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 Issac Newton Morgan

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Issac Newton Morgan

Birth
Trimbelle, Pierce County, Wisconsin, USA
Death
16 Aug 1949 (aged 86)
Warner, Lethbridge Census Division, Alberta, Canada
Burial
Warner, Lethbridge Census Division, Alberta, Canada
Memorial ID
74676989 View Source

Suggested edit: Warner Pioneers 1900-1921
Newton Morgan lived in Warner during the early twenties. His wife was a very well educated woman of Navajo Indian descent, and had practised law in the eastern United States before her marriage. She had many beautiful relics of Indian origin. Mr. Morgan played the guitar very well, and was an excellent taxidermist. He was a great hunter, a good sportsman, and taught many local boys to shoot. He spent his last years in Warner, and is buried in the Warner Cemetery.
---------------

Personal note of the writer: Mr. Morgan was a friend of my father. He was a black man and very respected in our community. In full respect and friendship, he was referred to as N****r Morgan. He was a shoemaker by trade.

1939 Border Crossing source states that Newton became a Canadian Citizen in 1913

Milk River History "Under Eight Flags", page 1087
Lund, Art and Violet (Murphy)
Violet Friday Lund - Her father A.P. (Spud) Murphy..."Violet was born in Warner in 1915, but moved with her parents in 1921, to the horse ranch which was southwest of Milk River. Spud purchased the ranch from the Morgan's who had tried, unsuccessfully, to develop it as a hunting lodge in the hills of 1-17. Violet grew up among the stuffed animals and birds placed about the house by Mr. Morgan who was a taxidermist."

Introducing Isaac Newton Morgan: An Old Family Friend
In 1996, my son, Jacob, and I drove my parents to Calgary, Alberta, so my mother, Twila Ross Boundy, could see her sister, who was near death. On the way, we stopped to visit the town of Warner, Alberta, twenty miles north of the Canadian border where my mother grew up. After driving through the town, we drove to my grandparents’ old farmhouse west of Warner, where my mother was born and lived until her marriage to my father. I brought along a tape recorder and interviewed her as she pointed out some of the homes and the few businesses which remained in this once thriving town. As we passed a small house, my mother explained:
The next house that we come to is kitty-corner from our old schoolhouse and this is where Morgan lived for years. In this day and age, it wouldn’t be nice to call him Morgan, but that’s the only name we ever knew. His wife died many years before, so I never really knew her. He lived by himself all the time and he was dearly loved by everybody in town. In fact, I don’t think my mother ever baked a loaf of bread that she didn’t send one in to Morgan. I used to take him a gallon of buttermilk about once a month, and he’d always pay me. Sometimes I was late for school because I took it over. I think the buttermilk was probably 50 cents or something like that and he always gave me a nickel tip. That meant quite a bit in those days because I could get quite a bit of candy for a nickel. Years later my cousin, Phyllis Ross Dickson, went out to the cemetery in Warner and found Morgan’s grave. It just said Morgan on a wooden plaque on his grave, and so, bless her heart, she was kind enough that she had a tombstone made and had it put on his grave. I think some way or another she found out his full name and had it put on. I think that’s a wonderful thing for an individual to do.
But in this case, the saving grace is the benediction cousin Phyllis pronounced when she gave the man back his name. To repeat the words of my mother’s blessing: “I think that’s a wonderful thing for an individual to do.”
You pass the Warner Cemetery on the way to my grandparents’ farm. We stopped and quickly located the gravestone, where we silently stood for a few moments, wondering about the man who was such a memorable presence in my mother’s life..
After returning home, my mother shared with me a book, Warner Pioneers, 1900-1921, which contains descriptions of early Warner families. Some of the entries ran several pages, but the entry for “Mr. Newton Morgan” was among the shortest:
These few lines are apparently all that has ever been written about the life of this man. I subsequently made a small photo album of our 1996 trip to Warner for my mother, in which I assembled photographs and her descriptions of our visit to Warner, which she often enjoyed reviewing. When my mother died in 2006 I got her extensive scrapbooks and memorabilia, including the Warner photo album. But it wasn’t until fourteen years later when I was going through her scrapbooks that my attention was forcefully turned back to the man I now knew as Isaac Newton Morgan. But this time I had an overwhelming yearning to know more about this black man, who lived and died alone in an otherwise white Canadian village. This paper is the result of my search.
A broad outline of Isaac Newton Morgan’s life can be found on his family group sheet located at https://www.familysearch.org/tree/person/sources/G455-S85, which can be summarized as follows:
He was born on May 21, 1863 in Trimbelle, Wisconsin, the seventh of eight children born to Moses and Nancy Morgan. By the time of the 1870 US Census the family had moved 280 miles southeast to Troy, Wisconsin (37 miles from Milwaukee) where Newton (all his life he appears to have used “Newton” as his first name) appears as an eight year-old child. The family is identified as “mulatto.” His father and mother’s occupations are listed respectively as barber and “keeping house.” They own their own home valued at $600 in a predominantly white neighborhood and the older children attend school. At age eighteen Newton appears in the St. Paul, Minnesota City Directory with his occupation listed as laborer. For the next twenty years or more he worked variously as a private coachman (responsible for driving and caring for his employer’s horses and carriage), a clerk, a porter at the Hotel Ryan in St. Paul, a tinner (i.e. tinsmith) and a moulder (i.e. likely a person who operates an iron moulding machine).
On August 1, 1892, at age 29, Newton married Johanna Dorothea Lisette Liermann forty-five miles from Minneapolis across the Mississippi River in Wisconsin, near his birthplace in Trimbelle. “Jennie” Liermann was six years older than Newton, born in New York of German parentage. She had previously married Fred Wittenburg when she was sixteen. That marriage did not last and by 1885 she was again living with her parents in Minneapolis. She took back her maiden name, and had with her an 11 year old daughter named Lillian Wittenburg (or Whitenberg) when she and Newton were married. Curiously, on the 1895 Minnesota census both she and Newton are listed as “white.” One speculates that the census interviewer met Jennie, but not Newton, and simply made a conclusion consistent with the racial attitudes of the day which could not countenance inter-racial marriage.
Newton’s marriage to Jennie Liermann likely gave rise to a story I heard to the effect that Morgan “had stolen a white man’s wife.” Given the racist tenor of the time that allowed his nickname, it is not surprising that this story is more of the same. Regardless, this unreliable hearsay is itself grossly objectionable, first because it proceeds on the assumption that women are chattel and can therefore be considered stolen property. But even more importantly, it is embarrassingly notable that someone obviously found the race of the pair relevant to the telling.
Although no subsequent death or divorce record can be located for Jennie Liermann, in approximately 1898 Newton married a second time in Minneapolis to a woman with the first name of Ada. Beyond the brief Warner book’s few line biography referenced above, little is known of Ada, except that she claimed a Canadian heritage of French descent on two Canadian census records. The couple immigrated to Canada in 1910 by train when Newton was 47 and Ada 43. The same year Newton applied for Canadian citizenship and filed for a homestead on the Milk River Ridge near Milk River, identifying Ada as his wife, with no children. The homestead encompassed ¾ of a section or 480 acres located deep inside the hills of Section 17, Township 1, Range 1700. Newton’s signature below is from that homestead application.

Newton became a naturalized Canadian citizen in 1913 at age 50. Presumably because Ada was the daughter of a Canadian citizen, she qualified for birth citizenship and did not need to become naturalized. On various census records of both the United States and Canada Newton is variously identified as white, mulatto and Irish-American. Similar census records for Ada, who is described in the Warner book as of Native American descent, consistently describe her as white and of French ancestry. In the 1916 Canadian Census both he and Ada identify their religion as Episcopal.
Newton’s Milk River homestead application and subsequent patent file are together a fountain of information concerning what in time came to be referred to as the Morgan Horse Ranch. In his application for a patent and deed to the property, Newton was required to submit proof that he had both lived on and improved his property. He listed his improvements and their value as: a 36’ X 36’ frame house ($1,000), hay shed ($45); barn ($50) with shop ($20), well ($75) and two miles of fencing ($150). At the same time he represented that over the past three years he had broken 35 acres, had an additional 30 acres cropped (grazed) and had increased his livestock holdings to as many as four horses and twelve cows. Several times over the eleven years he owned the property he took out modest loans from the provincial government varying from $35-50 for horse feed and provisions and $50 in horse feed in 1915, on account of his loss of a crop in 1914 because of “drouth.” In 1919 he borrowed $61.17 to purchase two sacks of flour, two sacks of potatoes, 70 pounds of oatmeal, 70 pounds of lard, 4,000 pounds of coal and one ton of hay. Sometime around age fifty he applied for a Canadian old age pension.
The Morgans tried unsuccessfully to develop the horse ranch into a hunting lodge in the hills of the Milk River Ridge. In 1921 Newton, at age 58, traded his Milk River homestead to a noted local horseman, Arthur Patrick “Spud” Murphy, for property in Warner. Spud moved with his wife and daughter, Violet, to the Morgan horse ranch, where Spud pursued his hobby of training race horses and mentoring young jockeys. Violet grew up among the stuffed animals and birds placed around the house by Newton who, as previously noted, was an avid hunter and taxidermist. Meanwhile, Newton apparently moved to Warner, possibly alone. What became of Ada is unknown since we have been unable to determine her maiden name or locate a birth or death record.
To date, a total of only twelve internet records have been located from the palette of Newton’s life. These scanty records include elusive gaps, particularly from 1916 until his death at age 86 in 1949. Inter alia, he is not found in the 1920, 1930 or 1940 US or Canadian censuses. Moreover, there is no consensus as to his actual name: only his gravestone identifies his full name as Isaac Newton Morgan. In all other records except one, his name is simply Newton Morgan. Only in the 1995 I think that this should be 1895 U.S. census his name appears as Newton I. Morgan.
Beyond these spare details, I wanted to learn more about the personality and character of this early Alberta pioneer for whom my mother and her family felt such affection. In this regard, I have been fortunate to locate several elderly Warnerites who knew Newton. First, I tracked down Phil Dickson, who is 84 years old and the son of Phyllis Ross Dickson, my mother’s cousin who purchased Morgan’s gravestone. He recalled that Morgan’s small house was on the edge of the town where he kept horses, pigs and other farm animals. Phil speculated (accurately) that Newton must have received some kind of pension because he often saw him riding his horse downtown to pick up his mail or groceries. The man he knew only as Morgan was always friendly and would stop to talk whenever he saw Phil walking to school.
I spoke with Clayton Soice, age 92, who farmed in the Warner area until moving to Lethbridge. Clayton readily recalled Morgan, whom he described as tall, thin and erect in his bearing. He says his folks thought highly of Morgan, who lived alone and raised and milked goats. He says nobody knew much about his history, but there were lots of stories about a colorful past, including that he had left the States one step ahead of the law, for what reason he either didn’t know or wouldn’t say, branding them “only rumors,” He heard that Morgan had originally been hired as a pool shark to work for the “house” at the local Warner pool hall. But he summed up everything he knew by saying Newton Morgan was always a real gentleman, who kept to himself, which was not surprising given the times and that he was the only black person in town.
Earl Thomas, now 94 years old grew up in Warner and remembers with some embarrassment that he was 13 or 14 when he first met and couldn’t stop staring at Newton, the first black person he had ever seen. Earl’s older brother, Bill, age 97, joins many others who said their folks thought highly of Mr. Morgan.
Another helpful informant has been long-time cattle buyer, Terry Lund, age 77, who now lives in nearby Stirling, just fifteen miles north of Warner. Although Terry never knew Newton personally, he grew up in the Milk River ranch house which his grandfather acquired in trade with Newton in 1921. Terry generously gave me copies of the ranch pictures below.

Another person who faintly recalled Newton was Robert “Bob” Hulit, age 86. Bob remembers his father once bought a horse for him from Morgan.
In my hunt for Newton’s history, I have often worried that the racial attitudes of the day may have also kept him from the close friendships he surely deserved. That concern now seems over-blown and an unnecessary conclusion. On August 12, 1939 seventy-six year old Newton Morgan crossed the US/Canada border at Sweet Grass, Montana on a 1-2 day sightseeing trip to Glacier National Park. According to his U.S. border crossing Manifest at Sweet Grass, Montana, he was accompanied by “Friend: Clark Andrew Van Brocklin,”also of Warner. Elsewhere on the form Newton was required to identify the “Name and address of closest relative or friend from whence alien came.” Newton filled in the blank “Friend: Al Millhaem,” also from Warner, where he served for a time as Mayor. Both Van Brocklin and Millhaem were also fellow 1910 immigrants from the US. Somehow it feels measurably better to know that Newton considered many of his Warner neighbors as friends.
The border crossing form is also noteworthy in that it gives Newton’s self-description as black, 5’9,” with black complexion and a mustache. This may be the closest to a photo of the man we will ever find. He further candidly discloses his marriage status as separated, and also identifies his occupation as “Shoemaker/now on pension.” And, I cannot help but note the sweet possibility that my father was working as a U.S. immigration officer in Sweet Grass, Montana at the time of Newton’s 1939 border crossing. Given the small U.S. immigration office there, it’s a strong likelihood that he met Newton at that time, if not before. If perchance they did not meet during mortality, I entertain the heartfelt wish and expectation that they met subsequently after death.
One of the mysteries which spurred my interest in Isaac Newton Morgan was the story about my third cousin, Phyllis Ross Dickson, who restored Newton’s name and paid to have it carved on his gravestone. Like my mother, I found this an incredibly thoughtful gesture and wondered at her motivation. I couldn’t have imagined her doing this for a total stranger and I sensed there had to be a deeper connection. In my searching, I have heard two explanations, both of which excite me. The first was given by Clayton Soice. In answer to the question why Phyllis would have done this, he gave a terse answer: “Because she’s a Ross.” Clayton’s description was both a blessing and a family reputation I want my children and grandchildren to know and emulate.
The second explanation came to me late in my searching when I spoke to Bill Ross, a third cousin who lived in Warner for four years during his late teens. He remembers hearing that Newton sometimes worked for the Rosses, who considered him a superb horseman and honest worker. Having just completed my grandfather’s biography, I had discovered a curious pattern in Ross family dynamics. Repeated stories tell of hired men who began as workers on my ancestors’ farms and ranches, but were then drawn in and came to regard the Rosses as family. I love the possibility that Newton may have felt that way about my family.
There are those who do not understand the custom and doctrine of the Latter-day Saints who perform temple ordinance work for deceased family and others who died without the opportunity and blessing of being sealed to their loved ones for “time and all eternity.” We do so out of a firm conviction that we are honoring the departed by recognizing their lives in temple ceremonies, where they are identified by name and their proper place in their own families. These are eternal sealings, which we believe those who have passed on remain free and able to accept or reject. Regardless of their decision, we are persuaded that the vast majority will be touched by being honored and remembered by name long after their earthly sojourn ended. If my mother’s cousin, Phyllis, gave Newton back his name, I believe temple ordinances will also give him back his family,
I write this now when the current covid pandemic has forced closure of all Latter-day Saint temples. But as soon as they are reopened, I will take my family and friends to a temple to perform identification and sealing ordinances for Isaac Newton Morgan, an old friend of my family, which we have now rediscovered and learned to appreciate anew.
Discovering the real Newton Morgan through the eyes of history seventy years after his death has been a daunting but happy adventure. Accompanying me on this journey to unlock the secrets of the past have been two faithful friends: Sandra Nelson, who grew up in Warner and now lives in nearby Stirling and Melanie Tappen of Bainbridge Island, Washington. Both of these dedicated women have generously entered into Newton Morgan’s circle of friends
F. Ross Boundy Bainbridge Island, Washington December 14, 2020
Contributor: John B. T. (49150548) • [email protected]

Suggested edit: Warner Pioneers 1900-1921
Newton Morgan lived in Warner during the early twenties. His wife was a very well educated woman of Navajo Indian descent, and had practised law in the eastern United States before her marriage. She had many beautiful relics of Indian origin. Mr. Morgan played the guitar very well, and was an excellent taxidermist. He was a great hunter, a good sportsman, and taught many local boys to shoot. He spent his last years in Warner, and is buried in the Warner Cemetery.
---------------

Personal note of the writer: Mr. Morgan was a friend of my father. He was a black man and very respected in our community. In full respect and friendship, he was referred to as N****r Morgan. He was a shoemaker by trade.

1939 Border Crossing source states that Newton became a Canadian Citizen in 1913

Milk River History "Under Eight Flags", page 1087
Lund, Art and Violet (Murphy)
Violet Friday Lund - Her father A.P. (Spud) Murphy..."Violet was born in Warner in 1915, but moved with her parents in 1921, to the horse ranch which was southwest of Milk River. Spud purchased the ranch from the Morgan's who had tried, unsuccessfully, to develop it as a hunting lodge in the hills of 1-17. Violet grew up among the stuffed animals and birds placed about the house by Mr. Morgan who was a taxidermist."

Introducing Isaac Newton Morgan: An Old Family Friend
In 1996, my son, Jacob, and I drove my parents to Calgary, Alberta, so my mother, Twila Ross Boundy, could see her sister, who was near death. On the way, we stopped to visit the town of Warner, Alberta, twenty miles north of the Canadian border where my mother grew up. After driving through the town, we drove to my grandparents’ old farmhouse west of Warner, where my mother was born and lived until her marriage to my father. I brought along a tape recorder and interviewed her as she pointed out some of the homes and the few businesses which remained in this once thriving town. As we passed a small house, my mother explained:
The next house that we come to is kitty-corner from our old schoolhouse and this is where Morgan lived for years. In this day and age, it wouldn’t be nice to call him Morgan, but that’s the only name we ever knew. His wife died many years before, so I never really knew her. He lived by himself all the time and he was dearly loved by everybody in town. In fact, I don’t think my mother ever baked a loaf of bread that she didn’t send one in to Morgan. I used to take him a gallon of buttermilk about once a month, and he’d always pay me. Sometimes I was late for school because I took it over. I think the buttermilk was probably 50 cents or something like that and he always gave me a nickel tip. That meant quite a bit in those days because I could get quite a bit of candy for a nickel. Years later my cousin, Phyllis Ross Dickson, went out to the cemetery in Warner and found Morgan’s grave. It just said Morgan on a wooden plaque on his grave, and so, bless her heart, she was kind enough that she had a tombstone made and had it put on his grave. I think some way or another she found out his full name and had it put on. I think that’s a wonderful thing for an individual to do.
But in this case, the saving grace is the benediction cousin Phyllis pronounced when she gave the man back his name. To repeat the words of my mother’s blessing: “I think that’s a wonderful thing for an individual to do.”
You pass the Warner Cemetery on the way to my grandparents’ farm. We stopped and quickly located the gravestone, where we silently stood for a few moments, wondering about the man who was such a memorable presence in my mother’s life..
After returning home, my mother shared with me a book, Warner Pioneers, 1900-1921, which contains descriptions of early Warner families. Some of the entries ran several pages, but the entry for “Mr. Newton Morgan” was among the shortest:
These few lines are apparently all that has ever been written about the life of this man. I subsequently made a small photo album of our 1996 trip to Warner for my mother, in which I assembled photographs and her descriptions of our visit to Warner, which she often enjoyed reviewing. When my mother died in 2006 I got her extensive scrapbooks and memorabilia, including the Warner photo album. But it wasn’t until fourteen years later when I was going through her scrapbooks that my attention was forcefully turned back to the man I now knew as Isaac Newton Morgan. But this time I had an overwhelming yearning to know more about this black man, who lived and died alone in an otherwise white Canadian village. This paper is the result of my search.
A broad outline of Isaac Newton Morgan’s life can be found on his family group sheet located at https://www.familysearch.org/tree/person/sources/G455-S85, which can be summarized as follows:
He was born on May 21, 1863 in Trimbelle, Wisconsin, the seventh of eight children born to Moses and Nancy Morgan. By the time of the 1870 US Census the family had moved 280 miles southeast to Troy, Wisconsin (37 miles from Milwaukee) where Newton (all his life he appears to have used “Newton” as his first name) appears as an eight year-old child. The family is identified as “mulatto.” His father and mother’s occupations are listed respectively as barber and “keeping house.” They own their own home valued at $600 in a predominantly white neighborhood and the older children attend school. At age eighteen Newton appears in the St. Paul, Minnesota City Directory with his occupation listed as laborer. For the next twenty years or more he worked variously as a private coachman (responsible for driving and caring for his employer’s horses and carriage), a clerk, a porter at the Hotel Ryan in St. Paul, a tinner (i.e. tinsmith) and a moulder (i.e. likely a person who operates an iron moulding machine).
On August 1, 1892, at age 29, Newton married Johanna Dorothea Lisette Liermann forty-five miles from Minneapolis across the Mississippi River in Wisconsin, near his birthplace in Trimbelle. “Jennie” Liermann was six years older than Newton, born in New York of German parentage. She had previously married Fred Wittenburg when she was sixteen. That marriage did not last and by 1885 she was again living with her parents in Minneapolis. She took back her maiden name, and had with her an 11 year old daughter named Lillian Wittenburg (or Whitenberg) when she and Newton were married. Curiously, on the 1895 Minnesota census both she and Newton are listed as “white.” One speculates that the census interviewer met Jennie, but not Newton, and simply made a conclusion consistent with the racial attitudes of the day which could not countenance inter-racial marriage.
Newton’s marriage to Jennie Liermann likely gave rise to a story I heard to the effect that Morgan “had stolen a white man’s wife.” Given the racist tenor of the time that allowed his nickname, it is not surprising that this story is more of the same. Regardless, this unreliable hearsay is itself grossly objectionable, first because it proceeds on the assumption that women are chattel and can therefore be considered stolen property. But even more importantly, it is embarrassingly notable that someone obviously found the race of the pair relevant to the telling.
Although no subsequent death or divorce record can be located for Jennie Liermann, in approximately 1898 Newton married a second time in Minneapolis to a woman with the first name of Ada. Beyond the brief Warner book’s few line biography referenced above, little is known of Ada, except that she claimed a Canadian heritage of French descent on two Canadian census records. The couple immigrated to Canada in 1910 by train when Newton was 47 and Ada 43. The same year Newton applied for Canadian citizenship and filed for a homestead on the Milk River Ridge near Milk River, identifying Ada as his wife, with no children. The homestead encompassed ¾ of a section or 480 acres located deep inside the hills of Section 17, Township 1, Range 1700. Newton’s signature below is from that homestead application.

Newton became a naturalized Canadian citizen in 1913 at age 50. Presumably because Ada was the daughter of a Canadian citizen, she qualified for birth citizenship and did not need to become naturalized. On various census records of both the United States and Canada Newton is variously identified as white, mulatto and Irish-American. Similar census records for Ada, who is described in the Warner book as of Native American descent, consistently describe her as white and of French ancestry. In the 1916 Canadian Census both he and Ada identify their religion as Episcopal.
Newton’s Milk River homestead application and subsequent patent file are together a fountain of information concerning what in time came to be referred to as the Morgan Horse Ranch. In his application for a patent and deed to the property, Newton was required to submit proof that he had both lived on and improved his property. He listed his improvements and their value as: a 36’ X 36’ frame house ($1,000), hay shed ($45); barn ($50) with shop ($20), well ($75) and two miles of fencing ($150). At the same time he represented that over the past three years he had broken 35 acres, had an additional 30 acres cropped (grazed) and had increased his livestock holdings to as many as four horses and twelve cows. Several times over the eleven years he owned the property he took out modest loans from the provincial government varying from $35-50 for horse feed and provisions and $50 in horse feed in 1915, on account of his loss of a crop in 1914 because of “drouth.” In 1919 he borrowed $61.17 to purchase two sacks of flour, two sacks of potatoes, 70 pounds of oatmeal, 70 pounds of lard, 4,000 pounds of coal and one ton of hay. Sometime around age fifty he applied for a Canadian old age pension.
The Morgans tried unsuccessfully to develop the horse ranch into a hunting lodge in the hills of the Milk River Ridge. In 1921 Newton, at age 58, traded his Milk River homestead to a noted local horseman, Arthur Patrick “Spud” Murphy, for property in Warner. Spud moved with his wife and daughter, Violet, to the Morgan horse ranch, where Spud pursued his hobby of training race horses and mentoring young jockeys. Violet grew up among the stuffed animals and birds placed around the house by Newton who, as previously noted, was an avid hunter and taxidermist. Meanwhile, Newton apparently moved to Warner, possibly alone. What became of Ada is unknown since we have been unable to determine her maiden name or locate a birth or death record.
To date, a total of only twelve internet records have been located from the palette of Newton’s life. These scanty records include elusive gaps, particularly from 1916 until his death at age 86 in 1949. Inter alia, he is not found in the 1920, 1930 or 1940 US or Canadian censuses. Moreover, there is no consensus as to his actual name: only his gravestone identifies his full name as Isaac Newton Morgan. In all other records except one, his name is simply Newton Morgan. Only in the 1995 I think that this should be 1895 U.S. census his name appears as Newton I. Morgan.
Beyond these spare details, I wanted to learn more about the personality and character of this early Alberta pioneer for whom my mother and her family felt such affection. In this regard, I have been fortunate to locate several elderly Warnerites who knew Newton. First, I tracked down Phil Dickson, who is 84 years old and the son of Phyllis Ross Dickson, my mother’s cousin who purchased Morgan’s gravestone. He recalled that Morgan’s small house was on the edge of the town where he kept horses, pigs and other farm animals. Phil speculated (accurately) that Newton must have received some kind of pension because he often saw him riding his horse downtown to pick up his mail or groceries. The man he knew only as Morgan was always friendly and would stop to talk whenever he saw Phil walking to school.
I spoke with Clayton Soice, age 92, who farmed in the Warner area until moving to Lethbridge. Clayton readily recalled Morgan, whom he described as tall, thin and erect in his bearing. He says his folks thought highly of Morgan, who lived alone and raised and milked goats. He says nobody knew much about his history, but there were lots of stories about a colorful past, including that he had left the States one step ahead of the law, for what reason he either didn’t know or wouldn’t say, branding them “only rumors,” He heard that Morgan had originally been hired as a pool shark to work for the “house” at the local Warner pool hall. But he summed up everything he knew by saying Newton Morgan was always a real gentleman, who kept to himself, which was not surprising given the times and that he was the only black person in town.
Earl Thomas, now 94 years old grew up in Warner and remembers with some embarrassment that he was 13 or 14 when he first met and couldn’t stop staring at Newton, the first black person he had ever seen. Earl’s older brother, Bill, age 97, joins many others who said their folks thought highly of Mr. Morgan.
Another helpful informant has been long-time cattle buyer, Terry Lund, age 77, who now lives in nearby Stirling, just fifteen miles north of Warner. Although Terry never knew Newton personally, he grew up in the Milk River ranch house which his grandfather acquired in trade with Newton in 1921. Terry generously gave me copies of the ranch pictures below.

Another person who faintly recalled Newton was Robert “Bob” Hulit, age 86. Bob remembers his father once bought a horse for him from Morgan.
In my hunt for Newton’s history, I have often worried that the racial attitudes of the day may have also kept him from the close friendships he surely deserved. That concern now seems over-blown and an unnecessary conclusion. On August 12, 1939 seventy-six year old Newton Morgan crossed the US/Canada border at Sweet Grass, Montana on a 1-2 day sightseeing trip to Glacier National Park. According to his U.S. border crossing Manifest at Sweet Grass, Montana, he was accompanied by “Friend: Clark Andrew Van Brocklin,”also of Warner. Elsewhere on the form Newton was required to identify the “Name and address of closest relative or friend from whence alien came.” Newton filled in the blank “Friend: Al Millhaem,” also from Warner, where he served for a time as Mayor. Both Van Brocklin and Millhaem were also fellow 1910 immigrants from the US. Somehow it feels measurably better to know that Newton considered many of his Warner neighbors as friends.
The border crossing form is also noteworthy in that it gives Newton’s self-description as black, 5’9,” with black complexion and a mustache. This may be the closest to a photo of the man we will ever find. He further candidly discloses his marriage status as separated, and also identifies his occupation as “Shoemaker/now on pension.” And, I cannot help but note the sweet possibility that my father was working as a U.S. immigration officer in Sweet Grass, Montana at the time of Newton’s 1939 border crossing. Given the small U.S. immigration office there, it’s a strong likelihood that he met Newton at that time, if not before. If perchance they did not meet during mortality, I entertain the heartfelt wish and expectation that they met subsequently after death.
One of the mysteries which spurred my interest in Isaac Newton Morgan was the story about my third cousin, Phyllis Ross Dickson, who restored Newton’s name and paid to have it carved on his gravestone. Like my mother, I found this an incredibly thoughtful gesture and wondered at her motivation. I couldn’t have imagined her doing this for a total stranger and I sensed there had to be a deeper connection. In my searching, I have heard two explanations, both of which excite me. The first was given by Clayton Soice. In answer to the question why Phyllis would have done this, he gave a terse answer: “Because she’s a Ross.” Clayton’s description was both a blessing and a family reputation I want my children and grandchildren to know and emulate.
The second explanation came to me late in my searching when I spoke to Bill Ross, a third cousin who lived in Warner for four years during his late teens. He remembers hearing that Newton sometimes worked for the Rosses, who considered him a superb horseman and honest worker. Having just completed my grandfather’s biography, I had discovered a curious pattern in Ross family dynamics. Repeated stories tell of hired men who began as workers on my ancestors’ farms and ranches, but were then drawn in and came to regard the Rosses as family. I love the possibility that Newton may have felt that way about my family.
There are those who do not understand the custom and doctrine of the Latter-day Saints who perform temple ordinance work for deceased family and others who died without the opportunity and blessing of being sealed to their loved ones for “time and all eternity.” We do so out of a firm conviction that we are honoring the departed by recognizing their lives in temple ceremonies, where they are identified by name and their proper place in their own families. These are eternal sealings, which we believe those who have passed on remain free and able to accept or reject. Regardless of their decision, we are persuaded that the vast majority will be touched by being honored and remembered by name long after their earthly sojourn ended. If my mother’s cousin, Phyllis, gave Newton back his name, I believe temple ordinances will also give him back his family,
I write this now when the current covid pandemic has forced closure of all Latter-day Saint temples. But as soon as they are reopened, I will take my family and friends to a temple to perform identification and sealing ordinances for Isaac Newton Morgan, an old friend of my family, which we have now rediscovered and learned to appreciate anew.
Discovering the real Newton Morgan through the eyes of history seventy years after his death has been a daunting but happy adventure. Accompanying me on this journey to unlock the secrets of the past have been two faithful friends: Sandra Nelson, who grew up in Warner and now lives in nearby Stirling and Melanie Tappen of Bainbridge Island, Washington. Both of these dedicated women have generously entered into Newton Morgan’s circle of friends
F. Ross Boundy Bainbridge Island, Washington December 14, 2020
Contributor: John B. T. (49150548) • [email protected]


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