The John and Ella Morrill House is an architecturally significant one and one-half story, Victorian Gothic style house in the small, south-central Utah community of Junction, in Piute County. Built in 1895 by an early and fairly prominent citizen, the Morrill House links modern Junction and Piute County to its nineteenth century past. It is significant in Junction as a unique example of the Victorian Gothic style. It is prominently located on Main Street (U.S. Highway 89) immediately north of the Piute County Courthouse (National Register, 1971).
The Morrill House was constructed in 1895 by John D. and Ella Morrill and replaced an earlier adobe residence on the site. The Morrills had arrived in Junction on April 11, 1879, one of a number of emigrants sent by leaders of the Mormon church (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) to further develop and colonize southern Utah. Even before the house was fully completed, businessmen, travelers, and church leaders and officials had stayed at the large and spacious structure, though it was never formally operated as a hotel. Morrill’s daughter, Hattie P. Morrill Ipson, remembers that her parents’ house was well-known for its hospitality and for her mother’s good cooking. The ‘octagonal’ bedroom on the second level was furnished and maintained for visitors. John Morrill’s wife, Ella, used the home as the base for a well-regarded local medical practice, although she was not a licensed physician.
Born in Garden Grove, Iowa on February 21, 1848, John Morrill moved to Utah in 1852 with his parents, Laban Morrill and Permelia Handmore Drury, living first in Springville. The Morrill family then relocated to Cedar City in Iron County, where young John first attended and later taught school. On May 18, 1874, John Morrill married Esther Ell is (or Ella) LeBaron, in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City. Ella was born on November 27, 1853 in Council Bluffs, Iowa, to David and Ester Johnson LeBaron, Mormon converts relocating to Utah. John and Ella apparently spent the first years of their marriage in Salt Lake and Utah counties, moving in 1879 to Junction (then known as City Creek) in Piute County in the still sparsely populated south-central portion of the state, where they would spend the rest of their lives. Ella gave birth to a total of twelve children as well as caring and raising several orphans or children of immediate relatives.
Located at 95 North Main Street in Junction, Utah.
Though his father had been a blacksmith, Morrill became a farmer, stock raiser, carpenter, and merchant. While he had arrived in Piute County after the establishment of the nearby Ohio Mining District in 1868, other subsequent mining developments such as Kimberly in 1891, and the completion of the branch line of the Denver & Rio Grande railroad to nearby Marysvale in 1900 likely boosted both local and personal economies. In addition, Morrill’s general store, L.D. Morrill & Son became Junction’s first post office. Morrill was Junction’s first postmaster, a position he held for thirty years. When the store was demolished, the northwest porch of the Morrill House was enclosed and the post office relocated to this space. In 1903, directories indicate Morrill was also in partnership with Joseph P. Werner in a carpentry business, though one year earlier he had submitted a successful bid to build the county’s first courthouse as part of the firm of Young, Alien, & Morrill. The courthouse was built on land south of this house that Morrill donated to the county on May 5, 1902. Morrill retired as postmaster sometime after 1912- 1913 and in 1912, became manager of the Equitable Co-operative Company, a position he still held 1915.
Morrill’s influence extended beyond his business and commercial interests to local religious and political matters. For approximately fifteen years Morrill was a bishop’s counselor in the Kingston IDS Ward (i.e., congregation). When this ward was later subdivided, he was appointed bishop of the new Junction Ward, a position he held for almost twenty years. Morrill served at least one term as Piute County Treasurer (1892-93) and also had long tenures as the county clerk and recorder, positions to which he was appointed. Later, he was also elected county clerk. Electricity was brought to town on June 26, 1930. Morrill, at this time serving as the county clerk (and at the age of 82, perhaps the oldest Junction resident) was chosen to press the button ‘lighting up 1 Junction on July 4, 1930. John Morrill died in Junction in 1939 at the age of 91; Ella had predeceased him in 1932.
A 1992 reconnaissance level survey of historic resources in Junction confirms the local significance of the Morrill House. While there are over twenty-five houses that are potentially eligible for the National Register (out of a total of approximately one hundred buildings plus numerous outbuildings), only the John and Ella Morrill House exhibits the Victorian Gothic style. Other than the Morrill House, the only other substantial masonry house is the small, one-story Victorian Eclectic style house at 91 North 100 West. This house was reportedly begun by a son-in-law of the Morn 11s, but completed after his untimely death, which may account for its rather odd configuration. The Morrill House is one of the few one- and-one-half story houses in Junction and is easily the most substantial historic residence. The tall, brick and stone, Victorian Eclectic style Piute County Courthouse, completed in 1903, is the dominating building in this small community.
The majority of potentially eligible houses in Junction are simply detailed frame houses, reflecting the availability of milled lumber in the area, especially after the completion of the Marysvale branch line. Many of the houses in the community have been substantially modified (e.g., covered with aluminum siding or windows altered). The Morrill House presents a rather robust residential example of the Victorian Gothic style. The pointed gable dormers (which allude to the traditional Gothic style pointed arched windows) and the decorative scroll-cut bargeboards which encircle the house and adorn the porches, are characteristic of the Victorian Gothic style which was popular in Utah from about 1880 to 1910.
Steeply pitched dormers, occasionally on ‘octagonal1 bays, are a feature of several turn-of-the-century houses in the community of Panguitch (61 miles to the south). The Morrill House is similar to the Victorian Gothic, cross-wing Topham(?) House built in 1888 at 15 South 400 West in Parowan, Iron County, about 75 miles to the southwest. Morrill’s involvement in the construction of these houses or the transfer of design elements is unknown, but likely given the similarities.