Morris, Joseph Robert (1828–1885)

By: Diana J. Kleiner

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: May 25, 2017

Joseph Robert Morris, Houston mayor, ship channel promoter, and delegate to the Convention of 1875, was born in Milton, Connecticut, on April 24, 1828. He attended local schools, became a tinsmith at New Haven, and joined his father and brothers in Texas in the early 1840s. Morris worked at a tin shop in Houston for a year, then set up his own tin and hardware business in 1847. He is credited with the invention of a hot-air furnace and was a member of the British Academy of Sciences. He supported the Union in the Civil War and was appointed mayor of Houston during Reconstruction by military district commander Gen. Joseph Jones Reynolds, but served only a few months. As representative from Harris County to the Constitutional Convention of 1875, he introduced resolutions for taxation of railroads upon gross receipts, for the establishment of a system of free public schools, and for determining competency for jury service. In 1866 Morris was among incorporators of the Houston Direct Navigation Company and in 1869 of the Buffalo Bayou Ship Channel Company. In 1870 he had real property valued at $155,400 and personal property valued at $10,000. According to some sources, Morris built Houston's first four-story building, which also had Houston's first iron front. Morris married Hannah Cordelia Buckner on December 20, 1860; the couple had six children. He died in Houston on December 6, 1885, and was buried in Glenwood Cemetery.

George M. Fuermann, "Houston, 1880–1910," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 71 (October 1967). History of Texas, Together with a Biographical History of the Cities of Houston and Galveston (Chicago: Lewis, 1895). Journal of the Constitutional Convention of the State of Texas Begun and Held at the City of Austin, September 6, 1875 (Galveston, 1875). Marilyn M. Sibley, The Port of Houston (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1968). Texas Board of Trade, The Industrial Advantages of Houston, Texas and Environs (Houston: Akehurst, 1894). Ralph A. Wooster, "Wealthy Texans, 1870," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 74 (July 1970).

Time Periods:

  • Late Nineteenth-Century Texas


  • Houston
  • Upper Gulf Coast
  • East Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Diana J. Kleiner, “Morris, Joseph Robert,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed December 08, 2021,

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May 25, 2017

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