The Village of Morrisburg was named in 1851.
In 1838, a commission was established to look into improving navigation on the St. Lawrence River. Sir James Morris, as a commissioner was instrumental in promoting the idea and the construction of the Williamsburg Canals on the St. Lawrence River. The canals were built between 1844-1856 on the north side of the St. Lawrence River to form part of the Great Lakes Navigation System. The construction of the canals on the front of Dundas County provided the impetus for the growth of a village then called West Williamsburg.
In 1850, postal affairs were transferred from London, England to the United Province of Canada. The Province of Canada passed the “Post Office Act” the same year. Sir James Morris was named the first Postmaster-General of Canada on February 22, 1851. Under his direction, postal rates were reduced from 16 cents to 5 cents and postal services were greatly expanded and many towns received official post offices. In 1851, when West Williamsburg was granted a post office under the new Act, the residents and officials renamed the settlement “Morrisburg”, in honour of Sir James Morris. This compliment to the Honourable gentleman was in recognition of all of his efforts which allowed the village to become established and to grow (the canals and the post office). Morrisburg’s first Postmaster, under the new “Post Office Act”, was W.G. Stearns.
Morrisburg was incorporated as a village in 1860. In 1864, Sir James Morris gifted the sum of $100.00 to the village in appreciation of the honour paid to him. The gift was to be used to procure a town clock or a bell. A bell was purchased and placed above the public school which also served as the meeting place for council. This bell remained above the public school until the Seaway Project at which time it was removed and placed into storage. The bell was then presented to Morrisburg Public School by the Women’s Institute and was displayed at the school’s entrance until 1992. In 1992, the village of Morrisburg erected a clock tower in the shopping plaza. The bell was relocated from Morrisburg Public School into the clock tower at that time. This final move completed a process that had begun 128 years earlier.
Facts about Sir James Morris:
Sir James Morris was born in Paisley, Scotland, in 1798 and moved to Canada with his parents in 1801. First elected to the House of Assembly, Upper Canada, in 1837 as a “Reformer” from Leeds County, he became a commissioner for the improvement of navigation of the St. Lawrence River in 1838. He was elected member for Leeds County in the United Canada Parliament in 1841 and was appointed to the Legislative Council in 1844. In 1851, Morris was appointed to the Executive Council and also appointed as Canada’s First Postmaster-General in the same year. He was speaker of the House in 1853-1854 and was government director on The Grand Trunk Railroad from 1852-1854. He was speaker of the Legislative Council in 1858 and was Receiver General for Canada in 1862-1863. Sir James Morris died in Brockville, Leeds County, Ontario, in 1865.
Ref:Burpee, L.J.; The Makers of Canada Series, The Oxford Encyclopedia of Canadian History, Oxford – University Press 1926.