Originally known as Scratching River, Morris was named in honour of Alexander Morris, the first chief Justice in the Court of Queen’s Bench in the new province of Manitoba and later the second Lieutenant-Governor of the province.
Fur traders initially settled the Morris area in the late 1700’s because of its strategic location along the Red River. By 1801, there were two fur-trading stations at the settlement. Provisioning barges coming up and down the Red River, as well as the Red River Ox Carts traveling between Fort Garry and the Pembina Settlement, offered many opportunities for trade. By 1869, the ox carts began to carry settlers to the areas around the Scratching River (now the Morris River) and the population began to grow.
It was the site of fur-trade rivalries in the early 1800s and later a landmark for cart brigades moving between St. Paul, Minnesota and the Red River Colony. By the early 1870s Ontarians were homesteading in the area. Morris soon became a busy stagecoach stop between Fargo, North Dakota, and Fort Garry. With the advent of the coming of the railroad, excitement and promise was in the air. The pioneers knew that this would mean transportation for produce, the influx of settlers, and a better means of communication for themselves. Every settlement was vying for the railroad, assured that progress and growth would follow. When they learned the CPR (1882-83) railroad would bypass Morris by 6 miles, a “bonus” of $100,000 was offered for the railway to relocate here.
It was discovered that the municipality could only offer $.25 per acre under the law so they could only offer $45,000. The citizens of Scratching River decided to withdraw from the municipality and incorporate as a town as a way of having the railway relocate here. In 1882, the province was petitioned for the incorporation of Scratching River as a town. The official date of incorporation was January 9, 1883, with the acreage listed as 6,100 and an assessment of $26,100. By 1884-85 the town had collapsed under its debt load; it only recovered in the mid-1890s. In 1906, 4000 acres were removed from the town and incorporated back into the RM of Morris.
The Red and Morris rivers have greatly affected the town, especially during floods in l950, 1966 and 1979. On March 31, 1966, the Premier of Manitoba, Duff Roblin, called a flood meeting in Morris. Here he and his Ministers personally informed the public of what to expect and what measures to take. The towns of Morris, St. Jean and Emerson began moving earth and hastily constructing ring dykes. On Easter Monday, 1966, the dyke was starting to shift due to the high waves and nearly 20 feet of water was pushing against it at the lowest place. The dyke was saved thanks to the help of the local people, the Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) and a contingent of Canadian Army Engineers, who together braced bulldozers against the base of the dyke on the dry side, placed a boom of hydro poles on the wet side and added weight to the top of the sandbags. Since then, a permanent dyke has been erected around the Town of Morris and we were safe during the “Flood of the Century” in 1997.