By Mark Gutglueck
Frank Pierce Morrison was one of San Bernardino County’s earliest municipal officials as well as a principal in the local banking industry as a founder of one of its earliest and most successful banks.
Morrison was a native son of California, and a member of one of the pioneer families of the state, born in Santa Clara County outside San Francisco on August 31, 1859, the son of A. L. and Sarah (Pease) Morrison, the former a native of Ohio and the latter of Michigan. A.L. Morrison was in business in Ohio until he came to California in the early days, and once in the Golden State took up the work of pioneering development of the water resources in the northern part of the state.
Of four children, two sons and two daughters, F. P. Morrison was the oldest, and was only a child when his parents died. Despite this setback, he acquired a liberal education, attending school at San Francisco and San Jose and then went East to pursue a technical course in the Sheffield Scientific School at Yale University. He left the university in 1878, at the end of his junior year, on account of ill health. To regain health and strength he spent three years in the Hawaiian Islands, and in December 1882, came to Riverside and the following year moved to Redlands, attracted partly by the climate and scenery as well as the possibilities for development in the area.
His energy and efforts forged a strong link in the community’s progress. He was actively identified with some of the important early constructive developments, and for many years was a leading banker of Redlands.
His first purchase of land was on Palm Avenue. Practically all of it was unimproved. On that land he developed a splendid grove of oranges, in the midst of which he erected a handsome home.
Morrison became one of the stockholders in Bear Valley Dam, owning 1,000 shares of the original 3,600. He sold his stock before this substantial pioneer project of irrigation was completed.
He joined other undertakings projected for the general improvement of that section. However, to an increasing degree his financial abilities brought him into prominence, overshadowing his other efforts. As such he was instrumental in the establishment of what would become a leading local financial institution of its day in San Bernardino County.
On March 5, 1887 the Bank of East San Bernardino Valley was established, officially opening for business on the 4th of April of that year. Morrison was the first president, and remained president through subsequent changes, including its eventual transition into the First National Bank of Redlands. The bank started with a stock of $25,000, and was first opened in the Cook Building at the corner of Colton Avenue and Orange Street. It was soon moved to the Wilson and Berry Block, across the street, and in 1892 to a location at the southwest corner of Orange and State streets. For its time, this was a thoroughly modern banking house, and served as the First National Bank of Redlands and the Savings Bank of Redlands, which was incorporated June 25, 1891. Mr. Morrison was also the first president of the Savings Bank.
In its November 23, 1892 edition, the Los Angeles Times referred to Morrison as “one of the most popular and accomplished gentlemen of this [i.e., San Bernardino] county.”
As a banker noted for his conservative judgment, Morrison proved, nevertheless, according to John Brown and James Boyd in their 1922 book, The History of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties, “progressive in every direction where the permanent and true welfare of the city and surrounding district was concerned.”
At the first election under the city charter when Redlands was established as a municipality, Morrison was chosen city treasurer, an office he held until 1920. Because of ill health, Morrison left his position as president of the First National Bank of Redlands in 1916.
Morrison married Miss Mabel Stillman, daughter of Dr. J. D. B. Stillman. They had four children, and their progeny made as indelible of a mark on the community and the state and nation as did their father. Morrison, indeed took a high degree of patriotic satisfaction in the war record of his three sons.
The oldest child, Laurence Stillman Morrison, born in Redlands May 28, 1888, graduated from high school, and, like the other sons, was sent East for his higher education. He graduated from the Phillips Andover Academy of Massachusetts in 1907, received his A. B. degree from Yale University in 1911, and during the First World War was in the Medical Corps with the One Hundred and Sixty-Third Field Hospital, seeing active service overseas in France from December, 1917, to April, 1919. He was mustered out May 24, 1919, and was assistant cashier of the Savings Bank of Redlands. He died in 1974.
The second son, Stanley Morrison, was born June 4, 1892 in Alameda, graduated from Phillips Andover Academy in 1911, from Yale University with the A. B. degree in 1915, and from Harvard Law School with the LL.B. degree. In August, 1917, he enlisted, was assigned to the One Hundred and Forty-fourth Field Artillery, was trained at Camp Kearney, and while there received a commission as second lieutenant, was sent to the School of Fire at Fort Sill, becoming an instructor while there, and as an instructor remained at Fort Sill until the close of the war. He was promoted to first lieutenant.
His outstanding law school record won for him the position of Law Clerk to Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. Much of his later interest in Constitutional Law stemmed from this contact with the United States Supreme Court,
He practiced law for three years with the San Francisco firm of McCutchen, Olney, Mannon and Greene, and joined the Stanford law faculty in 1924. His major interests were in the fields of Taxation, Constitutional Law, and Admiralty but he also taught courses in Municipal Corporations, Criminal Law, Public Utilities, and International Law. He joined the Stanford faculty as lecturer in law in 1924 and became full professor in 1929, a position in which he served from that time forward except for a short interval (1942-1945). A teaching chair at Stanford is named in his honor. He was a member of the Bohemian Club. He died in 1955.
The third child of Franklyn Pierce Morrison was Amy, Mrs. H. O. Philips, of Pasadena.
She died in 1968.
The youngest, William Pease Morrison, born May 7, 1895, at Redlands, attended local schools, graduated from Phillips Andover Academy in 1914, spent one year in the Sheffield Scientific School at Yale, and two years in the University of California. He left the university to enlist in the ambulance corps, and was assigned to a camp at Allentown, Pennsylvania, subsequently attending the Officers Training School at Camp Meade, Maryland, and was commissioned a second lieutenant.
He was on duty at Camp Upton, Long Island, as acting battalion adjutant in the Depot Brigade, and remained there until after the signing of the armistice, when he was released from service. He later managed one of his father’s ranches in Merced. He died in 1962.
F. P. Morrison was a Knight Templar and thirty-second degree Scottish Rite Mason.
His wife, Mabel, died in 1941.
He lived in and around Redlands for more than sixty years, and there he passed into eternity on March 30, 1956.
By Mark Gutglueck