William Morrison (1763–1837), Merchant

Page from Morrison's ledger
Chester Public Library
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William Morrison was a prominent merchant who owned stores in Kaskaskia and Cahokia. He ran a trade business up and down the Mississippi River, and even sent representatives as far into the southwest as Santa Fe.

Morrison came to the Illinois Country from Philadelphia in 1790, as an associate in the business of his uncle, Guy Bryant. Morrison sold goods wholesale to businesses in St. Louis, St. Genevieve, and Cape Girardeau. He also provided trade goods to Indian traders.

We know details of his business because his ledger from 1805 to 1831 survives. It lists the names of his customers, and what goods they purchased. (See this ledger online at the Chester Public LIbrary https://digsrvr.shawls.lib.il.us/cht/)

The name of Morrison appears in the Lewis and Clark Journals on December 23, 1803, when they sent word to him to borrow a team of horses to haul logs and some corn. The next May they bought 13 ells of linen from him. On December 4th, Lewis drew $136 on the A letter from Charles Gratiot to Morrison records more bills of exchange (Letters of Lewis and Clark):

“Mr. Pike will deliver you three bills of exchange with the letter of advice on each, which I have endorsed to Messrs. Guy Bryan & Wm. Morrison; Those Bills are drawn by Capt. Meriwether Lewis on the Secretary of War, they are by first and second, all here enclosed.
The first
No. 42 his of the sum of $477.25
The second No. 43 his of $72.51 2/3
The third No. 44 –of $950.23 1/3
Amounting to the sum of fifteen hundred dollars, for which I beg you will give your receipt in deduction of a Sum of Money I owe you on a bound I have past to your house in Philadelphia the 7th of July Eighteen hundred and two.”

In an area where cash was scarce, promissory notes and lines of credit were an important part of the economy.