O. J. Morrison

Submitted to the West Virginia Biographies Project by:
Valerie & Tommy Crook
July 9, 2000

The History of West Virginia, Old and New
Published 1923, The American Historical Society, Inc.,
Chicago and New York, Volume III,
pg. 473

O. J. MORRISON. The individual who founds and develops
an immense business enterprise must of necessity possess
qualities and characteristics of an unusual nature. Com-
bined with the mind to plan must be the ability to execute
and the foresight to grasp opportunities conditions produce.
Contemporary history gives the names and records of a num-
ber of men who have worked out worth while successes
through the possession of just such an equipment, but
perhaps there is no more striking case of what a man may
accomplish than the career of O. J. Morrison, proprietor
of the O. J. Morrison Department Store Company of Charles-
ton, with branch houses in various other communities of
West Virginia. .

Mr. Morrison was born on a farm near Ripley, Jackson
County, West Virginia, March 10, 1869, and is a son of
Mr. and Mrs. G. P. Morrison, honorable agricultural people
of that community. He received a country school educa-
tion and was reared to farming, but did not take kindly to
the pursuits of the soil and accordingly turned his at-
tention to teaching school. This vocation held him only
two years, for the commercial instinct was strong in him
and he finally bought a small stock of goods and a horse
and wagon and began peddling his wares over the hills of
Jackson County, exchanging groceries and calico with the
farmers for their produce He was honorable in his deal-
ings and honest in his representation, soon gained the im-
plicit confidence of his customers and eventually accum-
ulated sufficient capital with which to establish a modest
store at Kenna, a little village located on the Charleston-
Parkersburg Turnpike. The possession of this store, small
though it was, gave Mr. Morrison added incentive, and he
worked all the more faithfully and industriously, with the
result that soon his business outgrew his establishment, and
he moved to Ripley, the county seat of Jackson County,
where he really began the first of the string of stores that
have made his name a household word in this part of the
state. It was while at Ripley that Mr. Morrison coined the
motto: “Make a dollar worth a dollar,” and this he has
used consistently ever since. The Ripley store now consists
of two stories and a basement, 40 by 125 feet, and is under
the management of J. E. Keenan. Later Mr. Morrison
founded another store, at Spencer, where he now has an
establishment of two stories and a basement, 40 by 150
feet, under the management of W. B. Reed. Later a busi-
ness was also established at Clendenin. In 1910 Mr. Mor-
rison decided to invade Charleston, where the people soon
recognized the fact that he was doing a large business be-
cause of the fairness of his dealing and the quality of his
goods, together with the astonishingly low prices at which
they were offered. In 1914 he established a store at Hunt-
ington, where he now has one of the biggest retail houses
of the city, four stories and basement, 45 by 200 feet,
under the management of I. C. Prickett. In 1919 another
store was taken over, at Clarksburg, where he now has a
structure of two stories and basement, 50 by 190 feet, man-
aged by E. G. Morrison.

Mr. Morrison’s Charleston store was visited by a dis-
astrous fire October 29, 1920, when thousands of dollars
worth of merchandise was destroyed and the building was
wrecked. There were those who predicted that Mr. Mor-
rison’s mercantile career in this city at least was at an
end, but a few days later work was commenced in dis-
mantling the old Burlew Opera House, on Capitol Street,
in the place of which was erected a modern structure five
stories and basement, 65 by 165 feet, this now being under
Mr. Morrison’s personal supervision. In all the stores
there is represented an outlay of $800,000 capital. There
are 300 employes, and the annual gross sales approximate
$2;000,000. Mr. Morrison entered upon his career with little
or nothing save his self-confidence, his ambition and his
willingness to work hard and economize. Nothing was too
difficult for him, no labor too exhausting, and when he
earned a little money he put it back into his business. In
this way he has lived to see that business grow to propor-
tions which utterly exceeded his fondest dreams of earlier
days, and the end is not yet. He has several other busi-
ness connections, and is a director in the Charleston Build-
ing and Loan Association. His religious connection is with
the United Brethren Church, but he is not interested in
fraternal matters.

In 1895 Mr. Morrison was united in marriage with Miss
Cora A. Harpold, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. S. W. Har-
pold, farming people of Jackson County, West Virginia,
and they have five children: Freda, Pay, Johnson O., Carl
H. and Charles W.