern Woodmen for more than thirty five years.
   We have three children, two daughters and one son: Lela, wife of Dr. Wm. Phelps, faculty member of SIU at Carbondale; Harry S., owner of Morris' Radio and Television Shop and also with Fox Theaters in Benton; and Helen Louise, wife of Attorney J. W. Suddes of Jerseyville, Illinois.
   My hobby is hunting and fishing and I enjoy horse racing as a sport.
Yours truly,
S. B. Morris"

contributed by Faye Bowman


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