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Henry Gordon Morton (1823–1895)

Mr. Henry Gordon Morton, J.P., whose death on Monday evening last was announced in the Nowra Colonist on Wednesday, was one of the few remaining links between the old settlers of this district and the present generation. He was born in October, 1828, at Edinburgh, and was educated at the High school in that city. He afterwards had an extensive training as a a survey and railway engineer. After being engaged several years on railway surveys throughout Scotland and England, in 1852 he came out to Melbourne, where he remained some time, and eventually landed in Sydney. He brought with him from England letters of introduction to Sir Stuart Alexander Donaldson, then Prime Minister of the colony, by whom Mr. Morton was engaged in connection with the old General Screw (steamer) Company. After serving for that company a short time he was engaged in Sydney by the Hon. Alexander Berry to go to Shoalhaven and lay out farms on the Shoalhaven Estate. This was upwards of 40 years ago, and some time after he came to the Estate Mr. Morton took up the position of land steward, in conjunction with that of surveyor, in connection with the Estate, and in this capacity he worked zealously and successfully up to a few years ago, when, as before stated, he retired from the Estate and afterwards lived quietly at his home at Numba. As shown in a former notice, no progressive movement in Shoalhaven during the last 35 or 40 years was without the assistance of the late Mr. Morton. A complete statement of his work in this district in the public interest might indeed fill a volume. His first efforts on behalf of agriculture resulted in the formation of the Shoalhaven Estate Agricultural Association in 1863, the exhibitions being held at Gerringong, and continuing with success until the establishment of the broader societies at Kiama and other places several years afterwards. Then Mr. Morton was one of the founders of the Shoalhaven Agricultural Society and occupied a seat on the Committee for ten or twelve years. Many others who worked with him at the start have long since passed away. During the successive floods from 1860 to 1873 Mr. Morton (with Mrs. Morton) was amongst the foremost in the undertakings to give relief to the many distressed people in those times. Mr. Morton was also instrumental, with others of the day, in raising in these parts considerable sums of money for the Irish Famine Relief Fund. As a magistrate, appointed in 1869, we have since his death had the opinion expressed by other well-known local justices that Mr. Morton had (as in mostly all other capacities) acted conscientiously, honorably, and fearlessly. He stood very high in the opinion of all, as a fair and impartial administrator of justice. The Shoalhaven Harmonic Society which flourished in the old town of Terrara in the 60's was largely assisted by Mr. Morton, who, with the late Dr. Aldcorn, the late Mr. Michael Hyam, the late Mr. T. M. Richards, and Messrs. John McArthur, John Monaghan, Z. G. Bice, W. Lovegrove, A. De Mestre and others, secured a large sum of money to erect a School of Arts on a site in Terrara given by the De Mestre family. The floods, together with a migration of the people, however, led to the abandonment of the undertaking. Mr. Morton was one of the chief movers for the extension of the telegraph line from Kiama to Shoalhaven and Jervis Bay, 28 years ago, the accomplishment of which was a great event in the history of the district, and at a time, too, when we received a mail from the city “sometimes once a week.” And he also did a large share of work in securing for North and South Shoalhaven the magnificent Nowra Bridge as a means of communication in place of the old cumbersome ferry at Bomaderry, as well as for railway extension. He was a good patron of manly sports, and as a private gentleman none could have been more highly esteemed and deservedly respected by all classes. For a long time he was a prominent member of the local lodge of Freemasons. He was a man of striking personality, of splendid physical constitution, was well-read, and had a great fund of humour. He was a leading member of the Church of England, the congregation of which testimonialised him prior to his departure on a trip to Europe in May, 1892, He was a writer for some time for the local and metropolitan press, and was a frequent contributor to the Shoalhaven News twenty-live years ago.

The funeral took place on Wednesday afternoon last. Although, in accordance with the desire of the family, it was intended that the funeral should be a private one and carried out in a plain way, a very large number of the friends of the deceased, including most of the public men of the district, assembled at Numba and there joined in the procession. The cortege moved from Numba House at 1 p. m., and the cemetery was reached at 3. The procession extended nearly a mile, and included 73 vehicles and 70 horsemen, beside a large number of people on foot who joined in Nowra. Mr. Morton had a family consisting solely of sons, eight in number, all of whom are living, and were present at the interment. Their names in the order of their ages are :— Philip Henry Morton, M.L.A.; Oswald Gordon Morton, C.E. (Newcastle); Mark Fairles Morton (Messrs Stewart and Morton); Henry Douglas Morton (Coolangatta); Alfred John Morton (Messrs. Lecky, Morton and Co., Sydney); Arthur R. Morton (Messrs. Geddes, Birt and Co., Sydney); Septimus Morton; and Frederick Morton (Bank of Australasia). And these occupied the first three carriages in the procession. Among the many friends of the deceased who also attended were Mr. Alexander Hay; Mr. John Wright, C.E.; Mr. David B. Bruce; Mr. Harold Bruce; Mr. W. Matthews (North Sydney); Dr. J. P. Brereton ; Dr. H. K. King. M.B.; Dr. Thos. Matthews ; Rev. Joseph Best (St. Mark's, Bondi); Rev. E. Wootton; Rev. J. K. Bruce; Rev. G. H. Muzy (Berry); Mr. C. Graham, Mayor of Nowra, and Aldermen Westbrook, Monaghan, Jamieson, Hyam; Aldermen Alex. McLean, T. F. Herne, and M. Walker (Central Shoalhaven) ; Mr. W. Watts, Mayor of Numba, and Alderman James Pollack, James Morison, and W. Jamieson ; Mr. R. V. Boyd, J.P., Mayor of Berry, and Aldermen John Ewing and G. H. Gray; Mr. Z. G. Bice, J.P.; Mr. J. Hyde Nisbett, P.M.; Mr. Jer. Green, J.P.; Mr. John Maclean, J.P.; Mr. R. T. Thorburn, J.P.; Mr. L. McIntyre, J.P.; Mr. Alex. J. Colley, J.P.; Mr. Kenneth McKenzie, J.P.; Mr. F. W. Flatt, J.P.; Mr. John McArthur, J.P.; Mr. Wm. Lovegrove (Marrickville); Mr. Hugh McLelland (Sydney); Mr. H. D. McLelland, B.A. J (Inspector of Schools); Captain A. Buchanan; Captain Thos. Bishop (Pilot Station); Captain R. Duck (s.s. Coomonderry); Messrs. E. Pritchard, John Stewart, James Stewart, P. W. Hall, John T. Hall, W. W. Hamilton (A.J.S. Bank), Peter Walsh, H. L. Lovegrove, John Thorburn jun., E. G. Wilson (Nowra Superior Public School), R. Aberdeen; W. H. Noakes, G. Borrowdare, T. Marriott, T. Britton, T.McLay, Alex. Fraser, sen., M. Marcus, J. D. Lord (Numba Public School), G. Coulthart, John Carmody, James D. Caines, J. Moffitt, (Gerringong). Geo. Haiser, F. Sinclair, John McPherson, Duncan McDonald, T. Fuller (Terrara Public School), James Bernie, Alex. Fraser, jun., John Housten, E. A. Swan, J. Murray, John Holland, G. Lamond, F. A. Quick, Geo. Hayes, R. Mison, James Ryan, A. T. Cordery, M, Murphy, R. Patterson, John East., John Morrison, T. Ganderson, John Muller, J. Woolley, James Armstrong, J. Forsyth, J. Barron, A. Patterson, W. J. Funister, Jas. Gollagher, John Apperly, F. Taylor, James McArthur, T. Wiley, D. Barron, James Watts, W. Caffery, F. Rogers, R. Leeming (Shoalhaven News), J. Giles, John Green, T. McPherson, C. De Mestre, J. Gallagher, C. Murray, sen., J Weik, H. Moore, G. Pooley, J. Allen, L. McKinnon, J. Wiley, H. Glanville, P. Caffery, W. Armstrong, R. Cunningham, J. Reutter, Geo. Muller, D. Mckinnon, S. Glanville, A. H. Brodie, A. Ross, C. J. B. Watson (Shoalhaven News), F. M. Wafts, H. R. Hodgkinson, A. Flatt, J. E. Bond, Jas. Quilkey, G. Thompson (Broughton Village), R. McGregor, P. Kennedy, C. S. Moss, B. McTernan, R. Glanville, M. Brown, W. Shadel, John Herne, J. E. Serviss, John Martin, J. J. Scotchmer, J. Kline, D. Clark, R. Walsh, D. O'Connell, W. H. Perry, W. Moroney, John Quilty, W. Hartridge, and many other well-known residents of the district. The schools in the district were closed for the day.

The burial service was conducted by the Rev. E. Wootton, B.A, (Incumbent of Shoalhaven), Rev. Joseph Best, of St. Mark's, Bondi (a former Incumbent), and the Rev. G. H. Muzy (Incumbant of Berry parish). The beautiful Church of England ritual haying been performed, the Rev. J. Best, in the presence of the large number of people then assembled, delivered an earnest and impressive address in reference to the departed.

The Rev. Mr. Best said that at the request of the relatives of the deceased it was his sad privilege to officiate on that day, as one who had known their late friend for a good many years. For years past the deceased had been a prominent and influential figure in the district,— one who had taken a leading part in making the district what it now was. What their departed brother had done for various institutions of the district some of those residents then present knew better than he (the speaker) did. The deceased had sat long as a magistrate of the territory, and had largely aided philanthropic movements. Long before he (Mr. Best) came to Nowra first, Mr. Morton was an office bearer of their own beloved church, and during his ministry here he had received great assistance, monetary and otherwise, from Mr. Morton. He felt sure that all those then present felt sympathy for the wife and for the mother of those sons who to-day occupied positions of influence and were held in much respect. They had laid the remains of their friend there with a Christian hope,— with the one hope that emanated from Christ Himself. He knew of no other hope. Christ had said: 'I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.' The scientific atheism of the present day gave no such hope, neither did materialism give any hope of a joyous and brighter future. Materialism might well perplex the mind. It had no hope. It was Christ who gave hope in this world of our's— He who had Himself passed through life, and who had conquered death. He asked all present that day if they realised that Jesus Christ was a Saviour to them? If not, they were then without a good hope. But if Jesus Christ had spoken the power of His spirit into their innermost souls, then they had certainly a bright hope. It was in that hope that they buried their friend, and he hoped that his sons, who owed him much for intellectual gifts, would grow up God-fearing men, and, whilst entertaining the glorious hope of the future, be useful in this world amongst their fellow men, who felt, as he also did, great sympathy for them.

At a special meeting of the Numba Municipal Council on Thursday evening last, before its close.

Alderman Morison said that there was one matter he would like to mention, that was the death of their highly-respected neighbour, the late Mr. H. G. Morton, Seeing that the deceased gentleman was one of the first aldermen elected to that Council, and the first Mayor, and that he was such an old identity of their district, he could not do justice to the motion; but his heart was full of sympathy for the family, and he would therefore move that the clerk write a letter of condolence to the widow and family of the late Mr. Morton, expressing the Council's sympathy with them in their loss.

Alderman Armstrong, in seconding the motion, said he believed every member of the Council felt much sympathy with Mrs. Morton and family. A letter from that Council would show the aldermen's appreciation of the late Mr. Morton's labours as an alderman, and the kindly feeling they had towards the family.

Alderman Davis said that personally he was very sorry for the loss the district had sustained by the death of Mr. Morton, who for a number of years had been a leading man in the district, and had, especially in his early days, done a great deal of good for it, being always forward in any movement for the good of the community. He was certainly in sympathy with the resolution.

The Mayor said it was needless for him to say that he agreed with the remarks of his colleagues, and also with the purport of the resolution. The Numba portion of the district had sustained a severe loss by the death of Mr. Morton, and from the fact that the deceased had been one of the first aldermen and the first Mayor elected there, such a letter as that proposed should be forwarded by the Council. Although not a councillor of late years, the late Mr. Morton had continued taking deep interest in the welfare of the municipality. During his whole life here he had done a great deal for their success. He quite agreed with the proposition.

The motion was carried.

Original publication

Citation details

'Morton, Henry Gordon (1823–1895)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 29 May 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]


8 October, 1823
Edinburgh, Mid-Lothian, Scotland


26 August, 1895 (aged 71)
Numbaa, New South Wales, Australia

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